A Brief History of Doncaster
Doncaster’s history can be traced back to the year 71AD when construction of a fort started in the area by the Romans. This fort was named Fort Danum. In the 4th Century, the Roman civilisation began to decline, with the last soldiers leaving the country in the year 407AD. The village left after the fort was after that named ‘Don Ceaster’, with the name later changing to Doncaster.
The town’s activity started to increase in the 12th century. In 1194, a charter was granted to Doncaster by King Richard I. During the middle ages, the town was a small but busy market town though it would seem tiny when viewed from a modern perspective. The town was devastated by a fire disaster in 1204. Most buildings were wooden, so fire posed a constant risk. Nevertheless, this made it easier to replace those that were burned down.
The gate street name adopted from an old Danish word, ‘gata’, which translates to ‘street’. During the middle ages, craftsmen tended to live together according to their speciality. Baxter is an old name for baker and thus, Baxtergate was the bakers’ street. Frenchgate could refer to French-speaking Normans who resided there.
The 14th century saw the arrival of friars (monk-like preachers) in the City of Doncaster. The Franciscan friars arrived in 1307 and were named ‘Grey Friars’ due to the costumes they donned. White Friars (Carmelites) are thought to have arrived in the middle of the same century.
Doncaster 1500 – 1800
In the 16th and 17th centuries, Doncaster continued its expansion in spite of several plague outbreaks. Though a significant percentage of the town’s population succumbed during each instance, it was replenished subsequently. A grammar school came up in 1575. In 1700, the town suffered a typhoid outbreak.
The 18th century saw the emergence of Doncaster as a coaching town. Many inns came up as a result of the stagecoaches passing through the town. The Mansion House began being built in 1744 and came to completion six years later.
Doncaster is renowned for horse racing. In 1776, the St Ledger was held for the first time. The town’s first theatre began construction in the same year. 16 years later, a dispensary, where poor people could get medication for free, was opened.
Doncaster in the 19th Century
The town’s population had grown to 10,000 by 1831, which was considerably large by the era’s standards. However, the town was contaminated and murky like most towns in that time, with most people living in overcrowded, unclean conditions. Conditions improved later when piped water and sewerage came to the town. In 1853, an infirmary was opened in Doncaster. 16 years later, a public library was opened.
Construction began on a new Guildhall in 1847 with a Corn Exchange for trading grain coming in 1873. The railway came in 1849. Though this resulted in the demise of stagecoaches, the city of Doncaster continued to prosper.
The St Georges Church was built afresh in 1858 and designed by an architect named Sir George Gilbert Scott. Gas street lights came in 1827, with electrical power arriving in 1899. In 1853, the Great Northern Railway shifted its engine building base to the town from Boston and this became the town’s main employer. The late 19th and 20th centuries saw the engineering sector continuing to dominate the town.
Doncaster in the 20th Century
Electric trams began ferrying passengers in 1902 and became outdated and replaced by trolleybuses by 1931, which were themselves phased out 32 years later. The town’s Art Gallery and Museum opened in 1909, with a new purpose-built museum coming up in 1964. Britain’s inaugural aviation gathering commenced in 1909 in Doncaster. Elmfield Park opened in 1923.
The Borough of Doncaster was expanded in 1914, after which it included Wheatley, Hexthorpe and Balby. The town rapidly expanded in the early 20th century and became famous for its butterscotch. By 1951, the population had hit 83,000. During World War II, the town wasn’t attacked much, save for two parachute mines that fell in May of 1941. The Frenchgate Centre, originally known as Arndale Centre, was constructed in 1968. The Waterfield Centre ascended in 1969.
Doncaster in the 21st Century
The Robin Hood Airport, located near Doncaster, was opened in 2005.
In the latest census of 2011, the Doncaster urban area population lies at just over 158,000.