DONCASTER: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1835.


"DONCASTER, a parish in the West riding of the county of YORK, comprising the borough and market-town of Doncaster, which has a separate jurisdiction, the townships of Balby with Hexthorp, and Long Sandal with Wheatley, in the soke of DONCASTER, and the township of Langthwaite with Tilts, in the northern division of the wapentake of STRAFFORTH-AND-TICKHILL, West riding of the county of YORK, and containing 9117 inhabitants, of which number, 8544 are in the borough of Doncaster, 37 miles S.W. from York, and 162 N.N.W. from London. This place, the Danum of Antoninus, a Roman station on the river Don, was by the Saxons called Dona Ceaster, from which its present name is derived. According to Camden, the town was entirely destroyed by lightning about the year 759, at which period the castle, of which the founder and the time of its foundation are unknown, is supposed to have been burnt. The town is pleasantly situated on the southern bank of the river Don, and the surrounding scenery, especially on the western side, is delightfully picturesque; it consists of several streets, of which the High-street, about a mile in length, is the principal, and is considered to be the best, for width and beauty, on the road from London to Edinburgh; they are well paved, and lighted with gas, at the expense of the corporation, who have ample revenues for the improvement of the town, and the inhabitants are supplied with water by means of water-works near the Friar's bridge, from a reservoir at the top of the High-street, under the direction of the corporation, the expense being defrayed by a rate. An elegant cross, in the later style of English architecture, stands on an eminence called Hall-cross hill, and has superseded a rude and ancient structure of a similar kind, which was formerly placed in the centre of a road leading into the town, but removed in order to widen and improve the carriage-way. An agricultural society, established in 3 803, holds an annual meeting in July or August. A very commodious suite of apartments was erected in 1821, for a public library and news-room, established by private subscription, to which a collection of old books, kept for many years in. a room over the church porch, has been recently-added: this institution is open to the use of all the inhabitants, though not members of the society. The races, which for some years have been increasing in splendour and attraction, and are attended by nearly all the families of rank in the North of England, are generally held in the third week in September, and continue five days. About a mile from the town is the celebrated race-ground, on which a very elegant and commodious stand has been built at the expense of the corporation, who also have for many years given an annual plate, of the value £50, of and a subscription of £42 towards the stakes; in addition to these donations are His Majesty's plate of £105, and a gold cup of £105, given by the stewards. An elegant building of the Ionic order, called the Bettingroom, was erected in 1826; it is ninety feet in length, and twenty-two feet wide, lighted"3uring the day by a handsome dome, and at night with gas introduced into three superb chandeliers. The theatre is a handsome building, also erected at the expense of the corporation, in 1774; the performances commence in the race week, and continue about six weeks. Doncaster has but little trade or manufacture. There are two or three castiron foundries, and a sacking and twist manufactory, but all on a very small scale. The river Don is crossed by two bridges; Friars bridge was erected by the corporation in 1614, and subsequently widened and handsomely ornamented with iron balustrades; the mill bridge was rebuilt in 1782. A long causeway has been constructed from both the bridges, to obviate the danger arising to passengers from the overflow of the river, which, being navigable to Sheffield, supplies a ready means of conveyance for articles of commerce, which are sent to London, Hull, and other places, in small vessels of from thirty to fifty tons burden; timber, deals, grocery, and other goods are returned. The market is held on Saturday: fairs are held, February 2d, April 5th, August 5th, for horned cattle, horses, sheep, and coarse woollen cloth, and November 16th, which is a statute fair for hiring servants. A wool market commences on the second Saturday in June, and continues every Saturday until the 6th of August. The marketplaces occupy nearly the centre of the town, consisting of that for holding the corn-market, a spacious area, adjoining which is the market for meat, or the new shambles, built by the corporation in 1756, the roof of which is slated, and supported on twenty-four columns: an octagonal building was also erected by them in the same vear, for the sale of fowls, butter, eggs, &c., and for fish, vegetables, and fruit.

The government of the town, by charter of Richard I., confirmed by succeeding kings, and modified by James II., is vested in a mayor, recorder, twelve aldermen, twenty-four common council-men, assisted by a town clerk and other officers. The mayor is chosen from among the aldermen, who elect to vacancies in their own body from the members of the common council, in which vacancies are filled up by the mayor, aldermen, and the capital and free burgesses: the mayor may appoint one of the aldermen who has passed the chair as his deputy. The recorder, who must be an outer barrister at least, is elected by the mayor, aldermen, and common council-men. The mayor, and three senior aldermen, are justices of the peace within the borough and soke of Doncaster. The freedom is inherited by birth, or obtained by seven years apprenticeship within the borough, or by purchase for £3. 6. 8. The corporation hold quarterly courts of session, for determining on offences not capital; and a court of record, under the charter of Henry VIII., for the recovery of debts to any amount. A court of requests is held under commissioners appointed by an act passed in the 4th of George III., for the recovery of debts under 40s. within the borough and soke: the annual session for the wapentake of Strafforth and Tickhill is also held here, and the county magistrates hold a meeting every Saturday for the adjoining district. The mansion-house, which is an elegant structure, was completed in 1748, and furnished at an expense of more than £8000; it was enlarged in 1800, and an attic raised above the columns to screen the roof. The principal room is decorated with a full length portrait of his late Majesty, George III., in his coronation robes; also with portraits of the present Earl Fitzwilliam, and of the Marquis of Rockingham, in parliamentary robes, both presented to the corporation by the earl. Here the muniments of the corporation are preserved, the feasts of the corporate body held, and concerts and assemblies periodically take place. This town had a residence especially appropriated for its chief magistrate before either London or York. The town-hall, which occupies the site of a church dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, was thoroughly repaired and beautified in 1784, and considerably enlarged and improved in 1828, and is now one of the most convenient court-rooms in the county. The corporation are about to remove the present gaol, built in 1778, and to erect a new one upon the radiating plan, adapted to receive four classes of prisoners, with distinct airing-courts to each, the gaoler's house to occupy the centre, and to command an entire inspection of the prisoners. The living is a vicarage, in the archdeaconry and diocese of York, rated in the king's booksat £32.19.9, and in the patronage of-the Archbishop of York; it is under lay impropriation to Miss Sharp, a lineal descendant of the archbishop of that name, and from this lady the vicar receives an annual stipend of £ 60. The church, dedicated to St. George, is a spacious cruciform structure, principally in the later style of English architecture, with a tower, of which the details are exquisitely rich. According to Leland, it was partially built with materials from the ruins of the old castle: the exact period of its original erection is uncertain, but a stone, discovered a few years since, during some repairs, with the date of 1071 upon it, strengthens the opinion that part of it was erec-ted about the time of the Conquest; it has, however, undergone so many alterations that no part of the original structure now remains, though there are some traces of an earlier date. The building consists of a nave, aisles, and a transept, with a choir and side chapels, or chantries, extending north and south to the extremity of the transept. The roof of the nave is sustained by twelve massive octangular pillars, with plain capitals, whence spring ten obtusely pointed arches. The tower is supported by four ponderous octagonal columns, with richly decorated capitals, of a later date than the rest of the fabric; and from these rise four finely pointed arches, on each side of which and in the belfry are monograms, armorial ensigns, &c., commemorative of various benefactors. The height of the church is seventyeight feet, breadth sixty-eight feet, and length one hundred and fifty-four feet; the height of the tower is one hundred and forty-one feet. In the interior is an ancient font, though probably not of such remote antiquity as the date 1061 upon it implies; a magnificent east window has been recently erected, containing figures of the Apostles and the Prophets, the gift of Mrs. Baker. Among the various monuments is that of Robin of Doncaster, placed just behind the reading-desk, and bearing a curious inscription with the date 1579; the tomb is an altar of free-stone near the north-west supporter of the tower; also the tomb of Ellis, founder of the hospital, and five times mayor of Doncaster. A new church, in the later style of English architecture, called Christ's church, has lately been erected, from a fund of £ 13,000, granted by John Jarratt, Esq., a native of Doncaster, and formerly an iron-master at Bowling, near Bradford; it consists of a nave and side aisles, is ninety-five feet long and fifty-two feet wide, separated by slender-shafted pillars, and the spire, which is one hundred and sixty feet in height, is remarkable for its lightness and elegance. There are places of worship for the Society of Friends, Independents, Presbyterians, and Wesleyan Methodists. The grammar school, kept on the ground-floor of the town-hall, was founded for the sons of freemen, by the corporation, who appoint the master, and allow him a salary of £ 80 per annum: there is a scholarship of £10 per annum in Jesus College, Cambridge, belonging to this and the school at Arksey. A National school has been lately established, in which two hundred and twelve boys, and one hundred and eight girls are taught reading, writing, and arithmetic; the girls being likewise instructed in needle-work: it is supported by voluntary contributions, including an annual gift of £20 by the corporation. Sunday schools were introduced here at their first institution. St. Thomas Hospital was erected in 1588, by Thomas Ellis, whose tomb is in the church, for the support of six poor and decayed housekeepers; the founder endowed it with an estate then let. for £10 per annum, but which, from the increased value of land, now produces about £400 per annum, enabling the trustees, who are the mayor and vicar, with others, to give pensions to twelve poor persons not resident, but who are admitted as vacancies arise. A dispensary was established in 1792, and is supported by voluntary contributions, and an annual gift of £105 from the corporation, at whose expense the building was erected. The poor-house, situated in St. Sepulchre's gate, was erected in 1719, by subscriptions of the more wealthy inhabitants; the annual rent of fifty-nine acres and sixteen perches of land, in a place called the Intacks, with a rate on the inhabitants, under the management of a select vestry, is paid to the master for the maintenance of the poor. Edward Fenwick, of London, bequeathed £100 for the benefit of the poor of Doncaster, at the disposal of the mayor and corporation; Thomas Martin gave £20, charged on lands at Stainforth andTudwath, to apprentice three, four, or five poor boys, natives of, and resident in, Doncaster; Mr. Quinston Kay, of Ludgate-hill, London, upholsterer, in 1804, gave to the corporation £2000 three per cent. Bank Annuities, and £6000 four per cent. Bank Annuities, producing £300 per annum, in trust, to apply the dividends as follows; viz., £2. 2. to the vicar, or curate, for a sermon on the first Sunday in September, and £5 to be distributed on that day in bread to the poor; £ 60 to apprentice every year six poor children, of either sex, residing in the township, at the age of fourteen, to some useful mechanical. business; £3. 3. annually to the dispensary; £10 to the town clerk, for his trouble in making payments, and keeping accounts; the residue of the dividends to be paid in sums of £1. 1. per month to poor reduced persons, of either sex, being resident, and not less than fifty years of age. John Jarratt, Esq., of Doncaster, invested £2200 with the corporation, for an annuity of £110 per annum, to be divided amongst six reduced housekeepers. The ancient Roman road, Watling-street, on which the town stands, may be traced over Scawsby Lees, near Adwick le Street, and in many other places northward, towards Legiolium, now Castleford, near the confluence of the rivers Aireand Calder; and some years since, a Roman votive altar was dug up in the cellar of a house belonging to John Jarratt, Esq., near St. Sepulchre's gate. Among the religious establishments anciently existing here, were the hospitals of St. James and St. Nicholas, founded for lepers in the reign of Henry III.; a house of Grey friars, founded in 1315; and a house of Black friars, of which the founder and the date are unknown. John Lacy, an actor and writer of plays in the time of Charles II., was born here. Henry Heaton, chaplain to Archbishop Herring, one of the young academics who assisted the Yorkes in the production of the Athenian Letters; and Dr. Edward Miller, who in 1804 published the "History of Doncaster," resided here. Doncaster gives the title of earl to the Duke of Buccleuch."

"BALBY, a township, joint with Hexthorp, in that part of the parish of DONCASTER, which is in the soke of DONCASTER, West riding of the county of YORK, 1½ mile S.S.W. from Doncaster, containing, with Hexthorp, 392 inhabitants. The first meetings of the Society of Friends, under their founder, George Fox, were held here, and in the neighbouring village of Warmsworth."

"HEXTHORP, a township, joint with Balby, in that part of the parish of DONCASTER, which is within the soke of DONCASTER, though locally in the northern division of the wapentake of STRAFFORTH-AND-TICKHILL, West riding of the county of YORK, 1 mile S.W. from Doncaster, containing 392 inhabitants."

"LANGTHWAITE, a township, joint with Tilts, in that part of the parish of DONCASTER, which is in the northern division of the wapentake of STRAFFORTH and TICKHILL, West riding of the county of YORK, containing 21 inhabitants."

"LONG SANDAL, a township, joint with Wheatley, in that part of the parish of DONCASTER, which is in the soke of DONCASTER, West riding of the county of YORK, 3 miles N.N.E. from Doncaster, containing, with Wheatley, 160 inhabitants."

"LOVERSALL, in the parish of DONCASTER, and the soke of Doncaster, West riding of the county of YORK, 3 miles S. from Doncaster, containing 131 inhabitants. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the archdeaconry and diocese of York, endowed with £600 royal bounty, and £200 parliamentary grant, and in the patronage of the Vicar of Doncaster."

"TILTS, a township, joint with Langthwaite, in that part of the parish of DONCASTER, which is in the northern division of the wapentake of STRAFFORTH-and-TICKHILL, West riding of the county of YORK, 4 miles N. from Doncaster. The population is returned with Langthwaite."

"WHEATLEY, a township, joint with Long Sandal, in that part of the parish of DONCASTER, which is within the soke of DONCASTER, West riding of the county of YORK, 2 miles N.N.E. from Doncaster. The population is returned with Long Sandal. A school for teaching poor children, and almshouses for twelve aged persons, were erected and are liberally supported by the family of Cooke."

[Transcribed by Mel Lockie © from
Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England 1835]