Readers' letter: Nobody ever looks up anymore - and there's so much to see in Doncaster

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Thursday, 19th August 2021, 10:00 am
Updated Friday, 20th August 2021, 10:18 am
Doncaster market on a miserable wet Thursday

Settling in one place has never really been in my family’s blood. I was born in the west of England but moved from village to town to hamlet and never had the same school for more than two years at a time.

Then they, I mean my parents, thought it would be a good idea if we emigrated to Australia. And once there, what did we do? We moved about constantly from town to outback to rainforest and back to town again.

Once we had seen every state Down Under (or so it seemed to me) it was back to England and yet again more moving around, more disjointed education, more new friends.

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Doncaster Minster reflected in a puddle of rain water

When I was about 30, I moved to Doncaster, in God’s Own County, Yorkshire, with my wife. It’s her hometown. I know she will agree with me when I say that it’s not a glamorous town, but it does have plenty of history. It drips from every brick, every turret, and every gargoyle.

The oldest horse racing event in England still takes place here every September, The St. Leger Stakes. Many photographs can be found of the glory days when Lady Docker, Rita Hayworth and the Aga Khan used to attend. Today, the festival still garners attention as spray-tanned, fascinator-wearing, tattooed women wobble home at the end of a day’s drinking and gambling, with their sling-backs stuffed into their tiny grab-bags. The men are almost as bad, but have less hair to lose when they get into a scrap.

There’s always been someone in these parts willing to start a fight. The Normans built two of their finest castles nearby. But you don’t have to travel out of town to see impressive buildings. All one has to do is look up. Nobody ever looks up anymore, heads down, eyes buried in a virtual world, but if only we took the time to check out the dates of the buildings, then we might notice the beautiful Victorian and Regency architecture. We might even see the weeds and small trees that grow from guttering high above the ground.

Almost 2000 years ago, the Romans, in their need to stretch their empire to the edge of the known world, built a fort here, which fell into decay when they departed in the fifth century. Eventually, some bright spark of a Norman built a large church on the ruins. A fire destroyed that building in the middle of the 19th century. The Minster now occupies that same spot was completed in 1858 and is one of the more impressive mini cathedrals one is ever likely to see.

I don’t suppose I shall call Doncaster my home for the rest of my life. I want to live somewhere warmer and less wet, but that building, The Minster and Parish Church of St George, is certainly impressive.

My photo of the minster reflected in a puddle of rain water was taken on the same day I took the shot of the market, with one lone umbrella-wielding pedestrian splashing her way passed empty stalls.

Why were they empty? It was a Thursday and there’s never a market on a Thursday. Doncaster’s market is one of the oldest in the country. It was established about the time the Romans set up shop, right outside the walls of their fort. Where there are soldiers, there is always someone trying to sell them something; bad food, worse wine, women, and weapons, all of which might kill you one way or another.

Thankfully, all you will find for sale today, providing it’s Tuesday, Friday or Saturday, is meat, fish, clothes and used paperbacks.

The photos were taken with an old Minolta, originally bought in Doncaster sometime in the 1970s.

David Bowmore

Marlborough Road, Doncaster