Castlegate

Hidden history, art and walks, in an often overlooked corner of the city centre.

Currently very much in a chrysalis stage, Castlegate is an often overlooked corner on the northeast edge of the city centre, harbouring hidden history, art, architecture and walks, with even more to come as it undergoes a period of regeneration.

History

First, the backstory. One of the largest castles in northern England once stood here – the heart of the city and for a while the place where Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned. A good way to find out more about the castle is with the GPS-linked walking app from the University of Sheffield. Called Sheffield Lives, the story starts with Mary’s arrival in 1570 and ends with the castle’s demolition in 1649.

There’s nothing to be seen of the castle these days bar some of the dungeon below the shell of the 1960s Castle Market building, but a large project is underway to change all that and commemorate this part of Sheffield’s history.

Lady’s Bridge, Sheffield’s oldest bridge and one made even more famous in recent years by a certain Mr Hawley, is still partly held up by original 14th century arches. As you stand here, look over at the buildings with pretty Flemish-style brickwork: these have been a horse hospital (no really, a hospital for horses – check the sign by the bridge), a place where Sheffield’s famous steel-working elephant Lizzie slept during the first world war and even the birthplace of mushy peas. Yep.

It’s a place of lost music halls and watering holes and even the old Town Hall. A place where Sheffield industry has risen, rumbled, fallen and now rises again.

Walking

If urban wanders take your feet’s fancy, the Five Weirs Walk from Lady’s Bridge to Meadowhall, the Upper Don Walk and the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal Trail all run by here. Canal-side towpaths, the Cobweb Bridge, a bevy of birds and some Full Monty scenery awaits you.

The council is working to transform the riverside too, with its Grey to Green project – revitalising the area with more trees, shrubs and flowers, public art and perennial meadows.

Thanks to the University’s Landscape department, there’s also the creation of Love Square to look forward to. This "urban pocket park" at West Bar will feature a cafe set amongst the wildflowers, trees and rain garden. You’ll be able to grow your own part of the park too, using the community or individual growing modules.

Art

In the striking art deco building on the corner of Exchange Street you’ll find one of Yorkshire Artspaces’ three studios: Exchange Place. With its big windows and great views, its an inspiring home for more than 60 studio holders over six floors. There are painters and printmakers, illustrators and bookbinders, makers of jewellery, costumes and instruments, photographers, sculptors, ceramicists and more. This is a real hive of artistic activity. See for yourself at the annual Open Studios in November, or check the website for events and workshops.

As you head back into town away from Castlegate, you’ll also find the wonderful Bank Street Arts: a rabbit warren of surprise-filled rooms with a bright and comfy cafe on one of the lower levels.

Food and drink

Speaking of cafes, you won’t go hungry in the Castlegate area, from an Italian at Cafe Roma to mouthwatering sweet treats at La Perle Patisserie on the nearby Wicker. You also have a couple of extra choices at nearby Victoria Quays, and of course you’re just on the edge of the city centre and a short walk from Kelham Island too.

This guide is a collaboration with Yorkshire Artspace – explore the area and meet its artists at the annual Open Studios weekend.

Written by Nat Loftus; October 31, 2016
Photography by Will Roberts.

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