Welcome ! This is a blog for people who want to be a friend of Wincobank Hill, for those who are fascinated, curious or concerned about the unique hill fort set high above Sheffield's Don Valley, encircled by ancient woodland that conceals the mysteries of history.

Who was here and why? Did they live, work or keep watch here? What part did this place play in the politics of an emerging nation? Was this the cradle of the British metal industry? And where was the water?

So many people are beginning to retell their stories, ask good questions and make suggestions that it's time to share what is happening ....

Monday, 13 December 2010

Chilly drippy cheer

The snow is melting and normal life has resumed. The Firth Park Christmas Winter Fest went ahead and although it was a chilly drippy affair there was plenty of good cheer in the big tent. The children from Hatfield Primary School paraded their lanterns and the Community Choir sang valiantly.

Once the crowd had dispersed and all was packed away the Friends of Firth Park generously entertained us in their cosy Bowling Pavilion surrounded by the inspiring paintings of the resident art group. This is a very creative community with many professional artists as well as amateur enthusiasts. I am sure that with a bit of synergy Roz Norsworthy's vision of a Wincobank Hill Arts Festival could become an exciting reality.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Wincobank Wonderland

If you go up to Wincobank Hill today you will walk through a magical woodland of coppiced oak, laden with frosted icing, twisted shapes created by the continual cutting back and regrowth as timber has been harvested over the centuries for charcoal-making or for firewood.

Wincobank Wood is one of the thirty-five ancient woodlands of the South Yorkshire Forest, part of our National Forest. Look at any unkempt space in Sheffield and you will see the forest trying to reassert itself, to push through the concrete and recreate the wild wood that was the refuge of Robin Hood. That's what I like to think anyway. Historians and scientists may have a different view. Come and have a look. Decide for yourself.
Or find out more from http://www.heritagewoodsonline.co.uk/map/034/034.html
(The photograph above is by Joe Ogilvy and won first prize in the competition "Winter on Wincobank Hill").

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

AGM Postponed due to snowy weather

Wincobank Hill is very pretty today but due to the extreme weather conditions we are sorry that we have to POSTPONE our AGM and much anticipated talk on the Excavations on the site of Wincobank Hall that was planned for Thursday 2nd December. Please pass the word on to anyone you know was thinking of coming - we will reschedule both AGM - so watch this space. In the meantime - get up on the hill if you are able and enjoy the snow!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Wincobank Hall and the Rawson Estate

A few weeks ago I spent a wonderful few hours at the Sheffield Archives looking through the fascinating documents, photographs and maps associated with Wincobank Hall, home of Mary Anne Rawson, her daughter Lizzie and sister Emily Reed.

Mary Anne survived her daughter and sister and on her death the Estate was divided into Lots to be sold by auction in 1887. The school on the left of the map had already been protected by the by the formation of Upper Wincobank School Trust. The school is now known as Upper Wincobank Chapel. The rest of the land and the Hall was eventually sold and today the area is known as Maple Croft and the new Amaranthus development. The triangle (Lot 3) is at the top of Newman Road and Jenkin Road on the hill above Meadowhall. For the benefit of readers who live at a distance that is in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, UK.

If you live in the area and are interested in finding our more about Wincobank Hall please come along to the Chapel on Wincobank Avenue S5 6BB, from 6.30pm Thursday evening 2nd December 2010. After festive refreshment and a brief AGM, Michael McCoy, the archaeologist who excavated the site of Wincobank Hall before the start of the Amaranthus building work, will tell us what he found beneath the mud.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Our Member of Parliament, the Right Honourable David Blunkett visited Upper Wincobank Undenominational Chapel today for an informal family service led by the Reverend Inderjit Bhogal OBE.
Afterwards, David sat down with members of the Chapel for a cup of tea. Together, they discussed plans to found a Heritage Education Centre of national status that will honour the work of celebrated Victorian philanthropist Mary Anne Rawson of Wincobank Hall and provide visitors with information about Wincobank Hill.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Posh Pillars on Jenkin Road are part of the same project as the seven Enchanted Chairs on Centenary Green opposite the Chapel on Wincobank Avenue. The chairs are proving firm favourites with of all ages like these Wild Woodlanders on their way to Wincobank Hill.
The final Chair which completed the set recently is a reminder of the Wincobank Brickworks. Many local houses are made of Winco bricks. Is yours?
The project is part of the Neighbourhood Strategies neighbourhood regeneration in the northern area of Sheffield funded through previous central government grants. Part of the Creative Places programme of work, it is aimed at putting culture at the heart of regenerating communities.
You can find more photos and information about the amazing artwork which keeps appearing in the neighbourhood and follow the progress of ‘Journeys to Hidden Places’, at http://journeystohiddenplaces.blogspot.com/

Monday, 1 November 2010

No-one can miss the entrance to Wincobank Hill now! As part of the Journey to Hidden Places public art initiative we have some very posh pillars at the top of Jenkin Road.

How wonderful to see the evocative war poem by Bryn Wainwright (who was just aged 9 when she wrote it in 2010) given pride of place beside the great Victorians who wrote about the beauty of the hill and Mary Anne Rawson who put Wincobank on the international and political map with her campaign for the abolition of slavery and very real hard work to help the poorer members of the community.

Thanks to the many people who have worked to bring this new landmark to Wincobank Hill. The main Pillar and searchlight sculpture is by Brian Fell, the metalwork sculptures on the smaller pillars are by Owen Cunningham.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Children's University goes wild on Wincobank

Wild Woodlanders from Concord Junior School spent their October half-term holiday learning about the mystery and history of Wincobank Hill.

Under the guidance of forest school leaders Lauren Stevens and Paul Fieldhouse, the children built shelters, cooked food, and played games designed to help them appreciate the amazing contrast between the built environment of their nearby homes and the natural resource of the woodland.

When asked how visitors to the hill could best protect the site they answered without hesitation "Leave no trace". And now they are gone. Only the tiny camouflaged homes of their pebble people remain.
Can you spot them amongst the trees?

Thursday, 7 October 2010

John Collis talks at Wincobank

You had to be there to see what was on the screen and even for those who were there the screen could have been bigger - but thanks to Hannah we did at least have one and so the fascinating talk by Professor John Collis could go ahead.

He cleverly led us back in time to imagine the many possible scenes we may have beheld over two thousand years ago on Wincobank Hill by describing what has been found in similar sites elsewhere in Europe. Professor Collis made it clear that at present neither he nor any other archaeologist can more than speculate about the purposes and practices of these early inhabitants, and so the tantalising thought of what could lie below the surface makes the prospect of a Time Team excavation all the more exciting.

Soon the intriguing question of who lived up there and why, might come one step closer to being answered.

Monday, 26 July 2010

What better excuse is there to spend a day in the sunshine than the hope of uncovering a clue to the past. It's all equally interesting whether on the Scheduled Monument searching back thousands of years or ferretting about where the row of white cottages stood within living memory.
Thanks to the loan of equipment from Dearne Valley Archaeological Society and help from the University of Sheffield, not to mention some rain to soften the ground, we have now been able to complete the geophysical surveys that will indicate what lies below the surface.

Some of us measured, held markers or trampled the thistles down whilst others paced up and down with the amazing equipment. Roger and Derek tell us the results are exciting but when I look at the printout it all looks a bit blobby so I am looking forward to hearing what it all means. Nevertheless - it was a wonderful way to spend a weekend.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

The second weekend of the archaeology survey: Pleased to see when I checked on Friday evening that most of the pegs and markers were still in place. I had a couple of other things to do at the other end of the country so this report comes from Dave.

"At first we laid out measuring tapes along the grid pegs to form the survey grids.
We began to do a resistivity survey at first, but even though we'd had rain on Thursday, the ground was too dry to even get any results to start with. As an alternative we did a magnetometer survey. It was very difficult to be metal-free and metal fasteners on clothing distort the results! All I could do was ranging pole impressions.

Today's rain will certainly have soaked the hill to possibly make it worth attempting a resistivity survey next weekend. I don't know, because the soil cover is so thin it might not retain sufficient moisture; that's for Roger to decide". If you are in the Wincobank area on any weekend in July 2010 come up to the hill fort and see what's going on. It easy to find - just go to Meadowhall
Shopping Centre then look for the nearest hill. Go up Jenkin Road until you get to the brow of the hill then walk along the brick track to the very top.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

If I had realised how much fun Pythagoras's Theorum could be I would have paid more attention at school.

With two giant tape measures we made triangles to find the corners of 20m squares all the way up the track and across the hill fort. We then hammered in stakes so that next weekend the real fun can begin.

I now know, and will forever remember, that the diagonal measurement across a 20m square is 28m 28cm.
I also know that to find your mark you sometimes have to crawl through trees, wade through brambles or stamp through nettles. I learnt that "spot on" is a more reassuring phrase than "that'll do" and that Wincobank Hill has far more holes in it than I had ever noticed before.

There were some new members of the team today in addition to Roger, Mick and myself - Byron and David who both played on the hill as children, also Hilary and Ken who come from the far side of Sheffield.

The site is all marked out now and Roger has captured the points by GPS. The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite-based navigation system made up of a network of 24 satellites orbiting the Earth. How extraordinarily amazing it is that this process of measuring with tapes and hammering stakes into a hillside in Yorkshire connects our prehistoric Celtic past, a mathematician from Ancient Greece and American space scientists. It makes me feel part of something very special.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Archaeology action

So there we were, 9 o'clock on a Saturday morning, waiting to unravel the mysteries of Wincobank Hill. Dr Roger Doonan from the University of Sheffield (looking every bit the archaeologist in his boots and shorts) and the astonishingly young Dr Kate Howell from Florida were here to initiate the Friends into the rites and rituals of Geophysics.

We were a small team, each bringing their own skills and experience to the task. I, Penny, am a project manager so I held the clipboard. Unfortunately I also lost the pen lid. Marie drew on her encyclopaedic knowledge to identify the vegetation and Dr Kate tactfully guided us along the track identifying the more do-able bits where we will have a hope of navigating the uneven ground and brambles with technical gadgetry that sounds very expensive. Dr Roger and Ken mapped the hill fort. Ken is a doctor of the medical variety and in retirement is studying towards an archaeology degree.

By lunch we had walked the terrain and noted any features making x marks the spot diagrams of holes, rocky bits and debris. So far so good. I realised that when I normally walk the hill I look at the trees, I let my imagination wander and gaze into the distance, but although I glance at the ground I rarely feel it with my feet. Today I was aware of every bump and lump, trying to sense some secret story beneath the surface.

A picnic lunch with ice-cream revived us for the challenging task of marking a straight line along the undulating route of the brick track Winco Wood Lane past tree and bush, and along the length of the hill fort. Thankfully, the afternoon shift brought Dave, himself an archaeologist and experienced at lining up yellow flagged bamboo canes, and Mick who usefully was able to produce a fresh stock of flagged and, it has to be said, slightly superior canes from his woodland management toolkit. In this technological age it was refreshing to spend time standing in a line: left a bit, right a bit, fine. A welcome relief from the hours I spend sitting at a computer.

Licensed by English Heritage, we staked at 20m intervals along the track and then endeavoured to peg 40m markers across the ancient monument but the rock almost knowingly resisted the invasion and yielded only to a squirt of yellow paint. Not a lot of digging to be done there I suspect.

And that was it for my first day as a trainee archaeologist. I hope that, in a thousand years or so, another trainee finds my pen lid.