Slideshow - Retro: Castle fires imagination

We’re meandering through the letter C in our Retro A to Z of Sheffield and South Yorkshire.

Our next stop is famous for its castle, which attracted the attention of a world-renowned author and artist.

Aerial picture of Conisbrough Castle and Wellgate flats - 7th March 1995

Aerial picture of Conisbrough Castle and Wellgate flats - 7th March 1995

Conisbrough was once Cyningesburh, a Saxon word meaning ‘the king’s fortress’ which English Heritage say may refer to earlier earthworks around the church.

The present castle, with its famous unusual-shaped keep, was built around the end of the 12th century.

From 1347 it became part of the estates of the Dukes of York but gradually fell out of use. By 1538 it was already a ruin, which saved the castle during the English Civil War.

Sir Walter Scott used Conisbrough in his 1819 novel Ivanhoe, which turned the ruins into a tourist attraction.

The castle also attracted the attention of the painter JMW Turner in 1797.

As well as sketching the castle and a waterwheel-powered iron mill close by, he captured a dramatic portrait of workers hammering white-hot metal inside the mill.

Guns for HMS Victory were said to have been cast in Walker’s mills and the picture depicts a large cannon.

A year before Turner visited, a mill that prepared paints in powder or oil form was up for sale by auction, according to the Leeds Intelligencer newspaper.

It is one of many fascinating snippets on the Conisbrough and Denaby Main Local History Group website,

Coal mining was one of the mainstays of the area, with Cadeby Main and Denaby Main pits both nearby.

In 1903 a bitter seven-month strike took place involving 3,000 miners who worked for the Denaby and Cadeby Main Company.

The owners, who were also the miners’ landlords, had families evicted from their homes by about 200 police armed with cutlasses.

The families ended up living in chapels, tents and schoolrooms. Other workers made sure the children got a hot meal every day.

Only nine years later, a terrible disaster hit Cadeby Main when a series of underground explosions of methane and coal dust claimed the lives of 91 miners, rescue teams and colliery officials.

Just a day before the tragedy King George V and Queen Mary had visited the town and came back briefly to pay their respects.

A century later a memorial was finally raised to the victims by their descendants. Cadeby Main closed in 1987.