Churches

Introduction

The Doncaster and District Family History Society covers the Archdeaconry of Doncaster and has many historical churches within its boundary. The Society thought it would be appropriate to show a selection of these churches on their web site.

The churches in the main date from the 11th and 12th centuries and are of great historical interest. Each of the selective churches is accompanied by a photograph and a brief description of the churches history, together with an outline of its location

The Society therefore hopes this will enhance the interest of members with a view to further research and the fulfilment of their own family history.

Doncaster & District Family History Society considers there has been no infringement of copyright, as all the text has been provided either by Doncaster Archives or by the society’s members.

Credits
The Doncaster & District Family History Society wishes to extend grateful thanks to the following:

  • Dr. Brian Barber, past Principal Archivist at Doncaster Archives, for his help and advice and for providing some of the text.
  • Gwen Jennings for providing exhibition material of the churches.
  • Howard Collins for scanning the photographs.

Adwick Le Street

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Like many villages in the Doncaster area, the character of Adwick le Street changed considerably in the early years of the twentieth century following the arrival of coal mining. A small rural community suddenly found itself acquiring a different appearance, a greatly increased population and an altered employment base. A new housing estate, Woodlands, was built by the Brodsworth Main colliery company, an influx of mine workers and their families arrived from other parts of the country and mining replaced agriculture as the main source of employment.

Throughout the nineteenth century, the population of the parish, (again, like most others in the Doncaster area) had been low and essentially static. The first census of 1801 recorded 284 residents, rising to a high of 434 in 1841. This was followed (yet again a common trend locally) by decline over the next sixty years, reaching 294 by 1901. From the seventeenth century, the village had no resident squire, and by the early nineteenth century, Adwick Hall, the seat of the lord of the manor, was in ruins. However, between 1791 and 1795, a new mansion house, Woodlands Hall, was built by Thomas Bradford of Alverley Grange. After passing through the ownership of Christopher Waterton (the younger brother of Charles Waterton of Walton Hall, near Wakefield, well-known as an explorer of South America, naturalist and taxidermist), the Woodlands estate a purchased by the Thellusson family of Brodsworth Hall.

The sinking of Brodsworth Main colliery in 1905 began the transformation of the parish. By 1911, Adwick le Street Urban District (a larger area that the old parish) had a population of nearly seven thousand and by 1921 it had grown to nearly twelve thousand. The colliery company created a ‘model’ village to house its employees, commissioning a pioneering garden suburb from Percy Hufton, a Chesterfield architect. The houses were designed in cottage-style and given in a semi-rural setting of lawns and trees. Its imaginative layout contrasts favourably with the bleak, straight terraces of Denaby Main, a neighbouring colliery village built between the 1870s to the 1900s.The cost was, however, deterred the colliery company from further building of this kind, and at nearby Highfields, its next venture into house-building, the company followed less imaginative plans.

Charles Thellusson, the owner of the mining royalties of Brodsworth Main, provided Woodlands with a new church. The reason for its specific location in the plan of Woodlands village can be readily understood by any visitor to Brodsworth Hall, the Thellusson home now in the ownership of English Heritage. The church of Woodlands, All Saints, was obviously sited so that its spire could be clearly seen by its provider, and his guests, from the main driveway to the Hall.

The church of Adwick le Street, dedicated to St Lawrence, was in existence by the end of the twelfth century, but may be built on the site of a very much older structure. The church is oriented in the same unusual direction as St Wilfrid, Cantley, and may suggest that the site both of were influenced by some feature (perhaps a temple) of a Romano-British settlement. Certainly, both places have produced evidence of settlement from very early dates.

Visit St Laurence Church website

Austerfield

austerfield

Ask a person what they know about a place and you may get something about a recent happening that they remember about the location. Ask a person interested in local history what they know about a place and you may end up with a lot of varied facts, which puts that place in a very different light. It’s the second of these two choices that I hope to explore in this introduction to Austerfield.

To an American, our first question may have elicited the response, ‘It’s the birthplace of William Bradford’. To most, the response would have been, ‘Where’? As the place is not exactly on the beaten track – except that from the United States on a find the ancestors tour, most could easily miss this small, linear village, set on the very boundary of the southernmost parts of South Yorkshire, England.

But history has not bypassed the place, and many more events have happened in this small, rural backwater, than most could ever suppose. Events will show that the place has helped mould modern day Christianity, been the place of kings made and kings deposed, been part of that great adventure of exploration, settlement and nation making. It has felt the influence of Roman, Viking and Norman rule and through all this has apparently changed very little. It’s still that quiet, rural backwater, where religious sedition was practised and to many brought the village its supposed claim to fame.

Our story of Austerfield will not begin with this recent memory, albeit that memory is now over 400 years old. It begins with the end of the last Ice Age, when melt water from retreating glaciers gave the area its modern geological setting. The large inland sea, the Humber Sea, that was created by the release of such large quantities of water, gave the place its underlying deposits of sand and gravel, greatly exploited resources in the surrounding area for over the last 60 years. This period of the seas existence, in geological terms was very short, about 4,000 years, but was the forerunner of the extensive forests that subsequently covered this area.

It was into this forest that hunter-gatherers came in their search for food, and eventually settled to form the basis of the first farming community that became modern Austerfield. Our proven tale of settlement in the area begins in the Iron Age with the site of round houses that were uncovered in 1996, as topsoil was stripped for sand extraction. Archaeological surveys at the time found four or five houses, and aerial photographs predicted the settlement to have contained up to a dozen houses. Artefacts showed the community to have been involved in farming. Settlement ditches and boundary fencing give us some indication to the size of the settlement. Change would have been very slow compared with modern times. Land would have been clear felled of trees to create larger areas of farmland as the size of the community grew or they wished to diversify on what they grew and the animals they kept. Food remains in the form of bones in fire pits showed they ate sheep, pigs, deer, cattle, horses and dogs. But change eventually came with the Roman invasion of Britain.

In the early part of the 1st century, the native Ancient British tribes to this area were the Coritani tribes. From 47 to 52AD the Roman Governor of Britain, Publius Ostorius Scapula, or Ostorius for short, attempted to spread the Roman grip on Britain by subduing northern tribes. It is believed that in this period that large areas of the remaining woodlands around the modern village were burnt down by the Romans. This was to deter the guerrilla tactic employed by the Coritani of attacking Roman patrols in the area from the shelter of dense woodland. Burnt remains of bog oak and pine are still ploughed up from fields near the river. Although at this time this action would have further incited the native tribes, its benefit for a later date was the large areas of cleared land made available for farming. However, at the time the action is thought to have brought a response of battle from the Coritani. Abraham de la Pryme, a late 17th Century diarist, cites a probable battle that ensued on the Plains of Austerfield with the added suggestion that the village name comes from the ‘field of Ostorius’ battle’.

Our next tale of battle takes place some 550 years or so later in 616AD and includes the making and deposing of a king. In 592AD, Æthelfrith became King of Bernicia, modern day Northumberland and Durham, with parts of Scotland thrown in. Æthelfrith had designs on a dynasty and soon took over the neighbouring Kingdom of Deira, modern day Yorkshire and North Humberside. This enlarged kingdom became the Kingdom of Northumbria. However Edwin, rightful king of Deria was still alive and had sought shelter under the protection of King Raedwald of East Anglia, the most powerful English King of his day. Æthelfrith attempted to bribe Raedwald to kill Edwin, but the bribes were declined and in 616AD, Raedwald raised an army with Edwin against Æthelfrith. The joint forces marched north and caught Æthelfrith’s army unprepared on the banks of the River Idle, near Austerfield. Æthelfrith was killed and Edwin was crowned King of Northumbria.

There is a further Northumbrian connection in 702AD, with the Synod of Austerfield, a church meeting called by Archbishop Berhtwald of Canterbury to settle a dispute between the King of Northumbria, Ældfrith and Wilfrid (Wilfrith), Bishop of Ripon. In 691AD, Wilfrid had attempted to have himself made Bishop of all Northumbria. Ældfrith had objected to this, seizing Wilfrid’s estates at Ripon Abbey and banishing Wilfrid to Mercia. There, the King of Mercia, Æthelred, had made him Bishop of Leicester. Wilfrid had made many attempts to have this rescinded and his estates returned, including a petition to the Pope in Rome.

The calling of the Synod of Austerfield in 702AD was an attempt to resolve this and other issues. Amongst this was a request for the northern Celtic Churches to recognise and accept the Roman method for calculating Easter which had been worked out at Whitby in 664AD and that Celtic monks should accept the Roman form of tonsure (haircut) given by their bishop instead of the Celtic style. Wilfrid is offered back his estates at Ripon, but refuses at first before finally accepting the posts of Bishop of Hexham and Abbot of Ripon. By 704AD, Æthelred has given up his kingdom to become Abbot of Bardney, Ældfrith is dead and by 709AD so is Wilfrid.

The tympanum stone above the main door to St.Helena’s Church, Austerfield is probably the only clear reminder of this event. Bede, the great historian and monk was not present and the only written records of someone who was there come from Eddius Stephanus, an acolyte of Wilfrid, so must be viewed in that respect. It has also been suggested that this Easter connection could be another link with the naming of the village. In this period the village was named ‘Oestrefelda’, ‘Oestre’ being the Saxon for Easter and ‘felda’ the word for field. This, however is probably as dubious as the Roman link.

The church itself does not date from this period, but from nearly 300 years later, shortly after the Norman Conquest. In an attempt to gain favour with the lands he acquired after the invasion , John de Buesli, agrees to request the building of a ‘Chapel at Ease’ from the Priory at Blyth, six miles south of Austerfield. This, up to that time, had been the church for the people of Austerfield and Sundays had been taken up with the journey to and from Blyth and the services. Following agreement to it being built, stone from the Roche Abbey quarries was brought by boat along the rivers Ryton and Idle to a place near Austerfield and then by horse and cart to the site of the church. Over the subsequent centuries, the church has seen new sections built and renovations completed so that it stands as can be seen nowadays.

It was into this church that, on 19th March 1589, William Bradford was brought to be baptised. However his desire to follow the path of the Pilgrims was such that at an early age he left the village on that 13-year journey that would end in America with Bradford taking the role of Governor and historian of the new settlement.

To many that would be the ending of the story of Austerfield with its most famous son, but infamous deeds have also been committed in the area. In the village stand two houses, Dyon Cottage and Dyon House Farm (although the farm has long since gone, the house still remains). Many will pass them without knowing their names stand as testimony to the murder of one Dyon by his brother and nephew in 1828. It is a story of greed and the house names are a timely reminder of the results of greed.

A walk around the village, and the names of some of the lanes show the place to have been, and still be to some extent, a farming community and it is this farming link that probably gives the village its name, an ‘auster’ being a sheep pen on the open common land. Some names, like Low Common Lane, reflect the system of Open or 3 Field Farming that happened in the village until the Austerfield Enclosure Act of 1765. Others reflect the name of families who lived in the village centuries ago, like Woodhouse Lane. The school, built in 1882, reflects the attempts to educate the populace of the village. Many, like William Bradford, leave never to return. Others seek work in the wider world, but like those descendents of Bradford remain true Austerfield at heart. Your walk would show you the old and new of the village. It would not show you many of the things outlined here, as the village still maintains its attempt to display a sleepy rural appearance to the world, a place where nothing ever happens. It does not blow its trumpet, attracting attention to itself, and so it will remain, except to those discerning few who attempt to peer past that sleepy, indifferent veneer the village displays.

Andrew Jagger
October 2001

Visit St Helena Church website

Barnburgh

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Barnburgh is a pleasant village overlooking the Dearne Valley, with views of Wombwell, Barnsley. Wentworth, Mexborough and High Melton. It stands in a very favourable position and is situated on Magnesium Limestone. There are four roads to enter the village, and it is the light coloured stone tower of its parish church of St Peter that catches the eye.

Barnburgh, with its adjoining hamlet of Harlington is an ancient parish and has a rich and colourful history, much of it associated with the church.

The church is built of a mixture of sandstone and magnesium limestone. Nothing remains of the original church of Barnburgh, so states Joseph Hunter in his “South Yorkshire”. The present building is of Norman origin, as indeed many churches in the area are, built around 1150, and was possibly one of the first Norman churches in the district to boast a tower. It had only three stages originally; it was much smaller than the present tower. Most Norman churches were built without a tower. It is unfortunate that the stone used in the construction of the church, is very soft, and was particularly vulnerable to the corrosive effect of smoke from the surrounding industries and mines.

The four-stage tower is surmounted by a peculiar little spire, the tower carries a pinnacle at each corner below which are rainwater spouts. There are louvered windows on each of the four sides giving light to the bell chamber, which hoses three ancient bells. On the West face of the tower, about halfway up and above the rounded arch of the window of the ringing chamber is a small shield bearing the three Cresacre lions. To the left and right of the arch is a date, which despite the erosion appears to be 1659. On the North side opposite the main entrance, there is a built up door, known as the ‘Devils Door’. When in existence the door would be opened during baptism services and similar services to let the devil out. Such superstitions could not be tolerated at the Reformation, so the door was blocked up.

The Porch is of the Decorated style, with a ribbed and slabbed roof; the presence of stone benches reminds us of the time when the porch was a very important place, used for many purposes. The floor of the porch has a stone, which has a deep red stain, said to be the blood of Sir Percival Cresacre (of the cat and man legend). The porch was built in 1330, but is not necessarily the date of the floor stones.

The Churchyard was enclosed about 1410 with, it would appear, financial assistance from Ackworth Church. When looking across at the priest’s door there is a large stone object lying in the angle formed by the South Aisle wall and the Cresacre Chapel. This is a stone coffin minus the lid; it would appear to be of 12th or 13th century in origin and no doubt dug up from the churchyard. Stone coffins were in use in Norman times and for a little while afterwards, but used only by wealthy barons.

The baptistry is one of the most important places in the church after the Holy Table. For at least 850 years adults and babies have been brought to the font for baptism, the font itself is probably mediaeval dating from about 1330, although some authorities describe it as Norman, dating from the latter half of the 12th century.

The tower which is separated from the nave by a wooden screen, in the base of the tower, which is of the late Norman era, can be seen the remains of a deeply splayed window, now blocked up in order to strengthen the tower when it was raised. There is also different coloured stone, which was used in the construction, some with a reddish tinge. The base of the tower is now used as a vestry. The tower houses three bells in a modern steel frame installed in 1993. The last refit was in the 1830’s. The frame has a space for a further two bells, the bells date from 1490,1662 and 1628.

Update:-These have now been filled. Barnburgh was fortunate to be one of the churches chosen to receive Ringing in the Millennium funding, and this was used to add a treble and tenor to the “minor” key ring of three. The Trust donated the tenor bell (second-hand) and the treble came from a redundant church in Doncaster (Christ Church).
Update Courtesy of
www.keltek.org

The Cresacre Chapel, was a Chantry Chapel of the Cresacre family, who were Lords of Barnburgh from the 13th to the 16th century. Placed in the centre is the tomb of Sir Percival Cresacre who died in 1477, beside him is his wife Alice who died in 1450. The tomb is richly carved, although there is evidence of restoration, there is no doubt that it is representative of 15th century craftsmanship.

To gain access to the Chancel you have to pass through the ‘Southwell’ arch. Until Southwell was made a Cathedral in 1884, the Chapter of Southwell were the patrons of Barnburgh Church.

The Bella Aqua Chapel is dedicated to the Bella Aqua family (or Bellews as they were later called), they jointly owned Barnburgh with the Cresacre family. The Chapel is enclosed by an ancient oak screen on the North and West sides, and in the south wall will be found a Pisina (once used prior to the reformation to wash vessels at Mass).

Visit St Peter Church website

Doncaster and District Family History Society has published :

  • Baptisms: 1561-1919
  • Burials: 1558-1900
  • Monumental Inscriptions: 1912-2006
  • 1871 Census available on CD

The following records of Barnburgh St Peter are available at Doncaster Archives:

  • Baptisms: 1557-1962
  • Marriages: 1559-1983
  • Burials: 1558-1981

Conisbrough

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Conisbrough stands high above a narrow point in the River Don valley; it lies about 6 miles south west of Doncaster and 12 miles north of Sheffield. Its strategic importance as a point from which movement along the Don valley could be controlled is witnessed by its name, which is derived from the Anglo-Saxon for ‘king’s stronghold’. Virtually everything else about the early history of the place, however, is pure legend. The only early historical facts of which we can be certain is that Conisbrough is mentioned in the will of Wulfric Sprott, dated between 1002 to1004, and that it appears again in the Domesday Book of 1087 as the centre of a very extensive lordship, with lands scattered across South Yorkshire.

A strategic site implies the presence of a castle, and the Conisbrough Castle is a remarkable Norman structure. The magnificent 90-foot cylindrical keep of Conisbrough Castle dominates the town and its surrounding countryside. It is certainly not the first fortification on the site, and Saxon earthworks have been found within its boundaries. At the time of the Conquest the manor was held by King Harold, but William the Conqueror gave Conisbrough to his son in law William de Warrene as tenant in chief. It remained in the Warrene family until the 8th Earl, John, died childless in 1347 and the property reverted to the crown. Hameline Plantaganet (half-brother to king Henry II) built the keep, which dominates the castle, who inherited the Conisbrough estate by marriage in 1163. The keep, built in glistening local limestone, which he probably had built in about 1180, is identical with one he had built at Mortemer, on his estates in Normandy.

The settlement was mainly an agricultural one, and the Normans seem to have been interested in the Conisbrough estates as a base for military and hunting purposes. Conisbrough suffered from being administered by frequently absent landlords, who held estates in other parts of the country. The survival of the castle in so good a state is a tribute to its military unimportance. It had already become ruinous in the Middle Ages, and played no part in the civil war of the 1640s. Had it done so, its fate would have been sealed, and Conisbrough would have joined Sheffield, Tickhill and other castles as a victim of government demolition shortly afterwards to prevent their use in the future.

The church, dedicated to St Peter, is even older than the neighbouring castle and is, indeed, the oldest building still in use in South Yorkshire. There is visible evidence that the church has an Anglo-Saxon core, perhaps dating from the eighth century, although it was enlarged by the Normans and then again several centuries later. Conisbrough was like Ecclesfield (now in Sheffield) and Dewsbury (in West Yorkshire), a mission church. It had at least eight of dependent churches, which in the Middle Ages became separate parishes. In the Doncaster area, these included Armthorpe, Braithwell, Fishlake, Hatfield, Kirk Sandall and Thorne.

In the 19th century the living was a discharged vicarage worth about £300 pa, and in the patronage of the Archbishop of York. Whatever its historical importance, Conisbrough remained a relatively small place until the twentieth century. Numbering 843 at the first census of 1801, the population had doubled by 1861. Thereafter it grew rapidly because the parish contained the newly created coal-mining village of Denaby Main within its boundaries.

There was a school built by public subscription in 1812. From ancient times there had been a ferry on the river Don, known as King’s Ferry, operating from King’s Wharf just below the castle. From a mainly farming community Conisbrough gradually developed into an area of more divers manufacturing. an iron works existed there in 1600. The sickle trade developed here, where a water wheel on the Don powered the lathes. There were two breweries in 1867 – the Hill Top and the Hollywell Brewery – and the South Yorkshire Railway had a repair establishment. An extensive brick, tile and pipe works existed, china and earthenware manufacturer was also at Conisbrough.

Conisbrough also boasted a magnesium quarry, a glass works built by Kilner Brothers of Thornhill Lees, Dewsbury, which opened in the early 1870’s. The Denaby Powder Works opened in 1889 for the manufacture of explosives.

Denaby Main colliery was sunk in 1867, bringing many jobs to the area; Conisbrough’s second colliery opened in the 1890’s and 90 lives were lost in the explosion on 1912. None of those killed in the disaster were buried in the churchyard, but in the cemetery which had opened in 1892. After this date there were few burials in the churchyard in existing graves, the last being in 1931.

Visit St Peter’s Church website

Doncaster and District Family History Society has published :

  • Baptisms, Conisbrough Methodists: 1842-1938
  • Burial index for Conisbrough 1555 – 1931
  • Cemetery Burial Registers: 1900-1950
  • 1871 Census available on CD

The following records of Conisbrough, St Peter are available at
Doncaster Archives :

  • Baptisms: 1559-1976
  • Marriages: 1559-1992
  • Burials: 1555-1931
  • Banns: 1823-1987
  • Indexed : 1555-1878, Marriages: 1588-1836, Burials: 1555-1871, Banns: 1823-1896
  • Bishop’s transcripts 1600-1844

Denaby

Denaby

Denaby Main is unusual amongst communities in the Doncaster area in being entirely the creation of nineteenth-century industry. The industry, as usual in the Doncaster area, was coal. Other places in the area have developed from a small pre-existing village, and in some cases, such as Adwick le Street, Armthorpe, Edlington and Rossington, (all mining villages) developed so far as to almost overwhelm the ancient settlement they have been grafted onto. Denaby, although taking the name of the ancient settlement nearby (now known as Old Denaby), was created from open countryside by the road between Conisbrough and Mexborough where it crossed the River Don and alongside the South Yorkshire, Doncaster and Goole Railway Company’s line (later part of the Great Central Railway), which gave the new colliery vital access to the railway system.

Shaft-sinking began in September 1863, coal was reached four years later, and mining finally began in 1869. At that time, Denaby Main was the easternmost colliery in Yorkshire and, before coal was struck a quarter of a mile below the surface, there had been scepticism that the Barnsley seam extended so far east. In 1889, the company began to sink a second shaft a mile away, at what became Cadeby Main colliery, which went into production in 1893. The eastward movement of mining in the coalfield, with progressively deeper mines sunk at Brodsworth, Edlington, Armthorpe, Hatfield and Thorne in the early twentieth century, had a major impact on the whole area. The colliery company not only sunk the mine, but also built the village, which developed haphazardly in fits and starts over thirty years. By the turn of the century, the company had built over a thousand houses for its workforce, producing a village which lacked any real focus. It straggled along the main road, the layout of its streets reflecting the boundaries of the fields which had been purchased piecemeal (from John Fullerton of Thrybergh Hall, who owned the mining royalties, and Andrew Montagu of High Melton Hall) as the need for more pit- workers and hence new houses arose.

For twenty years, Denaby remained part of the parish of Conisbrough. In 1883, the colliery company opened a new school in Rossington Street, which was also equipped to serve as a mission church for the Church of England. However, in 1900 a new parish of Denaby was created and a new church, dedicated to All Saints, was built.

Visit St Laurence Church website

Doncaster and District Family History Society has published:

  • Burials: Deaby Main, All Saints: 1900-1956
  • Burials: Deanery of West Doncaster available on CD
  • 1871 Census available on CD
  • 1891 Census available on CD

Doncaster Archives has the following registers of Denaby Main, All Saints:

  • Baptisms: 1891-1988
  • Marriages: 1900-1974
  • Burials: 1900-1956
  • Banns: 1900-1996
  • Indexes: none
  • Bishop’s transcripts: none

Doncaster

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This church is the ancient parish church of Doncaster. It is situated within the boundaries of the Roman settlement and the medieval castle. Whether St George or the church of St Mary Magdelene was the original parish church of Doncaster is at present unknown. St Mary Magdelene, located in the market place, was certainly a Norman structure, as was discovered on its demolition in 1848. It had long been converted to use as the town hall after purchase by the Borough Corporation in 1557 and its original function forgotten, wholly disguised by successive adaptions.

In any case, speculation is irrelevant for family history, as by the time parish registers begin in 1557, St George’s was definitely the town’s parish church. At this time, Doncaster was the largest, really the only, town in the area, a market town with its own borough council. The borough could trace its history back to 1194, when it received a royal charter from king Richard I, the ‘Lionheart’. The charter itself is still preserved, and can now be found at Doncaster Archives, along with the other dozen surviving royal charters granted to the town. The full privileges of the borough could originally only be enjoyed by those who could claim to be freemen. A complete list of these has been published (see below).

Although Doncaster was a market town and municipal borough, it was, by modern standards, a small community, numbering only about two and a half thousand inhabitants. They lived in the centre of the town, essentially an area bounded by present-day Duke Street, Cleveland Street, Silver Street and the market. In the eighteenth century, Doncaster began to grow in size consistently (reaching 5,697 inhabitants at the first census in 1801) but did not start to grow rapidly until the arrival of the Great Northern Railway workshops – the ‘Plant’ – in 1853.

As if to mark the break between the old market town and the new industrial one, the parish church was destroyed by fire in March 1853. It was rebuilt very quickly to designs by Sir George Gilbert Scott, one of the leading architects of the day. Fortunately, the registers were rescued from the flames, but some still bear the marks of charring as evidence of the fate, which nearly befell them. What the early parish registers tell us about the town makes life in Doncaster in some respects look fairly bleak. In almost 130 years, from the 1550s to the 1680s, there was an excess of burials over baptisms of nearly two thousand. The indisputably unhealthy town was relying heavily upon continued migration from the surrounding countryside to maintain its numbers.

The worst example of just how unhealthy town life could be can be seen in the burial register for the 1580s. On 18 September 1582, the register begins to record burials accompanied by a letter ‘p’, and from November these became frequent. The ‘p’ stands for ‘plague’, which indicates an epidemic of an unknown disease rather than plague in the modern medical sense. In the following year between February and November 1583, virtually all burials have the letter ‘p’ in the margin. By the end of the epidemic, 731 victims had been buried. So about a quarter of the total population of the town had perished in little more than a year. Urban life in the sixteenth and seventeenth century could have qualified for a government health warning.

As the town expanded in the nineteenth century, new parishes were created. These were Christ Church, St James (the ‘railway church’), St Jude at Hexthorpe and St Mary at Wheatley. Today St George’s church stands in isolation from the town centre, cut off from it by an inner ring-road whose route was chosen insensitively even by the standards of the 1960s.

Like many towns, Doncaster became a centre of nonconformity in religion. From the late seventeenth century, the town acquired congregations of Unitarians, Independents, Methodists, Quakers and other denominations, although their numbers (apart from the Methodists) were relatively small.

The Church of St George was granted Minster status in 2004.

Visit the Minster Church of Saint George website

Doncaster and District Family History Society has published:

  • Baptism, Marriage and Burial Records: United Reformed Church, Hallgate, Doncaster 1798-1904, 1999
  • Freemen of the Borough of Doncaster 1558-1974, 1998
  • Monumental Inscriptions: Doncaster Hyde Park Cemetery
  • Monumental Inscriptions: Doncaster – St George
  • 1851 Census Index: Doncaster (volumes 12 and 13)
  • 1871 Census available on CD
  • 1891 Census available on CD

The registers of Doncaster, St George, available at Doncaster Archives are :

  • Baptisms:1557-1924
  • Marriages: 1557-1925
  • Burials: 1557-1890
  • Banns: 1925-1973
  • Indexed: Baptisms 1557-1864, Marriages 1557-1837, Burials 1557-1890
  • Bishop’s transcripts (none at Doncaster Archives)

Fishlake

FishlakeChurch

The village and parish of Fishlake is situated on the North side of the River Don about 9 miles east of Doncaster, and separated from Thorne and Stainforth by the river and the Stainforth and Keadby Canal. It lies in the south division of the Wapentake of Strafforth and Tickhill, the rural deanery of Doncaster and the archdeaconry of York. It is almost an island, being surrounded by river and canals, and can only be entered by crossing a bridge.

Originally part of the parish of Hatfield, it soon became a separate parish and included the townships of Fishlake and Sykehouse, until the latter became a parish in its own right in 1860. The township of Fishlake included the districts and farms of Clowns, Foster Houses, Hay-Green, Smalledge, Thorninghirst and Westfield.

Recorded as FISCELAC in Domesday in 1086 A.D., the name was derived from the Old English meaning a fish stream rather than a lake. The name relates to a time when the river spread itself into a broad expanse of mere which provided excellent fishing for the local people. The whole area was subject to regular flooding.

In the Middle Ages Fishlake was a sizeable port on the River Don, with a population of about 1600. A ditch in St. Cuthbert’s Landing, known as Cuthbert’s Haven in Saxon times, was part of the bed of the medieval dock. Today’s Trundle Lane was once known as the Long Causeway which ran between rows of eel ponds from which the monks of Dunscroft Abbey used to collect supplies of eels.

A great flood bank provides the highest land for miles around, the first being erected in the early 17th century by Cornelius Vermuyden as part of the great drainage of Hatfield Chase. Built to keep out water, at Fishlake the reverse was true; whenever the river flooded the land, it remained and was reluctant to leave again. Older residents of the village today can still recall times when only the tops of hedges could be seen above the water. This situation persisted until a second higher bank was built by prisoners of war in the late 1940s, some three hundred years after Vermuyden.

The oldest building in the village is undoubtedly the church, which is dedicated to St. Cuthbert. The second William de Warrenne granted it to the Priory at Lewes in about 1200 A.D., at which time it was still part of Hatfield parish. Legend has it that when the Danes invaded the north east coast of Britain the monks of Lindisfarne carried the body of St. Cuthbert away to safety. Wherever the body rested on its journey a cross was erected, or sometimes a church. Fishlake was the furthest south of all the places visited during seven years of wandering to avoid the Danes, until it reached its final resting place in Durham Cathedral. One of the main features of the tower of Fishlake church is a fine medieval statue of St. Cuthbert holding the head of St. Oswald, former king of Northumbria. Another legend which appears to have some substance is that the head of St. Oswald was placed in St. Cuthbert’s coffin for safe keeping, for when the coffin was opened a few years ago two skulls were found in it.

Built in stone by the Normans, the church was added to throughout the Middle Ages. 13th century nave arcades have pointed arches on round pillars, and there is a pointed chancel arch with rich mouldings. The chancel has 14th century windows and one of Norman origin, and a font with eight canopied figures has a Jacobean cover carved with a dove. There is an ancient chest and part of a pew said to have been made in the year Shakespeare died (1616). There are 15th century screens and the tower at the west end is of that date. There are six bells and a curious notice in the belfry forbids anyone to ring the bells “in hat or spurs.”

Monuments inside the church include the tomb of Robert Marshall, a vicar who died in 1505 A.D. Although its brasses have gone, it is richly embellished with elaborate carvings. An inscription elsewhere commemorates Thomas Simpson of 1740 A.D. and there are 17 other gravestones. The church has two old porches, and the South porch, which has a modern front shelters what is generally regarded as the glory of the whole church, a Norman doorway of great splendour. It is considered to be one of the finest examples of Norman stonework in the country. In its intricate carving can be seen dragons fighting, knights tilting, a monk rowing, a griffin, an angel and a demon. The inner side of the arch includes 35 grotesque heads and 2 figures, a hunting scene, men carrying a coffin and a canopied figure holding a staff. Inside this archway, the door itself looks old enough to be Norman, and is believed to have been brought from nearby Roche Abbey.

Apart from the church, there are two old windmills and the two medieval crosses in the village. There may have been a market for the surrounding villages in early times. There was a ferry, which transported horses and carts across the river to Thorne, and the ancient landing known as Cuthbert’s Haven was used by river traffic travelling between Sheffield and Thorne. It is believed that tunnels existed running from the Old Hall to the church and to a house on the old riverbank, used for smuggling.

Fishlake’s first school was founded by the will of Richard Rands, the rector of Hartfield in Sussex, dated 1641 A.D. Land was purchased to provide an annuity for a headmaster who had to be an Oxbridge graduate with a degree in Latin, conditions which persisted until the early 1900s. Rents from church land provide a charity for orphans, which is still available today. A bequest in 1685 by Thomas Alleyn provided poor relief and apprenticed poor children of the parish to trades in London.

Apart from St. Cuthbert’s, there were chapels in Fishlake for the Wesleyans, New Connexion Methodists and Primitive Methodists, all built in the mid 19th century.

Fishlake has lost many of its old trades and, apart from farming, has little to offer in the way of employment; most villagers have to commute to work in Doncaster or Thorne. It does, however, remain essentially a rural village community and has kept its identity.

Margaret Frost
February 2002

Visit St Cuthbert Church website

PARISH RECORDS

Parish registers for Fishlake St. Cuthbert start from 1561 A.D. and included the township of Sykehouse until 1860. The original registers are held by Doncaster Archives.

Filmed copies of the registers for the following years are available for consultation at the Doncaster & District Family History Society research room:

  • Baptisms 1813 – 1954
  • Marriages 1754 – 1959
  • Burials 1813 – 1974

Apart from these registers, Doncaster Archives also holds many other records relating to the parish. These include Overseers of the Poor accounts, settlement and removal papers, and constables and ‘churchwardens’ accounts, all worth looking into if you have ancestors in Fishlake.

MONUMENTAL INSCRIPTIONS

The churchyard at Fishlake still contain many tombstones, and these, with the memorial inscriptions from inside the church were transcribed in May 1981 and are available on fiche

Set 2 – from Doncaster and District FHS.

This burial index has been arranged to include all information from the parish registers.

Where the information does not fit into the main index ‘extra info’ has been entered in the last column and the full transcription for that entry has been entered in date order at the end of the index.

Hatfield

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There is very little written evidence of the history of Hatfield in early times. The name Hatfield, Hedfeld., Hethefield, or other similar names, means “a tract of open uncultivated land” and we know it lay on a small gravel island in the middle of peat moors, marshes and bogs. The first written record was a mention by the Venerable Bede on his book on the history of the English Church, written in the eighth century, of a battle at Hatfield in AD 633. It tells of a power struggle between Saxon Kings.

The next written record appears in the Domesday Book in 1086, when the village of Hatfield was part of the large estate of Conisbrough, owned by Earl William de Warenne. Conisbrough estate and many other parcels of land had been granted to him by King William 1 for his help in the Conquest. There is a separate entry in the Domesday Book for Tudworth, which had 20 fisheries, mainly eel ponds, which provided large quantities of fish for Conisbrough Castle and Roche Abbey. The Domesday Survey of 1086 mentions a church at Hatfield but nothing of that building remains to be seen.

The present parish church of St Lawrence was probably begun in the 12th century. The south and west doors are Norman and so is the lower part of the outer walls of the nave. The Norman pebble construction can be seen quite clearly outside. Three Norman windows survive at the West End but the decorated windows in the south aisle are fourteenth century insertions.

The nave arcades, five on each side, are thirteenth century, replacing the original Norman work but the general impression is that of a Perpendicular church. The clerestory, transepts, tower, chancel and north and south chapels are all of that period.

The church is cruciform with a tall, commanding central tower, over the crossing the tower is 100ft. high and bears inside and out, the arms of the Savage family, one of whom, Thomas Savage, was Archbishop of York from 1501 to 1507 and his brother became Bailiff of Hatfield in 1485. The family came from Macclesfield and Thomas built the Savage chapel there. Numerous masons’ marks from the tower and into the east end indicate that all this work was carried out at about the same time in the reign of Henry V11.

After the rebuilding the church was dedicated to St Mary, but in the middle of the 18th century the original name of St Lawrence had reasserted itself. The chancel screen is a very fine one; it dates from the end of the fifteenth century, as also does the much smaller one at the entrance to the St Catherine Chapel, which is now used as a vestry.

Galleries were installed in 1697 and removed in 1872 under the supervision of Sir Thomas Jackson who also raised the floor of the ringing chamber to allow the big windows in the lower portion of the tower to light up the crossing. The south porch was rebuilt at the same time and the font was assembled from pieces of various dates.

The sixteenth armour in the south chapel is probably associated with the founder of the chancery. The parish registers begin in the reign of Elizabeth 1 and they record that the plague visited Hatfield in the summer of 1607.

The massive iron-bound dug-out chest in the north aisle is formed from a single piece of oak. It is of Norman workmanship and originally it had ten locks. The jointed chest next to it might be from the fourteenth century. The choir stalls were designed by Temple Moore (1856-1920) and the table by his son in law, Leslie Moore. The table itself incorporates part of an older seventeenth century table, which was much shorter. The windows in the south aisle are by C.E. Kempe (1837-1907) and his assistant W.E. Tower (1873-1955) and can be identified by the little sheaf of corn, which was their trademark. All the modern glass in the north aisle, the south chapel and the south transept, the Welch memorial tablet in the south aisle, the lighting pendants and the altar rails in the South Chapel are designs by G.G. Pace of York.

Visit Hatfield Church website

Doncaster and District Family History Society has published:

  • Burials index (in surname order) 1567-1900 (on fiche)
  • Burials: 1566-1943 available on CD
  • Monumental Inscriptions available on CD
  • 1851 Census
  • 1871 Census available on CD
  • 1891 Census available on CD

Hickleton

Hickleton

Hickleton is one of the small villages north of Doncaster, which are situated on the limestone ridge. Hickleton lies about 6 miles west from Doncaster on the main road to Barnsley. Called Chiceltone at the time of the Conquest, it has connections with the manor of Barnard castle. In Roman times it stood an old Roman road from Streethouses to Pontefract, and once boasted a castle on the hill at the north side of the village. The castle has long since vanished but it was recorded by the 17th century antiquary Roger Dodsworth. In the 18th century drovers regularly passed through on their way to Wakefield and Rotherham, and occasionally held cattle fair in the village.

Like its neighbours, Brodsworth, Hooton Pagnell, Owston and Sprotbrough, it was an ‘estate’ village, dominated by a single landowner living in the village itself. In the 16th century the village included the splendid Hickleton Palace which was occupied in the reign of Elizabeth 1 by one Judge Rodes. Hickleton Hall, a splendid eighteenth-century house, was built between 1745 and 1748 and to the south of the Palace (only the dovecote and part of the curtain walls with mullion windows are still visible) for Godfey Wentworth by James Paine, the architect of a number of local projects, including Cusworth Hall (in part), Nostell Priory, Sandbeck Hall, Wadworth Hall and Doncaster’s municipal Mansion House.

Hickleton Hall’s most distinguished owners, the Wood family, did not acquire the house and estate until 1828, when Sir Fancis Lindley Wood of Hemsworth and Garaby purchased the property from the Wentworths of Woolley. Sir Francis’ son, Charles (1800-1885), was a prominent figure in parliamentary politics from the 1840s to the 1870s. Successively chancellor of the exchequer, first lord of the admiralty, secretary of state for India and finally lord privy seal, he was created first lord Halifax in 1866. The political career of his grandson was even more notable, including periods as viceroy of India and British ambassador to the USA, but culminating in his appointment as foreign secretary in Neville Chamberlain’s government from 1937 to 1940, and so making him a major figure in the history of the appeasement of Nazi Germany in the 1930s. He was King George VI’s preferred choice as Prime Minister in 1940.

In between these two politicians is the figure of the second Lord Halifax, a prominent member of the Church of England, and the builder of the remarkable parish church at Goldthorpe. This pioneering reinforced-concrete construction of 1916, was provided by Lord Halifax to serve the mining community which came into being on the opening of Hickleton Main colliery, from which he drew a substantial income as the owner of the mining royalties.

The landscape of South Yorkshire, blighted by coal mining, was no more to the taste of the Halifax family than that of other local gentry families. The Halifaxs preferred their estate at Garrowby to Hickleton and, in 1947, decided to sell the contents of the house and lease the premises to a girl’s school. In 1961, Hickleton Hall became a Sue Ryder Home.

The church dedicated to St Wilfred, has a Norman chancel arch and font and is believed to have been begun in the 12th century, although much of today’s building is 15th century. It was a daughter church of Barnburgh and once belonged to the Cluniac Priory of Monk Breton, the second largest monastery in South Yorkshire.

Its earliest rector was William de Braithwell who was presented in 1279. There was no vicarage, the monks engaging a curate for £4 per annum to perform parish duties.

The church, lavishly furnished by the Halifaxs, is situated very close to the Hall. It was considerably restored at the expense of the second viscount Halifax by G. F. Bodley a pupil of Sir Gilbert Scot, the architect of Westminster Cathedral.

Sir Francis Lindley Wood rebuilt the homes of his village tenants in the 1840s in the vernacular style of the Elizabethan and Stuart age, with magnesium limestone and pantile roofs. Local historian John Tunney describes it as “one of the best examples of 18th century estate villages to be seen anywhere, in a superb location on the edge of a limestone plateau above the Deanne Valley”

Hickleton Colliery was sunk in 1893, is not in Hickleton but in nearby Thurnscoe, where its miners also lived. The village today has about 100 houses, many of which have been converted from redundant barns, stables and coach houses into private dwellings.

According to Whites Directory of 1837, Hickleton had 154 inhabitants including a mason, a wheelwright, a shoemaker, a blacksmith, a schoolmistress and four farmers.

Visit St Wilfrid Church website

Doncaster and District Family History Society has published :

  • Baptisms: 1664-1918
  • Burial index for Hickleton 1626-1940
  • Burials: 1626-1940 available on CD
  • Monumental Inscriptions available on CD
  • 1851 Census
  • 1871 Census available on CD
  • 1891 Census available on CD

The following records of Hickleton, St Wilfrid are available at Doncaster Archives :

  • Baptisms: 1626-1918
  • Marriages: 1695-1979
  • Burials: 1694-1979
  • Banns: 1824-1979
  • Index: Baptisms 1626-1901 Marriages 1626-1833 Burials 1626-1812
  • Bishop’s transcripts: 1636-186

High Melton

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High Melton was once known as Melton on the Hill and it occupies a commanding location above the River Don. The tower of St James’s church is clearly visible to travellers by road and train in the valley below. It remains, and always has been, a small village, dominated by its church and nearby Hall. From the late seventeenth century, the Hall was owned by the Fountayne family and its descendants, the Wilson family, which changed its name to Montagu following an inheritance. The family were major landowners. In 1883, Andrew Montagu was the owner of over twenty-seven thousand acres of land in five counties, bringing him a gross income of £53,000 a year. He used part of his wealth (having volunteered his services to Central Office), to help to ease the financial problems of the Conservative leader, Benjamin Disraeli, and in 1868 received an offer of a peerage in return – an opportunity he tactfully declined.

By the late nineteenth century, the Montagus were living less and less at High Melton as, from the 1860s, coal mining developed in the valley below. The sinking of the Denaby Main colliery in 1864 led to the creation of the mining village of the same name, and in the 1890s this was followed by the opening of a second colliery, the Cadeby Main, close by. Whilst profiting from the pits, it did not mean that the families who owned the coal-seams and received the royalty payments, wanted to live close to the source of their incomes. Like many local gentry families, including the Cookes of Wheatley and the Davies-Cookes of Owston and the Halifaxes of Hickleton, the Montagus took themselves elsewhere, and lived prinicpally at Ingmanthorpe Hall near Weatherby.

The family sold the house and estate in a two-day auction sale in 1927. The house was sold to a Mr Meanley, who intended to redevelop the site – as was done at Sprotbrough – as a housing estate. This intention was never realised, and in 1948 the Hall became a teacher training college, owned and managed by Doncaster borough council. It is now part of Doncaster College.

The parish registers of High Melton begin in 1538, in the year in which the government first instructed parishes to keep a register of every baptism, marriage an burial. As in virtually all parishes, however, the earliest register is a copy. In 1598, parishes were instructed to copy the entries in their original paper registers into a parchment book, and this is what happened at High Melton. At least here the clerk copied the register from the beginning and not, as in so many other parishes, only from 1558, the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

Visit St James Church website

Doncaster and District Family History Society has published :

  • Baptisms 1538-1925
  • Burial indexes for High Melton 1538 – 1911
  • Burial indexes for High Melton 1539 – 1911 available on CD
  • Monumental Inscriptions available on CD
  • 1851 Census
  • 1871 Census available on CD
  • 1891 Census available on CD

Doncaster Archives holds the following records of High Melton, St James :

  • Baptisms 1538-1980
  • Marriages 1538-1987
  • Burials 1538-1980
  • Banns 1839-1982
  • Index : Baptisms 1538-1837 Marriages 1538-1836 Burials 1538-1980
  • Bishop’s transcripts 1600-1881

Hook

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The ancient church of St Mary the Virgin is enconsed among the tall trees on Church Lane. It consists of a nave and chancel, aisles and a small turret or bellcote with two bells clearly visable: one dated 1630 and inscribed ‘Be Our Speed’ and the other dated 1845 and inscribed ‘O & G Mears Founders, London.’ Inside the church are a black and white timbered roof and cream walls and arches. The arcades are medieval and the narrow 13th century doorway to the to the vestry has an old studded door and hinges.

Visit St Mary the Virgin Church website

Doncaster and District Family History Society has published:

  • Baptisms: 1688-1923
  • Burials: 1678-1945
  • Burials 1737-1945 available on CD
  • Monumental Inscriptions available on CD
  • 1851 Census
  • 1871 Census available on CD
  • 1891 Census available on CD

Hooton Pagnell

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The village of Hooton Pagnell, with its stone-built cottages and farmhouses, is one of the most picturesque in the Doncaster area. It has for centuries been a community largely dominated by the principal landowner, the owner of Hooton Pagnell Hall. Since the late seventeenth century, this has been the Warde (now Warde-Norbury) family, They are the descendants of Sir Patience Warde (1629-1696), a townsman of Pontefract, whose successful career in commerce led to his selection as master of the Merchant Tailor’s company and then as lord mayor of London in 1680. The ancient core of the hall appears to have been a medieval peel tower, although the house was greatly enlarged in the late eighteenth century, (partly to designs by William Lindley of Doncaster), and substantially modified in the early twentieth century for Mrs Sarah Julia Warde-Aldam, probably from the profits of her coal-mining royalties from Frickley colliery.

The church, dedicate to All Saints, in origin a Norman structure, ‘restored’ by J. M. Neale in the 1870s, lies close to the hall, as it does in other ‘estate’ villages in the area, such as Brodsworth, Hickleton, High Melton, Owston, Skelbrooke and Sprotbrough. The close links between church and hall – squire and parson – are reflected in the fact that some of the parish records, principally the settlement certificates, are now to be found amongst the archives of the estate. Details of these can be found in Pamela Lindley, Settlement Certificates in the Archdeaconry of Doncaster 1692-1846, published by Doncaster and District Family History Society in 2000.

Visit All Saints Church website

Doncaster and District Family History Society has published:

  • Baptisms: 1538-1957 available on CD
  • Burials
  • Burials 1569-1905 available on CD
  • Monumental Inscriptions available on CD
  • 1851 Census
  • 1871 Census available on CD
  • 1891 Census available on CD

Doncaster Archives holds some of the archives of the Warde-Norbury family of Hooton Pagnell, and the following records of Hooton Pagnell, All Saints :

  • Baptisms: 1538-1875
  • Marriages: 1569-1985
  • Burials: 1569-1959
  • Banns 1824-1933
  • Index: Baptisms 1538-1875 Marriages 1569-1836 Burials 1569-1812
  • Bishop’s transcripts 1602-1858

Loversall

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Despite some expensive housing conversions for commuters, Loversall remains little more than a hamlet, numbering a couple of hundred people, with a fine medieval parish church. Loversall Hall, next to the church, is a large but plainly-built house, its principal front built by the Fenton family of Leeds between 1808 and 1816, although the buildings at the rear are probably seventeenth century. Loversall was part of the manor of Doncaster, and its church, dedicated to St Katherine, was technically a chapel of ease in the parish of Doncaster, rather than a fully-fledged parish church.

The history of its parish records illustrates both the vulnerability of archives and one of the uses of bishop’s transcripts. Although the church at Loversall is medieval, the parish registers begin only in the nineteenth century. The reason for this lies in the events of a winter’s night on 7 and 8 February 1844, when thieves broke into the church. They broke open the parish chest, probably in hope of stealing the communion plate. Finding no valuable contents, they made a fire to warm themselves in the bitter winter weather. Their fuel was the oak chest and most of its contents, namely all the parish registers but the most recent marriage and burial registers.

Fortunately, the information in the registers was not irretrievably lost. Since1598, parishes had been obliged to make a yearly return to the bishop of the diocese, listing all the baptisms, marriages and burials which had taken place in the parish in the previous year. Loversall, like other local parishes, sent in its returns to York, and these are now to be found in the Borthwick Institute of Historical Research, along with all the other records of the archdiocese of York. The parsih register transcripts for Loversall survive from 1601 to 1830, and so most of the information which would have been found in the parish registers is still available to family historians.

Visit St Katherine Church website

Doncaster and District Family History Society has published:

  • Burial indexes for Loversall 1601-1950
  • Burial indexes for Loversall available on CD
  • Monumental Inscriptions available on CD
  • 1851 Census
  • 1891 Census available on CD
  • Tradespeople & Craftsmen 1834

Records and indexes of Loversall, St Katherine available at Doncaster Archives are:

  • Baptisms 1844-1970
  • Marriages 1837-1976
  • Burials 1814-1980
  • Banns 1878-1966
  • Index : Banns 1878-1976
  • Bishop’s transcripts 1601-1830

Snaith

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Snaith is a thriving town situated between Selby, Goole and Doncaster. It has held a market charter since 1223 and although no market has been held for many years, the charter was read once a year in the market place until 1939. Because the market has lapsed, the Court of Pie-Powder, which allowed the market to right any wronged there, has also lapsed.

The name Snaith is thought to mean `enclosed by water’ and the area is known locally as the Three Rivers area. The river Aire, which is tidal, runs through the centre of the town and in medieval times Snaith was a busy port with a harbour and ferry across the river to Selby, one of the few Aire crossings in the area. The actual founding of the town is obscure, but it was well established as part of the Royal hunting lodge before 1066 and so has no separate entry in the Domesday Book. Since Snaith was a royal manor held by the King `for the support of his table’, and therefore already documented. It is, however, mentioned three times as having jurisdiction over the manors of Birkin, Whitley and Hensall. Today it is still a convenient centre, being close to the M1, M18, M180 and the A1 and A19, and within 20 miles of York, Leeds and Doncaster.

In its hey-day Snaith had twelve pubs and four tailors, and although there is no tailor and the pubs are reduced to five, it is still a busy little shopping centre. There are no big stores but `one of everything’ and the old pattern of Snaith, the centre serving about ten villages, has returned. Parking is a problem but the parish council are working to get a proper car park to give off street parking. The railway runs to Leeds and to Hull, and a bus from Leeds to Goole comes through Snaith giving limited access on public transport.

In 1777, in response to a public petition, Thomas Stapleton of Carlton Towers (the family home of the present Duke of Norfolk), built a bridgeto encourage the flax trade and to ease the difficulty of transporting bodies from Carlton by ferry to be buried in Snaith churchvard. With the advent of motor traffic the New Bridge was built in 1928. During the Second World War the Royal Engineers removed the centre span of the old swing bridge so that they could practise making Bailey bridges against the tide. Snaith was on the eastern fringe of the East Riding of Yorkshire but since the 1974 boundary reorganisation, it is on the western fringe of Britain’s newest county, North Humberside.

The priory church of St Lawrence at Snaith is a Saxon foundation, though very little of the Saxon church remains. The present building dates from 1086 and the report of its state in 1275 lists among its treasures four tropers (the Anglo-Saxon service book) and several part tropers, so it was a rich church. There is a roodloft stair enclosed in a pillar but the rood screen where the priest stood to preach on Good Friday, or to make special announcements, has been removed. In the Stapleton chapel is a memorial carving of Lady Elizabeth Stapleton, whose husband was the General of HM Horse at the battle of Edgehill in 1642. In the Dawnay chapel on the south side is a statue of Viscount Downe made by Chantry and an Easter sepulchre. The east window of this chapel contains the only remaining fragments of l4th century glass.

Near the chancel arch is a niche dedicated to St Sitha – her only claim to fame, according to local tradition, is that she was martyred, her head was cut off `and she picked it up and ran three miles to the nearby (sic!) church to warn the other Christians.’ Not surprisingly the only other shrine to her is in Bradford Cathedral. Some say Sitha is a corruption of Etheldreds, sister to the Abbess Hilda of Whitby, but this seems to be wishful thinking. Certainly Snaith Priory was a staging post for pilgrims travelling from Lincoln to York, as recorded on the altar kneelers.

Snaith was a Peculiar, ie it had its own ecclesiastical court and in many ways it was exempt from the jurisdiction of the Bishop. This may explain the fact that the Bishop’s inspectors came to interview the brothers at Snaith for reported `indiscretions’ and were unable to carry out their inspection because the brothers had summoned the ferry to the Snaith bank so they could not cross the river! At the back of the church is the Consistory court, part of the church building but not consecrated and now housing the creche. It was used to try ecclesiastical matters and to settle disputed wills and land settlements. Because it was a Peculiar, the priory church had four wardens – one of their duties was to enforce the wearing of woolly hats on Sundays: failure to comply brought a fine of fourpence.

Adjoining the churchyard is the Buttermarket, but only in name now. The butter booths and the fire station have been removed but the local branch of the Heritage Society has restored the old town lock-up, known as the penny cells. Men who were drunk at market were put in these cells till sober, and then had to pay a penny to get out. There were two tiny windows, each with one bar across originally, but friends of the prisoners delayed the sobering up process by passing jugs of ale through the windows, so two bars were fitted. Nothing daunted, the bearers of comfort brought ~ a flagon of ale and a long clay pipe. They put the bowl in the ale and the stem through between the bars – perhaps Snaith invented drinking straws. Exhibitions are held there from time to time and ‘:: there is an art and craft gallery in the old vicarage opposite the church.

Visit St Laurence Church website

General Information about Snaith

Snaith Parish Register Transcripts Unpublished (bap. 1656-1717, mar. 1662-1727, bur. 1662-1727) Yorkshire Archaeological Society, Claremont, 23 Clarendon Road, Leeds LS2
Snaith Parish Register Printed (bap. 1558-1657, mar. 1537-1657) Yorkshire Archaeological Society, Parish Register Series Vol 57. To be found at the Y.A.S and at larger libraries.
Snaith Parish Register Printed (bur. 1537-1656) Vol 63 – as above
Snaith Methodist Chapel Registers (1826-1932)  
1851 Census index (booklet), 1891 Census index (on fiche) Doncaster & Disrict FHS
Monumental Inscriptions for all Parishes of the Archdeaconry of Doncaster (inc. Snaith) – on fiche Doncaster & Disrict FHS
Snaith Grammar School log book 1878-1895 Church of England School – headmaster’s diary (up to 1943) Doncaster Archives, King Edward Road, Balby, Doncaster, DN4 ONA
Snaith Bishops Transcripts 1599-1603, 1608, 1609, 1631, 1635, 1639, 1751, 1752, 1754, 1757-1759, 1761-1765, 1767, 1768,1770-1778, 1780-1786, 1788, 1790, 1808, 1812-1839, 1841-1847, 849-1858 Borthwick Institute, St Anthony’s Hall, Peasholme Green, York. YO1 2PW
Church Wardens Accounts (1613-1714) Doncaster Archives, King Edward Road, Balby, Doncaster, DN4 ONA
Manorial Records – Court Rolls often in Latin but probably the best bet when tracing back to pre-parish register times Probably at Doncaster Archives

NEWSPAPERS

Goole newspapers were first published:

  • Goole Times 1853
  • Goole and Marshland Weekly Times 1869
  • Goole, Marshland and Howden Gazette 1970
  • Goole Telegraph 1875
  • Goole Saturday Journal 1889
  • Goole Weekly Herald 1891

Selby newspapers were first published:

  • Selby Times (which also covered Howden and Goole) 1869
  • Selby Express 1872

County papers which often recorded events in the smaller towns and villages:

As far as can make out the Yorkshire Herald is available for the periods 1801, 1803-20 and from 1823 onwards at the British Newspaper Library, Colindale, London. However it looks like the York Library has the paper (it may be on microfilm) for the period 1790-1889 although it does say that there are ‘major gaps’. Another newspaper worth considering is the Yorkshire Gazette. London only have it from 1823 but the York Library has it from 1819, but there may be some gaps. It does say that the York library have a general index for this paper up to 1884 and one for birth, deaths and marriages that goes up to 1891, but it is not clear when these indexes start. Leeds Library also has this paper for the period 1820-1870 but they have not indexed theirs. [York Reference Library, Museum Street, York, England, YO2 2DS / Leeds Library, Calverley Street, Leeds, LS1 3AB]

Doncaster and District Family History Society has published:

  • Burial indexes for Snaith
  • Burial indexes for Snaith 1537-1920 available on CD
  • Monumental Inscriptions available on CD
  • 1871 Census
  • 1891 Census available on CD
  • Tradespeople & Craftsmen 1834

Sprotbrough

tn_Sprotbrough

Sprotbrough stands on the limestone ridge above the valley of the river Don. Like a number of other places in the vicinity it was, for much of its history, an ‘estate’ village, in the ownership of the local gentry, the Copley family, who, from the sixteenth until the early twentieth century, lived in Sprotbrough Hall. As in other such villages, the hall and the parish church were closely-connected in more senses than one. It is, for
example, significant that there was no nonconformist church in the village until after the Sprotbrough estate was broken up.

The sale of the Sprotbrough estate in 1925 was typical of the social and economic changes of the period after the First World War. Several decades of declining incomes from agricultural rents had depressed the incomes of the landed gentry and high levels of wartime taxation made many estates and their large country houses uneconomic to maintain. An additional influence in the Doncaster area was the changes made to the environment by the increasing importance of coal-mining. The Childers had already sold Cantley Hall in 1901, and this was followed in the 1920s and 1930s by the sales of Sprotbrough, Wheatley Hall by the Cooke family. High Melton Hall by the Montagu family and Campsmount by the Cooke-Yarborough family. The estate was sold off at a series of auctions, raising over £90,000 (the library alone was sold for £10,000). Sprotbrough Hall was demolished and its site covered by a housing estate.

There is quite a large amount of heraldry in Sprotbrough church covering the Copley and Fitzwilliam families and a booklet has been produced by Pamela Lindley (john.lindley@ntlworld.com) and is available at the Doncaster archives and at the church archives.

Visit St Mary’s church website

Doncaster and District Family History Society has published:

  • Burial indexes for Sprotbrough
  • Burial indexes for Sprotbrough 1559- 1910 available on CD
  • Monumental Inscriptions available on CD
  • 1851 Census
  • 1871 Census available on CD

The following registers of Sprotbrough, St Mary the Virgin,are available at Doncaster Archives :

  • Baptisms 1559-1961
  • Marriages 1559-1992
  • Burials 1559-1912
  • Banns 1823-1997
  • Index : Baptisms 1559-1879 Marriages 1559-1837 Burials 1559-1912
  • Bishop’s transcripts 1600-1846

Tickhill

Tickhill

Tickhill was a place of far greater importance in the middle ages than it has been subsequently. The visible remains of its local significance are its castle and the high quality of its parish church. The Normans probably deliberately created a new borough, with a market and fairs and made the town the centre of a major estate or ‘honour’. The importance of the town as the centre of a great estate probably helped its prosperity. Certainly, at the time of the poll-tax levied in 1379, the town had 461 residents classed as taxpayers, a substantial figure for the period, when Doncaster, then one of the most prosperous towns in Yorkshire had a taxed population of 756.

From the beginning of the twelfth century, the honour belonged to the Crown, and the royal Duchy of Lancaster remains the owner of the castle. The Normans also moved the meetings of the court of the ‘wapentake’(an ancient and important division of a county) from its traditional open-air location at Strafforth, near the river Don at Mexborough to Tickhill, where it probably met inside the castle.

The castle had an eventful history in national life. It was held for the usurping prince John against his brother king Richard I, when the latter returned from abroad in 1194, after his absence on crusade, was the site of a three-week siege during baronial conflicts in 1322 and in the civil war of the 1640s its importance as a local centre of resistance led to its ‘slighting’(intentional disabling) by Parliament after the defeat of the royalist forces there in 1648. (Conisbrough, long disused as a fortress by this time, escaped such a fate.) To-day Tickhill castle remains an impressive ruin, retaining its Norman gatehouse, built in 1129-1130, the foundations of the keep on a mound 75 feet in height, built in 1178-1179 on the model of the keep at Conisbrough, substantial defensive ditches, some parts of which remain as a moat, and walls enclosing an inner courtyard covering two acres.

The church, dedicated to St Mary, is one of the very finest in the area, indeed, in the region. Pevsner, in his survey of The Buildings of England, describes it as ‘the proudest parish church in the West Riding, except for those of the big towns’. The church was already its final size by the thirteenth century, arguing for the substantial early prosperity of the community. But then elaborate and extensive rebuilding took place over the century from about 1350 to 1450, heightening the nave and the tower, to create the tall, light-filled building which we know to-day.

Visit St Mary Church website

The following records of Tickhill, St Mary are available at Doncaster Archives:

  • Baptisms 1542-1895
  • Marriages 1538-1910
  • Burials 1537-1901
  • Banns 1798-1838
  • Index : Baptisms 1542-1718, 1771-1839 Marriages 1538-1677, 1754-1838 Burials 1538-1674, 1771-1855
  • Bishop’s transcripts 1600-1866

Wadworth

Wadworth

The parish of Wadworth, St John lies on the magnesium limestone ridge, which runs from North to South through the Doncaster district. Like other parishes on the ridge, it is relatively small, with an area of around three thousand acres. It comprised a single township and its population was concentrated in the village about four miles south-west of Doncaster in the wapentake of Strafforth and Tickhill. A further similarity, which Wadworth shares with other places on the limestone ridge – including Brodsworth, Campsall, Hickleton, High Melton, Hooton Pagnel, Owston, Sprotbrough and Warmsworth – was the concentration of land ownership in very few hands. The parish was a peculiar, and its probate records from 1639 to 1819 are held as a separate series amongst the records of the archdiocese of York now at the Borthwick Institute of Historical Research.

By the fifteenth century a branch of the Fitzwilliam family of Sprotbrough had settled in Wadworth, as witnessed by two fine tombs of that period still to be found in the church. This branch moved its seat to Aldwark, some seven miles east along the river Don, on inheriting the estate through marriage. Both Aldwark and Wadworth passed by similar means to the Foljanbe family.

The church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, stands on a high point in a village perched close the edge of the limestone ridge. It is visible even from a distance by virtue of its tall west tower, dating from the fifteenth century. The origins of the present church is of a late Norman structure of the twelfth century, to which was subsequently added two aisles and a south chapel. This chapel contains one of the Fitzwilliam tombs, a freestanding tomb-chest with inscription commemorating Katherine (died 1435) and Edmund Fitzwilliam (died 1465). An earlier tomb-chest, supporting two recumbent effigies, is that of Edmund Fitzwilliam (died 1430) and his wife and is illustrated in Joseph Hunter, South Yorkshire: The History and Topography of the Deanery of Doncaster.

The church still houses the parish chest, with three locks one of whose keys were each held by the incumbent and the two churchwardens, and which once contained the church plate and the parish records. The plate was stolen in 1835, but the records fortunately did not share the same fate as nearby Loversall, St Katherine where in February 1844, thieves, whilst ransacking the church, burnt the records.

The parish records, with the exception of the registers, do not predate the eighteenth century, although from the early years of that century there are series of accounts for the churchwardens, the constables and overseers of the poor and overseers’ papers, including settlement certificates and examinations and removal orders. From 1809 to 1837, the account books of the overseers are particularly detailed and the records relating to poor relief are augmented by the minutes of the select vestry, established in 1820. For the last three decades of the ‘old’ poor law, before the parish was amalgamated into the Doncaster poor law union in 1837, these provide detailed information about the working of the poor law in a larger than average rural parish. Doncaster Archives, P21/4/A1-A4.

A memorandum to be found after each of the baptisms, marriage and burial entries in 1599 (folios 5, 18 and 28v) record the copying of entries from the ‘olde paper Booke’. It would appear that even at that date that part of the register for the thirty-six years since the beginning of registration in 1538 no longer survived.

The register ceased to be used after 1634, although only thirty-two of its fifty-five folios had been filled. It was resumed sixty years later in 1695, and it was then used up to 1746. The sixty-year gap does not mean there is such a long lapse in registration, although there is a gap of almost two decades. The survival of bishop’s transcripts for two isolated years between 1635 and 1653 suggests that a register may have been kept and subsequently lost.

The final composite register is in fact four printed paper registers for baptisms, banns, marriages and burials bound up together, and runs from 1790 to 1812. The registers begin in February 1574/5. There are eight volumes of registers up to 1837. The parish register from 1575 to 1837 has been published by the Yorkshire Archaeological Society Parish Register Section as volume 157 in its series in 1997.

Visit St John the Baptist Church website

Doncaster Archives holds the following registers for St John the Baptist, Wadworth:

  • Baptisms 1574-1951
  • Marriages 1574-1963
  • Burials 1574-1950

Wath

Wath

The ancient parish of Wath-upon-Dearne comprises the five townships of Wath, Brampton Bierlow, Nether Hoyland, Swinton and Wentworth. It is situated five miles from Rotherham and three miles from the magnificent Palladian mansion and estate of Wentworth Woodhouse, the home of the late Earl Fitzwilliam. As its name implies, it lies on a river, but this is not immediately apparent to a visitor.

The manor of Wath was given by the Conqueror to Roger de Busli, from whose family it passed to the Flemings and then to the Wentworths. After the death of the last Marquis of Rockingham it passed to Earl Fitzwilliam.

White’s directory of 1837 calls Wath-upon-Dearne “a fertile and extensive parish, roughly 6 miles by 4, and bounded to the south by Rawmarsh, Greasbrough, Kimberworth and Chapeltown, to the west by Tankersley, to the north by the parishes of Darfield and Adwick, and on the east by the River Don.” It contained some 11,000 acres and has a population in 1801 of around 4,000. By 1831 this had increased to just under 7,000. Earl Fitzwilliam was lord of the manors and owner of most of the land as well as estates in Northamptonshire.

Kelly’s West Riding directory for 1867 tells us that Wath had a National school for boys built in 1663 and endowed by the Rev. Thomas Wombwell, a late vicar of the parish. The building of a girl’s school was much later – in 1858 – with money raised by subscription. There were three chapels for Wesleyans, Wesleyan Regformers and the Primitive Methodists. Servant hiring statutes were held on 24th November each year. William Addy, a pioneer of shorthand, was born in the village, and had a shorthand bible published in 1687.

All Saints Church in the village of Wath had much work of Norman origin, including the base of the tower and the north arcade of the nave and chancel. The rest of the tower, which houses six bells, and its spire are 15th century, and the south aisle, arcade and some of the windows are 600 years old. The doorway in the old porch is a little older, as is the big chapel, with an aisle and some Elizabethan bench ends. One of two old chests has ironwork and chain handles, and a bell of Armada year stands under the tower. The living(worth £315 p.a. in 1831) is a discharged vicarage in the gift of the dean and chapter of Christ Church, Oxford who hold the tithes by a grant from Henry V111. One vicar, the Rev. Henry Partington held this post for 64 years during the 19th century.

Wath’s second church dedicated to St. James dates from 1902, and the other four townships each had their own churches as they grew in size, although All Saints continued as the mother church. Brampton Bierlow had Christ Church, founded in 1835. In Nether Hoyland, St. Peter’s has registers from 1741 and St. Andrews from 1916. Swinton St. Margaret’s has registers from 1800 but was apparently built on the site of an older building as it incorporates many earlier features, and at Wentworth, Holy Trinity church dates from 1654.

Close to All Saints Church is a very old and dilapidated building which was the local gaol. It had two windowless stone cells for drunks and troublemakers, and a police constable’s room above. A wood near the village is said to have evident marks of a Roman road but this has never been confirmed.

There were extensive potteries, coal and iron works, stone quarries and various factories providing work in the area. From around 1745, when the Rockingham Works was established by Brameld & Co., the area around Wath became famous as the principal seat of china and earthenware manufacture in the north of England. Rockingham and the Don Pottery produced pottery on a grand scale which is still much sought after by collectors all over the world. A kiln still stands today on the site of the Rockingham Works.

Until recently, Wath was a mining community, with Manvers Main and Wath Main collieries providing employment for thousands in the area. Now this has all gone, and the land is being developed to build new factories, shops and leisure facilities.There are still a few farms, both dairy and arable, many old inns and a weekly market. A small hospital originally built to care for fever and T.B. patients now caters very well for geriatric patients, while Rockingham College of Further Education provides courses of all kinds for all age groups.

Visit All Saints Church website

Doncaster Archives holds copies of the following registers of Wath All Saints and Wath St James:

  • Baptisms 1598-1982
  • Marriages 1598-1984
  • Burials 1598-1966