Rotherham is a town in South Yorkshire, England, which together with its surrounding settlements form the Metropolitan Borough of Rotherham, with an estimated population of 257,700 in 2011. It lies on the River Don, at its confluence with the River Rother, between Sheffield and Doncaster. Historically within the West Riding of Yorkshire, Rotherham is from Sheffield City Centre and forms part of the Sheffield urban area.
Although there were Iron Age and Roman settlements in the area covered by the town, Rotherham was not founded until the early Middle Ages. Its name is from Old English hām 'homestead, estate', meaning 'homestead on the river Rother'. (The river-name itself was borrowed into Old English from Brittonic: probably *ro- 'over, chief' and *duβr 'water', thus 'main river'.) It established itself as a key Saxon market town, lying on a Roman road near a forded part of the River Don.
By the late Saxon period, Rotherham was at the centre of a large parish on both sides of the River Don. Following the Norman Conquest, an absentee lord, Nigel Fossard, was put in place. His successors the De Vescis rarely visited the town and did not build a castle or contribute to the town's civic life, but maintained a Friday market and a fair. In the mid 13th century, John de Vesci and Ralph de Tili gave all their possessions in Rotherham to Rufford Abbey. The monks collected tithes from the town and gained rights to an additional market day on Monday and to extend the annual fair from two to three days.
The townsmen of Rotherham formed the "Greaves of Our Lady's Light", an organisation which worked with the town's three guilds. It was suppressed in 1547 but revived in 1584 as the Feoffees of the Common Lands of Rotherham, and remains in existence.
In the 1480s the Rotherham-born Archbishop of York, Thomas Rotherham, instigated the building of The College of Jesus to rival the colleges of Cambridge and Oxford. It was the first brick building in what is now South Yorkshire and taught theology, singing, grammar and writing.
The College and new parish church of All Saints made Rotherham an enviable and modern town at the turn of the 16th century. The college was dissolved in 1547 in the reign of Edward VI, its assets stripped for the crown. Very little remains of the original building, although the street is still known as College Street. Walls of part of the College of Jesus are encased within No 23 College Street 20.1.78 and Nos 2,2A, 4, 6 and 8 Effingham Street (formerly listed as Effingham Street, No 4 (The Old College Inn) and No 6). Although a fragmentary survival, the walls of the College of Jesus are the earliest surviving brick structure in South Yorkshire and formed part of a fundamental element in the development of Rotherham. By the end of the 16th century, Rotherham had fallen from a fashionable college town to a notorious haven of gambling and vice. The history of Thomas Rotherham and education in the town are remembered in the name of Thomas Rotherham College.
The region had been exploited for iron since Roman times, but it was coal that first brought the Industrial Revolution to Rotherham. Exploitation of the coal seams was the driving force behind the improvements to navigation on the River Don, which eventually formed the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation system of navigable inland waterways.
Rotherham iron was very highly regarded for its strength. Iron, and later steel, became the principal industry in Rotherham, surviving into the 20th century. The Walker family built an iron and steel empire in the 18th century, their foundries producing high quality cannon, including some for the ship of the line HMS Victory, and cast iron bridges, one of which was commissioned by Thomas Paine.
Rotherham's cast iron industry expanded rapidly in the early 19th century, the Effingham Ironworks, later Yates, Haywood & Co, opened in 1820. Other major iron-founders included William Corbitt and Co; George Wright and Co of Burton Weir; Owen and Co of Wheathill Foundry; Morgan Macauley and Waide of the Baths Foundry; the Masbro’ Stove Grate Co belonging to Messrs. Perrot, W. H. Micklethwait and John and Richard Corker of the Ferham Works.
The Parkgate Ironworks was established in 1823 by Sanderson and Watson, and changed ownership several times. In 1854, Samuel Beal & Co produced wrought iron plates for Isambard Kingdom Brunel's famous steamship the SS Great Eastern. In 1864, the ironworks was taken over by the Parkgate Iron Co. Ltd, becoming the Park Gate Iron and Steel Company in 1888. The company was purchased by Tube Investments Ltd in 1956 and closed in 1974. Steel, Peech and Tozer's massive Templeborough steelworks (now the Magna Science Adventure Centre) was, at its peak, over a mile (1.6 km) long, employing 10,000 workers, and housing six electric arc furnaces producing 1.8 million tonnes of steel a year. The operation closed down in 1993.
Joseph Foljambe established a factory to produce his Rotherham plough, the first commercially successful iron plough.
A glass works was set up in Rotherham in 1751, and became Beatson Clark & Co, one of the town's largest manufacturers, exporting glass medicine bottles worldwide. Beatson Clark & Co was a family business until 1961, when it became a public company. The glass works operated on the same site, although the family connection ceased and the company is owned by Newship Ltd, a holding company linked to the industrialist John Watson Newman. It continues to the manufacture glass containers for the pharmaceutical, food and drinks industries. In the 19th century, other successful industries included pottery, brass making and the manufacture of cast iron fireplaces. Precision manufacturing companies in the town include AESSEAL, Newburgh Engineering, Precision Magnetics, Orkot Composites and Darron Oil Tools SBO. Rotherham is the location of the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP).
Milling grain into flour was a traditional industry in Rotherham, formerly in the Millmoor area, hence Rotherham United F.C.'s nickname "The Millers". Flour milling continued at the Rank Hovis town mill site on Canklow Road until September 2008. The site of the mill is a warehousing and distribution facility for Premier Foods.
Floods of 2007
Rotherham was affected by the floods in the summer of 2007, which brought disruption to the town, closed roads, schools, the local transport system and damaged personal and commercial property. The Parkgate Shopping centre was flooded, with shops suffering damage and losing stock. Ulley Reservoir caused major concern when its dam showed signs of structural damage, threatening to break and release the water into Canklow, Catcliffe, Treeton, Whiston areas and an electrical sub-station serving Sheffield. Rother FM evacuated its studios in the danger area, causing its sister station, Trax FM, to broadcast on the Rother FM frequency. Fire service and police officers used thirteen high-powered pumps to lower the water level in the reservoir and reduce pressure on the dam wall, which was damaged but held. By summer 2008, the reservoir and surrounding country park reopened.
A new wetland and flood storage area, Centenary Washlands, has since been built by Rotherham Council and the Environment Agency to prevent flooding in the future. Sheffield Wildlife Trust manages the site as a local nature reserve.