Rotherham

Picture credit: Roland Turner

“A mile from Rotherham be very good pittes of Cole.”

– John Leland

Rotherham is a large town in South Yorkshire. It’s situated at the confluence of the River Don and the River Rother.

In 2011, the borough of Rotherham had a population of 257,280 people. This makes it one of the largest urban areas in South Yorkshire.

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Places to Visit in Rotherham

Rotherham has many attractions in the town and just out of it. There are lots of places to visit that will make for a great day out for all of the family.

Magna Science & Adventure Museum

One of the biggest attractions in the town is the Magna Science and Adventure Museum. It was built on the site of the old Templeborough steel works and a Roman fort.

Magna Science and Adventure Museum is home to an array of interactive displays. Each of these are aimed at children to help them learn about science.

In total there are four pavilions, each of which represent the four elements: fire, earth, water, and air. Each of these tell you everything you need to know about their importance and use on our planet.

The fire pavilion allows visitors to watch crystals melting. There is also a huge electromagnetic crane in action.

This children’s museum also has different play zones to encourage children to explore, play, and learn about these elements in a fun environment. These are the Air Tek, and Aqua Tek play zones.

There is also a program of events at the museum. These include sporting events, exhibitions, pop concerts, community events, and conferencing facilities.

Bolton Castle

Rotherham Castle, Picture Credit, Damon Stegad, (IFY Community)
Rotherham Castle, Picture Credit, Damon Stegad, (IFY Community)

Rotherham is home to a castle named after the tea party, Boston Castle. Built in 1775 for the Earl of Effingham, it was originally used as a hunting lodge.

The surrounding 23 acres of parkland opened to the public in 1876 to mark its centenary. After the castle became derelict, the castle and grounds were restored and reopened in 2012.

Currently, it is open for visitors to enjoy. The castle and grounds offer excellent views of the surrounding Don Valley.

Religion in Rotherham

Rotherham is a town that has many religious sites. There’s a chapel and ministers, both of which are impressive religious buildings.

Chapel of Our Lady

Dating back to 1483 is the Chapel of Our Lady. This is one of only four remaining bridge chapels left in the country.

It was built to welcome travellers to the town and give them a place to pray for a safe journey ahead. The chapel survived because it was deemed to be an integral part of the bridge.

In the 20th Century the chapel was restored after locals protested when it became a newsagents in 1888. To this day it is still operational as a chapel.

Rotherham Minster

Rotherham Minster was originally built in the 12th Century. However, much of the building now dates from the 15th.

It’s font dates back to around 1170. The minster was also made from local sandstone known as Rotherham Red.

Rotherham Minster was once described as “one of the finest examples of a mediaeval perpendicular architecture in the country”. In 2004 it was upgraded to Minster status.

Rotherham Minster, Photo Credit Nigel Vernon, (IFY Community)
Rotherham Minster, Photo Credit Nigel Vernon, (IFY Community)

Parks in Rotherham

There are many parks in Rotherham. Each one is individual in its own right but all make for a great day outdoors with the family.

Rother Valley Country Park

The Rother Valley Country Park is an attractive 750 acre site. It contains four lakes which are called Northern, Meadowgate, Rother, and Nethermoor.

Each lake was once part of the River Rother. However, in the 19th Century this was recoursed.

On three of these lakes there are fishing and watersports available. Meadowgate is different to the others as it’s a nature reserve.

There is also a miniature railway, golf course, and camping facilities at the park. Visitors can also enjoy the lakeside walks, sculpture trail, and picnic area.

Ulley Country Park

Ulley Country Park opened in 1986 and was originally a reservoir. Currently, this 19 hectare site is used for both angling and water sports.

The site is a haven for wildlife. Over 150 species of flowers have been recorded along with many species of insects, animals, and birds.

Between 2007-2010, the park closed for three years. It was subject to heavy flooding in the area which caused quite a bit of damage.

Sunset over the river Don, Rotherham, Photo Credit Rachel Marsden (IFY Community)
Sunset over the river Don, Rotherham, Photo Credit Rachel Marsden (IFY Community)

Rotherham Theatre

This South Yorkshire town boasts one theatre. Rotherham Civic is a medium sized auditorium which is located in a converted chapel.

Throughout the year it shows a full range of plays, pop concerts, and comedy acts. The theatre is also home to numerous amateur groups as well.

Travelling In & Out of Rotherham

Rotherham is very well linked to the rest of Yorkshire. It’s near the M1, A1, and M18.

The town was one of the first to have a railway station in the area. Rotherham Central, the original, was built in 1838.

It was soon realised that a connection could be made to Mexborough. As a result a route was created to Doncaster from Sheffield.

In 1966, the station closed down leaving the town without a central rail link. The nearby Rotherham Masborough Station was the closest but this was half a mile outside of the town centre.

Finally, in 1986, the first stone was laid by the then mayor for the creation of a new Rotherham Central Station. This would carry passengers to Doncaster and Sheffield once again in the following year.

Rotherham Masborough closed down in 1988. However, despite it not being open and the building long gone, trains still pass through this disused station.

Other services from Rotherham Central Station include trains to York, Wakefield, and Leeds. The town’s bus station also carries passengers to Barnsley, Doncaster, Worksop, and Sheffield.

Sport in Rotherham

Sport in Rotherham is dominated by its football team Rotherham United FC often nicknamed The Millers. Currently they are playing in the EFL League One.

During the 2020-2021 season, the team did play in the championship. However, this changed when they finished 23rd.

The team is an amalgamation of Rotherham County and Rotherham Town. These two teams merged in 1926 which is a rare occurrence in English football.

In 1961, they competed in their first ever League Cup final losing 3-2 to Aston Villa. They would then go on to win the Football League Trophy in 1996.

As of 2012, Rotherham United FC play at the New York Stadium which is a purpose built community facility in the town. They moved from their traditional home, Millmoor, after spending 101 years there.

Rotherham is a South Yorkshire town that is looking towards a positive future. Along with it’s castle, museums, and parklands, it’s a great place to visit.

History of Rotherham

Rotherham’s first significant historical milestone came from around 43AD. This is all thanks to the construction of the Templeborough Roman fort.

Excavations at the site led to the discovery of one of the oldest memorial tombstone of a British woman. Many centuries later, the site also became part of Templeborough Steel Works during World War I.

In around 410 AD the Romans left Britain to take back Rome. This meant that the area around Rotherham became lawless with tribes and foreign invaders occupying, looting, and raiding.

New Settlers

Some of the German invaders, including Anglo Saxons, settled in the Rother Valley. They set up farmsteads near a ford across the River Don.

This became the birth of the hamlet of Rotherham.

During the 8th to 10th Centuries, Vikings took hold of the North. Rotherham lay at the southern edge of Northumbria and the Kingdom of Deira.

Most suburbs within Rotherham were of Saxon origin. The places around it to the North, such as Maltby and Hellaby, were Viking.

A battle between the Vikings and King Athelstan’s forces broke out in the year 936 at nearby Brunanburh. The English won and the Scandinavians were pushed further North.

Norman Invasion

After the Norman invasion, the hamlet of “Rodreham” was recorded in the 1086 Domesday Book. It was said to have a manor, a church with a priest, three ploughs, and eight villains.

In the years after the Norman Conquest, the lands had first been given to Nigel Fossard. Nigel was William the Conqueror’s half brother.

After this they were then given to Robert de Mortain, and eventually the De Vesci family. These Norman landowners didn’t really visit the parish or even built a castle to keep order like many Yorkshire places.

Rotherham was a district with a series of absent landlords for much of the Middle Ages. Despite this, the hamlet began to grow.

In 1207, it was granted a fair and a market. Both of these encouraged traders to the town.

Suppression of Chantries and Guilds Act

Much of Rotherham’s early civic life was aided by the monks at nearby Rufford Abbey. They collected tithes and extended the town’s market day to Monday.

The Chapel on the bridge in Rotherham is one of the town's oldest features. Picture credit: Jonathan Thacker geograph wikipedia creaative commons.
The Chapel on the bridge in Rotherham is one of the town’s oldest features. Picture credit: Jonathan Thacker geograph wikipedia creative commons.

Under the tragic reign of Edward VI, the college of Jesus closed down. It was stripped of its assets as part of the 1547 “Suppression of Chantries and Guilds Act”.

This still carried on in the form of a grammar school saved by the Feoffees. It was then consolidated under the more enlightened reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

The gateway to the original College of Jesus can still be seen. They are tucked away in the town centre.

Avoiding Battles

Apart from the odd skirmish with the Vikings, Rotherham largely kept out of Yorkshire battles such as the War of the Roses and the Civil War. This was mainly because no castle had been built.

The main battles were fought between the schoolboys of the Grammar school. It was often between those who supported the king and those who didn’t.

Industrial Revolution

After the Civil War, Rotherham began to decline. It became a notorious area for gambling and vice.

This carried on up until the 18th Century. The production of iron, steel, and coal began in earnest at the start of the Industrial Revolution.

These new industries were aided by the newly created Sheffield and South Yorkshire navigation system. They provided opportunities to export to the Humber Estuary via the River Don.

One of the principal industrialists at the time was the Walker family. Their steel empire provided material for warships and cast iron bridges.

Increase in Population

Iron and steel production in the town was rising. As a result, the population increased.

In 1801, 8,418 people lived in Rotherham and Kimberworth. By 1901, this had increased to 54,349.

Several infrastructure projects were completed to support the growing numbers of workers moving into the town. These buildings were a courthouse, corn exchange, and marketplace.

The building of houses multiplied too. This incorporated nearby villages Parkgates and Masbrough.

Politics in Rotherham

During this time, political life in the town became turbulent. Riots had to be suppressed on several occasions throughout the 19th Century.

One of these occasions was the 1865 General Election. In 1880, the Riot Act had to be read out with the army called in to control its rebellious population.

Political activism continued into the 20th Century. Communist and Socialist movements became prominent in the town during the 1926 General Strike and through the 1930’s Great Depression.

During the war, nearby Sheffield was heavily blitzed. Rotherham, on the other hand, got off lighter despite its munitions making factories.

Union Strikes & Demonstrations

Throughout the 20th Century, industries which covered Rotherham and District closed down one by one. South Yorkshire became the epicentre of trade union strikes and demonstrations.

On the 18th of June in 1984, Rotherham came to national attention. A strike south of the town at Orgreave Coking Plant descended into battle between the police and protesters.

Controversy surrounded this incident known as The Battle of Orgreave. It resulted in 93 arrests including the Miner’s Union leader Arthur Scargill.

The repercussions of the battle continue to this day. Protesters are still seeking public inquiry into the behaviour of the police on that notorious day.

Devastation in Rotherham

In 2007, the people of Rotherham went through a devastating time. Areas around Rotherham were severely flooded causing great damage.

Parts of the town were brought to a standstill for three days. During this time the excessive rain water was cleared.

It wasn’t just the homes in Rotherham that were affected. Nearby, the M1, Parkgate Shopping Centre, and both private and commercial property had come to a standstill because of the flood.

Rotherham is a popular and hardworking town. It helped to make South Yorkshire the workshop of the world.

Rotherham Trivia

The Feoffees of the Common Lands and Rotherham were an early 16th Century council that came about after the dissolution of monasteries. Made up of twelve townsfolk, they helped the poor, administered justice on criminals, and maintained roads and infrastructure.

This council is now a charity working in the borough for good causes including helping the elderly.

The Jesus College was the first ever brick built structure in South Yorkshire.

Rotherham is the home town of Jive Bunny, the chart-topping rabbit from the late 80s.

It is also home of the Chuckle brothers, Barry and Paul Elliott.

The cannons used in Lord Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar were made in Rotherham.

The Chapel of Our Lady bridge chapel was once a tobacconist and newsagent from 1888 to 1901 before a petition from locals forced it to be converted back to a religious building again.