The many streets of Doncaster are as individual and varied as they are numerous. The more thriving of them such as St. Sepuchlre Gate, Frenchgate, Hall Gate and Silver Street are well known and most people could tell you something about them, but what about the smaller thorougfares?
Take St. George Gate for instance. Though only about 100yds long the street is nowadays, sadly, a shadow of its former glorious self. This splendid view illustrates what it looked like at the beginning of the twentieth century. As you wander into the street from its Baxter Gate junction today, instead of the colourful collection of small shops you see the side entrances of House of Fraser, while across the road where the public house and off licence once called Beethams or George & Dragon Vaults once stood there is the Santander building society.
Beethams, as many a drinker of a certain age will remember, has had many changes of name before ending up as The Vintage RockBar.
Talking of pubs, the White Lion was a large hostelry which stood on the plot where the side of Primark is now and had taken over from where The Waverley once stood, the latter having itself earlier moved from a Market Place position.
In the distance can be seen the imposing St. George’s Church, one view which is still impressive today - if you ignore the speeding traffic on the ring road. It is an area of historical interest too, as over the years important Roman finds have been unearthed as modern buildings have been built.
In the eighteenth century this quiet cul-de-sac led to some of the most dignified residences of affluent inhabitants with ornate windows and intricate brickwork.
The public stocks and a pillory once stood in St. George Gate, a reminder for drunkards and petty offenders to watch their step and their behaviour. A grammar school was situated nearer to the churchyard but closed in 1854 and reopened under a new headmaster. He was the vicar of Doncaster, Dr. Vaughan, who then began a campaign for a new and larger place of learning for the area.
There was also The Fire Engine House which was pulled down in 1888 to make way for the Free Library, a fabulously ornate building whose plot has been ultimately replaced by the delivery entrance of Marks & Spencer. It was once renamed the Jubilee Public Library to commemorate Queen Victoria’s celebration year.
It is also interesting to note that every person seen in our image, both men and women, are wearing headgear of some description, and what about the traffic?
Two horse and carts and that’s it, both parked up but then yellow lines weren’t even a twinkle in a road planner’s eye at that time. It’s certainly been a while since anyone saw a scene like this in that area.
For such a small street, St. George’s Gate was a real hive of activity in our town.
You could buy goods, educate yourself, read a book, put a fire out, have a pint or be punished by the law.
Finally, and this is just for those of you who love to tell us we’ve got it wrong, the street has been known over the years as both St. George’s Gate or St. George Gate, depending on the era.