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South Yorkshire – Horrible Histories, Ruins and Robin Hood!

South Yorkshire – Horrible Histories, Ruins and Robin Hood!1

South Yorkshire is stepped in history and we’ve had a look around at some of the best-known historical ruins that are well worth packing up a picnic and heading out for a day of exploration and discovery.

Rotherham lies in the coal-mining district of South Yorkshire and has its roots as an iron, steel and brass producing centre. Its main historical features are a very large fifteenth century church and a chapel dating from 1483 located on an old bridge across the River Don.

A few miles to the east of Rotherham is Maltby, a Viking place-name and close by the ruins of Roche Abbey. Roche was a Cistercian foundation established in 1147 by Richard de Busli of Tickhill Castle and Richard Fitzurgis and the abbey fell into ruin in the reign of King Henry VIII after the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Conisborough Castle is in a town halfway between Rotherham and Doncaster. The National Trust owned castle overlooks the River Don close to where it is joined by the River Dearne and is thought to be located on the site of Anglo-Saxon earthworks. The castle is thought to have been built by Hameline Warrenne in the reign of Richard I and he also built the neighbouring chapel that was featured in Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe.

North of Sheffield is Barnsley which is a Victorian town although its history goes back much further. In Anglo-Saxon times it was the ley or clearing belonging to someone called Beorn – ‘Beorn’s ley’ and the place is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1089. In the following century a Cluniac priory called Monk Bretton Priory was established in the Dearne valley in 1154, but the abbey is now a ruin.

Historic features in Barnsley include a May Day Green market established in 1249 and a Grammar School established in 1660.

Barnsley is best known as the heart of the old South Yorkshire coalfield and there are many mining towns and villages in the area like Darfield where a monument at the parish church commemorates the 189 men and boys buried alive at Ludhill Colliery in 1857. Sadly, it was not the only pit disaster to affect the Barnsley area. In 1866, 361 men and boys were killed at Barnsley’s Old Oaks Colliery.

Hailing from Barnsley are it’s famous sons including a Victorian railway engineer called Joseph Locke, the missionary and James Hudson Taylor who tried to convert the Chinese to Christianity. From a more recent age the TV personality Michael Parkinson, cricket umpire Dickie Bird, cricketer Darren Gough, actor Brian Glover and former miners’ leader Arthur Scargill all hail from the town.

Doncaster is known to have been the site of a Roman fort that was probably called Danum. The fort was located somewhere near the River Don and traces of a Roman iron and pottery industry have been found in the neighbourhood. In Anglo-Saxon times the Kings of Northumbria are thought to have established a palace at Doncaster but it was attacked and destroyed by the Danes in a later century.

Doncaster was granted a charter by Richard I and became the site of a medieval Friary, but Doncaster’s real heyday was in the eighteenth century. Horse racing began at Doncaster in this period and races have been held in the town since at least 1703.

Adwick-le-Street to the north of Doncaster was for two centuries the home of the Washingtons, ancestors of George Washington who originally came from Washington in County Durham (now Tyne and Wear).

Burghwallis and neighbouring Campsall are situated in Barnsdale Forest and both places are associated with the legendary Robin Hood who is supposed to have been active in the area.

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