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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4.4 Post-medieval

Wincobank Wood was managed as a coppiced woodland within the Shrewsbury estate from at least 1564 and was named as ‘Winkobanke Springe’ between 1596 and 1616, and as ‘Wincowe Wood’ in 1637 (Ronksley 1908, 206, 236). During the 17th century, the hillfort’s eastern bank and ditch had been destroyed and a lynchet constructed over their former course (NAA 2001, 65-66).

William Camden’s 1596 Britannica referred to the ‘large bank’ that ran east from ‘Winco-bank’ (quoted in Guest 1879, 5) and John Harrison’s 1637 survey used the names ‘Winco banck’ and ‘Wincabanke’ (Ronksley 1908, 204, 209). It is not known if the ‘bank’ element relates to the outcrop of Silkstone Rock on the south slope of Wincobank Hill or to the spur of Parkgate Rock on the east slope; if the latter, it is likely to have been associated with the Scheduled section of the Roman Ridge to the north of Jenkin Road, which formed the parish boundary between Ecclesfield and Sheffield. Harrison was not concerned with the area’s antiquities and did not record the hillfort or refer to the ‘banke’ as an ancient earthwork or a supposed Roman road (Ronksley 1908, 204, 236).

Winco Wood Lane was marked as a dominant feature within the landscape on Thomas Jefferys’ 1771 map of Yorkshire. This is unlikely to have been an accurate representation, as the route was shown as a simple bridleway on the 1837 Wincobank Hall sale plan. Jefferys depicted the hillfort as a rectangular feature and it is thus possible that he was aware of the fort’s status as a supposed ‘Roman camp’; in that case, he may also have been aware of the assertions that a Roman road led from the fort and believed that its course was marked by Winco Wood Lane. From the north-east face of the hillfort, the lane was shown to cross Jenkin Road and run to the northern base of Wincobank Hill, before it petered-out to the south-west of Blackburn Brook. This suggests that Jeffreys may have confused Winco Wood Lane and the Roman Ridge, with the result that neither was depicted accurately on the 1771 map.

William Fairbank’s 1788 draft map of the fields between Brightside and Wincobank included several fields to the east of Wincobank hillfort, while fields to the north-west and west of the fort were shown on Fairbank’s 1790 map of John Sparrow’s lands and his 1795 map of the Brightside district. The 1788 map depicted the fields that lay within Sheffield parish, including Great Spring Field, Middle Field, Meadow Peck and Snake Hill.

The Scheduled section of the Roman Ridge to the south of Jenkin Road was depicted clearly on the 1788 map, with hachures to indicate the slope of the embankment and a gap to allow a footpath through the trees that grew along the top of the earthwork. Fairbank did not label the Ridge, however, and may not have been aware of its status as a surviving part of an ancient earthwork. The clear depiction of the extant section of the Ridge at this location in 1788 suggests that the earthwork had been levelled in the areas to the south-west and north-east where it was not shown.

No features were depicted within Wincobank Wood, which was marked in outline only, on the 1788 draft map. Fairbank’s 1788 map of Grimesthorpe depicted ‘Winco Knowle’, a large sandstone knoll or outcrop, immediately south of the wood and west of Grimesthorpe Green. A linear area of quarrying was shown at the centre-south of the Knowle in 1788; in 1790, the Knowle was leased to Thomas Ashforth, a local mason (SA ACM/SD/871/150) and subsequently became the site of Grimesthorpe Quarry.

Several of the fields on the east side of Wincobank Hill were shown on a 1791 engraving by David Martin, which depicted the hill from Foundry Road, Attercliffe (Plate 8). While the engraving confirms the general layout of the fields and Wincobank Wood, their boundaries did not accord fully with their depiction on Fairbank’s 1788 draft map. Further artistic licence is evident in Martin’s portrayal of the hill as a closer and substantially higher feature than it would have been from the artist’s viewpoint at Washford Bridge.

Plate 8: 1791 David Martin’s engraving showing south and east slopes of Wincobank Hill
Wincobank hillfort and the Roman Ridge were not visible on the 1791 engraving. The fort and the unscheduled section of the Ridge in the south-east part of the study area stood within Wincobank Wood during this period and their locations were obscured by trees, while the engraving did not cover the area that contained the Scheduled section of the Ridge to the south of Jenkin Road.

Neither the Roman Ridge itself nor the sandstone spur of Parkgate Rock on which it ran were readily apparent within the remainder of the fields. This supports the suggestion given by the 1788 map that much of the monument had been levelled along the hill’s east slope by this period, although it is also possible that the earthwork may simply not have been a prominent feature, given the distance and perspective from which Martin viewed the hill.

A group of cottages were shown at the north corner of Colley Field, immediately east and north-east of the hillfort, on William Fairbank’s 1790 map of lands held by John Sparrow of Wincobank Hall (Plate 9). Bryan Woodriff (2003, 86) stated that these buildings were 16th-century, cruck-framed structures. There is no evidence to demonstrate this, however, and a photograph taken while the cottages were awaiting demolition c.1970 appears to show one of the buildings with straight, vertical wall plates rather than typical cruck-blades that would have been angled towards each other to form a gable (Plate 10). This suggests that this particular cottage was not a cruck-framed building. Ordnance Survey maps indicate that the cottages were subjected to extensive internal modification during the 19th and 20th centuries, however, and it is possible that an earlier cruck frame had been incorporated into, or replaced by, a subsequent box-frame renovation and that this was not visible from the angle of the photograph.

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