Charles Dickens watched the 110th St Leger from the 18th-century Italianate grandstand at the Town Moor racecourse. However, Doncaster’s past as a Roman town and a farming centre for the neighbourhood rural lowlands is largely obscured by its present industrialised status. Nevertheless, there are some fine Georgian buildings, in particular the 18th-century mansion house, and some 19th-century churches.
An industrial town in the Don Valley, Rotherham has coal mines and iron, steel and glass works. Its arched chantry bridge dates from the 15th century, as does Rotherham’s fine Perpendicular church. The town’s museum is housed in Clifton Park built in 1782 by Carr of York. Four miles north west is the palatial 18th-century mansion, Wentworth Woodhouse, which has one of the longest frontages in England.
Nature provided Sheffield with all the requirements of a steel-manufacturing centre: the hills upon which it stands contained iron ore; there were trees to provide charcoal and the River Don to generate power; finally, there was coal in the vicinity. There had, in fact, been a settlement here back in the Iron Age. The city’s cutlery business is almost as old as the Norman castle, of which only fragments remain. Chaucer mentions a Sheffield knife in The Canterbury Tales the miller carries one in the Reeve’s Tale. By the accession of Elizabeth I, scissors, scythes and shears had been added to the output. During the reign of James I, the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire was established. The Master Cutler yields only to the Lord Mayor in precedence. In the 20th century Henry Brearley of Sheffield invented stainless steel. Unable to obtain a patent in Britain he successfully obtained one in the United StatesI in 1215.
Mary Queen of Scots spent a year in Sheffield Castle as a prisoner and 13 more in a Tudor house which has long been demolished. The site of the castle is now occupied by the Castle Market, which was opened in 1959. This roofed shopping centre, like the Crucible Theatre, is a good example of modern city planning and design. Dark satanic mills there may be, but the centre is neither dark nor satanic, and the modern buildings of the university are architecturally interesting. The City Museum houses a remarkable collection of cutlery dating back to the 16th century. The Bishop’s Palace, a 15th-century timbered house, is also a museum portraying life in Tudor times. The city boasts two art galleries: the Mappin and the Graves.