A dig at Sheffield Castle, where Mary Queen of Scots was famously held, is revealing exciting new details about the city’s medieval history.
One thing it has yet to clear up is whether there is any truth to the legend that a secret tunnel stretched beneath the hill to Manor Lodge and was used by the royal prisoner to sneak out for a drink at what is now the Old Queens Head pub.
David Clarke, a Friends of Sheffield Castle trustee and journalism lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, believes there may be more than a gem of truth in the popular myth.
He spoke at the weekend about the folklore surrounding the pub, interest in which has been reignited by the excavation of the old Castle Market site.
“There’s every likelihood there was a secret tunnel to the castle because escape routes were part of the plans for every castle in the country, but I don’t believe it ran up to Manor Lodge,” he said.
”There’s supposedly an entrance to the tunnel in the cellar of the Old Queen’s Head, which is one of Sheffield’s oldest domestic buildings and was used to do the laundry for Manor Lodge.
“There was an overground passageway between the woodland trees that ran from the castle up the hill to the lodge, which the horses and carts would have used.
“Possibly the idea of there being a secret connection has come down as folk legend due to there having been that visible tunnel through the trees. Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.”
Mr Clarke, who was joined by speakers from Wessex Archaeology and the University of Sheffield at the series of sold-out history talks on Saturday, also discussed the legend that the castle was built on the site of an old Saxon palace.
He said while no evidence has been discovered, he believes there is a good chance this is true and the remains of the ancient building, burned down by the Normans, lie beneath the castle ruins.