Wednesday, 15 February 2017

At the Foot of the Bridge

A tram crossing St Mary's Bridge with the Three Horse Shoes public house on the left, 1905

Where Bentley Meets Doncaster

The Story Of Town End

Town End, Bridgefoot, Bridge End, Don Bridge, whatever you call this area of Bentley, and yes, it is a part of Bentley, you have to pass through it if you are travelling in or out of Doncaster via the northern routes. 

It may seem a bit of a non-place these days, dominated by St George's Bridge, St Mary's Bridge, a ring road and a cluster of shops and businesses, but you may be surprised to learn it has a history dating back to Roman times which is full of conflict, disease, industry and change. 

Town End is situated in a strategic position at the northern entrance to Doncaster, an important place who's history is worthy of retelling, and is retold here. 

Note: To prevent confusion, this area will be referred to as Town End throughout this article, unless referring directly to historical records. 


  • Through The Barricades
  • The Chapel Of St Mary
  • The Mill Cross
  • The Pilgrimage Of Grace
  • Rebellion
  • Standoff
  • St Mary's Bridge
  • Bridge House
  • The Hearth Tax
  • Industrial Use
  • The A19 Turnpike Road
  • The Flood Arches
  • The Doncaster Avoiding Line
  • York Road Station
  • The Don Cinema
  • The Three Horse Shoes
  • Landlords
  • St George's Bridge
  • Around Town End
  • Businesses
  • Other Town End Photos
  • A Place Of Importance

Through The Barricades

The importance of Doncaster as a market town lies in its position at the meeting place of the Great North Road and the River Don. 

The area has been in use since at least Roman times, when a fort existed roughly where St George's Minster now stands. The area was chosen as a convenient crossing point over the Don and as such has been inhabited ever since.

Medieval Doncaster was reached from the north by crossing the wooden 'Greater Doncaster Bridge' over the River Don, and according to a deed of 1311 there was a causeway leading to this bridge from 'le Bordel' (a brothel). Beyond the bridge over the river was an area of low lying land called 'Marsh Gate' ('gate' in this instance coming from the Scandinavian for 'road', 'road over a marsh'). This area was inhabited by poor dwellings, while further along the road the 13th century Franciscan Friary was reached. Another bridge, called the Friary Bridge led over the River Cheswold (now culverted) to Frenchgate and the town of Doncaster.

Impression of the original wooden bridge over the River Don

Town defences were built at the River Don in 1215 on the orders of King John, who in dispute with his barons, ordered Peter de Mauley, Lord of Doncaster to erect barricades at the bridge. This led to stone gateways being erected on all bridges over the town ditch. This is where some street names have their origins, for instance, Hallgate, French Gate and Fisher Gate. The fortified gates on the bridge lasted into the eighteenth century.

The wooden bridge over the Don was replaced by a stone one in 1247. To pay for it a three year toll was levied of 1d. on every cart carrying merchandise crossing it.

The Chapel Of St Mary

As with other bridges in the region, such as at Rotherham and Wakefield, the Don Bridge had a Chantry Chapel, but unlike those of the aforementioned towns, whose chapels were built on the bridges themselves, this one was built to the side of it. The chapel was dedicated to St Mary and as thus, the bridge was later named 'St Mary's Bridge'

The purpose of the chapel was to solicit donations from the pious for the upkeep of the bridge. The chapel had niches in its gateway which housed effigies of the twelve apostles.

Following religious changes the chapel became redundant and for a time during the reign of Queen Anne (1702 - 1714) it was used as a dwelling house. The chapel was demolished in the early 1770's.

This simple diagram shows the approximate position of the chapel and gate
on a small island in the middle of the river. 

The Mill Cross

In the 1270's there were probably as many as four corn mills standing on the river. Owned by the lord of the manor, all his tenants would be obliged to pay his millers to grind their corn in one of the mills. The presence of the corn mills led to the bridge being named the 'Mill Bridge', as well as the later 'St Mary's Bridge'.

The mill cross marked the northern entrance to the town. It stood to the left side of the road leaving town. There were at least eight stone crosses around medieval Doncaster, including an impressive one built by Otto de Tilli, the steward of Conisbrough in the late 12th century. This stood at the top of Hallgate, near to the Thorne Road/South Parade junction. It was taken down, rebuilt and relocated to Hall Cross Hill with the present Georgian cross when South Parade was lowered to allow easier access for mail coaches entering Doncaster.

The medieval cross at Hallgate

The cross near the Mill Bridge was built in about 1250 and was said to be of excellent workmanship. It had three steps and niches for three effigies to stand within. It was demolished in 1765, but fortunately not before Robert Copley of Nether Hall sketched it. This rather romanticised version of Copley's sketch, below, comes from the Rev. Edward Jackson's book 'St George's Church, recently destroyed by fire, 1855'.

Representation of Robert Copley's Mill Cross sketch in 1764

The Pilgrimage Of Grace

In 1536 the bridge over the Don was the scene of one of the most dramatic uprisings in English history.

Religious changes brought about by Henry VIII abandoning the Catholic Church in order to divorce his first wife Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn, set in motion a series of uprisings in the north of England. The most famous of which was the Pilgrimage of Grace, led by Robert Aske.

Robert Aske (1500 - 1537)


Aske and his supporters began a rebellion in the East Riding of Yorkshire in the summer of 1536. They made their way to Pontefract where they made their headquarters. They began restoring expelled monks and nuns to their homes and resuming Catholic observances. Such was their success a five thousand strong King's Army, led by the Duke of Norfolk, marched north from London in the October.

Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk
1473 - 1554

Doncaster was the location of the scene of confrontation between the rebels and the royal army. The rebels, which numbered in excess of thirty thousand, had left Pontefract and were camped out on Scawsby Lees on the north side of the River Don. Outnumbered, the royal forces halted and took lodgings with the Carmelite friars in High Street, while Aske and his party lodged at the Grey Friar's in Marsh Gate during November and December.

Lawrence Cook*, head of the Carmelite Priory where the Duke's party were residing, was found to be in support of the rebels. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London where he was found guilty of treason and condemned to death. He was later pardoned, but having failed to conform was executed at Tyburn in 1540. 

Banner used by the rebels at the
Pilgrimage of Grace.


The opposing forces were now left facing each other across the Don, but with the Duke's diminished army preventing him from fighting the rebels, they had reached stalemate. The Duke had to be content with denying the rebels the bridge and a nearby ford.

The rebels, superior in numbers tried twice to cross the Don, but were prevented by the high level of the river, swollen by the autumn rains.

Finally, negotiations were opened up by the Duke, who made certain 'promises' which Aske naively believed. Aske dismissed his followers and they dispersed. 

Once it became clear that the 'promises' would not be met new uprisings began in Cumberland and Westmorland. The Duke reacted quickly to these new threats and Aske, along with other ringleaders were arrested, convicted of treason and finally executed.
*Prior Cook of the Doncaster Carmelite Priory was an early member of the Cooke family (of Wheatley Hall). While he was held in the Beauchamp Tower at the Tower of London, he carved his name into the wall. I was able to see this graffiti for myself in the summer of 2016, and was photographed alongside it (see below).   

Prior Cook's carving

Alison Vainlo pointing out graffiti carved by Prior Cook in the 1530's.
Beauchamp Tower, Tower of London 2016 

St Mary's Bridge

St Mary's Bridge has been rebuilt several times in its history. In 1661 the bridge was washed away in a great flood and had to be replaced. The roof over the bridge gateway was pulled down in 1749. In 1752 the road between Mill Bridge and Friar's Bridge was raised above flood level and Mill Bridge was rebuilt again in 1782. 

Sheep crossing the stone St Mary's Bridge at the end of the nineteenth century

The 1782 stone bridge seen in the above photo lasted until the early 20th century. It was later rebuilt with a robust iron construction presumably to withstand the new trams which would have to cross it. North Bridge was built once the trams were established in 1910. This was to replace the Marsh Gate level crossing and allow trams to run right into Doncaster rather than having to terminate at Marsh Gate. 

St Mary's Bridge with the corn mill in the background.

The large building to the right side of the bridge in the above photo was Doncaster Mill. It sat on an island to the eastern side of the bridge. In 1817 the building suffered a serious fire which, it is said, could be seen as far away as Sheffield. It was rebuilt following the fire. 

This mill and two others which existed on the river were all powered by waterwheel until steam power took over in the mid nineteenth century. The chimney for the steam can be seen behind the mill in the above photo.
View of the old mill from the back, with the weir to the left which would have driven the waterwheel originally. 

Another view of the rear of the mill

The mill was replaced by the Town Garage, probably in the 1920's and can be seen in the 1932 flood photo lower down.

A Bentley tram passing over the new St Mary's Bridge around 1905

The new bridge withstood the devastating floods of 1932 despite the water reaching almost to road level.

Crowds flock to watch the flooded River Don in May 1932

Another view of St Mary's Bridge during the floods of 1932

By the 1950's, trolleybuses had replaced the trams, but increasing traffic meant that a wider bridge was needed to cope with the numbers.

A trolleybus crossing St Mary's Bridge in 1954

A bus crossing St Mary's Bridge prior to the widening work of the late 1950's. Note the old mill/Town Garage building is being demolished.

The new bridge was built by Holland and Hannen and Cubbitts (Great Britain) Ltd. It was designed by Fred Bamforth who also carried out the substructure, road works, retaining walls and flood culvert. It opened on the 27th of November 1959 and was soon carrying 25,000 vehicles a day. 

Work on the new St Mary's Bridge in 1958

Bridge House

Bridge House

This beautiful seventeenth century house used to stand where the bottom end of St George's Bridge meets the roundabout at Town End today. 

Sometimes known as 'Bridge Hall', the house was built by the Wilbore family and the first reference to the Wilbore's at 'Bridgefoot' (as it was known then) is in 1617, when Robert Wilbore's son, Godfrey was baptised at Arksey church. The Wilbore's became prosperous after taking leases of land from Francis le Straunge between 1574 and 1577. The house was probably in existence from around the early 1600's although it isn't until the Hearth Tax records of 1672 that the house itself is referenced in writing. 

Bridge House (in red) at the end of the A19 turnpike road, from a map of 1854.

The Hearth Tax

The Hearth Tax was a method of calculating tax payments dependent on the number of hearths in the house, the more hearths you had, the more tax you had to pay. With the number of hearths proportional to the size of the house, it gave a good indication of house sizes.  Bridge House records a sizable house containing nine hearths, and it appears from Arksey parish records that subsequent generations of the Wilbore family resided there for about a century. 

What happened at Bridge House following the departure of the Wilbore's isn't clear, however, in his book on the Wapentake of Strafford and Tickhill (which includes the manor of Bentley with Arksey) 1829, John Wainwright describes the house as once being 'a great hall or hospital for the entertainment of strangers or pilgrims.' 'Hospital' in this instance meaning a place of hospitable reception, a kind of hostel. 


Following a spell as a school, under the tutelage of Mr Robert Graham, Bridge House served as a hospital in the modern sense following an outbreak of cholera in nearby Marsh Gate in 1832.

The first case of cholera is well documented in The Cholera Gazette* of 1832. It is said that on the 6th of January 1832 two sailors, aged 20 and 30 respectively, arrived in the town following a six week journey down through North Yorkshire from Stockton. 

They took lodgings in Marsh Gate and seemed in good health, eating fried beef and potatoes before retiring to bed. The next morning however, it became apparent that the younger of the two men, James McDowell, was suffering from some sort of digestive illness, however, he did recover sufficiently for them to continue their journey.  

Fortified with a breakfast of coffee, James and his companion set off to continue on to London. They had only reached Balby, a mile and a half from Doncaster when James suffered a collapse. After some difficulty, which involved James having to be carried on his companion's shoulders, they returned to the lodgings in Marsh Gate. Four members of the Medical Board of Health attended Mr McDowell and observed symptoms of cholera, i.e. vomiting, 'rice water' stools, violent spasms, skin cold, clammy and with a blue hue. 

They administered stimulants and every other treatment at their disposal, but without success. James McDowell died at 2 a.m. the following morning, the 7th of January.

This isolated case was just the beginning of a major outbreak in Doncaster. In June of that same year a boat arrived on the River Don and moored at Marsh Gate. A man on board was said to be suffering from 'spasmodic cholera'. He soon died and inexplicably, a large number of Marsh Gate's inhabitants went on board to see him. The inevitable happened, and a huge outbreak of the disease hit the town.

Example of a boat moored at Marshgate.

Fifteen cholera deaths were recorded in just one week of June 1832, the overall total being about forty for the whole outbreak. Arksey parish registers record eleven deaths for the months of July and August of that year among Bentley residents. All the deaths were attributed to 'Asiatic Cholera'. 

Later, a cholera hospital was established at Bridge House, which at the time was owned by Richard Fountayne Wilson Esq.  

Industrial Use

Following its time as a cholera hospital, Bridge House became a carpet factory and by 1849 formed 'a portion of the extensive warehouses (of) the business of... a tillage and seed merchant.' Another source tells of the house being used as a brewery at one time too, although there seems to be no further information on that.

Information for Bridge House ceases after 1861 when, according to the census, it was in the hands of James Gears, who at that time was the seed and tillage merchant as mentioned above. After 1861 it is unclear who owned the building as that information is not included on subsequent census returns.

1906 map showing smaller building on site of
Bridge House (in red) 

A much smaller building is shown on the Bridge House plot on a map of 1890, so it may have been partially knocked down or replaced. This smaller building is also shown on maps of 1906 (above) and 1929, and this appears to be the last trace of the building once known as Bridge House. 

* Follow the link for The Cholera Gazette of 1832.

The A19 Turnpike Road

The Doncaster to Selby Turnpike Road beside Bridge House

If we look at a wider picture of Bridge House (see photo above), it gives a fascinating view of the turnpike road to Selby (today's A19). The road stretches away into the distance where it will reach Bentley before continuing on to Selby. Just visible beyond the coach are the flood arches over the Bentley flood plain. The obelisk on the left was erected to commemorate the construction of the turnpike road in 1832.  

The road in the foreground is the old Doncaster to Pontefract road; with Doncaster off to the right (or south), and Pontefract to the left (north) via the Great North Road (today's A638). 

Larger view of the turnpike road and obelisk

Prior to the turnpike road being built, the route to York was via the Great North Road to Brotherton and then through Tadcaster. In the eighteenth century this often meant that York was missed out by the mail coaches, with routes to Wetherby and Boroughbridge being favoured.

The problem was the lack of a through road across the low lying land north east of Doncaster. Looking at the Thomas Jefferys map of  Yorkshire (1772, below), it is evident that this area is peppered with small roads and lanes meant for serving small communities rather than providing a direct route to Selby and York. As this land was prone to frequent flooding too, it made the necessity for a through road even more important.

Thomas Jefferys's Yorkshire map, 1772

The Doncaster to Selby Turnpike Act was passed on the 6th of June 1832 and this enabled a new road to be built. Turnpike trusts had been established to collect tolls on major stretches of road; the money collected being used to maintain the roads. Toll houses were usually erected to collect fees from travellers wishing to use the roads. 

The Flood Arches

The new road left Doncaster at Frenchgate, crossed the Don bridge and forked right towards Bentley at Bridge House. Crossing the Bentley flood plain, a new causeway consisting of a flood arched bridge was constructed in 1832/33. Thirty brick arches covered by stone facings were built to span this low lying boggy area, allowing traffic to pass above, unaffected by breaks in the river banks. At the same time the arches allowed flood water to drain safely away from inhabited areas.

The flood arches.
 Photo courtesy of Keith Wilburn

Even the flood arches couldn't cope with the floods of 1932

The flood arches once again showing what they were made for during the floods of 2007. 
Photo courtesy of Colin Powell

Reinforcement work on the flood arches in the 1990's.
 Photo courtesy of Tom Booth

After crossing the flood arches the road continues up through Bentley, Toll Bar and Askern, eventually reaching Selby before terminating at York. Running almost parallel with the A1 the road was an alternative route to the Great North Road, and even shared its name until the railways took over from coaches hauling mail.

The Doncaster Avoiding Line

A Bentley trolleybus passes under the east bridge over the A19, mid 1950's

The double railway bridge at Town End has dominated the skyline for as long as anyone can remember, but I wonder how many people know just what the line was built for, and where it goes?

The west bridge over the A638 Great North Road at Town End in the 1930's 

The railway for which the bridge was built is called the Doncaster Avoiding Line. It was built to allow freight traffic to avoid passing through Doncaster station. To reach the Hull or Cleethorpes lines would have meant crossing the line from Sheffield and creating bottlenecks.

An act of parliament to build the line was passed in 1903, but it was another five years before work began. It was built mostly on an embankment and opened in 1910.

The Doncaster Avoiding Line under construction in 1909.
Photo courtesy Pete Dumville

The Avoiding Line runs from Hexthorpe Junction on the Doncaster to Sheffield line, to Bentley Junction on the Hull and Cleethorpes line.

Built mainly to carry coal and steel, more than one train was allowed on the line at any time. This changed to single passes only for safety reasons when passenger trains began to use the line. 

With faster trains using the East Coast Main Line, the Avoiding Line still has a function in the smooth running of the railways in Doncaster.

York Road Station

While on the subject of railway lines, there is another line we should look at in this area. The Hull and Barnsley line which curved past north Doncaster had five stations along it, Snaith & Pollington, Sykehouse, Thorpe-in-Balne, Doncaster York Road, and Warmsworth.

York Road Station in 1936.
Photo courtesy of Dennis Canning 

The York Road terminus station lay at the end of a spur line which branched off roughly where the railway bridge on Watch House Lane is. 

The line opened on the 1st of May 1916, and although it was built to serve passenger trains, it never actually saw any. The route duplicated others in the area and wasn't near enough to the villages it was supposed to serve. The only passenger trains to use the line were enthusiast specials, the last being the 'Doncaster Decoy' in October 1968. Used mainly to transport coal, the line closed in 1939, but was kept intact until the late 1960's.

York Road Station in 1968, just before demolition.
Photo courtesy of Dennis Canning

The station, which was sited in a triangular junction between York Road and Bentley Road was hidden from view behind tall fencing on the Bentley Road side, and C.F. Booth's scrapyard on the York Road side. Unless you knew it was there, there were no obvious signs of it as was nothing visible from the roads.

This aerial view shows Booth's scrapyard, the avoiding line bridges and just a few remnants of rolling stock in about the early 1970's

Following demolition in the late 1960's the land remained largely vacant until the York Road development scheme of the 1990's. Today, the site is home to the Centurion Retail Park.

The Don Cinema

Don Cinema in 1954

Lying just to the south of the Avoiding Line Bridge over the A19 was the Don Cinema. A large brick, steel and concrete Art Deco building, it was designed by Mr J. Blythe Richardson and opened on the 17th of August 1939 with a screening of 'The Citadel' starring Robert Donat and Rosalind Russell.

The entrance to the cinema was facing the main road and there was a spacious adjoining car park. Inside there was a large foyer with box office and refreshment kiosk, cloakroom and manager's office. 

There were two entrances to the stalls, and a staircase led up to a first floor lounge and the circle. In the auditorium there was spacious seating for an audience of 996, in front of a proscenium of thirty feet wide, but which lacked a proper stage.

The unique lighting continually changed the colour of the walls and with the curtains similarly illuminated, it must have made a lovely effect.

The sound system was provided by Western Electric and the latest Kalee projectors were installed.

Don Cinema auditorium interior

The final film to be screened at Don Cinema was the Beatles 'A Hard Day's Night' before closing on the 30th of January 1965.

The building became the Don Bingo and Social Club following its closure as a cinema.

Don Bingo and Social Club, 1st February 1965
A new roof was fitted in 1983 and it became the Don Bingo and Cabaret Club. It was closed in the early 1990's and was demolished during July 1992 to make way for the new North Bridge Relief Road (see further on in this article).

Don Bingo as demolition gets under way, 1992

The Three Horse Shoes

The Three Horse Shoes in 1914

The earliest known record of The Three Horse Shoes public house is from 1783, when it first opened as a beer-house. Standing on the north bank of the River Don, just to the left of St Mary's Bridge, the inn often held inquests of people who had drowned in the river.  

The Three Horse Shoes, original building, in 1900

The building we see today is not the original; it was rebuilt to its current design (barring recent alterations) in 1914. The original building is pictured above and at the top of this article.


Landlords of the Three Horse Shoes can be traced through the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century via the census returns.

In 1841, the earliest record, the landlord is Joseph Bailey, forty five, who lived there with his wife Mary, thirty one, and their two children.

The Three Horse Shoes seen from the north east bank of the river.

By 1851 there had been a change of ownership with John Jackson, aged fifty, taking over. He lived there with his wife Hannah, fifty, their two children and two lodgers.

A younger John Jackson had taken over the premises by 1861, aged thirty five; he is most likely the son of the former John Jackson, especially as he was born in Lincolnshire where his mother came from. This younger John was married to Catherine, aged forty. They had two children living with them as well as a niece. 

John could be traced on the electoral registers at the Three Horse Shoes until 1868. By the time of the 1871 census John had moved to nearby Marsh Gate, remarried and had taken up farming. No trace of the owners of the pub could be found for this census, it simply isn't listed which could mean had been temporarily closed.

1881 finds the Three Horse Shoes in the hands of George Beevers aged forty, and his wife Emma aged 36. This was the only census they appeared in at these premises because in 1890 the Inn had a new owner, and we know a little more about him.

The Three Horseshoes and St Mary's Bridge in the early 1900's

Charles Towse was born in 1858 in Market Weighton, East Yorkshire. His early work included working as a groom for a horse dealer, fourteen miles from his birthplace. 

His wife Harriet had been married to George Carvey and they had a daughter, Marie Lucy Ann Helen Quotina Carvey, who was born in Rouen, France in 1885 when Harriet was thirty. George Carvey died in Dublin that same year and just one year later Harriet married Charles Towse, probably in Ireland as no English marriage record exists for them.

Charles and Harriet didn't have any children of their own. Marie continued to live with them, and work for them when she was older after they took on the Three Horse Shoes in 1890.

Charles died on the first of November 1911 at the age of 53. He is buried in Hyde Park Cemetery and has quite an interesting memorial.

Charles Towse memorial. 
Photo courtesy of Alan Downing

The three horse shoes on the memorial are undoubtedly a reference to his hostelry at Town End, and as a keen sportsman and former groom, they may have added significance. The fact that the horse shoes are upside down may mean that his luck had run out, but that is pure speculation.

The inscription on the memorial isn't your usual piece of spiritual prose either, it says:

To Charles Towse
Who died November 1st 1911
Aged 53 years
A Husband Great
A Father Good
A Truer Sportsman Never Stood

Whether Harriet stayed on at the Three Horse Shoes after her husband's death isn't known. 

The old Three Horse Shoes was demolished and replaced with the building we see today in 1914. Minor alterations have taken place since then, but it is essentially the same.

The Three Horse Shoes (left) wasn't the only hostelry in the area.

There is a bit of a gap in the records regarding further owners. The next reference comes from the electoral registers of 1931. Charles Dalby, aged thirty eight, and his wife Edith had taken over the premises and were there until 1947.

Sadly, it has proved difficult to find out any further information about the pub at this time, but anything found later on will be added. 

The Three Horse Shoes in 1988

St George's Bridge

Despite the widening of St Mary's Bridge in the 1950's, by the late 1980's it was becoming clear that the amount of traffic using this route in and out of town was increasing year on year. Traffic jams were frequent and lengthy, and with no alternative crossing point over the river, canal and railways, the need for a relief road was pressing.

On the 24th of May 1991 the Secretary of State signed an order allowing for the A638 Trunk Road (Doncaster North Bridge Relief Road) to be built.

This was to be part of the wider £63m North Bridge Relief Road Scheme, which would see cars using the new bridge and a newly refurbished North Bridge for public transport.

The bridge was planned to start at a new roundabout near the market on Church Way and end at the site of the old Don Cinema, now a bingo club, at Town End. A new ring road would see the traffic roundabout extended to circle around the railway embankment between the junction of the A638 and A19.  

Demolition of the Don Bingo Club took place in July 1992. Also cleared for demolition were a row of terraced houses behind at Willow Bridge.

Willow Bridge Terrace in 1992.
Photo courtesy of Tom Booth

It would be another ten years before the new bridge would be open to traffic and that was at a cost of £28m. 

In November 2001 the bridge, now named 'St George's Bridge' after Doncaster's parish church, opened. A ceremonial walk across took place on the 18th of November and then opened to all traffic. North Bridge was closed for the next fifteen months to allow for refurbishment. North Bridge re-opened at Easter 2003 to taxis, pedestrians, cyclists and Doncaster bound buses. Buses leaving town would have to wait until work on the first phase of the new transport interchange was completed.

Button badge to commemorate the first walk over
St George's Bridge. 

Photo courtesy of Paul Buckley

St George's Bridge in 2002.
Photo courtesy of Mark Coley

Around Town End

Before we end our look at Town End, let's pause and remember some of the other businesses, places and people from the area. There are only small amounts of information in some cases although there are a few photos around, so here's a roundup of the best of the rest.


Westfields Removals had their premises at Town End for many years. Here is their fleet of vans in 1955.

Prosper De Mulder was founded in 1926. Their animal rendering plant is at a site off Ings Road, Bentley. They expanded during the late 1960's and 1970's by buying up other rendering sites across the UK. The company recycles waste from the meat and food industries, providing green energy, pet foods and agricultural products. 

The above photo is one of De Mulder's Lorries, a frequent sight around Bentley. 

Although it's not a problem these days, who can forget the lingering aroma put out by this plant? It is true to say - once smelled, never forgotten!   

Doncaster Power Station was located on Crimpsall Island, on the west side of St Mary's Bridge. It operated between 1953 and 1983. It is now the site of HM Prison, Doncaster.

This 1970 map shows the location of Doncaster Power Station.

C F Booth Ltd scrap metal dealers. This photo was taken from the railway bridge and shows the Bentley Road side of the yard. The premises main entrance was on the Great North Road. When Booth's closed this site in the 1990's the area was redeveloped, part of it becoming part of the new ring road, and the rest taken up by the Centurion Retail Park.

Other Town End Photos

An aerial view of St Mary's Bridge, the Doncaster Avoiding Line, Don Cinema, Three Horse Shoes and various other industries in the early 1950's.

Trolleybus passing under the avoiding line bridge, Bentley side in the late 1950's.

Work on the road near to the avoiding line is carried out in the late 1950's.

Don Bingo and Social Club, possibly in the 1980's.

Town End in the 1980's. The roundabout, which was built in the 1970's, replaced the forked junction which used to join the A638 to the A19. This would be moved in the 1990's to encircle the embankment between the two railway bridges, creating the ring road we see today, and called St Mary's Roundabout.

The original junction of the A638 and A19 seen here in the 1940's. The photo is taken from the railway bridge above the A638.

View looking the opposite way to the previous photo. Vehicles cross St Mary's Bridge with the railway bridge leading to the A638 in the background (with 'Lucas' signage).

Trolley bus passing the Three Horse Shoes in the late 1950's.

Sprotborough Road corner on York Road in 1986, with the avoiding line bridge in the background.

A cyclist and a trolleybus crosses St Mary's Bridge in the 1940's.

River Don from Willow Bridge Road, 1938/39. Photo courtesy of Pauline Philp.

Town End Juniors 1930 - 31. 
Photo courtesy of Lyn Taylor Picken.

Tattersfield, home of 'The Don's' rugby league club from 1953 to 1995. The ground was named Tattersfield in honour of their former chairman Len Tattersfield.

Tattersfield in the 1980's.

Tattersfield as seen from Yarborough Terrace. 

Photo courtesy of Tom Booth.

The last 'Tattersfield' team 1994/1995.

A Place Of Importance

Google Earth image of Town End in the 21st century

As we end our look at Town End we will probably all agree that this over-looked corner of Doncaster had more history than any of us ever realized. From an ancient river crossing, to a fortified entrance, a place of conflict and industry, Town End has seen it all. So the next time you're stuck at the traffic lights on St Mary's Roundabout just try to imagine how it used to be, a semi-rural idyll beside a river where travellers would pass though by horse-drawn carriage on their way to Doncaster. 

Our conveyances may have changed a little, and Town End may have changed a lot, but it still marks the northern gateway into Doncaster town and that makes it very important indeed.


Many thanks to all contributors, named and unnamed.

Alison Vainlo 

First written 2017, updated 2020 


  1. Wonderful article. Very well written and giving new insight into an area I have known all my life.

  2. Well researched. Great work Alison.Possibly you could expand the article to incorporate the Marshgate area, though I appreciate your site focuses on Bentley. A community that's disappeared without trace now which I imagine the Town End shops would have served back in the day. Hard to believe that the dead end track running in front of J&S Motorcycles used to be the Great North Rd gateway into Doncaster!

    1. Thank you. Actually if you check out the North Bridge Villa article you will see that I have indeed expanded my research into Marsh Gate. Your comments are appreciated.

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed this article Alison, amazing history of this area of Doncaster and Bentley, In the past I have traveled by bus and driven many a time on this route Scawthorpe to Doncaster vise versa. Next time I’m over that way again, I will smile at the thought of the history I know now of Town End, thank you for that. I also enjoyed reading about the North Bridge Villa, again thank you :)

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment Sheena!


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