Its foundation dates back to the years after the Norman conquest when Robert de Busli was granted land in the area. He began the construction of the castle, with its original motte (mound) and bailey (courtyard). Although only the gatehouse of the original buildings survives, most of the surrounding wall remains and part of the moat is still in water. Within the bailey is a large house, dating back to the 17th century. Behind the castle is its former fishpond and opposite is the last of Tickhill’s four former watermills and the pond (known locally as the Mill Dam) which provided its power.
Tickhill was known as ‘the gateway to the north’ because the original road to the north (predecessor to the A1) passed through the dangers of Sherwood Forest before entering Yorkshire at Tickhill. A town grew up around the castle and prospered, becoming a junction between routes north to south and east (Bawtry port) to west (Sheffield); the routes part at the Market Place, now graced by the later Buttercross, rebuilt in 1777. The principal structure dating from the Middle Ages is the Grade 1 listed St.Mary’s Church, always open and welcoming visitors. It was rebuilt and enlarged so that the main fabric now dates from the 15th century, with a splendid tower. There were many small monastic institutions of which one survives as the Parish Room. It was St.Leonard’s Hospital; the half-timbered facade remains in front of later building.
The visitor today could get the impression that Tickhill declined into slumber between the 15th and 20th centuries. Certainly there was little development, with the town not experiencing the transformation of its neighbours who stood above coal mines. However, the castle, in disuse in the 15th century, sprung back to life at the outbreak of the Civil War . It was re-fortified by Sir Ralph Hansby for the Royalists. However, after their success at the battle of Marston Moor, the Parliamentary side accepted the surrender of the castle in 1644 and subsequently dismantled it.
By the latter half of the eighteenth century, agricultural development and the town’s location at the crossing of two turnpike roads produced a revival. The Red Lion (now St.Mary’s shopping centre) and other inns benefited from the era of coaches. Some of the milestones for the Tinsley to Bawtry turnpike can still be seen in place beside the road. The town continued to hold a weekly market where local produce was sold. A number of fine houses were built and remain today.
Community life developed in the Victorian age. One example was the establishment of Tickhill Cricket Club, on land leased from the Earl of Scarbrough c.1860. In its long history since, the most famous player was Sir Archibald White, who went on to captain Yorkshire between 1910 and 1914. The Tickhill Local Board (1864) began to develop public services which were much enhanced after the establishment of the Tickhill Urban District Council in 1894. It tackled public health, built council houses after 1919, repaired highways and saw the sewage works built. In 1908 a local business man, Henry Shaw, donated the handsome public library and reading room in the Market Place. Lack of finance to buy books led to other uses and it has only been a fully functioning library since 1996. It is now a flourishing community library. Many housing estates were developed in the years after 1960, more than doubling the population of the town.
Tickhill was believed to have the smallest urban district council in the country until 1974, when it was absorbed by the new Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council. It has since possessed its own town council which in 2015 achieved the first statutory Neighbourhood Plan in Yorkshire. This included a policy to promote tourism, which led to the production of a free leaflet ‘This is Tickhill’, which can be obtained from Castlegate Stores (on the corner of St.Mary’s Gate) or the library. It is designed to enable the visitor to enjoy a short exploration of the town. An accompanying publicity board has now been erected on the grass verge facing the Buttercross. Local artist Al Heighton was responsible for the design. The design is very modern and depicts many local societies and residents.
The History Board was recently unveiled by Lord and Lady Scarborough. Members of the History society and local residents also attended the unveiling, a much-awaited event. Members of the Town Council and the local Borough Council with Lord and Lady Scarborough shared an afternoon tea at Daisy’s one of the many tea rooms in Tickhill.