Excavation at Conisborough Castle

August 1926

Mexborough & Swinton Times, August 20, 1926

Excavation at Conisborough Castle

The Castle walls are crumbling away with age, and exposure to the weather, and it is pleasing to note that the caretaker, Mr. L. Smith, is doing his utmost to try and preserve them. For several weeks now, he has been busy repairing the walls, and while digging for stones with which to re-build has made important discoveries.

On the north-west side the entrance to a subterranean passage has been found. The entrance to the tunnel is 18½ feet down, and there a well-preserved arch, of the early Norman or late Saxon period has been uncovered. Just inside the tunnel is a square ventilator. The roof which is about four feet from the floor has worn wonderfully well. About three feet inside is a chimney, and several charred stones, which may have been part of a fire-place.

Standing out from the freshly turned earth is the threshold of a door with the jambs standing about four feet high, are beautifully faced and well preserved. In one, a decayed iron hinge still hangs. Many cattle bones and several human bones have been discovered.

The excavations are being made by Mr. L. Smith, and his family, assisted by a party of Grammar School boys from Doncaster.

A large and heavy piece of lead has been discovered on a great stone, surfaced with baked clay. Mrs. Smith also showed me a curiously shaped piece of copper, which was probably part of a soldier’s helmet, a piece of red earthenware fashioned like two bearded faces, a little crude, yet still bearing a cruel grin, and a small piece of ornamented blue stone. Some pieces of lead piping have also been unearthed, welded down the side, as was years ago. With severed bones, a piece of this piping has been sent to the Doncaster Museum. Twenty yards away from the entrance to the tunnel, a small enclosure has been found, supposedly a stable, with a wide gutter running down the middle.

Here also, a rose window and a keystone Norman arch have been discovered.

About 60 years ago on the east side of the walls there were unearthed three large skeletons, pinned to the ground by large stakes, and a silver fourpenny piece on each breast. (The silver coin was to keep the soul of an evil man fastened down.) It might be that more skeletons will be found, or perhaps weapons and armour.