The Don Valley Way has several heritage walks. In this series of blogs we are going to explore these walks and the features that can be seen on them.
In this addition we are going to talk about the second walk in Rotherham, A Meeting of Two Rivers. The walk is 2.7miles or 4.KM long and will take around an hour and half to complete. This walk is paved with some road crossings and steady inclines. For more information on this walk click here for its page on the Don Valley Way website.
The walk starts at Rotherham Train Station. From here it crosses the bridge over the River Don from which a Chapel can be seen on the left hand side. This Chapel is known as Chapel of Our Lady on the Bridge. It is one of only three surviving medieval bridge chapels still standing in England. It was used by travellers to give thanks for a safe arrival or to pray for a safe journey. Rotherham Bridge was built where there had previously been a ford. The bridge is thought to have been a toll bridge much like the Humber Bridge is today. The charge was levied by priests to pay for the upkeep of both the bridge. In 1483 the Chapel of Our Lady was built as part of the rebuilding of the bridge. In 1547 the richly decorated chapel was suppressed by Henry VIII. At the time the king had recently set up the Protestant Church of England so anything of value in Catholic Churches, Monastery’s, Nunneries and Chapels was taken to help fund his war with France. The Chapel itself only survived as it was an important part of the bridge. In the late 16th century the Chapel was converted into an arms-house. During the English Civil War in 1643 a battle was fought on the bridge between the Earl of Newcastle’s Royalist troops and the town’s people, with 30 boys from the grammar school led by Colonel Gill of Carr House for the parliamentarian course. The Roundheads lost and the town was occupied by the Royalist Army who subsequently sacked it. Small dents in the Chapel walls show where the Royalist musket balls hit the Chapel. In 1778 the building was converted again, this time into the Town Jail. Two cells were formed in the crypt and the Chapel above became the deputy constables quarters. To learn more about the Chapel you can attend an open day hosted by the Friends of the Chapel on the Bridge.
Rotherham Town Hall was once the site of Rotherham’s Cattle Market until it was moved to Corporation Street. This occurred at the same time as the construction of the Police Station and Court House. The council moved into the building in 1985 and is used as a working building, not usually open to the public. At the front of the Town Hall stands a large cannon which was made at the Walker Brothers Iron Foundry. Walker Cannons were found on board HMS Victory and there are still Walker Cannons on board Victory in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Walker Cannons saw action at the Battle of Trafalgar when Nelson defeated the French and Spanish Navies, as well as in the Napoleonic wars and the American war of independence.
After outbreaks of Cholera in Rotherham in the early and mid-19th century it became clear that the town was in need of a new cemetery. Medical students were steeling bodies from the badly maintained burial ground around Rotherham Parish Church for research purposes. From this Moorgate Cemetery was opened in 1840’s by the newly formed Rotherham Public Cemetery Company.
In 1773 Thomas Howard Third Earl of Fingham decided to build a hunting lodge on the south side of Rotherham. The location chosen was on the hillside of Rotherham Moor and the house was completed in 1775. The views from the hill are extensive even today with the town being much more built up than back then. Originally the lodge was known as the house upon the common, but later that year a group of men disguised as Native Americans boarded ships in Boston Massachusetts and emptied 342 chests of tea into the water. This famously became known as the Boston Tea Party, an event that famously fuelled the flames of revolution in what is now the American colonies. The American War of independence shortly began where we fought the colonists rather than give them reputation is the British Parliament in regards to taxation. Thomas Howard was ordered to America to fight the rebels. Despite his desire to serve king and country he resigned his position in the army in support of the colonists. He thought the war was unjust so his hunting lodge was renamed Boston Castle. On the 4th July 1876 Boston Park, Rotherham’s first public park was opened on the site covering just over 8 hectares, and was opened to mark the centenary of American Independence.
Canklow woods is one of the largest ancient woodlands in Rotherham. It is of national importance for archaeology as the summit if the woods is the site of a Bronze Age settlement. Canklow woods was purchased by Rotherham borough Council in April 2000 (this next bit is for Catchment Officer Matt Duffy), which is a month after I was born, from the Duke of Norfolk. There are waymarked paths in the woods so you can explore if you want to on this part of the walk.
To learn more about the history of Rotherham including information about the history of Rotherham minister, you should get out with our audio guide and explore the walk. You can listen to the audion guide online on the Don Valley Way website, or by downloading the free app available on both Android and IOS devices. Thanks to the Friends of the Chapel on the Bridge for helping us with information for this walk.
By Project Assistant Anthony Cox