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Doncaster is a large town in South Yorkshiremarker, Englandmarker, and the principal settlement of the Metropolitan Borough of Doncastermarker. The town is located about from Sheffieldmarker and is popularly referred to as "Donny". Doncaster has an international airportmarker, and in recent years its centre has undergone regeneration including the development of an Education City campus, currently the largest education investment of its kind in the UK. Doncaster has also recently extended the Frenchgate Centremarker, a shopping centre and transport interchange.

According to the 2001 census, the urban sub-area of Doncaster had a population of 67,977 — together with Bentleymarker and Armthorpemarker it forms an urban area with a population of 127,851. The wider metropolitan borough has a population of around 286,866.


Roman heritage

Doncaster (DANVM) positioned on the 'Alternative Route Ermine Street'
Doncaster is located at — the site of a Roman fort which was built in the 1st century AD at the site of a crossing across the River Don. The Roman empirical command of Ninius called this fort "Caer Daun". Later the commands of Antoninus Pius and Notitia called this fort Danum, from which the town derives the Don part of its name; caster a Saxon word corrupted from the Latin original Castra, meaning a military camp. Doncaster was home to the Roman Crispinian horse garrison. The cavalry took its name from Crispus, son of Constantine the Great. Crispus, son of the Emperor, lived at Danum (Doncaster) whilst his father lived further north at Eboracummarker (York). Much of Doncaster's Roman past remains to be discovered.

The Doncaster garrison units are named in the Notitia Dignitatum or 'Register of Dignitaries', produced around the turn of the 5th century near the end of Roman rule in Britain. This important administrative document contains — among other things — the name of almost every military unit in the Roman empire, also the name of their respective garrison towns. The garrison unit was originally recruited from among the tribespeople living near the town of Crispiana in Upper Pannonia, near Zircmarker in the Bakonymarker region of western Hungarymarker. The fact that Doncaster is included, highlights the importance placed by the Romans on Doncaster. The Doncaster entry is listed under the command of the Dux Britanniarum or the 'Duke of the Britons'.Doncaster provided an alternative direct land route between Lincolnmarker and Yorkmarker. The main route between Lincoln and York was Ermine Streetmarker which meant crossing the Humber estuarymarker in boats. For obvious reasons this was not always practical and thus Doncaster became an important staging post on the Roman map.

The Roman road through Doncaster appears on two routes recorded in the Antonine Itinerary. The itinera include the same section of road between Lincoln and York, and list three stations along the route in between these two coloniae. Iter VII and Iter VIII is entitled "the route from York to London". The section below showing distances from Iter VIII.

The Roman Road from York to Lincoln
Roman town Modern name Miles
Eboraco YORK Start
Lagecio Castleford XXI
Ageloco Littleborough XXI

A route through the north Derbyshire hills was opened up sometime in the latter half of the 1st century AD, possibly by the militaristic governor Gnaeus Julius Agricola during the late 70s, although the first section of the road to the Doncaster fort had probably been in existence since the early 50s.

Today, there are several areas of known intense archaeological interest however many, in particular St Sepulchre Gate, remain hidden under buildings. The Roman fort is believed to have been located on the site that is now St George's Minster next to the River Don.

Early and Medieval history

Map showing the boundary of the fortified Medieval township of Doncaster with four 'Gates

The town was an Anglo-Saxon burh, and is mentioned in the 1003 will of Wulfric Spott. Shortly after the Norman Conquest, Nigel Fossard refortified the town and constructed Doncaster Castle. By the time of the Domesday Book, Hexthorpemarker was described as having a church and two mill; David Hey contends that these facilities represent the settlement at Doncaster. He also suggests that the street name Frenchgate indicates that Fossard invited fellow Normans to trade in the town.

As the 12th century approached, Doncaster matured into a busy town and in 1194 King Richard I granted Doncaster national recognition with a town charter. During the Middle Ages Doncaster evolved further and it was then later in 1204 that Doncaster suffered and recovered from a disastrous fire. At this time, buildings were built of wood and fire was a constant hazard.

The Norman church of St Mary Magdalene, on demolition in 1846.
In 1248, a charter was granted for Doncaster Market to be held around the Church of St Mary Magdalene, which in the 16th century became the town hall and was ultimately demolished in 1846. Some 750 years on, the market still exists with its busy stalls located both outside and under cover. The market also occupies the 19th century 'Corn Exchange' building, opened in 1873 and extensively rebuilt in 1996 after a major fire.

During the 14th century a number of friars arrived in Doncaster who were known for their religious enthusiasm and preachings. In 1307 Franciscan friars (Greyfriars) arrived, and Carmelites (Whitefriars) arrived in the middle of the 14th century. In the Mediaeval period, other major features of the town included the Hospital of St Nicholas and leper colony of the Hospital of St James, a moot hall, grammar school, and the five-arched stone town bridge with a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Bridge. By 1334, Doncaster was the wealthiest town in southern Yorkshire and the sixth most important town in Yorkshire as a whole, even boasting its own banker. By 1379, it was already recovering from the Black Death and had a population of around 1,500 people. By 1547, it had over 2,000. The town was incorporated in 1461 and its first Mayor and corporation were established.

Today, many of Doncaster's streets are named with the suffix 'gate'. The word 'gate' is derived from the old Danish word 'gata' which meant street. During Medieval times, craftsmen or tradesmen with similar skills, tended to live in the same street. Baxter is an ancient word for baker thereby confirming that Baxtergate was indeed the bakers' street. It is assumed that 'Frenchgate' may be named after French speaking Normans who settled on this street.

The Medieval township of Doncaster is known to have been protected by earthern ramparts and ditches leaving four substantial gates as entrances to the town. These gates were located at Hall Gate, St. Mary's Bridge (old), St. Sepulchre Gate and Sunny Bar. Today the gates at Sunny Bar are commemorated by huge 'Boar Gates', similarly, the entrance to St. Sepulchre Gate is also commemorated, this time with white marble 'Roman Gates'. The boundary of the town principally extended from the River Don, along what is now, Market Road, Silver Street, Cleveland Street and Printing Office Street.

Because access into town was circumscribed, some officeholders secured charters to collect tolls. In 1605, King James I granted to William Levett of Doncaster, brother of Yorkmarker merchant Percival Levett, the right to levy tolls at Friar's and St. Mary's Bridges. Having served as mayors and aldermen of Doncaster, the Levetts probably felt they could pull off their monopoly. In 1618 the family began enforcing it, but by 1628 the populace revolted. Capt. Christopher Levett, Percival's son, petitioned Parliament. But Parliament disagreed, calling the tolls "a grievance to the subjects, both in creation and execution," and axed the Levett monopoly. (Doncaster's Levet Road is named for this family, as are the nearby hamlets of Hooton Levittmarker and the largely extinct Levitt Hagg, where much of the town's early limestone was quarried.)

During the 16th and 17th centuries the town of Doncaster continued to expand. This was despite several outbreaks of plague from 1562 until 1606. Each time the plague struck down significant numbers of Doncaster's population.

First English Civil War

During the campaign of the First English Civil War, King Charles I marched by Bridgnorthmarker, Lichfieldmarker and Ashbournemarker to Doncaster, where on 18 August 1645 he was met by great numbers of Yorkshiremarker gentlemen who had rallied to his cause. On 2 May 1664, Doncaster was later rewarded with the title of 'Free Borough' by way of the King expressing his gratitude for Doncaster's allegiance.

12th century Conisbrough Castle, open to the public and property of English Heritage

Doncaster is traditionally very wealthy. The borough itself was known for its rich landowners with vast estates and huge stately homes such as Brodsworth Hallmarker, Cantley Manor, Cusworth Hallmarker, Hickleton Hall, Nether Hall and Wheatley Hall. This wealth is evidenced in the luxurious and historic gilded 18th century Mansion House which stands on High Street. This land ownership developed what is an ancient market place and large 19th century Market Hall and Corn Exchange buildings. Perhaps the most striking building is St George's Minstermarker (promoted from a parish church in 2004).

Doncaster was already a communications centre at this time. Doncaster sat on the Great North Road or A1marker, due to its strategic geographical importance and essentially Roman inheritance. This was the primary route for all traffic from Londonmarker to Edinburghmarker and Doncaster cashed in on its location.


Doncaster represented in the House of Commons by four MPs. Rosie Winterton of the Labour party represents Doncaster Centralmarker, Ed Milliband of the Labour party represents Doncaster Northmarker, Caroline Flint, also of Labour represents Don Valleymarker and a fourth Labour MP, Jeff Ennis represents Barnsley East .

At a European level Doncaster is part of the Yorkshire and the Humber constituency and is represented by six MEPs.

Locally Doncaster is one of only twelve UK cities to have a directly elected mayor, a position currently held by English Democrat Peter Davies.


Doncaster is the 15th largest population centre in the UK outside Londonmarker. The borough expanded dramatically in population with the development of coal mining. Closure of coal mines in the 1970s and 1980s caused some economic difficulties, the town relied then to a greater extent on tertiary industries; the already good communication links with the rest of the UK supported this development.

The Doncaster skyline is dominated by the Minster in the middle of the town, the Frenchgate Shopping Center also holds an important position in the skyline, along with the Doncaster College Hub building.

Doncaster has plans to demolish the old doncaster college, the council house and surrounding buildings and replace them with more modern facilities including a new library, council house and swimming baths which together will form the Doncaster Civic and Cultural Quarter. There is also plans for expansion onto set aside land north of the new college (The Hub) if it gains university status.


Doncaster has a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. The average July–August temperature is with lows of around . Winters are generally mild, wet and windy with average temperatures around .


The late 18th century to 20th century saw Doncaster emerge as an industrial centre. Its communication links, particularly its waterways, meant that Doncaster became extremely busy and saw vast migration to its centre. Underneath Doncaster lies huge natural resource by way of deep seam coal.

Distribution centres

Due to its proximity to major urban centres and motorway/rail infrastructure, Doncaster is home to a number of major distribution centres. These include an International Rail Freight Centre at Black Bank from where goods are transported to Europe by rail. Huge warehousing and logistic capabilities for retailers such as Next, Tescomarker, Ikea, Exel and Faberge also exist. One location in particular is the B&Q Distribution Centre next to the dfs UK headquarters at Redhousemarker A1 Junction 38 which was the largest freestanding warehouse in the UK. A significant proportion of fresh and frozen goods for Northern Supermarkets is dispatched by road from Doncaster.

On 5 March 2004, Doncaster was granted Fairtrade Town status.


During the 19th and 20th century a number of confectioners were based in Doncaster including Parkinson'smarker the Butterscotch inventors, Nuttalls Mintoes and Murray Mints.

Coal and industrial expansion

It was coal that prompted Doncaster's exponential population growth. The waterways, River Don and Don Navigation were used to transport coal from Doncaster to the steel production centres at Rotherhammarker, Scunthorpemarker and Sheffieldmarker.

With coal mining came secondary and tertiary industries:
  • Large scale glass production soon followed using coal to fire the furnaces. Several high-quality specialist glass manufacturers remain to this day, firms such as Rockware Glass
  • A production facility for chemical polymers — hydrocarbon compounds produced from coal and oil — was built on Wheatley Hall Road and was the largest production facility of its type in Europe. It changed hands numerous times during its existence until closure (by DuPont) in the mid-1990s.
  • Steel foundries, rolling mills and wire mills were built close to the railways that brought steel from Rotherham and Sheffield.
  • British Ropes (now Bridon) produce wire rope, including the ropes used at coal mines to haul coal and miners, this is claimed to be the largest wire rope manufacturing plant in Europe.

The Railways & Locomotive Works

Continuing the Industrial Revolution, the railway came to Doncaster, and the Great Northern Railway Locomotive and Carriage Building Works was established there. The reasons for this were due to Doncaster's communication links, the necessity to transport coal quickly and efficiently and Doncaster's expertise in specialist metal products. An extensive housing programme was undertaken to cater for the increase in the population. The Chairman of the Great Northern, anxious about their spiritual welfare, persuaded the directors to contribute towards the building of St. James' Church, which became known as the "Plant Church". The railway also built St. James' School. The Doncaster Plant became famous for building LNER 4-6-2 locomotives Mallard and the Flying Scotsman, as well as many thousands more locomotives.

The Flying Scotsman - An example of the many LNER A Class locomotives built in Doncaster - Seen here at Doncaster Plant.
Today, Doncaster railway stationmarker, on the East Coast Line, is linked to many towns and cities across the UK such as Wakefieldmarker, Leedsmarker, Hullmarker, Sheffieldmarker, Manchestermarker, Birminghammarker, Londonmarker, Yorkmarker, Newcastle upon Tynemarker, Edinburghmarker, Glasgowmarker, and Lincolnmarker.

Doncaster railway station is served by the largest number of train operators in the UK and Doncaster PSB is one of the largest signalling centres on the UK network, controlling hundreds of route miles of railway.

During World War I and World War II, the rail industry gave way to munitions building. In the early part of the 20th century Doncaster became one of the largest coal mining areas in the country, with the industry employing more people in the area than anything else. However, along with many other areas, a large number of mining jobs were lost in the late 1980s, and several pits closed. Today, coal mining has been all but eliminated from the area, with only a handful of collieries surviving. The demise of coal saw a cascade effect which saw the removal of many other tertiary industries. However, several companies diversified and can still be seen today.


In 1909 Doncaster Racecoursemarker was chosen as the venue for an airshow, after the world's first air display in Rheimsmarker, Francemarker in 1908. All the world's leading aviators were present. Samuel F. Cody (no relation to William F.Cody) in an attempt to win a prize offered by the Daily Mail for the first British pilot in a British aeroplane to fly a circular mile signed British naturalisation papers in front of the crowd with the band playing both God Save the King and the Star Spangled Banner. Unfortunately, he crashed his British Army Aeroplane No.1 whilst taxiing.

During World War I fighters based first from the racecourse, then a temporary airstrip near Finningley (later RAF Finningleymarker and now Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffieldmarker) and finally, in 1916, from a newly built airfield alongside the racecourse, were deployed to defend the east coast against Zeppelins. On a number of occasions fighters took off to search for the intruders but none were ever seen. The Royal Flying Corps station trained pilots for the war in France. Within months of the war ending the entire station was put up for sale and two of its three Belfast hangars, the same type of hangar that now forms the basis for the Royal Air Force Museummarker at Hendonmarker, were sold to a Sheffield motor manufacturing company for storage and assembly at Finningleymarker. The third of the hangars stayed in place, mainly housing buses, until the 1970s when it was knocked down and replaced with modern buildings.

In 1920 the Government asked local authorities to assist in the formation of a chain of airfields so the country would not lag behind other nations in the provision of civil air services. Doncaster took heed and, with expert advice from Alan Cobham, on 26 May 1934, opened a grandly called 'aviation centre'. Development of the airfield continued and on 1 July 1936 an international service was opened to Amsterdammarker. On 1 November, 1938, after long discussions with the Air Ministry, 616 Squadron of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force was formed. Shortly after the outbreak of war in 1939 the squadron went to its battle station and played an honourable part in the Battle of Britain. After the departure of 616 squadron its place was taken by the formation of 271 Squadron composed mainly of requisitioned civilian aircraft and obsolescent twin engined bombers. 616 squadron should be noted as the first Allied jet fighter squadron, who were equipped with the Gloster Meteor, famed for using their wingtips for throwing German V-1 Flying Bombs off course. In 1944, after being re-equipped with American-made Douglas DC-3 "Dakotas", the squadron moved south to take part in Operation 'Overlord' and later in the airborne invasion at Arnhemmarker where Flight Lieutenant David Lord was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

After the war the airfield reverted to civilian flying and finally closed in 1992.

Tractor Production

Farmall M tractor
In 1930 International Harvester (IH) started the production of agricultural implements at a factory on Wheatley Hall Road and later at another in the Carr Hill area of Doncaster. The first tractor built at the factory was a Farmall M, which came off the production line on 13 September 1949. Initially tractors were built from parts shipped from the USAmarker. The Wheatley Hall Road factory was extended after the war with a new foundry to make the heavy castings. The factory started Crawler tractor production in 1953. By 1960 the factory was making a range of tractors from scratch, designed specifically for British and European markets, and sold under the 'McCormick International' name. Assembly moved in 1965 to the Carr Hill plant. In 1983 tractor production was moved to IH's other Doncaster factory at Wheatley Hall. In 1985 International Harvester sold its agricultural division to Tenneco, Inc. which then merged the operation with its subsidiary J.I. Case to form Case IH, who continued to design and build its European tractor range in Doncaster, shutting the David Brown Ltd. tractor factory near Huddersfieldmarker. The 350,000th tractor came off the production line in 1999.

In 2000, the factory was purchased by ARGO SpA, an Italian-based agricultural equipment builder. Doncaster was the sole production site of the McCormick Tractors brand, and the factory employed around 380 people (although approximately 1,100 people are employed in the worldwide McCormick group). In December 2006, the parent company ARGO Spa, announced that the Doncaster facility was to close in mid-2007 with the loss of around 325 jobs. Much to the dismay of trade union officials and local news, the announcement was made only one week before Christmas. When the factory closed, 61 years of tractor production in Doncaster came to an end as the production of the tractors is moved to Italy. The factory closed in late 2007.


The town is situated on the A1 and M18 motorways, and is within 20 minutes of the key M1 and M62 motorways. Doncaster is also an important railway town, serving the East Coast Main Line. The A1(M) motorway bypass cost £6 million and was opened by Ernest Marples in 1961. The former route is now the A638, and partly the A614 to Blythmarker.

Within the region, Doncaster is being recognised an important European hub with developments such as a new international airport, Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffieldmarker which opened in 2005. In addition there is the well established Doncaster International Railport facilities that link to the Channel Tunnelmarker.

New developments include campus facilities for Doncaster Collegemarker and the Frenchgate Interchangemarker (a unification of bus and railway stations with the Frenchgate Centremarker). The extension to the shopping centre and the new bus station opened on 8 June 2006, from when all Doncaster bus routes started to use the station.

Sports and leisure

From around the 16th century, Doncaster embraced the wealthy stagecoach trade. This led to horse breeding in Doncaster, which in turn led to the start of horseraces there. The earliest important race in Doncaster's history was the Doncaster Gold Cup, first run over Cantley Common in 1766. The Doncaster Cup is the oldest continuing regulated horserace in the world.

Ten years later the racecourse moved to its present location and in 1776 Colonel Anthony St. Leger founded a race in which five horses ran. This race has remained in existence and become the world's oldest classic horserace. During the First World War the racecourse was used for military purposes and substitute races were run instead at Newmarketmarker from 1915 to 1918.

Doncaster has the distinction of both starting and ending the flat season on turf. Every September, Doncaster hosts the prestigious four-day Ladbrokes St. Leger Festival, which is acclaimed as the premier sporting occasion of the autumn calendar. Doncaster has also taken over events whose traditional homes have closed, such as the Lincoln Cup in 1965.

More history was made at Doncaster in 1992 when it staged the first ever Sunday meeting on a British racecourse. A crowd of 23,000 turned up despite there being no betting.Today the St. Leger Stakes remains the world's oldest classic horserace and features in the horseracing calendar as the 5th and final Classic of the British flat racing season. This pride of place every September on the famous Town Moormarker course.

Doncaster is a left-handed, pear-shaped track of around 1-mile 7½ furlongs which is mostly flat. There are courses for Flat racing and also for National Hunt racing.

The racecourse is no longer run by Doncaster MBCmarker but by Arena Leisure Plc. The racecourse reopened in 2007 after undergoing massive refurbishment with the building of a new grandstand, exhibition centre, stables and bloodstock sales. It reopened partly in August 2007 for a trial run for the St. Leger and fully in September, two days before the St. Leger meeting. It was reopened by the Princess Royal who was prsented with a box of Parkinson'smarker Butterscotch a Traditional Doncaster Sweet.

Doncaster Knights Rugby Football Club has shown success in recent years, being the most promoted club in English Rugby Union History, and competing at the top of National League One. 2008 saw the completion of the 1650 seater De Mulder - Lloyd stand at Castle Park and the announcement of the new Guinness Championship which will see the Knights compete in the newly launched second tier of professional rugby in England.

More recently, the town has sought to reinvent itself, primarily as a commercial and leisure centre.

Recent leisure developments include a new community sports stadium for sports teams including the towns men's football club, Doncaster Rovers F.C., and one of the most successful women's football clubs in the country, Doncaster Rovers Belles who play at the Keepmoat Stadiummarker. Doncaster RLFC (formerly known as Doncaster Dragons RLFC and Doncaster Lakers) have played consistently inrugby league's National League One. It is also the home of the Britishmarker professional wrestling promotion One Pro Wrestling.

Speedway racing was staged at Doncaster Greyhound Stadium in 1969 and 1970. The team was known as the Stallions and then the Dragons. The team raced in the British League Second Division.

Doncaster also used to have a successful men's basketball team called the Doncaster Panthers. Doncaster has an American Football team called the Doncaster Mustangs, who are in Division 1 of the British American Football League.

Notable people

Twin towns

See also


External links

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