DONCASTER, a market-town and municipal borough in the Doncaster parliamentary division of the West Riding of Yorkshire, England, 156 m. N. by W. from London. Pop. (1901) 28,932. It lies in a flat plain on the river Don, with slight hills rising westward. It is an important station on the Great Northern railway, whose principal locomotive and carriage works are here, and it is also served by the North Eastern, Great Eastern, Great Central, Lancashire & Yorkshire, and Midland railways. The Don affords intercommunication with Goole and the Humber. The parish church of St George, occupying the site of an older structure of the same name, destroyed by fire in 1853, was finished in 1858 under the direction of Sir G. G. Scott. It is a fine cruciform structure of Decorated character, with a central tower 170 ft. high, and contains a particularly fine organ. St James's church was erected, under the same architect and Lord Grimthorpe, by the Great Northern railway company. Other important buildings are the town hall, mansion house, free library and art school, corn exchange and markets. The grammar school was founded in 1553 and reorganized in 1862. Doncaster race-meetings are widely famous. The racecourse lies i m. S.E. of the town. The old course is i m. 7 fur. 70 yds. in length, and the Sandall course of i m. was added in 1892. The grand stand was erected in 17 77, but there are several additional stands. Races have long been held at Doncaster, and there was a stand on the course before the year 1615. The St Leger takes its name from Lieut.-General St Leger, who originated the race in 1776; but it was not so named till 1778. The meetings are held in the second week of September. A system of electric tramways connects the town with its principal suburbs. The agricultural trade is extensive, and there are iron, brass and agricultural machine works. Doncaster lies on the outskirts of a populous district extending up the valley of the Don. Two miles S.W. is the urban district of Balby-with-Hexthorpe (pop. 6781); and 7 m. S. is that of Tickhill, where there are remains of a Norman castle. Wheatley (3579) lies 2 m. N.E. The borough of Doncaster is under a mayor, six aldermen and eighteen councillors. Area, 1695 acres.
There was a Roman station here, and numerous remains of the Roman period have been found. In the reign of Edward the Confessor, Doncaster, as a berewic of the manor of Hexthorp, belonged to Earl Tostig; but before 1086 it had been granted to Robert, earl of Mortain, whose successor William was attainted for treason in the time of Henry I. The overlordship then fell to the crown, and the families of Frossard, Mauley and Salvin successively held the manor as underlords. Doncaster was evidently a borough held of the crown for a fee farm rent before 11 9 4, when Richard I. granted and confirmed to the burgesses their soke and town to hold by the ancient rent and by twentyfive marks yearly. The town was incorporated in 1467 by Edward IV., who granted a gild merchant and appointed that the town should be governed by a mayor and two serjeants-at-mace elected every year by the burgesses. Henry VII., while confirming this charter in 1505, granted further that the burgesses should hold their town and soke with all the manors in the soke on payment of a fee farm. He also by another charter in 1508 confirmed letters patent granted by Peter de Mauley in 1341, by which the latter renounced to the inhabitants of Doncaster all the manorial claims which he had upon them, with the "pernicious customs" which his ancestors claimed from bakers, brewers, butchers, fishers and wind-fallen trees. In 1623 Ralph Salvin tried to regain the manor of Doncaster from the mayor and burgesses, who, fearing that the case would go against them, agreed to pay about £3000, in return for which he gave up his claim to all the manors in the soke. Charles II. in 1664 gave the town a new charter, granting that it should be governed by a mayor, twelve aldermen and twenty-four capital burgesses, but since this was not enrolled and was therefore of no effect the burgesses obtained another charter from James II. in 1684 by which the town was governed until the Municipal Corporation Act. In 1200 a fair at Doncaster on the vigil and day of St James the Apostle was confirmed to Robert de Turnham, who held the manor in right of his wife, with the addition of an extra day, for which he had to give the king two palfreys worth loos. each. By the charter of 1194 the burgesses received licence to hold a fair on the vigil, feast and morrow of the Annunciation, and this with the fair on St James's day was confirmed to them by Henry VII. in 1505. The fairs and markets are still held under these charters.
See Victoria County History, Yorkshire; Edward Miller, The History and Antiquities of Doncaster (1828-1831); Calendar to the Records of the Borough of Doncaster, published by the Corporation.
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