Is 550 year old Doncaster landmark haunted?

Tickhill Parish Room
Tickhill Parish Room

It has stood on its site in the Doncaster village of Tickhill for nearby 550 years - and its caretaker would love to know if it has any ghosts.

Tickhill Parish Room was built back in 1470 as St Leonard's Hospice, and was at one stage a leper hospital, run by the church, which owns the grade two listed building.

Noreen Sweed, Margaret Frogson, Heidi Barber and Ann Watkinson at a coffee morning at Tickhill Parish Rooms.

Noreen Sweed, Margaret Frogson, Heidi Barber and Ann Watkinson at a coffee morning at Tickhill Parish Rooms.

If anywhere would be expected to have a liberal smattering of spooky tales, this is it.

But although there are ghost stories about in the broader town of Tickhill, the current custodian of the building, caretaker and management committee member Janice Birkinshaw, is surprised to have heard so few.

She said: "I'd head rumours of it being haunted, and one person once rang up and said she thought it was, but I don't know a great deal about any ghosts.

"Someone in the village once did a ghost walk, and apparently there was a tree next to the hall that used to be used for hangings, but there was no mention of any ghosts in the hall itself.

"I would consider doing some sort of ghost hunting evening here - I would love someone to come and find out if there is a ghost here, and I would certainly be open to any organisation that would like to come and look into it.

"I think I would be absolutely delighted if there was one, and I don't know why there wouldn't be, with the history of the building. It was a leper hospital, and there were even people kept prisoner here in its history, in the cellars. I think there is every reason for there to be a good ghost story here."

Not much is known about the building's earliest days, after it was created in its current frontage in 1470. It is thought to have been built or paid for by a man called Jon Leftwul, whose name in inscribed in part of the timber. It also retains an inscription above one of the doors carrying the words St Leonard's Hospital, between two crosses, which experts say indicates it was in the hands of the church or monastery.

The first picture is a drawing in a magazine in 1844, and it is believed to have been divided into three cottages at that point. In 1898 it was bought by St Mary's Church and converted into a meeting room for parishioners.

And 10 years ago, a major refurbishment brought it up to 21st century standards with a modern kitchen and disabled access.

It is now used as a venue by many groups in the village, with activities ranging from a weekly ukelele group on Monday evenings to a community coffee morning on Saturday mornings.

Children come in for Spanish lessons on Tuesday afternoons, and Tickhill Women's Institute, Les Francophiles de Tickhill and Tickhill Film Society also use the centre regularly. It used to be used by a slimming group, but the poularity of the group meant its numbers grew to large for the site.

Use was boosted by the refurbishment which was completed in 2008. It meant the building was able to cater for groups of up to 60 people. It also removed old style pews from the main meeting room. Now chairs are put up as and when needed, but there is also the option of clear floor space.

Funding for the scheme came from the local community which united to fund it through donations.

"We feel as though we've saved the building," said Mrs Birkinshaw. "It is grade two listed, and we were concerned about its future before the refurbishment."

"We are trying to hold plenty of events to to raise money for the building. We have coffee mornings on Saturday mornings, but there is a lot of competition for coffee in Tickhill.

"It would be nice to get some youngster users here.It would be nice to see more children's parties here. There are people who have lived in Tickhill 30 years who don't know we hire the hall out.

"The building may have been here 550 years, but it sometimes feels as though we're Tickhill's best kept secret."

Tickhill Parish Room: Timeline

1225: Reference to monks having a hospital on the site

1470: St Leonard's Hospital run by monks. One main hall.

1841: Census shows three families living in the building

1844: Undated drawing shows a low building with central chimney and one entrance door.

1851: Census shows three unoccupied cottages; Building repairs

1870: Pictures show taller building, two chimneys and central door, and reading room.

1898: Ownership transferred to the church as a parish room for Tickhill.

1972: Roof renewed, paid for by public subscription:

2003-2008: Completely restored and modernised and leased by church to parish room management committee for use as community hall.