Domesday

Sketch of Sheffield Castle

So far we have travelled through nearly 9000 years of history, and throughout that time we haven’t seen the word Sheffield used in any historical writing. In 1086, 934 years ago, Sheffield is mentioned for the first time in what is called the Domesday Book.

This book was essentially a giant survey ordered by the new King of England, William the Conqueror, who had invaded England in 1066 and beaten the Anglo-Saxon king Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hasting.

Haven’t heard of him? Why not check out this little video to hear more.

Why William Won at the Battle of Hastings 1066 | Animated History

In the Domesday Book Sheffield is spelt three different ways: Scafeld, Escafeld and Sceuelt. Sheffield’s name, however, essentially meant the ‘open country’ or fields by the Sheaf, suggesting there were less trees and possibly more farms than the surrounding area (a little different from what Sheffield is like today).

Sheffield, including the areas of Grimesthorpe and Page Hall, were mostly farmland and they were controlled by the Lord of Hallamshire. Earl Waltheof was the last Anglo-Saxon lord of Hallamshire and was said to live in a hall which was located where the rivers Sheaf and Don met, at the site of what later became Sheffield Castle (and around the areas where Castle Square and Fitzalan Square/Ponds Forge tram stops are located today).

He wasn’t the only one in this area though that lived in a large home. The Domesday Book also records six further manors (which are large country houses and surrounding land), though smaller than Earl Waltheof’s hall. One of these manors was called Grimeshou, which is where Grimesthorpe now is.

In 1076 Earl Waltheof was beheaded and Lord Roger de Busli, who had come from Normandy in France became the new lord of this land.

Example of a medieval execution

Sheffield in the medieval period became a market town, and soon became one of the three most important towns in South Yorkshire, with Sheffield Castle located at the heart of it. It is also around this time we get the first recorded figures of Sheffield’s population. In 1086 there were only 150-200 individuals living in Sheffield.

Just take a moment to think about that … currently in the Page Hall and Grimesthorpe area there are around 11,363 people living here and in total Sheffield’s population is now around 518,090.

Can you imagine living here when only 150-200 people lived here?

It’s also not until 1297 that Sheffield is mentioned as being a town, and the area of Grimesthorpe and Page Hall was still used mainly for farming. Archaeologists have found evidence for farming in this area, such as the remains of a corn mill in Brikesherth (Brightside), just outside of Grimesthorpe. This corn mill, being used 700 years ago, was powered by the river and was owned by a man called Thomas de Furnival.