News

Sheffield Heritage Fair 2022

We missed the Heritage Fair in 2021, but thankfully it is back this year - 10am to 4pm on Saturday 29 January and 11am to 4pm on Sunday 30 January. It is being held in the Arundel and Cadman Rooms in the Millennium Gallery on Arundel Gate in Sheffield. We have a table for the Hunter Archaeological Society so do come and say hello. There are over 40 local groups and societies represented so lots to find out about.

Hunter's life story to be published

One volume of the Transactions dating back to our centenary year 2012 is still outstanding, but will shortly be published. It contains life stories of a number of people who have been formative in the Society, including Joseph Hunter and the extended Hunter family. Ruth Morgan and Martin Waller have attempted to capture the context in which Hunter lived and how his life and work were influenced by contemporary events.

Society talks move to Zoom

From January 2021 during lockdown, we decided to hold our talks on Zoom - University buildings were closed and members unable to meet. The talks were recorded and available to members on Youtube.

New Hunter President 2017 - Colin Merrony

At the Society's AGM in March 2017, we elected Colin Merrony as our new President, after Phil Sidebottom (who was elected our President in 2013) agreed to stay on a further year - we are very appreciative of all he has done for the Society over his four years in office.

Colin is a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Archaeology at Sheffield University and Programme Leader of the MA in Landscape Archaeology. He has a wide range of experience in commercial and community archaeological practice and field research, and the Hunter Archaeological Society has had a long association with him through our regular visits to his excavations at Brodsworth, Castleton, Bolsterstone and elsewhere, and talks he has given us about these sites.

Freeman College students create a new Badge of Office

On December 11 2013, the Hunter president and several society members were formally presented with a new Badge of Office created for the Centenary by the students of Freeman College. The College, which occupies the historic Sterling Works on Arundel Street in Sheffield, is run by Ruskin Mill Trust and provides innovative and experiential education and training for young people marginalized by disadvantage, exclusion or special learning needs. Its ethos and heritage aspects fit well with Hunter's remit to work with the community to promote archaeology.

The project had started a year or so before, with discussions about what the Society stands for and how to represent that symbolically. After lots of ideas from the students, the final design shows a laptop computer on top of a pile of books to represent the move into the 21st century. The Badge was cast in pewter and then silver-plated; each link of the chain was made by a different student. It is proudly worn by the President on all formal Society occasions and replaces the stainless steel model made in 1985.

Glass Slides Project

Following a customer enquiry in the Local Studies Library, it came to light that a collection of several hundred glass slides in the basement of Sheffield Central Library had been deposited, probably in the 1930s, and never looked at since. They had belonged among others to Society Secretary James Ragg Wigfull, a Sheffield architect who was also a very keen photographer; the quality of many of the pictures is outstanding. A group of Hunter members worked on cataloguing the slides and identifying those that were not labelled; any not on Picture Sheffield were then scanned and added to the records. Sheffield Photographic Society members were very interested to see some of them.

Plaque of Joseph Hunter has been installed in Local Studies Library

Some visitors to the old Local Studies Library in Sheffield may recall a bronze plaque on the wall to the right of the entrance. This was of Joseph Hunter, and was placed there to commemorate the centenary of his death in 1861. In May 1961 it was unveiled by Lord Mayor Alderman H. Slack with seven Hunter members looking on. The plaque was designed by Hunter President and craftsman Joseph Beeston Himsworth (1874-1968) and made by his daughter Joyce (also an internationally renowned silversmith).

When the Local Studies Library relocated across the building, the Society campaigned to have the plaque moved as well, and during the Centenary year 2012 it was moved into the new Local Studies Library, just to the right of the entrance doors, with an interpretation panel to explain its significance. Do go and have a look at it.

Hunter Centenary 2012

In the evening of 11 May 2012, the Lord Mayor Sylvia Dunkley hosted a Reception in the Town Hall in recognition of the importance of the Society over the last century. This was attended by many members, councillors, museum staff, colleagues from Sheffield University and Sheffield Archives among others.

A conference marked the centenary of the Hunter Archaeological Society on the very same date as the inaugural meeting - 12 May. The conference was titled Shared Pasts: democratic traditions in British archaeology, and was held in the Cantor Building at Sheffield Hallam University. The contributors and delegates at the conference celebrated the tradition of ‘community heritage’ to which the Society continues to contribute.


Archaeology has long been a way for people of varied backgrounds and experience to discover their past. The establishment of provincial antiquarian societies during the nineteenth century arguably marks the beginnings of our democratic tradition. Volunteers and enthusiasts from many different backgrounds were the mainstay of archaeological research throughout the 20th century, and were core to the success of the rescue projects that responded to post-war development. The late 20th century brought a new challenge: at the same time as archaeological work became increasingly professionalised, the mass media dramatically widened awareness of and participation in archaeology. Community heritage projects now proliferate, thanks in large part to the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, and participation is more diverse than it has ever been.


The speakers reviewed the history of public participation in British archaeology and mapped out the future for our ‘common heritage’ as the discipline faces economic constraints, challenges to social cohesion, and a questioning of established identities.

Some of the papers were published in a special Centenary issue of the Transactions of the Hunter Archaeological Society, volume 26.


In the evening a Centenary Dinner was held in the Cutlers’ Hall attended by the Master Cutler Pam Liversidge, guest speaker David Hey and special guest Professor Sir Paul Mellars. On display was the newly restored portrait of Joseph Hunter, painted by HW Pickersgill in 1852 for the Cutlers’ Feast at the inauguration of his brother Michael Hunter.

The following day saw a range of excursions and walks on offer.


At the start of the year, Weston Park Museum installed an exhibition about the Society with a display case of items from Sheffield Castle, in the recording of which Hunter members were so important, and a slideshow.


From September to December 2012, an exhibition entitled ‘Heritage Makers’ about the Society’s history was mounted in the gallery of Sheffield University Library at Western Bank. Speakers at a launch reception included Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Professor John Moreland and Dinah Saich.

The Society worked with seven primary schools across the region in June and July 2012 to communicate the excitement of archaeological discovery to 7 - 11 year olds. We held a programme of events for each school. It began with an introduction session to archaeology as historical enquiry, and continued with the digging of ten test pits at each school. Hunter members and University of Sheffield students supervised pupils who dug the test pits in their school grounds. Pupils handled archaeological objects courtesy of Arteamus in the intro session, then found and handled objects excavated from under their playing fields.

A follow-up session was held, featuring a cartoonist who drew pupils' suggestions about the objects they found. Ideas went into a comic, launched in November at a special event at South Yorkshire Archaeology Day and distributed to participating schools, public libraries and museums. A full report on the finds from the excavations is available.

Hunter Archaeological Society wins Heritage Lottery Fund support for its Centenary

The Hunter Archaeological Society has received £36,500 in 2012 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting project in South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire: 'Lives in the Past, Discoverers for the Future'. Led by volunteers from the local community, the project celebrated 100 years of community involvement in historic and archaeological research and conservation.

The project inspired and trained a new generation of ‘heritage explorers’ to continue this long tradition of amateur involvement in archaeology. The project formed part of the centenary celebrations of the Hunter Archaeological Society, a charitable society set up in 1912 to study and report on the archaeology, history and architecture of South Yorkshire and north-east Derbyshire. The Society is named after Joseph Hunter, one of the first people to research and record the region’s history. Joseph was born to a cutler in Sheffield in 1783.

The Society organised a series of events during the centenary year with the assistance of the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Local Studies Library and Museums Sheffield. These included a Centenary Weekend, 11th - 13th May, with a conference on community archaeology titled 'Shared Pasts', a reception at Sheffield Town Hall and dinner at the Cutlers’ Hall. The weekend launched a series of guided walks and excursions throughout the summer -these are available as self-guided trails, and there will be a special edition of the Society’s Transactions.

Weston Park Museum hosted an exhibition on the work of the Society from February. Members are researching the life stories of past members and these featured in an exhibition in Sheffield University Library in the autumn of 2012 and a specially produced booklet History Makers.

Primary schools in Barnsley, Sheffield and Dronfield took part in a project which includes digging test pits to get hands-on experience of archaeology.