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  A Brief General History of the Origin and Development of Tickhill



Nothing is known of Tickhill’s origins until the late 11th century: there is no reference in the Domesday Book of 1086, and the first written reference does not appear until the early 12th century. 

However, 20th century research and excavations confirm there had been settlements in the surrounding area since Roman times. The remains of a Roman villa were discovered close to Stancil Farm, two miles north east of Tickhill, two brooches, a buckle and an ampulla were found close to All Hallows Hill to the east of Wilsic Lane and a hoard of 1,300 silver dinarii from the second or early third century was found ‘in Tickhill’. 

Before the Norman Conquest of 1066, there appears to have been an active Anglo-Saxon settlement in the area around Dadsley. The name, which means ‘Daeddi’s clearing, is thought to derive from Daeddi, an Old English (OE) personal noun and leah (OE) meaning ‘forest glade or clearing’. The exact location has not been established, although the pattern of open fields suggests that it was near to Dadsley Lane and Dadsley Well about a half mile north of the present town, and one mile north east of All Hallows Hill. A survey and excavations in the late 1980s would seem to confirm that All Hallows Hill was the site of All Hallows Church, a pre-conquest church serving Dadsley and other settlements in the neighbouring area. 

There is also evidence of a later, secondary Viking settlement – a farmstead or hamlet - at Woolthwaite, two miles south west of Tickhill, as the ‘thwaite’ element derives from thveit, an Old Danish word meaning ‘clearing, meadow or paddock ‘.  

The Domesday Book, the great land survey commissioned by William the Conqueror, makes reference to the manors of Dadsley, Stainton and Hellaby, which had belonged to the Saxon lords, Elsi and Seward; after the Conquest their lands were confiscated and given, together with other manors in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Devon, to Roger de Busli, a Norman baron, by William l as a reward for his support.  

In 1086, these manors had a population of 54 villeins (tenant farmers) and twelve bordars (smallholders), who had 24 ploughs, and 31 burgesses (townspeople); three mills with an income of 40/- (£2.00), a priest and a church. There were two acres of meadow and 30 acres of woodland pasture and whole area was valued at £14.00, 

The founding of Tickhill

By the end of the 11th century, Roger de Busli had built a motte and bailey castle (surrounded by a ditch) on a sandstone hill, known as Tica’s Hill, about half a mile south of Dadsley; this hill was to give its name to a new settlement – Tickhill. (The name again derives from an OE personal noun Tica, and hyll OE meaning ‘hill’.) Collectively, all de Busli’s estates were referred to as the Honour of Tickhill, which emphasised the importance of this new town. The first written reference to Tickhill - spelt Tykehil - appears in the early 12th century in the Cartulary of Nostell Priory 1109-19 (a collection of deeds and charters). Over next 450 years, many variant spellings were used: Tykehull, Ticahil, Thichehill, Tickehill, Thykhyl and Tekil to name but a few. The first reference to the present spelling appeared in the will of Thomas Denbigh of Tickhill, dated October 15, 1559: a transcription of which can be seen in the Surtees Society Journal, Vol.121: North Country Wills, Vol. ll

On the death of Roger de Busli at the end of the 11th century, his estates passed to his kinsman, Robert de Belleme, Earl of Shrewsbury; his tenure, however, was short lived: in 1102 he rebelled against King Henry 1, the castle passed to the Crown and all his estates were lost. 

The Medieval town

The expansion and development of the medieval town is a matter of conjecture, and the main source of research for this text has been the works of the eminent local historians, Professor David Hey and the late Tom Beastall working with Roland Hill. 

 Following the building of the castle, the focal point for settlement in the area appears to have moved to Tickhill, which is thought to have been a new ‘planned’ town. Castlegate, with its burgage plots – long, narrow strips of land with a house and yard running at right angles to and fronting onto the main street, is thought to be the earliest part of the town. Further expansion saw Castlegate extend west into Westgate and north into Northgate. The term ‘gate’ is from the Old Norse gata, meaning ‘way, road or street’. Another theory suggests that Market Place was the original centre, with expansion developing outwards along Castlegate, Northgate and Sunderland Street.  

Excavations in the 1960s and 1970s revealed the existence of a ditch, which possibly marked the perimeter of the castle green – the outer earthworks of the castle bailey, extending from Westgate, round the west side of the church then north east along St Mary’s Gate towards Market Place and the rear of the south side of Sunderland Street. The name ‘Sunderland’ is derived from the OE sundor-land, meaning ‘land set aside for a special purpose’, which suggests this area may have originally been outside or ‘set aside’ from the Norman town. 

Tickhill continued to flourish: burgage plots lined Northgate, Westgate and the Sunderland Street approach to Market Place, street farms opened onto the main highways with yards, garths, orchards and paddocks to the rear and several capital messuages - large houses, with yard, outbuildings and land - were to be found, namely Eastfield and Leeston Hall on Northgate, Sandford Hall on Sunderland Street and Clarel Hall located between Westgate and Pinfold Lane. The latter, a medieval manor house, was the home of the Clarel family; about 1256, John Clarel, warden of Queen Eleanor’s Chapel in Tickhill Castle, founded an Augustinian Friary, which included a school, to the west of the town.  

Religious orders also gave relief to the poor and needy, provided work for the unemployed, hospitality to travellers and care to the sick and elderly. About 1225 St Leonard’s Hospital was founded primarily for the care of lepers, and was maintained by Benedictine monks from Humberston Abbey near Grimsby. It was, however, unusual for a leper hospital to be located close to the town, and as the Benedictines had a small religious house – the Monastery-in-the-Marsh – about one mile to the east and responsibility for the nearby Hospital-in-the-Marsh at Spital Hill, it is possible that this was the site of the original St Leonard’s before the present building on Northgate, dating from 1470, was constructed. 

There is uncertainty over the date of the foundation of a Maison de Dieu, (House of God), a row of almshouses to the south of St Mary’s Church: some sources suggest 1199, others almost two centuries later by John of Gaunt in the latter years of the 14th century. (Please see the Society’s Occasional Paper “Maison Dieu” which explains why the later date of foundation is more likely). 

With the movement of population from the Anglo-Saxon settlement at Dadsley, the parish church of All Hallows was now some distance from the heart of the new town. In the early 13th century a new church, dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, was built on land adjacent to the Castle Green, however All Hallows may still have been used as a ‘daughter’ church for a short time after. There are known to have been at least four chantry chapels attached to St Mary’s, these were reserved for worship by the gild or families who endowed them; a Grammar School associated with St Helen’s chapel is thought to have been located in the south west churchyard. 

At the beginning of the 14th century, Tickhill had become a thriving town, surrounded by arable and pasture land, with three water powered corn mills: one at the Castle, West Mill near the Friary (later a paper mill) and East Mill at the far end of Sunderland Street; a weekly Tuesday market and an annual fair, established in the late 12th century, added to the town’s growing prosperity. Tickhill’s contribution of £12.10s.0d to the national 1334 Lay Subsidy - a tax on all moveable property in the town - was second only to that of Doncaster in the South Yorkshire area. 

The Medieval population

45 years later, the 1379 Poll Tax Returns show this prosperity had been maintained. The Poll Tax was a tax imposed on non-churchmen; it was levied on all persons over fifteen years of age. The amount paid varied according to the means of the individual: the minimum payment being fourpence (one groat). A man and wife appear to have been counted as one person and were charged the same amount as a single person. 

The returns, written in Latin, provide an insight into the status and character of   the town and, in particular, its population, who contributed  £6.3s.4d. to the Exchequer. They list everyone by name, and reveal there were 458 people over the age of fifteen living in Tickhill at the time; most paid the basic fourpence rate, but 32 households, which employed servants paid sixpence or more. Many of these were tradesmen or craftsmen, whose occupations are recorded in the Returns: William Annot, Robert Lauerock, Gilbert Sisser and John Grayne were tailors, whilst William Michel, William de Boxouer, Richard de Melton, John de Hyndagh, Simon Auty and John, son of Geoffrey and Alice were souters (shoemakers), all paid the higher rate of sixpence, as did websters (female weavers): Elena Coke, Elizabeth Perkyn and Agnes Gobisid, spicers (grocers): John of Stancil and Henry Schapman, together with, carpenter: Hugo Hill, meller  (a beekeeper or maker of honey) or miller: Hugo Bell and masons (skilled workers with stone), Richard of Brodsworth and Robert Hallam. 

The more prosperous paid even higher rates: ostlers (persons who looked after horses, usually at an inn): Nicholas Coke and Agnes Sterappe paid one shilling, as did goldsmith: John, son of Geoffrey and Cecilia, drapers: John, son of Constantine and Joanna and John, son of Constantine and Idonia, mercer (a merchant of fine cloth, particularly silk): William of Bagley, smith: Michael of Audewarp and carpenter: Thomas of Thwayt (Thwaite). The occupation of barker or berker (a leather tanner) appears to have been extremely profitable as four of the five in the town - Thomas of Beston, Roger of Louerton, John Loutok and Richard of Leuerton - paid sums of one shilling, two shillings or three shillings and fourpence (¼ mark); the highest tax of thirteen shillings and fourpence (one mark), however, was paid by Richard Reynerson, described as a merchant. 

The origins of the surnames listed in the Returns are quite interesting as many reflect the original occupation of their ancestors, such as shepherds: Hugo Schephird, John Schepherd and Robert Schepherd, gardeners: John Gardener and Matilda de Gardener, cart maker and repairer: Thomas Cartewrigth (Cartwright), goldsmiths: Hugo Goldsmyth and John Goldsmych, weavers: Margaret, Richard and Henry Webster, butcher: Henry Flesschewer, craftsman builder: John Wrygth (Wright), barrelmaker: William Couper and, perhaps the most common name in England, smith: John Smith. Whether these people were still practising these occupations in 1379 is not known. 

Some surnames reflect the personal or family place of origin. As Tickhill was thought to be a ‘new’ town, it is reasonable to assume that it would have attracted people from the local area and beyond. Joanna Stansall (Stancil), William Austerfield, Agnes Wellingley, William Styrap (Styrrup), William of Wadworth, William of Maltby and John Conesborght (Conisbrough), together with some people referred to previously all have surnames relating to the local area. Residents from farther afield included John Tuxford and Elias Elkeslay from Nottinghamshire, Idonia of Leuerton (Leverton), Walter Horncastell (Horncastle) and John Mistirton (Misterton) from Lincolnshire, Yorkshire folk John Schefeld (Sheffield), Cecilia Halifax and William Rypon and Irishman, John of Galway. 

[There is however, one surname that appears in the Tickhill Poll Tax Returns and again almost 530 years later in Tickhill directories. In 1379 Richard Crosseland and his wife Alice are recorded as paying the standard rate of tax, and from 1908-1915 George Crossland is listed as trading from premises in Castlegate as a photographic goods and book dealer. 

Was George Crossland a descendent of Richard, or is this a mere coincidence?] 

Post –Medieval decline

During the late Middle Ages, national economic problems and a fall in population led to the decline of market towns, such as Tickhill, and rural settlements soon became deserted. The dissolution of the monasteries at the beginning of the Reformation saw the surrender of the Augustinian Friary to the King’s Commissioner, Sir George Lawson in 1538. Two years later, the antiquary, John Leland ,on his travels around England, wrote: ‘The market town of Tikhill is very bare; but the chirch is fair and large…. All the buildings withyn the [castle] area be down saving the old haulle’. The Castle became a Royalist garrison during the Civil War until its surrender to the Earl of Manchester in 1644; it was demolished by order of Parliament five years later. 

Visitors to Tickhill over the next 100 years noted a similar decline: in 1751 Bishop Pococke described it as ‘a poor market town’. Tickhill never regained its medieval prosperity and importance as the second town in South Yorkshire; it was not on a main road and it had no industry; by the end of the 18th century it could only be described as ‘a large village’.



Beastall, Tom, Tickhill: portrait of an English country town. Waterdale Press. 1995.

Domesday Book, Vol. 30. Yorkshire, Part One; edited by Margaret L. Faull & Marie Stinson. Phillimore & Co.Ltd. 1986.

Hey, David, Medieval South Yorkshire. Landmark Publishing. 2003.

Hey, David, The making of South Yorkshire. Moorland Publishing. 1979.

Hey, David, The Oxford companion to local and family history. O.U.P. 1996.

Hunter, Rev Joseph, South Yorkshire, Vol 1. 1828.

Magilton, John, The Doncaster District: an archaeological survey. Museum & Arts Service Publication. 1977.

Smith, A.H., The place names of the West Riding of York, Vols.1 & 7. English Place Name Society. 1961.

Surtees Society. Vol.121, North Country Wills, Vol.2. 1558-1604. Surtees Society. 1912.

Yorkshire Archaeological Society, Returns of the West Riding of the County of York of the Poll Tax….in the reign of Richard the Second (AD1379). YAS. 1882.


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