A Brief History Of Stainforth
632 & Onward

632 - 633AD

England is fortunate enough to have two substantial sources from which we can obtain knowledge about our history and the land of our ancestors. The first is the "Anglo Saxon Chronicle", a record of history written by the hands of our nation's first historians. The second source, created much later, is the Doomsday Book, a statistical survey carried out by the Normans to assess the value of their newly acquired lands.
Since little else is known of Stainforth's earliest history, I'll start with a look at the area around Stainforth and how the events recorded in the Saxon Chronicles would have affected the people who lived here at that time. Though dates differ with some texts, we know this part of England was in political turmoil, with battles raging between the forces of Mercia to south and Northumbria to the north.

The simple fact of Stainforth's existence is a shallow section of the river Don in a particular place, which allowed folk to cross the river at this point. Stainforth's name is derived from this crossing or Stony Ford. The Don is a tidal river and flooded regularly, especially with the surge of the Spring tide.

Each time the river flooded, a layer of silt washed down the river from further inland was deposited, thus creating fertile land at this strategic point in the river's course.

Fertile land was not only good for farming, but also for the fauna which was found in abundance in this area, particularly the red deer, later to be claimed as the property of the Crown.

There were also large wooded areas, where Saxon farmers would have raised pigs and hunted game.

The river at this time was teeming with fish, as were the smaller branches which fed a lake, later known as the Mere, but of which the only evidence to be found today is the abundance of fresh water mussel shells dug from the gardens of houses which now occupy the area where the lake was situated.

So, the area had everything; a river with a crossing, an abundant supply of game and fish, and fertile land to farm. It's easy to see why the first people to live here would have been attracted to the settlement which became known as Stonyford.


October 633AD

The people of Stonyford stopped their work. A clamour arose from the direction of Hethfield, two miles distant. No one knew the reason for the battle ensuing, and in reality none cared for the politics surrounding such an event. Life was hard enough as it was for the people of the hamlet who farmed the land in this area, made fertile by the regular flooding of the river Done.
Later in the day, their work done, some of the villagers made the trek to Hethfield to see what had taken place that day.
Their eyes fell upon a bloody sight when at last they reached the place, where earlier that day Edwin the Christian King of Northumbria had fallen and been slain by the invading forces of the pagan Cadwalla with Penda of Mercia.
They returned to their mud and wattle dwellings on the banks of the Done and told of what they had seen, little knowing that The Battle of Hatfield would be remembered for over a thousand years.

This is how the event was recorded in the Anglo Saxon Chronicles, a document originally compiled on the orders of King Alfred the Great, approximately A.D. 890, and subsequently maintained and added to by generations of anonymous scribes until the middle of the 12th Century.

"A.D. 633. This year King Edwin was slain by Cadwalla and Penda, on Hatfield moor, on the fourteenth of October. He reigned seventeen years. His son Osfrid was also slain with him. After this Cadwalla and Penda went and ravaged all the land of the Northumbrians; which when Paulinus saw, he took Ethelburga, the relict of Edwin, and went by ship to Kent. Eadbald and Honorius received him very honourably, and gave him the bishopric of Rochester, where he continued to his death."


This year, in the reign of the Conqueror - 1086

For over four hundred years life had continued in the hamlet of Stonyford in much the same vein as it always had done. Men farmed the land given to them by their fathers, and in turn they gave the land to their sons.
The people of the hamlet had heard of the fate that had befallen their previous Lord - Harold. Having fought and won a battle at Stamford Bridge near York, he had marched his army south to Hastings, where awaited the forces of William, Duke of Normandy.
Harold lost the ensuing battle and had forfeited the lands of his Kingdom to William, now known as the Conqueror. King William generously gave the land surrounding Conisburrow to his son in-law William de Warrenne. These lands included the area in which Stonyford and Thurne lay, and thus William de Warrenne became the new Lord of the lands of Hethfield Chase.

Twenty years after the death of King Harold a group of French horsemen rode into the hamlet of Stonyford, demanding to know the in's and out's of a hind's bladder.
They made records of all the lands and livestock that were maintained by the people of Stonyford, which they intended to enter into a great book, the like of which had never been known before. The Conqueror was thorough, and demanded to know the true value of the lands he held.

Thus the record was entered into the book of the Conqueror, now known as the Domesday Book:

"In Stenforde there are seven sokemen with four carucates. Wood, pasture one quarenten long and the same broad"

soke n. English legal history. 1. the right to hold a local court. 2. the territory under the jurisdiction of a particular court. from Medieval Latin soca, from Old English socn a seeking

sokeman n, pl. -men (in the Danelaw) a freeman enjoying extensive rights, esp. over his land.

1 carucate = 1 hide

hide n. an obsolete Brit. unit of land measure, varying in magnitude from about 60 to 120 acres. [Old English higid; related to hiw family, household , Latin civis citizen]


October 1348

In October of 1348 Stainforth was granted a charter which allowed there to be held a market each and every Friday. At this time, many traders traveled down the River Don each Friday, on their way to Doncaster Market. When they reached the ford at Stainforth, (then known as Stonyford) they disembarked from their boats and hired horses etc. to carry them and their goods to Doncaster for the following day's Saturday market.
It was at the request of Edward, Duke of York that King Edward III granted the charter.

It was at this time that the land around Stainforth and Hatfield was a popular hunting area for Royalty. The second son of King Edward III, William de Hatfield was born at Hatfield Manor, his mother being Queen Phillippa.

One wit of the time wrote of the observation that the people of Stainforth were more accustomed to eating venison than they were of eating mutton, such was the abundance of game in the area. Of course anyone found to be eating the red deer, which the aristocracy thought of as their own personal property, would have paid a heavy price indeed.


The Mother of The Pilgrim Fathers.

In 1564, Mary (Smythe) Simkinson, daughter of William Smythe of Stainforth, Hatfield, England, and widow of John Simkinson of Doncaster, Yorkshire, England, was married to a certain William Brewster of Scrooby.
It is unclear as to where William and Mary went to live after their marriage, but it is generally thought that their first son, also called William was born in Scrooby in 1566/7.

The young William was to grow up and become one of the most well known figures in history, as the elder churchman who sailed to America aboard the Mayflower and led The Pilgrim Fathers in their journey from Leyden in Holland to Plymouth in New England.

William Brewster died 10 April 1644, in the colony he helped to build in Plymouth.


Cornelius Vermuyden

Prior to 1635, an arm of the River Don flowed into a lake which was situated between Stainforth and Thorne. It was in the year of 1635 that King Charles I invited the Dutch engineer, Cornelius Vermuyden to drain the levels at Hatfield Chase, which covered an area of land approximately 180,000 acres. The branch of the Don that fed the Mere was severed and, through a network of drains and dykes that went as far south as Bawtry, the Mere was drained. The task was performed on the understanding that the Dutchman would receive a share of the profits made from the reclaimed land.



Map of Hatfield Chase - 1626


In 1740 a further cut was made to the Don between Stainforth and Kirk Bramwith. At this time, the bridge crossing the river at Stainforth had been a wooden construction. In 1768 a permanent bridge made of stone was built. This bridge is the one that still crosses the Don today and is now a Grade 2 listed building.


The Bridge Over The River Don

An Act of Parliament was passed in 1793 to make a navigable canal from the River Don at Stainforth to the River Trent at Keadby. The canal was opened shortly after it's completion around 1802. Thirty five years later another Act of Parliament saw the canal sold into the care of the Doncaster Navigation Company, who later extended it through Doncaster and into Sheffield.


E. White's Trade Directory of 1837 describes Stainforth as having a spacious quay. For many years there existed a thriving ship yard on the canal. The main type of craft assembled here were keels for working on the canal, though many other small craft were also built here.

The Black Swan Inn may be traced back to 1749


1910 saw the forming of the Hatfield Coal Company but it wasn't until Thursday October 12th, 1911 that the first sod was cut in a special ceremony to mark the occasion.
The sinking of the actual shafts began in 1912 and the face of Stainforth was about to be changed for ever.
In 1901 the population of Stainforth was a modest 735. After the colliery began production people from the length and breadth of Britain came to Stainforth to find work in the mine. By the time Hatfield Main was hitting it's peak production in the mid 1920's the mine was providing work for over 2,300 men.

On the 5th March 1915, a report in The Doncaster Chronicle said of the events at Hatfield Main, "Here we have a district, once the happy hunting ground of Kings and Monarchs, now destined to become a centre of coal and commerce. On the spot where royalty once disported themselves, where archers drew the long bow and sent their shafts at the red deer, are now shafts of a very different character, up which the latest machinery will wind coal from the bowels of the earth.