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.
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