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Coordinate 53.52223, -1.12849
Adm. div. West Riding of Yorkshire
Vicinity 27.5 km NE of Sheffield
Type Settlement
Interest Literary locale
Status Extant
First Record c. 1500
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The ruins of the Church of St Mary Magdalen, Doncaster, on demolition in 1846. / Wikipedia: Doncaster.
Medieval Doncaster / Adapted from Wikipedia: Doncaster.

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2013-08-07. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2019-04-05.

The town of Doncaster (formerly in the West Riding of Yorkshire, now administratively in South Yorkshire) is mentioned four times in the Gest (see Evidence below). According to Smith, the town is first referred to in a 4th century source as "Dano", while c. 800 it occurs as CairDaun, and from 1086 on as "Doncesatre" (and similar). The etymology of "Doncaster" is "[f]ortification on the Don"". The form "Donkesly" used on one occasion in the Gest is not recorded by Smith who does, however, cite the form "Doncastell" (1418).[1]

In 1248, the town was granted a market to be held in the area around the Church of St Mary Magdalene; the market is still held. Major institutions in later medieval Doncaster were the Hospital of St Nicholas, the Hospital of St James (which housed a leper colony), a moot hall, grammar school, and a stone bridge with a chapel, Our Lady of the Bridge. By 1334 Doncaster was the wealthiest town in South Yorkshire and among the most important towns in Yorkshire as a whole. It even had its own banker. Demographically, the town was set back by the Black Death, from which it only slowly recovered. Doncaster was incorporated and its first Mayor and corporation were established in 1461.[2]

In the late Middle Ages, Doncaster was thus a well-known town that would have been a suitable stopping place for a traveler to or from the North.


1695 - Thoresby, Ralph - Diary

       13. Morning, walked to cousin F.'s of Hunslet; rode with him and my other dear friends, Mr. Samuel Ibbetson and brother Thoresby, to Rodwell, where took leave of relations, thence through Medley, Pontefract, and Wentbridge (upon the famous Roman highway, and by the noted Robin Hood's well) to Doncaster, where we dined; thence by Bawtry, Scruby, Ranskall, to Barnby-on-the-Moor.
       14. After a weary night rose pretty early; rode over Shirewood Forest, by the noted Eel-pie-house [...][3]

1703 - Thoresby, Ralph - Diary

[...] Thence by Darrington and Stapleton Lees to Wentbrig, beyond which, upon the heights, may be seen York Minster, and it is said, also, that of Lincoln, but it was too duskish for us to do it; what I was more intent upon was the famous Roman highway, which is not only visible for several miles, but its complete dimensions, near which we drank at a curious spring, which receives its denomination from Robin Hood, the noted outlaw; after which we left the common road to Doncaster, and followed the old one, as is evident from the said Roman rig, which we followed for some time, in our road to Sprotburgh [...][4]

1740 - Stukeley, William - Diary

At Doncaster. A chapel, and a bridg with a gate over it. A man in armour, over the gate, in a threatening posture, looking over the battlements, cut in stone. Danum, Daunum, Caer Daun, by Neunius, was the station of the Equites Crispiani; the name is British, Davon the river, now Don. On this side Robin Hood's well, the Roman road appears in a very elevated ridg, composed of a huge body of stone, for miles together. Robin Hood's well a pretty ornament to the road; Sir John Vanbrugh the architect.


[Gest; c. 1500:]
My purpos was to have dyned to day
At Blith or Dancastere[6]

For better chepe I myght have dyned
In Blythe or in Dankastere[7]

For the love of a knight
Syr Roger of Donkesly[8]

Syr Roger of Donkestere
By the pryoresse he lay[9]

From Fery-bridge to Wentbridge . . . miles, and so to Dancaster . . . miles[10]




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