Being from Scawthorpe myself, it probably comes as no surprise to you that I have an interest in the history of the village. You would be forgiven for thinking that Scawthorpe is a 20th century creation as; at one time the village was a small (very small) hamlet in the bigger estate of Bentley and Arksey. When the coal mine came to Bentley in 1905 the immediate and surrounding areas were ripe for development as a massive influx of workers created the urgent need for affordable housing. Good sized, 3 bedroom houses were built by the Doncaster Corporation and the NCB.
What was Scawthorpe like before this transformation?
Slicing through the top most part of Scawthorpe and forming the boundary between itself and Sunnyfields is York Road. This busy link road runs parallel and approximately 500 yards from the ‘Roman Ridge’, part of the Great North Road which was constructed by the Romans. Being in such close proximity to such an important trading route, Scawthorpe must have seen many travellers throughout the centuries.
When William the Conqueror came to England in 1066, one of his important supporters, a certain Nigel Fossard was rewarded for his service to the king in his battle against Harold. Part of his award was lands in this area; one of those manors was that of Arksey. Scawthorpe and Bentley came under the umbrella of Arksey and Fossard placed his stamp on the area by building fortified manor houses. One of these houses was Radcliffe Moat, a motte and bailey castle between Scawthorpe and Bentley (now intersected by the Leeds railway line), the other, and Radcliffe’s predecessor, was the scheduled ancient monument at Castle Hills.
The monument comprised a 4-5m high motte with a kidney-shaped inner bailey to the north and a sub-rectangular outer bailey to the east. The inner bailey was approximately 30m across and the outer bailey approximately 70m x 40m. On the west side, between the motte and inner bailey, a 2m high oval mound formed the end of the rampart circling the motte to the south west and has since been interpreted as a defended approach to the monument.
The complexity of the earthworks suggests that it was a monument of some importance. Certainly it commanded the manor of Langthwaite (later Hangthwaite), one of six held by Nigel Fossard in 1086 from the Count of Mortain. The de Langthwaites seem to have become an important family, whose name appears in many northern documents. It was in the later medieval period that the manor was moved approximately 300m east to Radcliffe.
The immediate area was essentially a medium sized village and recent finds in the soil adjoining the castle mounds strongly suggest this to be case.
Jumping forward 2-3 hundred years brings us to the time of the Cooke’s of Wheatley. The Cooke family became the Lords of the Manor of Arksey. This manor contained a number of smaller hamlets namely, Almholme, Bodles, Doncaster-Bridgend, Scawthorpe, Shaftholme, and Stockbridge. By the time of the 1871 census, there was only one residence recorded in Scawthorpe. There was no address listed, the entry simply calls the building, a farm, Scawthorpe. Living there was the Farmer and his Wife, a Mr and Mrs Monton, their 2 children Ernest and Mona, a female servant named Elizabeth Welbnom (possible mis-spelling), and 3 farm labourers all with the same Christian name, Thomas Millers, Thomas Thorpe, and Thomas Exley, the farmer obviously liked the name Tom!
By the 1920’s, the village and surrounding area was described this way by Eric Higton of the nearby mining village of Highfields:
“As with Sprotbrough Lane, there were no building except farm properties on Castle Hills Lane and Green Lane (which boasted a fishpond where it joined the main road, and was known locally as fishpond lane). On the left hand side of the track as it neared the top of the rise opposite Jossey Lane stood Scawthorpe Hall with its three lodges, the centre one of which stood empty for some time; the windows boarded up. Locally, it was reputed to be haunted.”
By 1986, such was the necessity to build, build, build more housing for the mine workers, the description was somewhat different:
“Just 2.5 miles north-west of Doncaster beside the old Great North Road lies Scawthorpe a residential area built in the 1920’s with private houses, Coal Board and Council properties. Many coal miners and their families live in this community. There are also bungalows and flats for the elderly and a home for the disabled. In Scawthorpe there is not much traffic and it is quite a quiet place. There is a group of basic shops, a clinic and a doctor’s surgery. There is also a working men’s club, a pub, two churches and a library. Five schools serve the area catering for every age group. Scawthorpe estate is laid out in geometric patterns, with small green spaces where children can play. There is some light industry and on two sides it is surrounded by farm land.”
-By Symeon Waller.