Sheffield Manor Lodge from an original photo by Dave Pickersgill (CC 2.0, geograph.org)

Manor Lodge: Past and Present

On a freezing night in late March, Cathy Shrank, Tim Shephard, and myself, Catherine Evans, headed up icy roads to Sheffield’s Manor Lodge to present a trio of talks

We were warmly welcomed by Jon Bradley, who opened the evening with a potted history of Manor Lodge. This was well known to the Friends of the Lodge, but was new information to the speakers. We were embarrassed to admit that despite being Early Modernists we’d never visited this Tudor treasure on our doorstep. 

History of the Lodge 

A small hunting lodge existed on this land from the 12th century, in what was then the deer park of the Lords of Hallamshire. This was one of the largest and oldest parks in all England, pre-dating the Norman conquest in 1066. 

George Talbot, the fourth Earl of Shrewsbury, expanded and upgraded the lodge. By 1500, a grand Tudor manor house had appeared. Talbot also added a long gallery in the 1520s, one of the first in the country, the ruins of which can still be seen today. Henry VIII’s chancellor Cardinal Wolsey would stay here for two weeks on his journey to London to stand trial for high treason in 1530. He became ill whilst staying in the Lodge, dying in Leicester three days later. 

Mary Queen of Scots

In the 1570s, the sixth Earl and his ambitious, fiercely intelligent wife, Bess of Hardwick would remodel the manor house. They added a new wing and the Turret House, the only building which remains today. In 1573, the couple were made responsible for the captive Mary Queen of Scots, who was a threat to the rule of Queen Elizabeth. Although Mary was strictly guarded, she had to be kept in a manner suited to her royal rank. She was allowed to keep an retinue of 41 people and received two barrels of wine a month, which she bathed in as well as drank! 

The sixth Earl was responsible for keeping Mary prisoner for 14 years. This costly and complicated undertaking, eventually bankrupted him and drove him half-mad with stress. He died at the Lodge in 1590. 

In the 17th century, the new owner, the Earl of Arundel and Surrey, treated the deer park as a financial resource. He rarely visited the park but instead cleared the deer, sold the trees for timber, and leased out the coal mines and lands. By 1708, the buildings were “ruinous and naked” and an Act of Parliament allowed them to be demolished. 

Manor House tower, where Cardinal Wolsey once stayed

Some parts remained and were let out — a local potter rented the site and set up a kiln in the tower where Cardinal Wolsey had once stayed.

In the 19th century, the area became an industrial hamlet where coal miners and cutlers lived, in often dangerous and poverty stricken circumstances. Over the centuries, more buildings were demolished or left to ruin. 

In the 1970s, Sheffield Museums opened the site as a visitor attraction. Today this piece of local Tudor heritage is managed by the Green Estate, a not-for-profit social enterprise. It hosts artists’ studios, runs family activities and can be hired out for weddings.

500 Reformations talks 

The speakers offered some context to the world that the Earls of Shrewsbury inhabited. Tim explained how religious changes impacted on the music that people listened to, I discussed how poets incorporated religious debate into their works, and Cathy demonstrated how ideas of nationhood changed over the period.

The audience was extremely well-informed and asked many probing questions, helping the researchers connect their work to the history of the local area. It was a fantastic evening to be involved in, and all the speakers left promising to come back and visit the Lodge, on a warmer day of course!


Read more about the history of Manor Lodge here.

Find out about how to visit Manor Lodge here.

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