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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industry in Wincobank

Iron slag has been found in the vicinity of the hillfort and a recent geophysical survey suggested that ironworking may have occurred within the fort itself. Post-medieval industrial activity occurred within Wincobank Wood, including coal and iron extraction, charcoal burning and whitecoal working. 

Groups of shallow pits within the wood may be bell or prospection pits associated with coal or ironstone extraction, whilst others could relate to the burning of coppiced wood for the production of charcoal or kilns built for drying small slivers of wood, known as white coal and used in lead smelting.

Quarrying began at Winco Knowle, a large sandstone outcrop at the south of the hill, prior to the late 18th century but expanded rapidly from 1792 and became the site of Grimesthorpe Quarry. Extensive quarrying continued throughout this area into the late 20th century. Smaller scale quarrying took place in the south-east and north-west parts of the hillfort, with associated features such as platforms and shelters situated in the latter area. Stone has also been removed from the ramparts for use in local buildings, while turf was cut from the banks for charcoal burning in Wincobank Wood. 

During the 19th century, a mine and a quarry were situated in the fields between the Winco Wood Lane Cottages and Jenkin Road. Grimethorpe Colliery was sunk in the second half of the 19th century and, by 1892, a tramway ran from the mine into Wincobank Wood, terminating in a large spoil heap.

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  • Michael J. Whittaker said

    Hi from Canada.
    Nice, thorough report.

    I agree with Roger that vitrified sites like this seem to indicate ancient metal production, and not (to me) less plausible explanations such as 'ritual' burnings or victorious arson, let alone the even less plausible, albeit imaginative, ancient alien nuclear attacks or geo-plasma etc.

    Without going into detail, these sites could very well have been wind-driven furnaces similar to those reconstructed in Sr Lanka, capable of producing high grade steel despite their antiquity and our modern tendency to discount the possibility of ancient knowledge & intelligence.

    Mike Whittaker, architect.

  • Roger said

    That is my favourite question.
    Howarth (and others--see Arc heritage report) argued that the fort was vitrified as the result of a major burning episode. The vitrified material (slag?) is therefore thought by many to be remnants of this event. I think this is unlikely as the sandstone needs to get incredibly hot >1150C to vitrify, im not certain that a wood fire would do that although it might be possible with a good wind. (we have some students exploring this at the moment)

    However, to my mind it looks (at least some of it) very much like iron smelting slag. Remember that there are iron ore prospection pits on the hill but are likely post-medieval.
    The presence of ore in the vicinity of the hillfort and the presence of slag? 'in' the ramparts suggests to me that this could well be Iron Age smelting evidence. If so its the earliest evidence of ferrous metallurgy in Sheffield!! That has to be worth understanding properly!

  • Louise said

    Is the iron slag that you find on the hill nowadays (often buried in the ramparts)left over from the Iron Age, or is it newer than that?

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