Wincobank Living History

Timeline Map

8000-4000 BC:
Mesolithic activity on the site, possibly a temporary camp where flint blades were manufactured.
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Bronze Age:
Possible Bronze Age burial mounds recorded in the vicinity of the hillfort in the 18th century, removed 'about the year 1795'. No associated Bronze Age artefacts recorded, though a flint knife of this period was found in Wincobank Wood in the 19th century.
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500 BC:
Probable construction date of Wincobank Hillfort, based on radiocarbon dating. Iron Age activity in the area is suggested by beehive querns (corn milling stones) found in the woods.
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AD 51:
Construction of Templeborough Roman fort, which marked the northern limit of the Roman Military Zone until the subjugation of Brigantia, to the north of the River Don, c.AD
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The Roman fort may have been built partly to neutralise the potential threat of the hillfort.
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AD 100-400:
Occupation of the hillfort is likely to have been sporadic during the Roman period, though several pieces of 2nd-century Roman ceramic and a coin of Constantius Chlorus (AD 305-306) were recovered from the hillfort and its immediate vicinity. There is currently no evidence to indicate that the hillfort was involved in the Brigantian revolts against Roman rule in the 2nd and early 3rd centuries, and the site is likely to have been reclaimed by the wood by the 4th century.
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Early medieval period:
The site was possibly part of the British kingdom of Elmet in the post-Roman period, before coming under Anglo-Saxon control in the late 6th/early 7th centuries. It was then located along the southern border of Northumbria, and the hillfort may have been reoccupied periodically during outbreaks of hostility between Northumbria and Mercia. There is currently no archaeological evidence for any rebuilding or reoccupation of the hillfort during this period.
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Wincobank recorded as 'Winckley', possibly derived from the Old English 'Wineca's ley', meaning 'Wineca's forest clearing'.
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Place-name 'Winkowe' recorded, with the earlier 'Wineca' element supplemented by the Old English or Old Norse 'lowe/haugr', both of which mean 'mound' and may relate to the summit of the hill.
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16th to 17th century:
Wincobank Wood was managed for the Earl of Shrewsbury's estate as a ‘spring’ (coppice) wood. During the 17th century, the hillfort's eastern bank and ditch were levelled when a field boundary was built along the line of the ditch.
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Farm called 'Le Wynkeabancke' first recorded in a document of this date. The farm later became Wincobank Hall.
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Late 18th century:
Wincobank Hall and its estates purchased by John Sparrow, and the hall substantially rebuilt. 1790: Cottages shown on Winco Wood Lane, to the north-east of the hillfort, on a map of the lands associated with Wincobank Hall. Their date of construction is unknown, but it has been suggested that they were 16th-century in origin, with later modifications.
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Joseph Read purchased Wincobank Hall and further land near the hillfort. Read laid out gardens and pleasure grounds, meadows and plantations of 'exceeding beauty'.
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Winco Wood Lane shown as a 'bridle path to Sheffield' on an 1837 sale plan of Wincobank Hall and its estate. The hall was purchased by Joseph Read's daughter, Mary Rawson. The plan also showed a quarry at the junction of Winco Wood Lane and Jenkin Road.
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A plan showed a coal mine shaft within the quarry at Jenkin Road.
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The Poor Law survey map showed the Winco Wood Lane cottages as a row of six properties, three of which were very small.
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Construction began on 'Wincobank Castle', a tower house built by George Parkin, a former teacher, close to the north edge of the hillfort. The house was completed in 1907.
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Grimesthorpe Colliery had been established by this date.
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Archaeological excavation at Wincobank Hillfort, directed by Elijah Howarth, curator of Sheffield Museum, from August to October.
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Final sale of timber from Wincobank Wood.
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The Duke of Norfolk presented the hillfort and 48 acres of Wincobank Wood to the people of Sheffield. A second archaeological excavation was undertaken at the hillfort by the staff of Sheffield Museum.
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The OS map of this date showed allotments in the western part of Wincobank Wood.
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An anti-aircraft gun emplacement was constructed on the south side of the hillfort, to counter potential Zeppelin air raids.
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During the Second World War, the tower at Wincobank Castle was used as an observation post. The anti-aircraft gun emplacement was also brought back into use and a searchlight was located to the south-west of the hillfort. A barrage balloon was also located along Wincobank Hill, while part of Winco Wood Lane was reinforced to allow access for military vehicles.
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Wincobank Castle was demolished in 1960. The cottages at Winco Wood Lane were subject to a compulsory purchase order in the early 1960s and had become largely derelict by 1967. They had been demolished by the time of the 1973 OS map.
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Yorkshire Television were granted permission to place a Radio Links Can on the top of Wincobank Hill, as the site's elevation made it an effective transmission location. The hill was also used for this purpose during BBC coverage of the World Snooker Championships in Sheffield.
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Archaeological watching brief conducted by Pauline Beswick during the cutting of a drainage ditch through the hillfort's rampart.
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4.3 Medieval

There is no archaeological evidence to indicate the location of any settlement on Wincobank Hill during the post-Roman and early medieval periods, when the area may have formed part of the British kingdom of Elmet. During the 5th and 6th centuries, hillforts were sometimes reoccupied as fortified settlements; while it is possible that this occurred at Wincobank, the fort is thought to have been too small to perform this function effectively (Armitage 1897, 46-47; Armitage and Montgomerie 1912, 61). 

Wincobank appears to have been taken under Anglo-Saxon control when Elmet was conquered, either by Aella of Deira, c.AD 581, or by Edwin of Northumbria, c.AD 625. The recovery of a 6th-century Anglo-Saxon bead from Templeborough (Cronk 2004, 46) may slightly favour the former period, although the bead’s deposition could have taken place later than the 6th century. Anglo-Saxon activity in the Wincobank area is suggested by place-name evidence, with the area’s early name ‘Winckley’ perhaps being derived from the Old English personal name Wineca and the Old English ley, meaning a forest clearing (Smith 1961, 214). This suggests that woodland occupied Wincobank Hill during the Anglo-Saxon period, with the cleared area perhaps being centred around the hillfort. The later name ‘Winkowe’ may have included the Old English element lowe or the Old Norse haugr, both of which mean ‘mound’ and may refer to the summit of the hill (Smith 1961, 214).

Wincobank was located in a disputed border area throughout much of the early medieval period and the hillfort may have been reoccupied periodically during outbreaks of hostility between Northumbria and Mercia. J.H. Cockburn suggested that Wincobank hillfort may have been the Wiginga mere that was founded by Edward of Mercia or the Cyricbirig or ‘Ciresburh’ of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a fortified site constructed c.914-16 by Edward’s sister, Aethelflaed, the Lady of the Mercians, for the defence of Mercia’s Don-Trent frontier (Cockburn 1931, 29-30, 221; 116; Hill 2004, 153). However, there is no archaeological evidence to suggest that any part of the hillfort was constructed or refortified during the 10th century and this identification remains speculative.

Following the Roman abandonment of Templeborough, earthen banks were constructed over the fort’s 3rd-century stone walls. G.T. Clark suggested that these were post-Roman features that were intended to provide a fortified site on Elmet’s southern border (Armitage 1897, 46-47). However, Cockburn argued that this phase was undertaken during the early 10th century and may have been associated with the fort being renamed ‘Brunanburh’ (Cockburn 1931, 10-12; Beckett and Beckett 1999, 38). Aethelstan of Wessex is said to have recognised the fort’s value as a defensive focal point and to have chosen to bring a confederation of Scots, the Norse of Dublin and the Britons of Strathclyde to battle in the area around the site (Beckett and Beckett 1999, 13). Cockburn argued that if Wincobank was indeed Wigingamere or Ciresburh, the refortified hillfort would also have played a part in Athelstan’s victory at the Battle of Brunanburh in AD 914 (Cockburn 1931, 10-12; 221). This cannot be demonstrated, however, and the location of Brunanburh remains disputed (Hill 2004, 151-152).

Wincobank was not recorded during the 1086 Domesday survey and the extent and location of any settlement within the area during this period is unknown. Wincobank was recorded as ‘Winckley’ in 1345 and as ‘Winkowe’ in 1442 (Smith 1961, 214). Much of the area appears to have been owned by Sheffield’s manorial lords, the earls of Shrewsbury, during the late medieval period and is also likely to have been owned by their predecessors, the de Lovetots and de Furnivals (Ronksley 1908, 9, 204, 209, 236, 237).

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