Thursday, 25 January 2018

Wheatley Hall

Wheatley Hall

Home of the Cooke Baronets

To many modern Doncastrians mention 'Wheatley Hall' and they will think of three things, 'road', 'retail park' and 'manufacturing'. What many don't know is that the name 'Wheatley Hall' comes from a magnificent 17th century mansion that once stood between Thorne Road and the River Don, a mansion that was once the ancestral seat of the Cooke family, Baronets of Wheatley.

Now I know this is a site about Arksey, and Wheatley Hall is not in Arksey, but the Cooke family are very closely associated with Arksey and as I have researched and written extensively about them, it seems only fitting that I include something about the places they lived. Wheatley Hall was their principal residence for over two hundred years and as nothing remains of the building now I feel it is important to keep the memory of this once stately home alive for those generations who only associate Wheatley Hall with a place to spend an afternoon mooching around the shops.

Early Cooke Residences

The earliest recorded Cooke was Robert Cooke of Almholme in the 15th century. Robert was probably a yeoman farmer as they seemed to have financial security and status even at this early date. 

In the early 1500's the Cookes began acquiring land in the area and Robert's son Edward became Mayor of Doncaster in 1504. Edward moved into Arksey Hall for a time before abandoning it for the larger residence at Moat Hills in Bentley.

Arksey Hall
Moat Hills was once the residence of the Newmarch family, they were Norman Lords of the Manor and responsible for the building of Arksey church which began in 1150.

The Newmarch family probably built Moat Hills in the late twelfth century, it was certainly occupied by them in 1215 when Adam de Newmarch (Baron Newmarch) was born.

Moat Hills is the oblong double enclosure at the centre of this aerial photo.

Situated off Millfield Road, the site, which today consists of just an earthwork, was a large double enclosure residence with a substantial timber framed manor house in the eastern side. A central causeway with a gate-tower led into a second enclosure, where a fish pond and possible stable yard were situated. The house seems to have had a chapel, as a font bowl was found there in 1884. Reverend Henry H Naylor of Arksey Church gifted the font bowl to the newly built All Saints church at Intake in the 1950's. They had it renovated and installed in the church, where it is still in use to this day. 

The Moat Hills font while in storage at Arksey church

The manor passed out of the hands of the Newmarch family in the late 1200's and it is unclear who lived at Moat Hills in the intervening two hundred or so years until the Cooke's came along. It is possible that subsequent Lords of the Manor used the building, but the Cooke family appear to have occupied the building from the early 1500's until about 1683.

The Cooke Baronets

By the start of the seventeenth century the Cooke's were wealthy landowners, purchasing land all over the north side of Doncaster. In 1623 Bryan Cooke Esq. became Mayor of Doncaster, then again in 1630. In 1636 he was made Lord of the Manor of Sandall and bought the Manor of Langthwaite. By now he was one of the town's most successful merchant elites.

During the Civil War Bryan showed his allegiance to the Royalist cause by sending a horse to the king, an act he admitted to and was subsequently fined the sum of £1,460 in 1647. He was pardoned a year later.

Bryan died in 1653 and in 1661 a Baronetcy was awarded to the Cooke family in recognition of Bryan's loyalty to the crown. Bryan's eldest son George took the title of 1st Baronet, a title to be handed down through all the eldest male descendants

The Cooke Arms

The Manor of Sandall and Wheatley 

The earliest record to the Manor of Sandall and Wheatley was written in the 8th century. The two places seem to have been two townships separated by over a mile of countryside. 'Wheatley' means wet fields, which described the condition of the low lying land then. It was basically a floodplain before the River Don was rerouted and drainage channels dug. 'Sandall', which means sandy nook of land appears to have been administered along with Wheatley as a single manor. 

Prior to the Norman Conquest the manor was owned by Tostig, the Earl of Northumbria, who also owned the Manor of Hexthorpe. Following the conquest the Normans confiscated most of the lands owned by the English and they were parcelled out to King William's retainers. The Manor of Sandall and Wheatley was awarded to Nigel Fossard, who also held extensive properties north of Doncaster, notably, Langthwaite where he built two fortified houses.

Nigel Fossard
After Fossard's death the manor passed through many other families until 1658 when Sir George Cooke and his brother Henry bought the manor from the late Robert Anstruther, Knight. 

Wheatley Hall

When George Cooke was awarded the Baronetcy in 1661, he became the 1st Baronet Wheatley, after the manor he owned with his brother.

Sir George died without heir in 1683 and the baronetcy passed to his younger brother Henry, who became the 2nd Baronet Wheatley. 

Sir Henry decided to build a magnificent mansion befitting his new status and chose a location close to the River Don, a location which must have led to much regret when the river overflowed its banks.

The site chosen for the Hall may be the same as that of previous fortified manor house. A licence to crenellate (build a fortified house) was granted to John Sandal (or Sandale) in 1311. Although the details of this building are now lost, it would have probably been of timber construction and surrounded by a moat fed, conveniently from the nearby river Don.

 Wheatley Park 1893

The map above shows the location of Wheatley Hall lying in 103 acres. To the bottom left is the town of Doncaster, and the grey shaded area roughly central, is Wheatley Park which boasted some of the finest oak trees in the country. The Hall itself sits to the north, near to the double bend of the River Don (old course). The road lying to the south of the park is Thorne Road, its junction with Armthorpe Road can be seen just below the park itself, to the right of Green House, which is now known as the Cumberland, just across from Doncaster Royal Infirmary.

A closer view of  Wheatley Park

Sir Henry built his four storey mansion in 1683. Built from heavy stone and with a large number of windows it must have been an impressive sight. One storey of the Hall was underground and this basement suffered greatly every time the River Don burst its banks, which was quite a frequent occurrence. 

Sir Henry seems to have chosen this spot to build purely for its geographical location; it was fashionable then to build in low situations to shield the house from too much scrutiny. In fact it would have made more sense to build the Hall just a few hundred yards to the south, away from the floodplain. They wouldn't have needed to pipe drinking water over a half a mile through dirty lead pipes either, as there was a convenient fresh water spring nearby. 

Map detail showing the plan of the Hall

On the plus side, being close to the river provided an easy crossing point by boat for the Cooke family to attend weekly services at Arksey Church, without the need to travel through town. The map below shows where the Hall was in relation to Arksey; it would certainly have been much quicker to travel there by boat and by the back lanes than by going via Doncaster and Bentley.

1854 Map of Wheatley Hall in relation to Arksey

Wheatley Hall from an early engraving.

The interior of the Hall was decorated in the Jacobean style with oak panelling and a magnificent oak staircase. A detailed description of the interior doesn't seem to exist, but there are photos taken in the 1890's when Sir William Henry Charles Wemyss Cooke was the baronet in residence. The photos follow below:

Front hall, billiard room

Upper drawing room.

Dining room
The staircase
The staircase

The staicase

The Cooke's Move On

The Cooke's started selling their land and property off during the latter half of the 19th century. Industrialisation was taking over from agriculture and the Cooke's made huge profits from selling land to the railways and collieries. 

The 9th Baronet, Sir William Ridley Charles Cooke saw the potential of coal mining in the 1880's, and confidant that a rich seam of coal lay beneath his estate he entered into investigating the possibility of constructing a mine on land in Bentley. However, initial bore holes failed to prove the famed Barnsley Coal Seam lay under his land after all.

Sir William Ridley Charles Cooke

Sir William died in 1894 and was succeeded by his son, Sir William Henry Charles Wemyss Cooke. The new 10th Baronet was keen to keep the mining project moving forwards. With death duties to pay and no income from the coal royalty, he had to find a way forward. In 1901 Barber Walker & Co agreed to make further inquiries into the work so far with a view to drilling themselves. 

Drilling for the new colliery, which was initially named 'Arksey Colliery', in 1905

Drilling began in 1904 with Barber Walker & Co leasing 6,940 acres of land from Sir William Cooke, as well as 1,000 acres from the Chadwick's of Arksey Hall, and the purchasing of the whole of the Scawthorpe estate. The company also purchased 75 acres of land from Sir William Cooke which would become the site of Bentley New Village.

Records show that Sir William moved out of Wheatley Hall to Upper Hall in Ledbury, Herefordshire in 1907. Then from 1910 his place of abode is recorded as Ranby Hall in Lincolnshire, however he eventually settled in Berkshire.    

New Plans for the Wheatley Estate

1913 was a big year in the history of Wheatley Hall, and despite Sir William having vacated the Hall six years earlier, he had big plans for factory sites on his land and a rail link to attract business.

The Doncaster Chronicle of 17th of January 1913 had an article entitled:
'A Wheatley Boom, Sir William Cooke's Estate, To be Sold for Factory Sites, Scheme with Big Possibilities, Doncaster as Industrial Centre.'

His plan involved erecting a bridge over the River Don New Cut at Strawberry Island, giving Wheatley direct rail access to The Great Central Railway Co.'s sidings, which were 140 yards away. Sir William hoped the railway, and a proposed wharf on the Don would attract demand for factory sites. Sir William's agents Messrs Dawson & Sons were already in talks with firms ready to acquire sites for manufacturing cotton and steel.

Map of the Holmes/Strawberry Island area in 1906

Later that same month it was reported in the Doncaster Chronicle that the butterscotch and baking powder manufacturer Parkinson, of High Street, Doncaster were moving practically all their business to a new site near Strawberry Island, with an entrance from Brooke Street. It was also reported that the glass bottle manufacturer A.J. Battye intended to build a factory at the rear of Bullas Terrace in Wheatley Lane too. 

Parkinson's shop on High Street, Doncaster

More dramatic developments were announced in March that year when it was reported that Sir William was selling the whole of his estate to a powerful development syndicate, based in Peterborough. The syndicate were already negotiating for the sale of land for factories and housing. The proposed bridge scheme put in place by Sir William was to go ahead, but the syndicate would erect the bridge, allot land for the factories and build the wharf. However, instead of doing their own building work they would sell the land in large lots. 

The estate consisted of an area of 2,000 to 3,000 acres and included the Hall and Park. Speculation as to the Hall's future was raised and it was suggested that if Doncaster Corporation could not find a way to acquire them, then perhaps a private concern might buy and gift them to the people of Doncaster.

A Curious Bomb Plot

Suffragette Kathleen Brown

Before anything could be decided about the future of the Hall another, surprising story emerged in May that year. At the end of that month the Chronicle ran a story with the following sensational headline:
'Suffragette Bomb, Wheatley Hall the Objective.'
The plan to blow up Wheatley Hall was among a number of schemes designed to draw attention to the Suffrage cause. They were drawn up by a group of women at a house in Osborne Road, Town Moor. Their leader was Newcastle born Kathleen Brown. Before her arrival in Doncaster Brown had spent seven days in solitary confinement at Holloway Prison for throwing stones in Whitehall in 1909. Following a return to her native Newcastle where she was greeted by banners and decorated carriages, she later moved south to Doncaster.

Brown and her supporters forced their way into the unoccupied Hall. A ground floor window was forced open and an iron bar wrenched from the shutters. 

Later, it was found that inside, under the magnificent oak staircase, a pile of suffragist literature was found, soaked in paraffin. The apparent failure of the attached fuse prevented what would have been an inevitable explosion. 

Brown was suspected of plotting to blow up the building but as no-one was harmed, she carried on living in the house in Osborne Road where she and her followers continued to fight for their cause. 

Plans for Wheatley Falter

The planned buy-out of the Wheatley Estate by the Peterborough based syndicate fell through following the First World War. Despite much preparation for the development, the purchase was not completed within the prescribed time period, so the estate reverted back to Sir William.

Following this set-back there were some enquiries for industrial sites near to the canal, but it would be some years before these were realized.


The End of Wheatley Hall   

By the end of 1913 it was reported that there was a proposal to use Wheatley Hall and the Park as a golf club and course. It was described thus, by the eminent golf architect, Dr Makenzie of Leeds:
'I know of few courses where the land is so favourably situated in regard to accessibility as Wheatley Park... Wheatley Hall will make a magnificent club house...'

Wheatley Hall officially opened as a golf club and course on the 1st of May 1914. It was leased to Wheatley Golf Club with the ground floor being used as a club house, while the upper two floors were sub-let as flats.

Wheatley Golf Club

By 1933 the Hall was succumbing to the effects of all the flooding it had endured over the centuries. The crumbling Hall was deteriorating fast and its upkeep proved too much for the golf club who relocated to their present site at Armthorpe Road.

The estate was sold to Doncaster Corporation for housing. The Hall itself could not be saved and was demolished in 1938. 

Before demolition took place these photos were taken of the now empty interior. The photos show just how magnificent the Jacobean wood panelling and carvings were. Only the 17th century staircase, which was reputedly the work of Grinling Gibbon (1648 - 1720), and which was almost destroyed by a suffragist bomb, was saved by Sir Paul Latham, restored and installed in Herstmonceux  Castle, where it remains to this day. 

One of the panelled rooms

Fireplace in the panelled room

Internal double doors

The Jacobean oak staircase

Apologies for the quality of these photos, they were copied from a display and were inside plastic file pockets.

After Wheatley Hall

Following the failure to sell to the Peterborough syndicate, Sir William Cooke did sell large portions of his estate himself. This included areas north of the river which were sold to the owners of Bentley Colliery and to Messrs. Pilkington, the glass manufacturer.

Land was also sold at Wheatley Hills for housing and during the early 1920's houses were built just south of Thorne Road with the creation of The Grove and surrounding streets.

The 1920's also saw houses being built as far as Wentworth Road. Wheatley Lane ran from the Holmes to just beyond Wentworth Road, where it reduced to a narrow track up to the Hall; this would later be extended and become Wheatley Hall Road. 

The plans to open industrial plants by Parkinsons and Battye (as mentioned earlier) were carried out, and they were joined by the artificial silk spinners British Bemberg in 1929.

Development in Wheatley 1929

In the 1930's marshy land to the west of the old Hall's grounds was drained allowing houses to be built between Woodhouse Road and Harrowden Road. The Wheatley Park estate was also started with houses being built between Liverpool Avenue and Worcester Avenue, which were effectively built on the Hall's front lawns. 

By 1938 the Hall had been demolished and industry was moving in. 

Wheatley 1938

British Bemberg's factory on Wheatley Hall Road

The 1940's saw a post-war housing shortage and this was partly alleviated by building over 2,000 houses between Canterbury Road and Clay Lane. Wheatley Hills also expanded during the 1950's with the building of the Ennerdale and Greenleafe Estates. 

Wheatley in 1950

In 1950 Wheatley Hall Road still terminated in a dead end just short of the sewage works, however over the course of the next decade Wheatley Hall Road was extended to reach the new Clay Lane estate and to join up with Thorne Road and Barnby Dun Road. 

1960's map of Wheatley
The 1960's saw an influx of industry to the Wheatley Hall Road area. Vast areas of unused land were snapped up by businesses such as Fordsons, which were an arm of U.S motoring giant Ford and produced British farm machinery. Later they became part of the International Harvester empire. 

Inspecting tractors at International Harvesters. Photo courtesy of Colin Hardisty

After British Bemberg went into receivership in 1953, the British Nylon Spinners, owned by Courtaulds and ICI moved onto the site and after converting its use from Rayon spinning to Nylon production, began operating in 1955. In 1965 ICI took over Courtaulds share of the business and in 1966 ICI Fibres Limited was created.

Wheatley Hall Road with ICI Fibres in the background. 

Other notable companies with factories on Wheatley Hall road included Crompton Parkinson, the British electrical manufacturing company; also Burton's tailoring, Roxeth Wallpapers and Leger Bakery, who produced the 'Sunshine' brand of bread.

The construction of the East By-Pass in the early 1970's saw the demolition of all the houses on Wheatley Lane, between The Holmes and Wentworth Road. Most of Wheatley Lane also disappeared as it became part of Church Way.

Houses being demolished on the Morley Road, Wheatley Lane junction in 1970.
Photo courtesy of Tom Beardsley

The 1980's brought about a change in the nature of some of the businesses along Wheatley Hall Road. Smaller light-industrial concerns began to flourish as some of the heavier industries adapted to a changing market. 

International Harvesters sold out to Tenneco Inc. who's subsidiary, J.I. Case manufactured tractors. By the mid 1980's J.I. Case were occupying and operating out of the old Harvesters site under the name Case IH (Case International Harvesters). In the year 2000 Case IH divested assets to merge with New Holland Ag, this resulted in the formation of McCormick Tractors International. The Doncaster plant was renamed and became the company's headquarters. However, in 2006 it was announced that all tractor production would move to Italy. The last tractor rolled off the line in December 2007 and 325 jobs were lost. 

McCormick Tractors. Photo courtesy of Mark Coley

The ICI plant also saw major changes. In 1992 DuPont bought the nylon business from ICI and the Doncaster plant was renamed the following year. However, by 1999 the factory had closed down and not long after that it was demolished.

Industry in Doncaster as a whole was changing too. The sudden decline of the mining industry saw the closure of the Mines Rescue Service at the end of Wentworth Road. Built in 1913 the building provided a training and rescue service for the mining industry. The building had several galleries for recreating different scenarios for rescue training.

Mine's Rescue Station

Roof collapse training gallery

Following the collapse of the coal mining industry there was no need for a specialist rescue service. The building was vacated and lay empty for several years before it was finally demolished and replaced by two industrial units.

In the mid 1990's Wheatley Hall Road was converted to a dual carriageway allowing traffic ease of access to and from Doncaster and the M18 motorway.

Converting Wheatley Hall Road to a dual carriageway in May 1996. Photo courtesy of Carl Bowen

Today, many of the larger concerns have gone from Wheatley Hall Road and the area is now known for the large number of car dealerships that occupy much of the area. Retail has become an expanding feature too, with the out-of-town shopping centre called Wheatley Hall Retail Park. The centre includes major retailers such as Argos, Marks & Spencer, Boots and Matalan, with more retailers set to occupy new units planned for the near future.

Large swathes of land on the opposite side of the road from the retail park have recently been cleared and these two will no doubt be built on very soon.

Wheatley today, by Google Maps

Wheatley is an area of Doncaster under constant change and development, whether it is residential, industrial or retail, the area is fascinating in how it changes to the economic needs of the times. Nothing remains to remind us of the splendid Hall and park which first occupied the area, but at least the name Wheatley Hall is a small reminder of our manorial days.

Wheatley Hall Workers

Throughout the 1800's many large houses employed a number of domestic servants and Wheatley Hall was no exception. Taking a look at three census returns, from 1861, 1891 and 1901 we find that the Cooke's employed fifteen servants in 1861 and 1891, only dropping to eleven in 1901. It is also interesting to note that many of these servants were not local, but came from across the country to work at the Hall. Maybe your ancestors worked at the Hall? Take a look at the lists below to see if any did.

Here is a list of all the servants from those three census returns. they are listed in the following order: Name > Age > Occupation > Where Born.

1861 Census for Wheatley Hall

Sir William Ridley Charles Cooke was the employer at the time, he was aged 33 and Harriet his wife was 27.

Lucy J Thomas > 21 > Lady's Maid > Middlesex.
Elizabeth Goldthorpe > 27 > Laundry Maid > Yorkshire.
Katherine Best > 25 > House Maid > Middleham, Yorkshire.
Harriet Keyworth > 15 > House Maid > Upton, Nottinghamshire.
Julia H Taylor > 23 > Cook > Hatfield, Yorkshire.
Susan Taylor > 19 > Dairy Maid > Barnby Dun, Yorkshire.
Anne Appleby > 19 > Kitchen Maid > Tickhill, Yorkshire.
John Brown > 23 > Footman > Middleton Tyas, Yorkshire.
Rooms over stables
Samuel Belsham > 35 > Head Groom > Castle Acre, Suffolk.
William Barnes > 25 > Under Groom > Hampshire.
Richard Haw > 25 > Under Groom > Escrick, Yorkshire.
James Giddings > 23 > Under Groom > Wiltshire.
Daniel Hinley > 20 > Tickhill, Yorkshire.
Wheatley Garden House
Alexander Sloaue > 32 > Gardener (3 Assistants) > Durrisdeer, Dumfries, Scotland.
George Gleadall > 18 > Assistant Gardener > Hexthorpe, Yorkshire.  

1891 Census for Wheatley Hall

Sir William Ridley Charles Cooke was the employer at the time, he was aged 63 and his second wife Blanche was 40. Two of their three children are listed, Arthur, aged 14 and Ruby B J, who was 11.

Ethel Bellingham > 23 > Governess Sch > Herefordshire.
Martha Turner > 46 > Housekeeper > Whitney, Herefordshire.
Amelia Farthers > 24 > Lady's Maid > Farthinghoe, Northamptonshire.
Florence Hawkins > 26 > Laundrymaid > Exeter, Devon.
Mary Law > 27 > House Maid > Calverley, Shropshire.
Fanny Jenkinson > 20 > Kitchen Maid > Hatfield, Yorkshire.
Annie E Veasey > 22 > Laundry Maid > Yarmouth, Norfolk.
Alice M Goodall > 19 > School Room Maid > Lincoln, Linconshire.
Leonora Cofield > 18 > Scullery Maid > Doncaster, Yorkshire.
Ada Glover > 20 > House Maid > Sandhills, Lancashire.
Herbert Cousins  > Footman > Harston Leicestershire.
Marrishaw Pickering > 28 > Groom > Barnack, Northamptonshire.
Henry Jas. Howard > 26 > Groom > Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.
William Harrington > 18 > Groom > Doncaster, Yorkshire.
Edward Clark > 25 > Groom > Norwich, Norfolk.

1901 Census for Wheatley Hall

Sir William Henry Charles Wemyss Cooke was the employer at the time. He was a single man, aged 28. He married in 1902. 

Mary E Smith > 39 > Housekeeper > Scotland.
Sarah Laughton > 29 > House Maid > Riddings, Derbyshire.
Elizabeth Marshall > 19 > House Maid > Skelbrooke, Yorkshire.
Mary Humphreys > 21 > Kitchen Maid > Yockleton, Shropshire.
Harriet Matthews > 17 > Scullery Maid > Sheffield, Yorkshire.
Edward Bond > 35 > Butler > Uttoxeter, Staffordshire.
John Roberts > 18 > Footman > Burton, Lincolnshire.
Arthur Riley > 32 > Stableman > Oakerthorpe, Derbyshire.
Thomas J Gardener > 19 > Stableman > Halifax, Yorkshire.
Henry H Bailey > 21 > Stableman > Birmingham, Warwickshire.
William Popple > 20 > Stableman > Peterborough, Nothamptonshire.

Wheatley Hall Photos

A selection of photos of the Hall.


The Hall's staircase at Herstmonceaux.
Courtesy of Gary Barber

Many thanks to all photo contributors.

Alison Vainlo 2018