Those of us who live in Doncaster know what a great place it is, described by Doncaster Tourist Information Centre as ‘a unique destination – a cocktail of rural and urban where picturesque villages, historic market towns and unspoilt countryside complement the delights of a modern bustling town centre’, and friends who visit Doncaster never cease to be surprised by the diversity of what it has to offer.
Most of us can probably name our favourite places and mine include Conisbrough Castle, Yorkshire Wildlife Park, Brodsworth Hall and Gardens, Potteric Carr Nature Reserve, Cusworth Hall, The Mansion House, The Market, and Cast, the new theatre. Other great attractions include Doncaster Racecourse, The Vulcan Experience, Markham Grange Steam Museum, Keepmoat Stadium... the list could go on.
One of Doncaster’s most architecturally important buildings is St George’s Minster. Though it’s cut off by a busy road from the rest of the town, it attracts around 12,000 visitors a year and 19,500 school programmes, events and exhibitions and worship at major festivals.
The present church was built in 1858 by Sir George Gilbert Scott at a cost of £43,000. Urgent repair work will cost around £600,000.
It replaced a 12th century Norman building which burned down in 1853.
It’s been described by John Betjeman as ‘Victorian Gothic at its best’. It was given Minster status in 2004 as recognition of the significant role the Minster plays in the civic life of the town.
The Minster is also famous for its Edmund Schulze organ, Schulze being a famous German organ builder, and a clock by Dent, the designer of Big Ben.
In addition to playing a key role in the town, the Minster stands as witness to the Christian faith which has served the people of Doncaster over the centuries, as have many other churches.
Doncaster is part of the Diocese of Sheffield; this year the Minster will play a major part in its centenary celebrations. On September 14 from 2pm to 5pm the Minster will play host to one of the Diocese’s celebratory occasions, with an afternoon of activities for all the family. Whether you are a regular visitor or attender at St George’s Minster, or if you’ve never set foot inside before, why not come along? The Diocese of Sheffield is made up of many parts and, without Doncaster, as we know, the Diocese and the region would be much the poorer culturally and historically.
Doncaster is clearly being recognised more and more for the important contribution it makes across Yorkshire and beyond.
Recognition of this is that the Yorkshire Society is holding its Yorkshire Day here next year.
Again, the Minster will play a significant role in facilitating celebrations.
Doncaster has a lot to celebrate and there are clear signs of its re-emergence in the cultural, historical, commercial and economic importance of the area. So let’s celebrate.
* Peter Burrows, Bishop of Doncaster