Industrial town and administrative headquarters of Doncaster metropolitan borough, South Yorkshire, England, on the River Don, 56 km/35 mi southwest of York; population (2001) 286,900. It has been an important centre for railway engineering (locomotives and rolling stock) since the 19th century. Traditional iron, steel, and coal production has declined, although active collieries remain, including the Rossington deep mine. Other industries include the production of synthetic textiles, confectionery, agricultural and electrical equipment, fencing, brass fittings, and optical fibres.
History Originally the Roman military station of Danum, Doncaster was later the site of a Saxon settlement and is repeatedly mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086) as Donecastre. In 1194 Richard I gave the town its first known charter, and in 1467 Edward IV authorized the election of a mayor. For its loyalty to the crown in the English Civil War, Charles II granted the town the privilege of being a free borough. In the 18th century Doncaster was a busy coaching stop and agricultural centre. It developed rapidly after the opening of the railway in 1849 and the Great Northern Railway works in 1853, becoming established as a railway engineering town. The development of the South Yorkshire coalfield also contributed to the town's expansion.
Features The St Leger, the world's oldest classic horse race, has been held annually at Doncaster racecourse since 1776. The Lincolnshire Handicap horse race is held each March. The Mansion House (1748) contains a fine banqueting hall and is one of only three civic mansion houses in England (the others being in London and York). The town's museum and art gallery includes a local history collection, including Roman artefacts, horse racing exhibits, and a collection of Yorkshire pottery. Nearby is Cusworth Hall, built in the mid-18th century, which houses a museum of social and industrial history. At Conisbrough, to the southwest of the town, there is a ruined Norman castle with a well-preserved circular keep. The castle features in Walter Scott's novel Ivanhoe.
Other notable buildings in the town are the Guildhall, the Corn Exchange, the market hall, and the covered market. St George's Church was completed in 1858, replacing a medieval church which had been destroyed by fire. The present building, with its highly elaborate towers, was designed by Gilbert Scott.
The Earth Centre, Europe's largest centre for ecological research and display, was constructed here as a Millennium Commission Landmark Project. It opened in July 2000. The Dome at Doncaster Leisure Park claims to be Europe's largest indoor leisure complex. It has sports facilities, dining, health studios, conference halls, and live entertainment.
Although Doncaster has street names such as French Gate, Baxter Gate, and St Sepulchre Gate, suggesting that the town was fortified in the Middle Ages, the 16th-century antiquary John Leland recorded that it was never a walled town, gate in this context simply meaning ‘street’. Names such as Priory Place and Greyfriars Road indicate the former presence of religious orders.