Doncaster is a town now in South Yorkshire, England. Together with its surrounding suburbs and settlements, the town forms part of the Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster, which had a population of 302,400 at the 2011 census. The town itself has a population of 127,851. Doncaster is about 20 miles (32 km) from Sheffield. A variety of industries encouraged the expansion of Doncaster over the 19th and 20th centuries including coal, glass-making, confectionery (particularly toffee), and railway and locomotive building.
Historically, Doncaster was an ecclesiastical parish in the lower-division of the wapentake of Strafforth and Tickhill.
Possibly inhabited by earlier peoples, Doncaster grew up at the site of a Roman fort constructed in the 1st century at a crossing of the River Don. The 2nd-century Antonine Itinerary and the early 5th-century Notitia Dignitatum (Register of Dignitaries) called this fort . The first section of the road to the Doncaster fort had probably been constructed since the early 50s, while a route through the north Derbyshire hills was opened in the latter half of the 1st century, possibly by Governor Gn. Julius Agricola during the late 70s. Doncaster provided an alternative direct land route between Lincoln and York. The main route between Lincoln and York was Ermine Street, which required parties to break into smaller units to cross the Humber in boats. As this was not always practical, the Romans considered Doncaster to be an important staging post. The Roman road through Doncaster appears on two routes recorded in the Antonine Itinerary. The itinerary include the same section of road between Lincoln and York, and list three stations along the route between these two coloniae. Routes 7 and 8 ( VII & VIII) are entitled "the route from York to London".
Several areas of known intense archaeological interest have been identified in the town, although many—in particular Gate—remain hidden under buildings. The Roman fort is believed to have been located on the site that is now covered by St George's Minster, next to the River Don. The Doncaster garrison units are named in the Register produced near the end of Roman rule in Britain: it was the home of the Crispinian Horse, presumably named because it was originally recruited from among the tribes living near Crispiana in Pannonia Superior (near present-day Zirc in western Hungary), but possibly owing to Crispus, son of Constantine the Great, being headquartered there while his father was based in nearby York. The Register names the unit as under the command of the "Duke of the Britons".
Doncaster is generally believed to be the Cair Daun listed as one of the 28 cities of Britain in the 9th-century History of the Britons traditionally attributed to Nennius. It was certainly an Anglo-Saxon burh, during which period it received its present name: "Don-" from the Roman settlement and river and "-caster" from an Old English adaptation of the Latin castra ("military camp; fort"). The settlement was mentioned in the 1003 will of Wulfric Spott. Shortly after the Norman Conquest, Nigel Fossard refortified the town and constructed Conisbrough Castle. By the time of the Domesday Book, Hexthorpe was described as having a church and two mills. The historian David Hey says 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 13th century approached, Doncaster matured into a busy town; in 1194 King Richard I granted it national recognition with a town charter. Doncaster had a disastrous fire in 1204, from which it slowly recovered. At the time, buildings were built of wood, and open fireplaces were used for cooking and heating. Fire was a constant hazard.
During the 14th century, numerous friars arrived in Doncaster who were known for their religious enthusiasm and preaching. In 1307 the 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 the 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 recovering from the Black Death, which had reduced its population to 1,500. By 1547 its population exceeded 2,000. The town was incorporated in 1461, and its first Mayor and corporation were established.
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; Baxtergate was the bakers' street. Historians believe 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 earthen ramparts and ditches, with 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 commemorated with white marble 'Roman Gates'. The boundary of the town principally extended from the River Don, along what is now Market Road, and Silver, Cleveland and Printing Office streets.
For more information, see the EN Wikipedia article Doncaster.