ROTHERHAM: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1837.


"ROTHERHAM, is a busy market town and a parish-town on the navigable part of the river Don, and has long been celebrated for its iron and steel works; its noble gothic church; its extensive corn and cattle market; and for the glass-houses, and numerous potteries in its vicinity. As has been seen in the early history of Hallamshire, Rotherham is more ancient than its gigantic neighbour, Sheffield from which it is distant 6 miles, N E by E, being 12 miles from Doncaster, 12 from Barnsley and 168 from London. It is situated partly on the declivity of a hill, ad partly in a valley, on the river Don, at its conflux with the river Rother, from which it has its name. The houses are generally of stone and some of them are handsomely and substantially built; but owing to the low situation of many of them, and to the irregularity and narrowness of the streets, the town has rather a dull appearance, though it contains upwards of 6,000 inhabitants, including its populous suburbs of Masbro' and the Holmes, which are in Kimberworth township, on the western side of the Don, which is here crossed by a fine old bridge, of five pointed arches, with an elegant chapel, standing on the centre pier, and now used as the town prison. The Parish of Rotherham is in the Upper Division of the Wapentake of Strafforth and Tickhill, and in the Deanery of Doncaster. It is of considerable extent, comprising within its ample limits, two Chapels of Ease, and no fewer than eight townships, of which the following is an enumeration, shewing the number of inhabitants in each at the three last decennial periods of the parliamentary census, and the annual value of the lands and building as assessed for the property tax in 1815.

Townships Annual Population
in Value in 1801 in 1811 in 1821 in 1831
Rotherham Parish in 1815
Rotherham 9,807 3,070 2,950 3,548 4,083
Brinsworth 3,077 183 208 225 227
Catcliffe * 135 170 202 196
Dalton 2,251 225 264 225 187
Greasbrough (Chapelry) 4,311 1,166 1,253 1,252 1,290
Kimberworth 10,770 3,326 3,482 3,797 4,031
Orgreave * 45 42 47 35
Tinsley (Chapelry) 16,214* 268 302 327 368
Total 46,430 8,418 8,671 9,623 10,417

* The Annual Value of Orgreave and Catcliffe was included with Tinsley

Rotherham township contains 1,140 acres of land, of which the principal owners are the Earl of Effingham, (lord of the manor) the Walkers, of Masbro', the Feoffees of Rotherham, and the heirs of the late Samuel Buck, Esq. Before the Norman Conquest, Acume the Saxon, was lord of the Manor of Rotherham, but William the Conqueror dispossessed him and gave it to the Earl of Mortaign under whom it was held by one Nigel, from whose descendants it passed to the family of Vescy, one of whom, in the reign of Edward 1., gave it to Rufford Abbey, in Nottinghamshire, together with eight oxgangs of land in the said lordship, and the advowson of one moiety of the church. It remained in the possession of the monks of the house till the dissolution of the monasteries, when Henry VIII. granted it to the Earl of Shrewsbury, from whom it hath descended, together with Kimberworth manor, to the present lord and impropriator, the Earl of Effingham, a collateral descendant of the illustrious Howards, Duke of Norfolk. During the civil wars in the reign of Charles I., Rotherham embraced the popular cause; but in 1643, "it was reduced to subjection by Wm. Cavendish," who was afterwards created Duke of Newcastle. After the siege of Sheffield, it fell into the hands of the parliamentarians, and since that period its peace has not been disturbed by any military conflict.

In ancient times, Rotherham was famous for its manufacture of edge tools, and there are still iron and steel works on a large scale in its immediate vicinity, especially in its suburbs, Masbro' and the Holmes, both in the township of Kimberworth, in which there were mines of ironstone, two smelting furnaces, and two forges, as early as 1160, but these appear to have been of very small dimensions, compared with the immense Iron Works of Masbro', which were founded by the late Samuel Walker, Esq., whose history is short but instructive. At twelve years of age he was left an orphan, with two brothers and four sisters, without property, and almost without education. His industry and talents soon supplied these deficiencies, and qualified him for keeping a school. He afterwards established, along with his brothers, Aaron and Jonathan, a small foundry, which in time, under his fostering genius, became one of the most extensive and flourishing establishments of the kind in Europe. He died on the 12th of May, 1782, in the 66th year of his age, rich in property, and abounding in Christian virtues. At these great iron works there were manufactured during the late wars with America and France, immense quantities of cannon of the largest caliber, and almost every kind of cast iron articles, as well as many of wrought iron. The largest iron bridges of Sunderland, Yarm, and Staines, as well as the bridge which crosses the Thames, called Southwark Bridge, were cast at these foundries, in which less business is at present done than formerly, partly from the number of similar establishments which have arisen in other parts of the kingdom, but principally, perhaps, from the great wealth of the Walker family having diminished the stimulus to ardent exertion. They commenced a bank in Sheffield and Rotherham, in 1792, but in 1836 it was transferred to a joint stock company. After peace had been restored to Europe in 1815, and there was no longer any demand for those military and naval stores, such as cannon, mortars, balls, &c, the Walkers gave up their extensive iron and steel works, (except one smelting furnace) and from the immense number of workmen who were thrown out of employment, Rotherham appeared to be doomed to a speedily and ruinous decay; but happily the deserted works were, in a few years, divided and let off to more humble speculators; and since then both the iron and steel manufactures have continued to increase. The town possess great advantages for the production of heavy articles, being on the navigable part of the Don, and having in its vicinity an abundance of coal and ironstone. A Railway is now forming from Sheffield to Rotherham, and another will, in a few years, pass the western side of the town from Derby to Leeds.

The weekly market, which is held on Monday, is extensively supplied with corn and cattle, and on every second Monday there is a fair, or great market, for fat cattle, sheep, and hogs; and this, like the fortnight fairs of Wakefield, which it much resembles, is numerously attended by graziers and butchers from various parts of the country, though it has been much injured by the establishment of similar markets at Manchester, Leeds, and Sheffield. Races are held here annually, on the Wednesday and Thursday before Doncaster races; a 'Statutes' or hiring for servants on the first Monday in November, and two fairs on Whit Monday and December 1st. In 1801, an act of parliament was obtained for lighting and cleansing the town and for making new market places. Under the powers of this act, the commissioners erected the present shambles, near the Butter-Cross, but the cattle are exposed for sale in the Crofts, on the south side of the town, where there are convenient pens and every necessary accommodation. On the river are several extensive wharfs, and in the town and neighbourhood are two glass-houses, a large brewery, and several china and earthenware manufactories, for a description of which see Swinton and Rawmarsh, in vol. 2nd.

The Parish Church, is a spacious and handsome Gothic fabric, built in the reign of Edward IV., on the site of a Saxon edifice. It is dedicated to All Saints; and is indisputably one of the finest parochial places of worship in Yorkshire. Its interior includes a spacious nave, two side aisles, a north and south transept, and a chancel, which has an open communication with the aisles, but is divided from the nave by the organ gallery. On February 22nd, 1826, four compartments of the ceiling above the nave, were destroyed by a fire, occasioned by a plumber leaving a pan of boiling lead on the roof. On July 2nd, 1830, the fine lofty spire was struck by lightning, and so much damaged that 27 feet of it had to be taken down and rebuilt at the cost of £230. Camden says, "In the year 1410, a perpetual vicarage was ordained in it; and one Mr Paldon founded a chantry on the altar of St Crosse in this church; but it is long ago suppressed." Here were formerly five Chantries, viz. Holy Cross, valued at the dissolution at £10 12s 1d. per annum; St Mary's, £3 13s 4d., Our Lady's, £4 6s 1d., St Catherine's £4, and H Caruebull's £13 6s 8d. The rectorial tithes were anciently in the appropriation of the Convent of Clarewell in France, and the Abbey of Rufford in Nottinghamshire; but the Earl of Effingham is now the impropriator, and also patron of the vicarage, which is valued in the Liber Regis, at £16 8s 6d., and is worth about £400 per annum. The Rev. Thomas Blackley, M A is the incumbent.

There are in the town four Chapels belonging to Dissenters, viz., the Independent Chapel, connected with the Independent College; the Particular Baptist Chapel, near the foot of Westgate; the Presbyterian or Unitarian chapel at the head of Oil Mill Lane, erected in 1706; and the Wesleyan Methodist chapel in Talbot lane, built in 1805 and enlarged in 1832, so that it will now hold 1,500 hearers. The Baptist chapel was built in 1836, in lieu of the small old chapel on Masbro' Common. It has a handsome stone front in the Grecian style and cost about £1,100.

The College, which was long used as an Inn, was founded in 20th of Edward IV., by Thomas Scott, usually called Thomas of Rotherham, Archbishop of York, who dedicated it to our Lord Jesus, and placed therein a provost, five priests, six choristers, and three schoolmasters, to teach grammar, music, reading, and writing; but it was suppressed with the monasteries, by Henry VIII., and the revenues taken from it; but this loss was soon afterwards compensated by the foundation of a grammar School, a Charity School, and by numerous bequests to the church and poor, most of which are vested in trust with the Churchwardens and the 'Feoffees of the Common Lands of Rotherham'. The oldest deed respecting the latter trust, is dated 26th of Elizabeth, and recites that the inhabitants conveyed to the twelve Feoffees and their successors, in perpetuity, certain charity and other public property to be employed to divers good uses, "as before time had been accustomed, that is to say, for the relief of the poor people of the town, for the maintaining ad repairing of bridges in and about the town, and for and towards the discharge and contribution of fifteens, taxes, musters, and other common charges, wherewith the town of Rotherham and inhabitants thereof might be charges." The number of twelve Feoffees is kept up by election in the manner specified in a trust deed executed in 1778, the lord of the manor, and the vicar being always two of the number. The "common lands which they hold in trust, are subject to several specific payments for charitable purposes in respect to other charity property mixed therewith." The trust property consists of about 70 acres of land, and the Ship Inn, and from 20 to 30 other houses, &c, in Rotherham and Masbro', which yield collectively, upwards of £567 per annum.

The Grammar School forms a branch of the general trust of the Feoffees, but there are no deeds or writings relative to its foundation, though the master receives a yearly stipend of £10 15s 4d. from land revenues of the crown, supposed to have been reserved on the dissolution of Jesus College. The Feoffees appoint the master, and allow him the free use of a house, and a yearly gratuity of £8. He has also £5 annually from land in Rotherham and Dalton, bequeathed by a person named Oakes. The school is free for classical learning only, but the number who resort to it for such instruction is usually very small; indeed it has for some time been closed, owing to a disagreement between the master and the trustees.

The Charity School, in the Crofts is reported to have been established by a person named Scot, and the estates destined to its support, were formerly under the direction of separate trusts, but since the year 1775, they have been under the trust and management of the Feoffees, who built the present school and master's house, in 1776. The yearly income of this school amounts to £97. 7s, arising from land in Ecclesfield and Rotherham, several pews in the church, some fee farm rents, and £20 a year from the trustees of Ellis's Charity. Of this, £30 is paid to the master and the remainder is expended in providing clothing and books for the 28 boys, and 20 girls, who are here instructed in reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Hollis's Charity School is attached to the Presbyterian chapel, and is endowed with £20 a year, left in 1768, by Timothy Hollis, together with £10 a year to the minister of the chapel, as has been seen in the account of Hollis's Hospital at Sheffield. The master has also the free use of a house, and he is required to teach 12 boys and 12 girls, as free scholars in reading and writing. The British Schools, in Rawmarsh lane, were built by subscription in 1833, for the accommodation of 200 boys, and 200 girls, who are instructed on the Lancasterian system. These schools were first established in the Town Hall, in May 1831. Each scholar pays one penny per week, and the other funds required for the support of the schools, are raised by voluntary contributions.

The Great Dole, which is under the management of the church wardens, is distributed by them, in money, among the poor inhabitants, except £2. 12s. which is given in bread. It produces £57. 10s. per annum, arising from lands and houses left by Thomas Woodhouse, in 1606; John Shaw, and Thomas Dickenson, in 1640, and other benefactors. The Almshouses for four poor women, were founded in 1780, by Mary Bellamy, and are endowed with an estate at Mansfield, let for £59. 5s. a year, and the dividends of £223. 6s. 10d. new four per cent. Annuities. Each almswoman receives an annual stipend of £12. Os. 6d., and £10 a year is distributed amongst the poor, by the trustees - Messrs. Robert and James Clarke, John Nightingale, and Joseph Hatfield.

Various other Benefactions have been bequeathed to the poor of Rotherham and their dates, the names of the donors, and their annual value, are as follows: - 1640, Thomas Dickenson, 30s; 1699, Henry Foljambe, 20s; 1776, Edward Bellamy, £8; 1779, John Cutforthay, 50s; 1780, Mary Bellamy (for apprenticing poor boys) £8; 1789, John Kay 32s; 1800, Samuel Tooker, Esq., 48s; 1812, Robert Heppenstall, 37s 6d.; 1689, William Malin, 20s; 1667, Thomas Taylor £4 10s ; 1702, Lady Troth Mallory, £12 1s; Downe's gift, 20s; Mrs Mansel, £6 10s; and in 1702, George Beardsall, £6 out of an estate at Catcliffe, to be distributed annually on St George's day, "amongst 24 lame, impotent, old, blind and poor persons, not able to work, by 5s a piece, residing in Rotherham and Catcliffe. J Wright, of Nottingham, the owner of the estate, refused to pay the latter rent charge, and a suit in Chancery ensued between him and the churchwardens, which ended in 1822, in a decree, that, after the costs (£200) of both plaintiff and defendant, had been paid out of the charity, the rent charge should be paid annually and distributed according to the will of the donor; but it would certainly have been more equitable to have thrown these heavy law expenses upon the defendant, by whose injustice they had been incurred, than thus to have annihilated the charity for upwards of thirty years to come. The Poor Rates for Rotherham township, amounted in 1836, to about £1,300, collected in three rates of 2s in the pound on the assessed rental.

Library, Dispensary, &c - In a place where so much provision has been made for affording learning to all classes, it is natural to look for the means of gratifying the taste thus acquired, and accordingly we find in the town a Subscription Library, which was established in 1775, and now comprises upwards of 2,500 volumes in the various departments of science literature, &c. These books are deposited in a handsome public building, which was erected in 1829, on the site of the old Town Hall, at the cost of more than £1,500, realised by voluntary subscription, and £100 given by the Feoffees. This elegant edifice has a semi circular front, in the Ionic order, and contains commodious apartments, used as a News Room, the Grammar School, and the Dispensary, the latter of which affords medical and surgical aid, as well as medicines, &c, to the afflicted poor, and is supported by the contributions of the benevolent, and an annuity of £21 paid by the Feoffees. Mr J Goodall, is the resident surgeon and apothecary. The number of patients admitted since the establishment of the dispensary in 1806, amounted in 1836 to 14,262; and in the latter year, the subscriptions yielded £251. Amongst the Eminent Men who were natives of Rotherham, we find the before named Thomas, Archbishop of York, and Robert Sanderson, Bishop of Lincoln, the latter of whom died in 1663.

The new Town Hall is a handsome fabric with spacious court rooms, &c. near the old College. Quarter Sessions for the county are held here; and a Petty Session is held every alternate Monday, when two or more of the following Magistrates are in attendance, viz. the Rev. John Lowe, of Wentworth; Rev. H S Milner, LL.D. of Thrybergh; John Fullerton, Esq. of Thrybergh Park; Henry Walker Esq. of Clifton House; T B Bosvile Esq. of Ravenfield; Rev. George Chandler, of Treeton; and the Rev. Wm., Alderson, of Aston; to all of whom Mr John Oxley is clerk.

Many improvements have lately been effected in Rotherham; and in the vicinity are several handsome villas. In 1801, an act was obtained for lighting and cleansing the town, and for making the new market places already noticed. In 1827, a company of shareholders with a capital of £2,000, established public Water Works, from which the principal part of the town is now supplied. The water is pumped by a steam engine, (at the rate of 70,000 gallons per day) from the ever flowing springs in Wellgate, into two large cisterns at Quarry Hill and the Crofts, from which pipes are laid to the dwellings of the inhabitants.

The Gas Works, near the Bridge, were erected in 1833, by a company of proprietors with a capital of £5.000, raised in £25 shares, but they have yet expended only £4,000. The works were constructed under skilful direction of Mr Colquhoun, of Sheffield, and the town was first illuminated with their brilliant vapour, on Nov. 15th 1833. At the works are 12 retorts, and a gasometer, of 130,460 cubic feet. The Don Navigation, has been considerably improved by the excavation of a new cut, broad and deep enough for vessels of 90 tons burthen, and nearly two miles in length; - extending in a direct line from the vicinity of the bridge, to the Homes Iron works, and thence to Jordan dam, near which it terminates in the old line. The completion of the North Midland and Sheffield Railways will give a powerful impetus to the prosperity of Rotherham and the extensive collieries iron works and potteries in its vicinity."

[Transcribed from White's History, gazetteer and directory of the West Riding of Yorkshire 1837]