French Gate

French gate was once part of the ‘inner sanctum’ of Doncaster. In 1194 the Doncaster township acquired a 19ft wide by 8ft deep defensive ditch (known as the Bardyke) in response to tension between Royalty and the Church. Prince John had supporters who had taken over Tickhill Castle which stimulated the Archbishop of York (King Richard’s half brother), in his role as Sheriff of Yorkshire, to garrison 180 soldiers in Doncaster for 40 days. Remains of this ditch have since been found lying beneath Factory lane (Sunny Bar), and Cleveland street. A bar would have been the name for the points at which the ditch could be crossed.

The township within the dyke developed a street line along French gate (whose name hints at the link to our Norman invaders), with long and thin house and garden plots built end on to the street. The settlement would be entered via one of the many gates or bars, i.e. Sunny Bar, Marsh gate, French gate, and St. Sepulchre gate.

 One tenement (or multi-family dwelling) was described in 1316 this way:

“Sicut jacet inter Messuaguim Reginaldi de Darthington ex una parte et Messuaguim Thomoe de Fledburgh ex altera parte cujus unum caput buttat super vicum Franciscum, &c.”

“And which is situate between the messuage of Reginald de Darthington on the one side and the messuage of Thomas de Fledburgh on the other, so that one end abutts upon Francis (French) street.”

Thomas de Fledburgh was a well thought of man in these parts, he must have been or why else would Roger, the Parson of Doncaster grant him this “messuage with the outbuildings” on what is now called French gate. Fledburgh was a loyal supporter of King Edward II so that while the King was busy fighting battles in the north of England, Thomas, who had a flock of his own, was hurriedly gathering his followers together to pay homage to the King and his great deeds. King Edward came to Doncaster in 1322 and, by all accounts, spent a great deal of time here as well as visiting Bentley in August. He reputedly healed 72 people of their afflictions just by touching them. Unfortunately for Edward, he was cruelly murdered at the age of 43. I will not dwell on the method used to kill him only to say that it involved a red hot iron, bowels, and screams that were heard as far off as the Castle, I will leave the rest up to your imagination!

During the time of Fledburgh, French gate was also known as Franksyk gate. The street was narrow with open gutters, domestic comforts and sanitary requirements were utterly disregarded, any pestilence that occured as a result of this poor and unhealthy sanitation was regarded as a curse from God as a reward for bad behaviour. French gate became the accepted name for the street from around 1715. At this time the river Cheswold  and the green fields were easily accessible at several points. As time went on and land was bought up and built upon, access to these “pleasant footpaths and cheerful by-roads” was near on impossible as the routes to the open spaces were either blocked or obstructed by the selfish owners or occupiers.

There was a ‘rus in urbe’ (countryside in the town) feel to the area during the 1300’s as the houses were built cheek to cheek with orchards, vegetable gardens, paddocks, and green fields laid out and preserved. The social hub would have been the 13th century Early English style parish church of St. George.

Over 500 years later the landscape was much the same. To the rear of the properties on the street there was a multitude of orchards, and “in the spring it was fragranced with sweet blossoms”. Mr John Whitaker, a house owner in the 1880’s “delighted in his garden” and his grounds were extremely sought after at the later property sale. The street was one of two halves, French gate east and French gate west. Below is a full list of the residents as of 1760:

French gate East

  • Mr John Ward – house and orchard
  • Hannah Willis
  • William France
  • William Lacey
  • Mrs Wainman, for widow husband
  • John Battie
  • Barbara Bennett
  • Mrs Wainman, for Jonathan Lacey
  • Mrs Wainman, for Wiiliam Hague
  • Mrs Wainman, for William Marsh
  • Stephen Radley
  • Widow Bolton – two tenements
  • Widow Bolton, for another tenement
  • Mr Abbey, late Mrs Wagstaff and other tenements
  • Mr Abbey, for Mrs Patrick – house
  • Mr Thomas Malin
  • Robert Oxley
  • Mr Taylor
  • Mrs Neal
  • Late Isaac Husband
  • Mrs France, for Barratts house
  • Mrs France, for Joshua Brooke
  • Mrs France, for late Newbold
  • Mrs France, for late Joseph Denton
  • John Tootal
  • Widow Killinglock
  • Thomas Farmott
  • Thomas Parker
  • Charles Williams
  • Jonathan Stansfield
  • Jonathan Jennings
  • Late Goldthorp
  • Thomas Green
  • Mrs Rickard, for Jenkinson
  • Mrs Abbey – house
  • Jonathan Kay
  • James Major
  • Mr Hague – house, stables, and coach-house
  • Jonathan Oldfield
  • Mrs Pugh – house
  • Mrs Pugh, for Mr Creakhill
  • Mrs Pugh, for William Penny
  • Mrs Pugh, for Robinson
  • Mrs Pugh, for Edward Ravenhill
  • Mrs Pugh, for now John Butlers shop and stable
  • Mr Isaac Smith – new house
  • Mr Isaac Smith – old house (John Smith tenant)
  • Thomas Norton, for late John Ince
  • Mr William Siddal
  • Mr Middleton
  • Mr Alderman Whitaker
  • Mrs France, for Joshua Brooke
  • Mrs France, for John Oxley
  • Thomas Brown
  • Joshua Dixon – house and kiln
  • Mrs Wade – house
  • Mr John Watson
  • Mr John Watson, for late Swallow
  • Mr John Watson, for Carter
  • Lancelot Dickinson
  • Mr Halifax
  • Mr Bingley
  • Mr Godfrey Washington
  • Mr Alderman Malin
  • Mr Gill
  • William Stanley
  • John Oxley
  • Mr Thomas Atkinson
  • Martha Lane

French gate West 

  • Mr William Aldam – house
  • Mr Willim Aldam, for Mrs Beal
  • Mrs Sunderland
  • Late Mr Inman
  • Mr Tomlinson
  • Miss Rodwell
  • Mr Sheppard
  • Mr Farrer
  • Mr Inman
  • James Bailes
  • Mr Alderman Whitaker – stable and barn
  • Mr Alderman Whitaker, for Wakefield
  • Mr Benjamin Elston – house
  • Mr Charles Mitchell – house
  • Jonathan Smith
  • Mr Thomas Hoult, for late Gamble
  • Charles Mitchel, for Mrs Maud
  • Charles Mitchel, for Joseph Morley
  • Charles Mitchel, for one other
  • Mr Gill, Jnr
  • Mr Holmes, Jnr
  • Mr Wildsmith – barn and stable
  • Mr Hawley – two stables
  • Jonathan Watson, for late Mr Pheazant’s shop
  • David Richards – house
  • Late Smith and Dobson
  • Thomas Grant
  • Jonathan Watson, for Joshua Brooks and George Ashmoor
  • Jonathan Watson, for Jonathan Allen and William Mitchel
  • Jonathan Watson, for Thomas Misdale and Thomas Mapplebeck
  • Mr Hawley – house
  • Francis Squires – stable at the bottom of Common lane
  • Francis Squires – cellar
  • Mr Wildsmith – house
  • Thomas Mapplebeck and tenements
  • Alderman Hancock
  • Mr Hallowell
  • Mrs Scamadine
  • Jonathan Goldthorpe – two tenements
  • Jonathan Whaley – house
  • Thomas White – and tenements
  • Late John Gayforth – and tenements
  • Thomas White – house
  • Richard Thomas – water engine
  • Charles Mitchell, for Mrs Mawhood
  • Charles Mitchell, for Joshua Morley


……. to be continued.

13 responses to “French Gate

  1. george robinson

    my friend was born lived in builders yard on French gate he is in his late eighties you don’t seem to mention it anywhere

  2. Jacqueline Rushton

    Sheffield Daily Telegraph
    Saturday 06 September 1890
    LODGERS PARTIALITY FOR RABBITS. — Yesterday at the Doncaster Borough Court Thos. Higgins, labourer, Bradford, was charged with stealing a tame rabbit , Milners Yard, — Prisoner had been lodging at prosecutors house, and the rabbit was missed. Information was given to the police, and he was apprehended with the rabbit in his possesion. — He was remanded.

    Sheffield Daily Telegraph
    Tuesday 09 September 1890
    THEFT FROM A LODGING HOUSE –Yesterday at the Doncaster Borough Court, Thomas Higgins, labourer, was charged with stealing a tame rabbit from the house of Henry Burfield, who keeps a lodging house in Milners Yard, on Thursday. He pleaded guilty and was sent to prison for 14 days.

    Came across this info on Ancestry site, Henry Burfield was my Great Grandfather..

  3. Very interesting details about Doncaster as it was. The parents of a great Aunt’s husband were living in 1 Lindley’s Yard, Frenchgate in 1911. I wonder where that would have been.

  4. Jacqueline Rushton

    the 1891 census for my great grandparents Henry and Annie Burfield gives their address at 3 Milners Yard Doncaster, he was employed as a boiler maker, would love to know the exact location of this yard if anyone can help please, I think this site is great full of facts and history.

    • hi my name is Carl Denman i have a bits of information for you reguarding Milner’s yard the enterance to milner’s yard is where Superdrug is now they was poor houses 2 up and 2 down the yard was bulldosed in the early 1900’s it was a for health and safety reasons. my granmother it was the Mathews family. if you have any information about the yard please email me at

  5. my parents ran the Duke of York pub during WW2

  6. My ancestors lived in Milner’s Yard Doncaster for years and I have plotted the house numbers they moved into. I would love to know where this was. Could you help? Many thanks.

    • It is where superdrug is now they were slum houses there was very poor sanitation and there was a debters prison at the bottom of the yard i hope this little slnippet of information helps you out if you need to know more add me on facebook Carl Denman or email me at and i will try to help you as much as a i can. if you have any photographs inside the yard PLEASE will you send it to me thank you so much it will be nice to talk to you more about the history of Doncaster as i now know quite a alot

  7. My ancestors the Hasselwoods live for many years in the late c19th and early c20th at 42 Frenchgate.

  8. My Vaux relatives ran the Volunteer Inn for some time (no exact dates) in the 1860-80 period. He was John Vaux originally from Snydale, Pontefract, she was called Bailey from Barnby Dun.
    Are there any photos or records from that time – I know the pub was later demolished?

  9. Very interesting – My ancestors lived in the old courtyards off Frenchgate from about 1830 onwards . Do you have any information about them as well ?


    My Grandparents Arthur Skinner and Emily B Skinner were at 69 Frenchgate/

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