Skellow, on the outskirts of Doncaster, takes its name from the river that flows through it. The river Skell flows from its source in Skelbrooke through open country passing through Burghwallis. Shortly before it reaches Skellow Hall it fills the mill ponds of the now redundant Skellow Mill. As it leaves the village, it makes it way for the North Sea via the Ea Beck, Don, Ouse, and Humber.
Skellow Hall, originally built in 1642, would have been a brand new country manor house when Oliver Cromwell came to visit during the Civil War. The Great North Road, now the A1, had to be protected and Cromwell chose Skellow as a base for him to do so. He placed a cannon battery in the village and the mounds that once held the cannon remain to this day. When Cromwell arrived, Skellow would have comprised very little, one or two 15th century cottages would have been opposite the hall and perhaps the reason for him choosing this site would have been the remains of an earlier motte and bailey castle. The bailey is now largely lost under the main road, Cross hill, although some of it does remain in the gardens of Cromwell’s Croft and the Cottage. There was reputedly, a 15th century inn here too, now known as ‘The Bridge House’ but this hasn’t yet been confirmed.
There is very little documentation regarding the hall and its residents but what information there is describes a modest but well appointed country house. The hall and outbuildings were constructed using local rubble, the roof was dressed with traditional pantiles and the eaves had huge slabs laid to them. The gable ends had coping slabs running down them too.A well known Doncaster magistrate, Captain R. C. Davies-Cooke once lived there.
It started its transition into a childrens home in 1949 when £4000 was spent on the transformation. The building is still in existence today, unfortunately the same cannot be said for its big sister, Skellow Grange.
Skellow Grange, once called Newsome Grange, had a concrete render (or stucco) applied to the exterior walls. Miller, the well known 19th century Doncaster historian tells us that it was “the pleasant seat of Godfrey Higgins Esq.”, he also adds, “The mansion was built by his father, with this disadvantage, that a piece of land which extended within two or three yards of the south front of the House, belonged to the late George Ann, Esq. of Burghwallis. However, a short time before his death, Mr Higgins fortunately purchased off him not only this land, but also the manor of Skellow.
On his death, Godfrey Higgins’ obituary featured in the Doncaster Gazette on 14th June, 1861 and read:
“Three generations of the family of Higgins have resided at Skellow Grange, the first purchase in the parish having been made by them in 1770 of John Killingbeck, of Clayton. The House has been much improved and the estate undergone considerable change. Skellow Grange and the estate will, we hear, go to Mrs Hatfield, wife of the late Mr Hatfield of Thorp Arch, near Tadcaster.”
After this time the House passed from owner to owner, much the same as any modern house would. In later years it was occupied by W. H. Humble, a racehorse owner and then by a Mr Turnbull. The headline from the Doncaster Gazette dated 2nd July, 1964 reads ‘Future of Skellow Grange in balance’. The article then went on to say: “………. it was recently sold and on Saturday, members of Doncaster Rural District Council were told that the new owner [Mr Turnbull] had applied for permission to demolish it and replace it with a new building. It was decided that the council should inspect the Grange to decide whether or not it is worth preserving for its historical value.”
As seemed to be the order of the day (certainly not to appreciate the local heritage), the Grange was demolished, ending the life of yet another one of Doncaster’s fine period houses.