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Hollis Croft, Sheffield, South Yorkshire: Old site and new connections

Ashley Tuck and Milica Rajic with Sam Bromage and Emma Carter

Cite this as: Tuck, A. and Rajic, M. 2021 Hollis Croft, Sheffield, South Yorkshire: Old site and new connections, Internet Archaeology 56.

1. Introduction

In 2017, Wessex Archaeology undertook a staged programme of archaeological mitigation works at Hollis Croft, Sheffield. This programme comprised a watching brief, evaluation trial trenching and six strip, map and record excavations (OASIS record: wessexar1-309354; Figure 1).

Location map
Figure 1: Site location and evaluation trial trench, strip, map and record area and watching brief test pit locations

Covering an area of approximately 0.7ha, the Hollis Croft site declines steeply from west to east in the direction of the River Don. The underlying geology comprises members of the Pennine Lower Coal Measures mudstone and siltstone, with superficial geology mapped as gravel, silt and sand alluvium (British Geological Survey). Standing buildings on the site had been subject to building recording (Wessex Archaeology 2018a), which were demolished before below ground investigations began.

The remains encountered in Area A included 18th-century structures and pits. Area B successfully investigated remains relating to The Cock public house with some limited evidence of phased development. Area C recorded a late 19th-century chimney and associated structures. Work in Area D was unsuccessful in identifying remains related to a circular structure shown on the Fairbank plan relating to Harrison's steel works. However, two crucible furnaces were recorded relating to the later W. Fearnehough Ltd. Area E/F demonstrated that two circular structures first evident on the 1853 Ordnance Survey map represented cementation furnaces and extensively recorded these furnaces and defined their boundaries. Contemporary ancillary structures and areas of undisturbed natural strongly suggest that a third cementation chest had not existed in close association with the excavated cementation furnaces. No significant evidence of the 18th-century Kenyon Works was identified. Area G recorded industrial structures of unknown function. Two truncated flues and a later machine base were investigated in Area H. Area I was successfully expanded to further investigate White Croft Court 1. The nature of the activity here is uncertain, but may have industrial on the basis of structures 1117/1118 which do not appear to be consistent with standard domestic forms. Area K successfully investigated The Orange Branch public house. Walls west of the cobbled yard were shown to be the upper parts of a series of cellars which had been maintained and rebuilt over time. In the 20th century, a cart-way or entrance was installed in the east of the area, reducing the size of the former buildings, although the fabric of the earlier buildings was partially retained.

Remains dating to the 18th century include the walls of domestic properties and pits in Areas A and B, a possible toilet or outbuilding in Area D, fragments of walls in Area E/F, and the remains of The Orange Branch public house in Area K. Documentary research has pushed back the date of initial development at Hollis Croft, suggesting that buildings including workshops and most significantly steel furnaces were present by at least the mid-18th century. In terms of finds, the pottery assemblage was unusually broadly dated for Sheffield, the majority of the clay tobacco pipe assemblage dates to the first half of the 19th century and a number have been identified as being peculiar to Sheffield. A medieval long cross penny was also recovered from a 19th-century context.

An ongoing trend of redevelopment in Sheffield and elsewhere is directly impacting the historic environment and the archaeological resource. The mainly 19th-century remains we found help illustrate the urban landscape of industrial Sheffield, and the furnaces that are the focus of this work are enhanced by the records of worker's housing and other facilities. Our understanding of cementation furnaces in particular has been deepened, and a contribution to the corpus of recorded crucible furnaces has also been made (English Heritage 2010; Roskams and Whyman 2007).

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