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Sheffield Castle’s secret tunnel – myth or truth? ‘It could be a bit of both’

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.

Sheffield Castle as it may have looked

Sheffield Castle as it may have looked

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.

READ MORE: Sheffield Castle dig ‘shows site’s potential’ as new finds fire public imagination

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.

David Clarke

David Clarke

”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.

READ MORE: Dig to uncover history of Sheffield's medieval castle gets underway

“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.”

Excavation work at the Sheffield Castle site

Excavation work at the Sheffield Castle site

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.

READ MORE: How Castlegate in Sheffield is about to rise again

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.