We're taking a closer look at the 8 host locations for the 2018 Tour de Yorkshire. Next up, we take in Doncaster, in South Yorkshire.
Doncaster has traditionally been one of the key industrial routes of northern England; with the original Great North Road from London going through the heart of the town.
The South Yorkshire town has developed from this proud heritage and, having played a key role in the industrial history of the country, is now a popular tourist destination with vibrant culture and a passionate local population.
Here you will find the remains of original Roman walls, Saxon church architecture, Norman castles at both Conisbrough and Tickhill and a wealth of a Georgian and Regency architecture.
From the very day that the Romans founded ‘Danum’, this has truly been a great place to meet, do business, relax and enjoy life to the full.
Doncaster is a town that thinks like a city and is constantly transforming itself to maintain itself as a vibrant place to live, stay and play.
On Saturday 30 April 2016, the Tour de Yorkshire made its debut in the town as Doncaster played host to both the women’s race and stage two of the men’s race.
There were over one million people along the route on that particular day’s racing, with a large proportion of these spectators lining the 37 miles of the borough’s roads as the cyclists raced through to the finish on Bennetthorpe.
The women’s race winner was Kirsten Wild and Danny Van Poppel, then of Team Sky, took TDY stage two in the men’s edition.
Sir Nigel Gresley
Sir Nigel Gresley is renowned as one of the foremost railway engineers in history. Born in Edinburgh, Gresley’s name is synonymous with Doncaster after he moved to the town aged 29.
It was while living in the South Yorkshire town that Sir Nigel designed the world famous Flying Scotsman, as well as the Mallard – the fastest steam locomotive in the world.
As 1/5 of boyband One Direction, Doncaster’s Louis Tomlinson is one of the most famous musicians in the world. Rising to stardom on the X Factor, Tomlinson returned to Doncaster in 2017 to film the video for his debut single Back to You on the streets of his beloved hometown.
Dame Diana Rigg
One of Britain’s leading lights on the big screen, Dame Diana Rigg has been staring in films and TV shows since 1959. In 1969, Rigg played the role of Countess Tracy di Vicenzo in the Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and has the distinction of being the only woman who James Bond marries!
More recently, Rigg has featured in the cult TV programme Game of Thrones as the witty, cunning Olenna Tyrell who’s sharp tongue and open opinions makes her one of the show’s most popular characters.
The presenter, best known for his role as host of the popular BBC television series Top Gear, was born in Doncaster in 1960. Before being one of TV’s most recognisable faces, Clarkson trained as a journalist in Yorkshire and wrote for local papers like the Rotherham Advertiser.
One of England’s greatest ever players, Kevin Keegan was born in Armthorpe, which is on the eastern edge of Doncaster, in 1951. Keegan broke through at Scunthorpe United in 1968 before a stellar career took in Liverpool, Hamburg, Southampton and Newcastle United as well as representing his country 63 times too.
After he hung up his boots, Keegan embarked upon a successful managerial career, most notably at Newcastle United where he remains a true icon and fan’s favourite.
Larger than life Brian Blessed was born in Mexborough in 1936. His unmistakeable, booming voice is best known in Flash Gordon but Blessed has starred or featured in hundreds of TV shows and theatrical performances too. Following a successful Facebook campaign, satellite navigation manufacturer TomTom recorded Blessed's voice for use in its products.
Outside of acting, Blessed is a keen climber and has reached the top of Mount Aconcagua and Kilimanjaro whilst also attempting three times to climb Mount Everest too. He’s also the oldest man to go to the North Magnetic Pole on foot!
Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson OBE is considered a national hero, as the most severely-injured British serviceman to survive his injuries sustained in combat. Ben was involved in a landmine explosion while serving in Afghanistan in 2007, losing both his legs and sustaining significant brain damage.
However, Ben has battled all the odds and not let his injuries define him – he has gone on to raise tens of thousands of pounds through his charity Pilgrim Bandits, taking part in incredible feats like rowing the length of the Yukon River in 2015 for a BBC documentary. Ben was also an Olympic torch bearer for Doncaster in 2012 and was made a Freeman of the Borough in 2017.
This English Heritage site has stunning views over Conisbrough and inspired Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe.
The original 12th century building gives visitors the chance to delve into a medieval world as they step inside the crumbling castle walls and are amazed by the unusually well-preserved castle; that has been dramatically re-presented in recent years to show this magnificent piece of history to the public.
This stunning country house was built in the 1860s in the Italianate style that was also favoured for Queen Victoria’s Osborne House; and much of the original scheme survives today.
One of England’s most unaltered Victorian country houses, the gardens, a collection of ‘grand gardens in miniature’, have also been restored to their original splendour and the gardens and vistas are truly enchanting.
Doncaster Market and Corn Exchange
Doncaster market is described as the ‘biggest and best’ traditional market in the North with some 400 shops, stalls and stands and has been the heart of the town for hundreds of years.
The jewel in the crown is The Corn Exchange, this fine Victorian listed gem houses a wide range of quality retailers that has fashion and furnishing galore.
The Minster stands right in the heart of town and is thought to have been there since the 11th century. Even before the church was established, the site had continuous activity dating back to at least AD71 making the site a rich repository of human history of local and even national importance.
The Minster is a Grade 1 listed building and the surrounding grounds house archaeological remains of great significance.
Doncaster’s flagship theatre, Cast is home to world-class entertainment that transforms lives for local people through arts and culture.
Opened in 2013, the venue has a state-of-the-art Main Space 620-seat theatre that presents a thriving programme and helps to bring through the very best in local talent on both the production and performance side of things.
The Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries scheme was set up as a legacy of the grandest ever Grand Départ of the Tour de France back in 2014 and aims to give every child in Yorkshire access to a bike. Since its inception the scheme has seen 46 libraries set up, over 5,000 bikes donated and in excess of 40,000 opportunities for people in the county to cycle.
Club Doncaster Bike Library in Doncaster offers free bike loans operating from the Keepmoat Stadium. They also offer guided cycle rides around the lakeside which is located right next to the stadium, ideal for families exploring the scenic landscape and cycling greenways that link the local area. They provide maps and fun activities for children to make the Bike Library interactive and enjoyable for all.
Tom Simpson, one of Britain’s most famous cyclists, lived in nearby Haworth and was married in Doncaster. Simpson was an iconic trailblazer when it came to cycling and was the first British rider to win the Men’s World Road Race and don the coveted rainbow jersey in 1965. He is also the only British rider to have won 3 of the 5 cycling monuments, winning the Tour of Flanders in 1961, Milan-San Remo in 1964 and Il Lombardia in 1965.
Moving to the current day, Doncaster has a selection of riders who have lit up the British cycling scene. Graham Briggs, rider for JLT Condor, won the British National Circuit Race Championships in 2011 whilst Madison Genesis youngster Connor Swift has had a great year in 2017 winning two rounds of the prestigious Tour Series and also winning in Leicester Castle Classic.
Following the tremendous success of the Tour de Yorkshire coming through Doncaster in 2016, when thousands lined the streets of the borough to watch elite cyclists battle it out, cycling has continued to grow in popularity with more and more people joining local clubs, and events like Doncaster Cycle Festival growing every year.
Finally, it wouldn’t be possible to talk about cycling in Doncaster without mentioning the famous “Donny Chain Gang”, a large group of local professional riders, both past and present, who regularly ride together round Doncaster. Key members include Ben Swift, the Downing brothers and Tom Stewart.
The St Leger, the world’s oldest classic horse race is held in Doncaster; dating back to 1776 and runs every year in September.
There is a common belief that Doncaster is technically part of Scotland! This is because the town was signed over to the King David I in the 12th Century in the Treaty of Durham, and was never officially given back.
The only polar bears living the UK are from Doncaster – these are the famous Viktor, Pixel, Nissan and Nobby living at Yorkshire Wildlife Park. The wildlife park has become one of Yorkshire’s most popular tourist attractions, welcoming over 750,000 guests every year.
Doncaster is proud to be the birthplace of the toilet. This accolade is due to Thomas Crapper, the man who popularised the modern flushing toilet, being a son of Thorne, Doncaster. Crapper went on to make a splash in the plumbing industry.
The town is also home to Britain’s favourite corner shop. First run by that legend of comedy, Ronnie Barker as Arkwright, and more recently by his nephew Granville, a tiny hairdresser’s shop in Balby is transformed into “Arkwrights” from Open All Hours when filming starts. The shop has been used since the very first series in the 1970s and continues today.
Tish, the world’s oldest goldfish, was won at a funfair in the town back in 1956 with another fish called Tosh. Although Tosh died aged 19, Tish went on to live until the grand old age of 43.