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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4.2 Roman

Until the late 19th century, Wincobank hillfort was ‘popularly known as the Roman Camp’ (Addy 1893, 233; Howarth 1905a, 1). There is no evidence to indicate that the Roman army attacked or occupied the hillfort, however, and the site’s Roman attribution appears to stem from the belief that the Roman Ridge was connected with the fort and was a former Roman road (Payne and Burland 1879, 614). Several pieces of 2nd-century Roman ceramic were recovered from within the hillfort in 1899, however, and a Roman coin of Constantius Chlorus (AD 305-306) was found near the fort’s south-east ‘entrance’. 

Wincobank Wood is likely to have reclaimed the top of the hill during any periods in which the hillfort and any nearby settlements were abandoned. Following the final substantive rebellions by the Brigantes during the late 2nd and early 3rd centuries AD, the hillfort is unlikely to have been a major defensive site and the summit of the hill may have reverted to woodland, perhaps until at least the post-Roman period (Rotherham 1989, 2). 

The Roman Ridge did not acquire its name until the 19th century, when it became known as the ‘Roman Rig’ (Hunter 1819, 24; Addy 1893, 241). This name appears to have been derived from the 17th-century belief that the earthwork was a Roman road and the Sheffield dialect term ‘rig’, which meant a raised road (Addy 1888, 190). There is no evidence to demonstrate that the Ridge marked the course of a former Roman road and no finds of Roman date are recorded in association with the earthwork’s course within the study area. 

Templeborough Roman fort, Rotherham, is located outside the study and search areas but was an important site which may have been ‘intentionally erected’ to counteract or neutralise the potential threat of Wincobank hillfort (May 1922, 3). Templeborough was partially excavated by John Daniel Leader and John Guest in 1877-1878 and in 1916-1917 by Sir John Murray. Excavations revealed the praetorium, stone columns, gravestones, a bath house, roads and a vicus. The standing remains of the fort were demolished during the construction of the Steel Peech and Tozer steelworks in 1917.

Templeborough appears to have marked the northern limit of the Roman Military Zone from approximately AD 51-57 until the subjugation of Brigantia, c.AD 71-75 (May 1922, 5). There is no direct evidence of conflict between the Brigantes of the Wincobank area and Cohors IV Gallorum, the auxiliary force that occupied Templeborough during this period. Britons from the Wincobank area may, however, have traded or moved into the vicus or civilian settlement that developed around the fort (May 1922, 5).

Cartimandua, ‘brigantibus imperitabat’ (‘ruler over the Brigantes’), seized the fugitive Catuvellaunian war chief, Caratacus, and had him ‘bound and handed over’ to the Romans in AD 51-52 (Ramsay 1909, 83; Godley 1907, 29). The River Don may have formed the southern boundary of Brigantia in the mid-1st century AD (May 1922, 3; Mitchell 1855, 65) and Templeborough, on the south bank of the river, appears to have been the closest Roman site to the Brigantian border during this period. Although Templeborough was an auxiliary fort rather than a legionary base, it is thus possible that Caratacus was turned over to the Roman authorities at the fort or was taken there before being moved south.

Given Templeborough’s location, the cohort of Roman auxiliaries who entered Brigantia c.AD 59 to aid Cartimandua against her former husband Venutius, may also have been Cohors IV Gallorum. This unit may also have supplied the auxiliary forces (‘cohortes alaeque’) which subsequently extracted Cartimandua from Brigantia during Venutius’s uprising of c.AD 69 (Ramsay 1909, 83). Following her rescue, it is possible that Cartimandua was brought initially to Templeborough before being escorted from the war zone. There is no evidence to support this, however, or the suggestion that the Roman Ridge was constructed following Venutius’s rebellion, in expectation of Roman reprisals against Brigantia (Shakarian 2007, 5).

Cohors IV Gallorum may have been ordered to pacify the immediate area, including Wincobank, during the subjugation of Brigantia by Petilius Cerealis, c.AD 71-75. This, in turn, may have led to Wincobank hillfort being reoccupied during this period. There is no evidence to demonstrate this, however, or to indicate that the site may have been reoccupied during the subsequent Brigantian revolts of AD 118, 155, 180 and 210.

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