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History of Rotherham

History of Rotherham
  • population: 117,262
  • phone code: 01709
  • postcode area: S60S63, S65S66
  • county: South Yorkshire

Rotherham is a town in South Yorkshire, England. It lies on the River Don, close to its confluence with the River Rother, between Sheffield and Doncaster. Rotherham, at 6 miles (10 km) from Sheffield City Centre, is surrounded by several smaller settlements, which together form the wider Metropolitan Borough of Rotherham.

According to the 2001 Census the population of the Borough of Rotherham is 248,175, and that of the Rotherham urban sub-area 117,262.

While there were Iron Age and Roman settlements in the area now covered by the town, Rotherham itself was not founded until the Early Middle Ages. It soon established itself as a key Saxon market town, lying, as it does, on a Roman road near a forded part of the River Don.

By the late Saxon period, Rotherham was at the centre of a large parish on both sides of the River Don. Following the Norman Conquest, an absentee lord, Nigel Fossard, was put in place. His successors the De Vescis also rarely visited the town and so did not build a castle or contribute to the town's civil life, but did maintain a Friday market and a fair. In the mid-thirteenth century, John de Vesci and Ralph de Tili gave all their possessions in Rotherham to Rufford Abbey. The monks collected tithes from the town and gained rights to add Monday as an additional market day and to extend the annual fair from two to three days.

The townsmen of Rotherham formed an organisation, the "Greaves of Our Lady's Light", which worked closely with the town's three guilds. This was suppressed in 1547 but revived in 1584 as the Feoffees of the Common Lands of Rotherham, an organisation which remains in existence.

In the 1480s the Rotherham-born Archbishop of York, Thomas Rotherham, instigated the building of a college (The College of Jesus) to rival the colleges of Cambridge and Oxford. This was the first brick building in what is now South Yorkshire and taught theology, singing, grammar and writing.

The College and the stylish new parish church of All Saints made Rotherham an enviable and modern town at the turn of the 16th century. But the college was dissolved in 1547 under the reign of Edward VI, its assets stripped for the crown. Much of the College building remains intact but hidden from view in Rotherham town centre.

By the end of the 16th century, Rotherham had fallen from a fashionable college town to a notorious haven of gambling and vice. Nevertheless, the history of Thomas Rotherham and education in the town continues to be remembered in the name of Thomas Rotherham College.

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