Encapsulating all the elegance of Georgian architecture, its palatial splendour has long-held the power to stop people in their tracks in the busy heart of Doncaster.
Yet despite dominating the high street for 250 years, the Grade I-listed Mansion House has largely been closed to the public.
As the future of one of the UK’ s last three surviving examples of a civic mansion looked increasingly uncertain, a group of residents has stepped in not only to try to preserve the architectural gem for future generations but also to encourage more people to come and step through its doors.
The Friends of Doncaster Mansion House aims to bring the building into public use and showcase its centuries of history to as wide an audience as possible.
“Very few people have been inside the Mansion House and seen the imperial staircase, the ballroom, the dining room and the great kitchen,” says member Owen Evans.
“It was used for council business, so you only really went in if it was for something like that. There have been a few weddings and events in recent years, but it’s not been used very much.
“The friends want to help to conserve, restore, research, interpret and display the house and its contents for the benefit of all sections of the community.”
Designed by a young architect called James Paine, just as he was embarking upon what would be an illustrious career, it was a place where the social elite of a town could find amusements – from dancing, to card-playing, to tea parties.
After its origins as an exclusive venue for the town’ s socialites, it became a meeting place for planning committees and other sober council business in the latter part of its history, before the local authority re-located to premises in
Waterdale two years ago.
Only York and London offer examples of this type of building, both of which are open to residents. Doncaster’s Mansion House is considerably larger than its Yorkshire counterpart.
Friends’ chairman Bob Fitzharris adds: “Our Mansion House is one of the jewels in Doncaster’s crown.
“It a real-life tardis, a time machine containing 266 years of Doncaster’ s history.
“The Friends want to push open the door and let the public in.
“Together we can ensure that it continues to serve future generations of Doncastrians as it has in the past.
An application for Heritage Lottery Funding is now being drawn up with the help of Doncaster Council.
It is hoped that, with the support of the newly-formed friends and an army of volunteers, the venue will be able to host regular public events and become an important educational resource for the whole of the town.
The committee is working on establishing itself as a charitable trust and is currently looking to recruit more people to help run the operation.
Coun Bob Johnson, who is in charge of tourism at Doncaster Council, says: “It’ s a beautiful landmark with a fascinating heritage which we want to share with as wide an audience as possible. It is fantastic to have a group like the friends who are passionate about this wonderful building and I hope they will be joined by many more people who are interested in Doncaster’s history.”
For further details contact Owen Evans by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or go along to the next meeting at 6.30pm on April 14 at the Mansion House.