Friday, 2 June 2017

Funeral for a Baronet

The coffin is carried into the church

The Funeral of Sir David William 

Perceval Cooke, Bt

On May 13th 2017 the 12th Cooke Baronet of Wheatley, Sir David William Perceval Cooke passed away in his home city of Edinburgh. His death followed a long illness at the age of 82.

His dying wish was that he would be interred in the Cooke family vault at Arksey All Saints Church. On June 1st 2017 that wish was carried out.

Arksey Village, A History was proud to be among the congregation to witness this historic moment. Here is an account of the day.

Sir David W. P. Cooke

David William Perceval Cooke was born on the 28th of April 1935 in Warwickshire. He was the son of the 11th Baronet, Sir Charles Arthur John Cooke and Diana Perceval. David married Margaret Frances Skinner, daughter of Herbert Skinner on the 30th of April 1959. They had three daughters, Sara, Louisa and Catherine (Katie).

Educated at Wellington College, Berkshire and at the Royal Military Academy, Sand Hurst in Berkshire, he was commissioned in 1955 in the service of the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, and transferred to the Royal Army Service Corps in 1958.

He was decorated with the award of Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977 and graduated from the Open University in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.). He gained the rank of Colonel in 1984 and retired from the military in 1990. Since retiring from the military he was registered as an Associate Member of the Institute of Traffic Administration and was also registered as an Associate of the Royal Aeronautical Society (A.R.Ae.S.). He has also been invested as a Fellow of the British Institute of Management (F.B.I.M) and as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Transport (F.C.I.T). 

He became 12th Baronet of Wheatley on the death of his father, Sir Charles in 1978. 

Passionately interested in the charitable work of his forbears, when Sir David learned of the state of the Almshouses in the early 1990's (they were uninhabited and derelict), he immediately took action and with funding from the Cooke Almshouse Charity and Trustees, together with Doncaster Planning, Housing Services and other bodies, the Almshouses were renovated in the late 1990's and are now fully occupied again.

Sir David (left) accepting keys to the refurbished
Almshouses in February 1999

In later years Sir David made his home in Edinburgh and in 2013 became ill with Alzeimer's Disease. He died on May 13th 2017.

Final Wish

With the onset of Sir David's illness in 2013, he made it clear to his family that following his death he wished to be interred in the family vault at Arksey, alongside many of his ancestors and former baronets. 

Katie Cooke contacted a Doncaster funeral director to see if this would be possible, and after making enquiries with Doncaster Council it was decided to open the vault and inspect it. 

The vault had not been opened since the eighth baronet, Sir William Bryan Cooke had been interred there in 1851. So the question was would they find the vault entrance and would it be accessible?

The task to locate and open the vault was carried out on May 16th 2013. Thankfully the entrance was where everyone expected it to be and the vault was opened. 

The vault entrance

There had been some water damage from previous floods but seven coffins, their lead linings only left intact, were rearranged and it was ascertained that there was room for approximately five more. Sir David's final wish was possible.

For the full story and many photos of the vault opening in 2013, click here. 

Seven coffins in the vault

The Funeral

Sir David's long battle with Alzeimer's came to an end on Saturday the 13th of May 2017. 

The following obituary was printed in the Doncaster Free Press on May 25th 2017.

Obituary DFP May 25th 2017

The funeral and interment was arranged for Thursday 1st June at twelve noon, at Arksey Church. The family were keen that as many Arksey people as possible would attend; and so it was on a very warm June morning that we all assembled at the church gate to await the arrival of the coffin. There were quite a few interested locals present and more waited inside the cool of the church. 

Local dignitaries gathered, such as the Civic Mayor of Doncaster, Trustees of the Cooke Almshouse Charity, as well as residents of the Almhouses.

Forty five minutes before the service a quarter peal of half muffled bells rang out and continued until the arrival of the coffin.

Arrival of the coffin

The coffin was carried aloft into the church yard preceded by Rev. Dickinson and the Bishop of Doncaster, The Right Reverend Peter Burrows.

Into the churchyard
The Bishop of Doncaster (left) and Rev. Dickinson of Arksey and Bentley (right).
Photo courtesy of Keith Wilburn
Carrying the coffin. Photo courtesy of Keith Wilburn

Covering the coffin was a Union Flag, on top of which were placed Sir David's military cap and ceremonial sword, plus a wreath of simple white flowers.

Items atop the coffin
Preparing to enter the church

The coffin was carried into the church and placed on trestles in the centre of the crossing at the top of the nave. To the left lay the open vault entrance in the floor of the Cooke chapel.

Service booklets were handed out and everyone took their places.

Service booklet front cover

The service was conducted by Reverend Stephen Dickinson with The Right Reverend Peter Burrows, Bishop of Doncaster, and Reverend Dave Berry of St Peter's church, Bentley in attendance.

Two hymns were sung during the service, 'I Vow To Thee, My Country', and 'Praise, My Soul, The King Of Heaven'.

Hymns from the service booklet

There was a reading from a member of the Cooke family, and the eulogy was read by Sir David's daughter Katie. Both spoke beautifully and with emotion.

Once the Commendation and Farewell had been completed the Committal was carried out. All the loose items from the lid of the coffin were removed and the coffin was moved, with it's trestles to the entrance of the vault. Members of the immediate family gathered around the vault opening.

Straps were attached to the coffin handles and it was prepared for lowering into its final resting place. Men inside the vault received the coffin as it was lowered at an angle down the five steps. 

After the coffin had been placed in the vault, Reverend Dickinson completed the Committal ceremony. The stone slabs covering the entrance were then replaced.

Once the Dismissal had been issued by Rev. Dickinson, he extended the Cooke family's invitation for refreshments at the Plough Inn to the whole congregation. Once again demonstrating the generosity of this family.

Donations were collected in aid of ERSKINE, caring for veterans with dementia.

Back cover of the service booklet

From My Perspective...

As funerals go, this was quite special. Sad yes, but very quiet and respectful. Reverend Dickinson's service was perfect in its simplicity and very comforting.

I was seated to the right of the nave, near to the south aisle, so I had an unobstructed view of the service.

It was just possible for me to see the opening of the vault and I was able to witness the process of lowering the coffin into the vault. 

During the whole process of the Committal you could have heard a pin drop in the church. Not one person moved from where they stood or made a sound. It was as if everyone knew what a historic moment this was for the Cooke family, the church, and the people of Arksey. 

As a historian I am more used to gathering the experiences and memories of others, however, this was one occasion when I could actually see history being made in my beloved village. 

I am very grateful to Katie Cooke, who I managed to introduce myself to afterwards, for allowing me and the people of Arksey to share such a personal family occasion. We have exchanged numerous emails over the past few years and it was so nice to finally meet her.


With no male heirs, it was believed that the baronetcy would expire with Sir David, but on speaking to another of the Cooke sisters, she told me that the baronetcy may not have expired with her father after all. There is the possibility that one of the Yarborough-Cookes could inherit the title. If he is a proven descendant of the third baronet then there is every chance the title of Cooke Baronet could live on.

Alison Vainlo 2017 

Click here for a history of the Cooke family.

Click here for an account of the last Cooke Baronet to be interred in the Cooke vault, Sir William Bryan Cooke.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Local Hamlets Part One - Shaftholme

View south west from Shaftholme Lane

There are many hamlets in the north Doncaster area, mostly made up of farming communities. They usually consist of a few farms and maybe a few houses, but usually there are no public amenities and are often without a bus service. 

Arksey has four satellite hamlets, Shaftholme, Tilts, Almholme and Stockbridge. All these places came under the enumeration district of Bentley-with-Arksey, along with some others which satellite Bentley.

This first part in a series of four articles focuses on Shaftholme. The second part being about Tilts, the third about Almholme, and the final part about Stockbridge.


Shaftholme aerial view

Shaftholme is reached by leaving Arksey via Marsh Lane and Shaftholme Road, past the Willowgarth fishing pond and over the Daw Lane level crossing on Shaftholme Road. 

Photo courtesy of Keith Wilburn

There are just three roads in the hamlet, Shaftholme Lane which starts at the level crossing and runs northwest, ending at the Tilts/Hall Villa Lane junction. Marsh Lane, which runs southwest and ends abruptly after a few hundred yards at the gated entrance to Bentley Community Woodland. Lastly there is Tilts Lane, which begins near the level crossing and stretches north into farm land. There is no access up Tilts Lane now, being barred by a farm gate. 

Modern map of Shaftholme

Early Place-Names

The earliest recorded inhabitants in this marshy area were the Scandinavians in the tenth century. It is where many of these small places get their names from. The 'Holme' element describes an area of flat land prone to flooding, leaving areas of dry land, or islands in their wake.

The word 'Holme' is where we get the name 'Holmstead' from, meaning 'Holme Farm'.

Early History

The name Shaftholme (Schaftholm) means 'plot of dry ground in a water meadow marked by a pole'. Shaftholme does not appear in the Domesday book, but was in existence by the early thirteenth century.

The Poll Tax of 1379 mentions a Johannes Schaftholme and Richardus de Schaftholme. Shaftholme seems to have consisted of only four properties during its early history. Families mentioned in the parish registers between 1572 and 1598 are: 

  • Wilson
  • Adwicke
  • Greenwoode
  • Marshall
  • Barghe

The first survey of Shaftholme was carried out for Hearth Tax purposes in 1672 and four properties were listed in Shaftholme. These included Shaftholme Farm, with four hearths, which was owned by John Read. William Tyrwhitt at Shaftholme House, owned three hearths. Then there were two cottages, Ralph Clay had one of them with one hearth. Widow Butler, in the other cottage also had one hearth, but was listed as 'Poore, CED', meaning she held an exemption certificate, and didn't have to pay the tax.

Arksey, Shaftholme and Tilts, pre-railway in 1772

The Farms

There were still only a few properties in Shaftholme by the time the first census was taken in 1841. 

Shaftholme Farm and Shaftholme House had been joined by Shaftholme Grange; Shaftholme Cottages were still there too. Census records and the Electoral Registers can give insight to who occupied the properties over time, and each property is examined below.

Potato picking in Shaftholme Lane 1940's

Shaftholme House

Shaftholme House (Google Earth image)

The history of Shaftholme House can be traced back to the seventeenth century, when the Tyrwhitts lived in a previous building to the present one from around 1610 to 1740.  

The present Shaftholme House was built around 1848. It is one of three almost identical properties in the area, known as the 'Three Sisters', the others being Brookhouse Farm at Arksey and Low Farm at Almholme. 

Described as an affluent house with servants, there were servants bells in the scullery which connected to most rooms in the house, these bells were still present in the house in the 1960's.

The house was in the occupation of William Smith when the present house was built. He and his wife Elizabeth (nee Grant), daughter of the previous owner George Grant, lived there until around 1878. 

The next occupier was William Asquith, and he held the property until his death in 1906.

William's daughter Emma married William Mawson in 1890. The Mawson's lived in and helped run the farm following the marriage, and when Emma's father died in 1906 William Mawson took over as the tenant farmer. 

William and his wife Emma brought up a family at Shaftholme House, with son Reginald Asquith Mawson (born 1911) eventually joining his father on the farm. 

Reginald bought Shaftholme Grange and twelve acres of land from the Mottishaws following the death of Herbert Mottishaw in 1938. He rented it out to various tenants while continuing to live and work at Shaftholme House.

Following William's death in Scarborough in June 1951 at the age of seventy nine, the running of the farm passed to Reginald and his wife Rene. Although, by this time the farm was owned by the National Coal Board with Reginald as tenant farmer. 

In the late 1960's Reginald exchanged his Shaftholme Grange buildings for some of the NCB land near the level crossing. This was the former site of a cottage belonging to the Mawson's former farm foreman Len Myatt. The cottage was demolished and Reginald had a bungalow built there. 

When Reginald retired in the mid 1970's the farm was handed back to the NCB and he and Rene moved into the bungalow.

The NCB rented the farm out to someone else, but eventually it would pass to a private owner as the NCB sold off property prior to it's demise. 

Shaftholme House is still a working farm and stables to this day.

With thanks to Dave Wright.

Shaftholme Farm

From a Bentley Library publication

The only real survivor from the seventeenth century is Shaftholme Farm; restored and renovated into a comfortable home, extensive research was carried out into the history of this building by the Bentley with Arksey Heritage Society in 1995. The findings were published in a booklet for Bentley Library some years ago. 

The farm is the only property on Marsh Lane, a non-through road which ends at the entrance to the Bentley Community Woodland

The gated end of Marsh Lane with the Bentley Community Woodland beyond

Shaftholme Farm is first recorded in a 'fine' dated 20 January 1679/80, and related to a farm called Shaftholme in the village of Shaftholme near Arksey, which was held by John Read. Other owners since then have included Mary Cartledge from at least 1841, after which her daughter (also Mary Cartledge) took it over after her mother's death in 1859. By 1871 Mary had left and it is not clear from the census records who owned it next, but by 1891 the Lister family had taken up residence and stayed there until 1931 before moving to Manor Farm at Cantley. When research on the building was carried out in 1995 a Mrs Ellen Wood lived there, she and her husband Bernard had rented the property from the National Coal Board in 1955.

The house itself is built of stone with a pitched roof. An external staircase leads to a door into what was an apple store. There were stone built stables on the left, with a brick dove-cote above, and a stone built barn set at right angles to the right side. A later wing was added to the back of the house.

Shaftholme Farm after renovations

The house is entered by a main door which opens into a 'baffle', a kind of lobby against a large chimney stack. Doors open left and right into two rooms, the one to the left being the kitchen area, and the one to the right being the main living area. Dividing the two rooms is an enormous chimney stack with back-to-back fireplaces. A third room lies off the main living area, to the right. This too has a fireplace, and along with another upstairs, forms the four hearths present in 1672. Next to the third room is the old dairy building, under the apple store.

The huge walk-in fireplace, dividing the living and kitchen areas would have originally been open, but has since been panelled over, a large stove occupying the kitchen side. There used to be a window next to the fireplace, providing a view into the next room. This was discovered during alterations. 

There is a bread oven to the side of the kitchen fireplace, it is partly obscured by the new brick fireplace which has been inserted. The bread oven is dome shaped, and brick built. It lies under a stone staircase to the side of the fireplace.

The house had three staircases when the Woods moved in; the stone one beside the fireplace which gave access to all the upper rooms in the west side, a wooden staircase in the wing, and another wooden one in the main living room, which led to the room above. When Mr Wood visited as a boy, this staircase was just a wooden ladder.

Upstairs, original timber framing has survived, some of the walling between the timber uprights consists of reeds with plaster laid over the top. It is possible that the building was originally half-timber framed, and left in-situ behind the later, seventeenth century stone built around it.

Remnants of mullioned windows have been found after modern, Coal Board ones were taken out. According to Mrs Wood, the house was de-listed after the Coal Board put modern windows in.

The farm originally had around 95 acres of land, and supported a large dairy herd, but was squeezed out by the encroaching pit spoil-heaps, until there were only two acres left by the time the Woods bought the property.

The outbuildings have now been rebuilt and converted into separate dwellings, along with a brick barn at the opposite side of the farmyard.

With thanks to Colin Hardisty.

Shaftholme Grange, aka The Drum and Monkey

Location of Shaftholme Grange 1854

Shaftholme Grange was set apart from the rest of the properties in Shaftholme, lying at the top end of Tilts Lane (see map above). 

The property was built before 1841, when the first written record appears in the census of that year; 1841 being the first census to name all occupants of the household. It was described as a large square, red brick building with stables and cowsheds at the back and a well in the front garden.

Occupants of the Grange date can be tracked through census records and electoral registers from 1841 to 1962. The first record shows that George Jenkins, his wife Harriet and their three children were living at the Grange in 1841. 

Map of 1928

There followed a succession of six more families at the Grange between 1861 and 1915 including: 

  • William Crowcroft
  • Richard Jennings
  • Albert Mawson

    It is said that the next recorded family at the Grange went by the name of 'Lovely'. They had a few cows and used to deliver milk to Arksey and Bentley. If this is true then they must have been at the Grange in the years 1916 and 1917 when there is a gap in the electoral registers available. No trace of them can be found in the other records either.

    The Drum and Monkey

    The Grange's alter ego as The Drum and Monkey public house has always been a bit of an enigma, plenty of people have heard of it, but hardly anyone knew anything about it.

    Having obtained a small newspaper cutting (see Scrapbook page) on the place, and having looked at the Register of Electors, I have been able to tie them to my earlier research on Shaftholme, and can now add a little more to the story. 

    Herbert and Mary Alice Gunn occupied the property in 1918, and this is the first time we see written evidence of The Drum and Monkey as a public house, and not just a farm. Whether it was Herbert Gunn who actually converted the property to a hostelry, we'll probably never know, but with railway cottages nearby it made sense to provide the railway workers with somewhere to socialize. 

    The Drum and Monkey as listed in the 1918 electoral register

    The Gunn's had four girls and two boys who all attended Arksey School. They had a milk round and used to deliver by horse and float. By October 1924 they had moved to Sutton near Askern. Following their departure The Drum and Monkey name ceased to be used in the electoral registers. 

    The Mottishaws (or Mottershaws, as appears on the electoral registers) were the next to occupy the property. Whether Mr Mottishaw kept The Drum and Monkey running or reverted the property back to farm use only is still up for debate, but I hope to have an answer on this soon.

    Daniel and Mary Mottishaw were there from late 1924 to 1926,  it was then taken over by his brother Herbert and wife Alice. 

    Herbert continued the milk delivery round started by Herbert Gunn. With milk supplied from neighbouring farms he delivered on his bike. Mr Mottishaw is mentioned in Kelly's Trade Directory for 1927, along with the other farms in Shaftholme (below).

    Kelly's Directory 1927

    The Mottishaws were residing at the premises during the terrible floods of 1932, when the farm was cut off. Herbert Mottishaw had managed to evacuate his children to Arksey, but was forced to put his wife in an old zinc bath and swim her across the railway line, to reach Arksey and the station.

    The floods left the premises in a terrible state and following Herbert's death in 1938, at the age of just 38, Herbert's parents (who lived in Chesterfield) sold the buildings and twelve acres of land to local farmer Reginald Mawson. A mentioned earlier Reginald lived at Shaftholme House and it seems he may have let the Grange out for a few years as it was occupied by Alfred and Hannah Elliott from 1945 to 1949/50. After that the Grange was briefly occupied by William Waite and Frank Saunders but by 1953 they had moved to nearby Shaftholme Farm

    The last mention of Shaftholme Grange in the Electoral Registers was in 1951, after which it fell into dereliction. It was set alight by children on a couple of occasions. 

    The Grange's owner Reginald Mawson, exchanged the buildings for some NCB land near the level crossing and built a new bungalow there.

    Over a number of years the buildings crumbled away, until there was no trace of them left, only a dusty looking patch of ground at the side of the lane (above).

    Cottage Farm

    Cottage Farm (Google Earth image)

    Cottage Farm is sandwiched between a bungalow and Shaftholme House on Shaftholme Road.

    The farm seems to have started life as two cottages, called Shaftholme Cottages, which were mentioned in the Hearth Tax of 1672. Ralph Clay lived in one, while Sara Butler (widow) lived in the other.

    At some point the two cottages became amalgamated into one farm and is probably where the name Cottage Farm came from. 

    Aerial view of Cottage Farm and one of the original cottages. Courtesy of Lewis Marshall

    The next set of records start in 1841 with the census and electoral registers. The Addeman family were dominant throughout the nineteenth century, with firstly Richard Addeman from 1841 to the 1860's, then Thomas Addeman (possibly Richard's son) until 1885.

    The records are unclear for the next few decades until 1934 when Thomas Fletcher is named at the farm. He was there until 1948 and the following year he had been succeeded by George Fletcher, possibly his son. George stayed on until at least the mid 1950's.

    The last named occupier in the available records is Leonard Myatt in 1959 to 1962, he was the farm foreman for the Mawson's at Shaftholme House, the next property along. As with Shaftholme House, the property appears to have been owned by the NCB at this time as Reginald Mawson was able to exchange some of his property for some of the NCB land here, land on which stood Leonard Myatt's cottage. This cottage was pulled down to make way for a bungalow, which is just visible to the right of the house in the photo below.

    Today Cottage Farm has a new house and is run as a cattery and stables.

    Cottage Farm cattery and stables
    Most of the farmland in Shaftholme which was owned by the NCB was sold to the Everatt family, who farmed it for many years. It was then bought by Marshall Farming Ltd, with a small portion being sold to the Booth family.


    The Railway and Workers Cottages

    Shaftholme Junction 1961

    When the North Eastern Railway arrived in 1848 the first section of track opened between Knottingley near Askern, and Shaftholme. Passing the very edge of Shaftholme, trains terminated at the recently opened Stockbridge Station (later Arksey Station), where passengers would disembark and continue their journey to Doncaster via horse bus until the line and town station was completed. 

    By 1850, the Great Northern Railway, which joined the NER, had completed the line between King's Cross and Shaftholme.

    In 1871 the NER opened a direct route between Shaftholme and Selby, joining the GNER line at a junction just north of Shaftholme, thus creating the East Coast Mainline, London to Edinburgh railway. The old NER line became a freight line, mainly transporting coal. 

    Shaftholme Junction signal box 1961

    The effect of the railway on this tiny, peaceful hamlet must have been troubling at the very least, but it was here to stay and the farming community had to live their lives around it.

    One consequence of the railway's arrival was the need for a level crossing at Shaftholme Road. The main road between Arksey and Shaftholme was cut in half by the railway line. Prior to the railway being built the road layout in Shaftholme was slightly different. Looking at the 1850 map below, the original road from Arksey to Shaftholme is highlighted in red. To create a crossing point nearer to Shaftholme itself, the road was extended up alongside the railway and made a sharp left turn over the line and into the hamlet (highlighted in blue).

    Road changes for the railway, 1850. The old route (red),
    and the new route (blue).

    As level crossings had to be manned by a gatekeeper, this meant a new property would be built to house the gatekeeper and his family.

    The new gatehouse first appears on the 1851 census and was occupied by Robert Benson, his wife Jane and their three children. The location of the gatehouse was between the railway line and the old road into Shaftholme, as shown on this map of 1930 (below).

    Shaftholme Gatehouse (circled in red) 1930

    The gatehouse had a high turnover of tenants, with a different family listed there on just about every census well into the twentieth century. Some of the families listed went by the names of:

    • White
    • Smith
    • Boyer
    • Trout
    • Longhorn
    • Gascoigne
    • Probin

    Around 1939 George Bullock became the gatekeeper. He and his wife Pauline remained there right up until available online records end in 1962. 

    The level crossing became automated in the 1960's ending the role of the gatekeeper. The gatehouse went out of use, and was pulled down. No trace of it exists today.

    Shaftholme level crossing, Marsh 2017, courtesy of Keith Wilburn 

    Railway Cottages

    Rare photo taken at Shaftholme railway cottages, courtesy of Lorraine Smith

    Once the new GNER line was established, railway workers were needed to maintain the line and operate signals etc. With Shaftholme Junction not far up the line it was necessary to house some railway staff nearby. 

    The GNER built four railway cottages at Shaftholme. Three of the cottages were built beside the railway line on Tilts Lane just after the pond, and one more was situated on the opposite side of the line, on a lane called The Balk. Although all the maps only show the cottages on Tilts Lane, I am reliably informed there was the other cottage opposite.  

    Location of the railway cottages (Shaftholme Cottages) in 1930

    The cottages were probably built in the 1870's as the first railway residents to be counted in the census appear in 1881. These first residents were:

    • Walter Suter - railway signalman
    • George Farrell - railway labourer
    • Charles Tuffnail - railway signalman
    • William Wright - railway signalman

    As with the gatehouse, there was a high turnover of workers living in the cottages up to about 1918 when a few names start to repeat in successive electoral registers. Some families though settled there for much longer.

    Henry Smith had been a railway signalman at Shaftholme since the 1880's. He and his wife Sarah lived at number two Railway Cottages with their sons.  When Henry died in 1907 at the age of fifty three, Sarah stayed on at the cottage with her sons who were also railway workers. She lived there until her death in 1938 at the age of seventy six.

    Henry James Moss and his wife Rebecca were other long standing residents at the cottages. They lived at number three, and although nothing else is known about them, they were there from at least 1918 to 1953.

    Unfortunately the electoral registers for the years between 1953 and 1959 are missing from the archive at Ancestry, but by 1959 William and Alice Ridge had moved into number two, where the Smith's had previously lived. The photo at the top of this section and the one below were taken outside this property; copies were kindly passed on to me by their Granddaughter Lorraine Smith.

    Shaftholme Railway Cottages 1960's, courtesy of Lorraine Smith
    Probably not long after the above photo was taken the railway cottages were pulled down. They were almost certainly demolished by the mid 1960's and nothing remains on the site today.

    Tilts Lane, site of the railway cottages (right), Marsh 2017, courtesy of Keith Wilburn

    Bentley Community Woodland

    Bentley Community Woodland with Shaftolme top right, Arksey bottom right. Google Earth.

    Shaftholme lies on the north eastern edge of the Bentley Community Woodland, an area of land once the home of Bentley Colliery, now restored to become an open space for the community.

    In Shaftholme, the entrance to the woodland is from Marsh Lane. Originally, Marsh Lane ran all the way to Arksey, a continuation of the  Arksey Marsh Lane that still exists today. The uninterrupted Marsh Lane can be seen on this 1895 map (below). 

    Arksey to Shaftholme Marsh Lane in 1895 

    Marsh lane must have been a proper road at the time as there was a level crossing at the Arksey end with a gatehouse. 

    Marsh Lane gatehouse (ringed) in 1950 

    Marsh Lane ceased to be a continuous road in the early twentieth century when Bentley colliery claimed the land for the pit railway and spoil heaps, as can be seen in this 1950 map (below). Since the road became disused the level crossing was changed to a foot crossing and the gatehouse pulled down.

    Marsh Lane disconnected by Bentley Colliery in 1950

    Bentley Colliery ceased operating in 1993 and was subsequently demolished during the following two years. The land lay derelict for eight years until Yorkshire Forward and the Homes and Communities Agency decided to restore the land to a community woodland area, just as they were doing on other former pit sites in South Yorkshire.

    Information board. Photo courtesy of Keith Wilburn

    The area was planted in 2003 and became one of the South Yorkshire Community Woodlands. The Land Restoration Trust took over the ownership of the sites, while the Forestry Commission managed them on their behalf.

    The project involved taking the black ex-colliery spoil heaps, landscaping and planting them. The maturing woodlands which sprang up became a haven for flora and fauna.

    The Forestry Commission has since ceased managing these sites, handing over to the TCV (The Conservation Volunteers) in October 2016. 

    The area today provides a pleasant place to walk or horse ride, with a series of pathways to follow. Ironically, the Marsh Lane route between Arksey and Shaftholme has been reinstated as a footpath, so the old route, interrupted for about a century now exists once again.  

    Bentley Community Woodland 2017. Photo courtesy of Keith Wilburn

    Click here for part two of the Local Hamlets series, Tilts.

    Alison Vainlo 2017, revised from an article of 2013.

    Local Hamlets Part Two - Tilts

    View of Tilts from Tilt's Lane

    There are many hamlets in the north Doncaster area, mostly made up of farming communities. They usually consist of a few farms and maybe a few houses, but usually there are no public amenities and are often without a bus service. 

    Arksey has four satellite hamlets, Shaftholme, Tilts, Almholme and Stockbridge. All these places came under the enumeration district of Bentley-with-Arksey, along with some others which satellite Bentley.

    This second part in a series of four articles focuses on Tilts. The first part being about Shaftholme, the third about Almholme, and the final part about Stockbridge.


    Tilts aerial view, Google Earth

    North west of Shaftholme is Tilts, which is actually a hamlet of two parts, Tilts and Tilts Hills, both occupying about 400 acres.

    Tilts is reached via Shaftholme Lane from Arksey, through the hamlet of Shaftholme, over the old railway bridge and by taking a right turn at the crossroads. A left turn at the crossroads takes you down Hall Villa Lane to Toll Bar.

    Going straight on at the crossroads takes you to Tilts Hills, along Tiltshills Lane towards a junction with the A19 Doncaster to Selby road. 

    Tilts itself has only one road through it. Tilts Lane starts at the bridge over Tilts drain north east of the cross roads on Hall Villa Lane. Tilts Lane winds around to the east until it narrows to a footpath. Off Tilts Lane to the north is Wheat Holme Lane, which crosses a railway line and heads off into Owston Wood; this lane forms part of the Trans Pennine Trail. 

    A modern map of the Tilts area

    Early History

    Tilts along with many other small north eastern settlements do not appear in the Domesday survey of 1089. The area was waterlogged and too marshy for habitation. Places such as Fenwick, Sykehouse and Thorpe in Balne don't appear in records until the following century. 

    Following the Norman Conquest an area known as 'Langthwaite with Tilts' was made part of the manor of Doncaster despite its close proximity to the manor of Bentley with Arksey. It was held by Nigel Fossard who built a motte and bailey castle at Langthwaite (see, 'Scawthorpe - It's Older Than You Think') in the eleventh century. This seems to be the first reference to the Tilts place name, which comes from the Old French 'de Til'.

    Other written records for Tilts begin in 1279, and over the following five hundred years the name went through many spelling variations as listed below:

    • 1279 - Thils 
    • 1332 - Tils / Tyls (also occurs in the years 1379, 1434 and 1502)
    • 1364 - Parva Tils
    • 1398 - (Parva) Tilles
    • 1471 - (Lyttyl) Tillis
    • 1565 - Tylthall / Great Tylse
    • 1573 - Tilts / Tylts
    • 1587 - Tilse / Tysle 
    • 1600 - Magna Tils
    • 1610 - Little Tilse
    • 1764 - Great Tilts

    The records seem to contain names for both parts of this split settlement, with the prefixes Parva (little) and Magna (great) being used to determine the two parts of the hamlet. 

    It's not clear which part was which, but it may be the case that 'Little Tilts' was where today's Tilts Hills lies in the west, and 'Great Tilts' was perhaps in the east where Tilts is today, as it was probably where the greater concentration of farmsteads were. 

    Early Inhabitants

    Despite Langthwaite with Tilts paying their tithes to the church of Doncaster, the local population were attending Arksey church for matters such as baptisms, marriages and burials, and maybe even regular services. This was probably because it was much nearer geographically than journeying all the way to Doncaster. 

    Arksey parish registers have records of inhabitants of both Magna Tilts and Parva Tilts occurring as far back as the 1590's. Family names occurring from the late 1500's to the mid 1600's include:

    • Earle - Magna tilts
    • Fernes - Parva Tilts
    • Castle - Tilts
    • Broughton - Parva Tilts
    • Childe - Magna Tilts
    • Carter - Parva Tilts
    • Shore - Parva Tilts
    • Nutt - Magna Tilts

    Details of the properties these families occupied are not available, but it is possible to surmise that some cottages and smallholdings were originally part of a medieval moated manor lying in the greater (or Magna) Tilts area. 

    Tilts Moat

    Tilts Moat Farm, Google Earth image

    By far the most interesting historical feature in Tilts is the moated farm. Known today as Tilts Moat Farm. 

    As with other moated sites in the north Doncaster area, such as Radcliffe Moat near Scawthorpe, Moat Hills at Bentley and Roundabout Moat at Arksey, it is thought to be the remains of a medieval manor dating between 1250 and 1350AD. 

    Medieval moated sites usually consist of a wide water-filled ditch partially or completely enclosing one or more islands of dry ground. The islands would house domestic or religious buildings, and sometimes livestock.

    Tilts Moat from a map of 1854

    Tilts Moat is a substantial double island moat, and while it was traditionally thought to be a monastic site, this cannot be substantiated. It was more likely to be a manor house, controlling the manor of Tilts. The size of it suggests it was a manor of some importance.

    The two rectangular islands are divided and surrounded by a water-filled moat. The north island is the largest at about 100m x 50m, it is joined to the south island by a narrow causeway across the central ditch. The south island is roughly 75m x 40m and contains a house which appears to be seventeenth century in origin. The remains of an earlier manor house are believed to lie under the present house. Large stone blocks believed to have been the foundations of an ancillary building were found on the north island in the 1980's. Another discovery was a section of paved road entering the site from the north, this can be seen on the map of 1854 above. 

    This map of 1952 better illustrates the original layout of the site

    The moat has been partially filled in, while another part has been recut, so little remains of the original course. Modern structures now cover some of the old moat. 

    Today the site is a scheduled monument, however, it continues to be occupied and run as a farm.


    Tilts West Farm

    Tilts West Farm

    Lying just to the north of Tilts Moat Farm is Tilts West Farm. There are few details about the history of this property, but today it continues to be a working farm although the old farmhouse has been abandoned.  

      Tilt's West Farm with the old farmhouse of grey render. © Copyright Jonathan Thacker and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

    The site of Tilts West Farm has probably been occupied for many centuries. The present modern farmhouse stands to the south of the farm itself, but the old farmhouse, dated 1740 still stands derelict among the other farm buildings.

    Date stone on the old farmhouse, courtesy of Keith Wilburn

    The old farmhouse carries a date stone displaying the initials S I W and the date 1740. The initials probably refer the owners at the time, and as there was a family named 'Walker' living in Tilts in the mid 1700's, it may be them that the stone refers to.

    The abandoned farmhouse at Tilts West Farm, courtesy of Keith Wilburn
    Interior of the old farmhouse, courtesy of Keith Wilburn

    Industry in Tilts

    Industry didn't escape this mainly arable farming community, for in the mid nineteenth century there existed a brick kiln. It is now a farm with a sizable pond, which would have formed when the clay was extracted for the brick making. 

    Location of Tilts Hills Brick Kiln on a map of 1854

    The brick kiln was located in the west part of Tilts, known as Tilts Hills today and possibly Parva Tilts in the past. On the above map, the road running right to left is Tiltshills Lane, with Tilts and Shaftholme off to the right. The road running roughly north to south is today's A19.

    Tiltshills Farm today, note the large pond on the right which was once a clay pit. 

    Just like its contemporaries at Arksey (Tuffield Brick Yard) and at Bentley Moor Lane, brick making was an important industry. Established in the mid nineteenth century thousands of bricks were produced at the yards to be used in drainage, railroad and colliery construction.

    A Victorian brick yard

    Tilts Hills Brick Kiln is mentioned over three census records, first in 1841 when John Threadgold was recorded as a brick maker. In the 1851 census it was Abraham White who was listed as the brick maker at the property. By 1861 the brick yard is still listed, but it had probably been converted to a farm, as William Yates, who lived there, was described as a farmer. Once the clay had been extracted from a site it was usually closed down; Tilts Hills yard became a farm while Bentley Moor Lane brick kiln became a fishing pond, and Tuffield yard at Arksey became the Willow Garth fishing pond. 


    Most of the census records for Tilts are quite straightforward, usually consisting of two or three farm premises and a cottage or two, however, the 1871 census turned out to be far more interesting.

    Section taken from the 1871 census at Tilts

    A number of people, some related, some not, were listed together in 'open fields' in 'Tilts Hills' (see above). 

    Their occupations, such as 'chair mender', 'broom maker', 'rat catcher' and 'grinder' are typical of travelling tinkers or gypsies. 

    There appear to have been three 'units' of gypsies resident in Tilts Hills in 1871, these are listed below:

    Name>Age>Occupation>Relationship>Place of birth

    1. Henry Smith / 27 / chair mender / Sheffield
        Jane Smith / 35 / wife / 

    2. Moses Fielding / 42 / broom maker / Ferry, Lincolnshire
        Maria Smith / 34 / Northamptonshire
        Addam Fielding / 21 / son / Laughton, Yorkshire
        Cehayn Fielding / 16 / son / Garthorpe, Lincolnshire
        Adeline Fielding / 14 / daur / Tuxford, Nottinghamshire
        Riley Fielding / 12 / son / Wellow, Nottinghamshire
        William Fielding / 5 / son / Seaton, Yorkshire
        Elias Fielding / 2 / son / Garthorpe, Lincolnshire

    3. Bob Hardy / 52 / rat catcher / Anston, Nottinghamshire
        George Sheriff / 38 / grinder / Macclesfield, Cheshire
        Addelaide Boswell / 38 / Langwith, Derbyshire

    It is obvious from the records of the Fielding family that they moved around a considerable amount, with each child born in a different town or village. Moses and Maria don't appear to have married as she has the name 'Smith' and the census does not record her as being the wife of Moses.

    The third unit of people don't have their relationship to each other listed, so it is hard to determine if they travelled and camped as a group, or individually.

    A typical Gypsy camp

    These travellers only appear on the 1871 census and it proved impossible to track all these people through earlier or subsequent census returns. As we cannot rely on the accuracy of the information given to the enumerator in 1871, follow up searches threw up too many vague results. How long these people stayed in Tilts Hills is impossible to tell, but fortunately for us, they were there when that particular census was taken, or we might never have known about them at all. 



    As with many other farms in the nineteenth century, the farms in Tilts would have been occupied by tenant farmers, working for the land owner. The chief landowners were Philip Bryan Davis-Cooke (of Owston) who was lord of the manor, and Sir William Ridley Charles Cooke (of Wheatley Hall).

    Mainly arable farming was carried out in the area, and the chief crops in the 1870's were wheat and beans.

    Example of ploughing fields

    With only tenants rather than owners running the farms there was a high turn over of occupation during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Almost every census, taken every ten years, records a different family in residence at the farms. A list of tenant farmers in the Tilts area over time can be found at the end of this article.

    In the early twentieth century, the Cooke's began selling land off to the likes of the National Coal Board and the Great Northern Railway. The NCB owned some farm property in nearby Shaftholme so it may be the case that they owned some in Tilts too; either that or the farms were privately bought. 

    Today, G Booth and Sons own Tilts West Farm, while Tilts Moat Farm and Tilts Hills Farm are probably also privately owned; and while the number of properties in Tilts has never increased, the businesses which operate there do seem to have expanded over time.

    Census Information

    The following lists are taken from the census returns 1841 to 1911. which may be of interest to those researching family history etc. Only basic information has been included here, please contact me for further information.  

    Name>Age>Occupation>Property (children are not included in this list).

    1841 Census

    William Yates / 37 / Agricultural labourer / 
    Jane Yates / 29 / 

    John Threadgold / 30 / Brick maker /
    Jane Threadgold / 25 /

    Benjamin Rowley / 25 / Agricultural labourer /
    Mary Rowley / 25 /

    1851 Census

    William Yates / 47 / Agricultural labourer
    Jane Yates / 38

    Abraham White / 50 / Brick maker /
    Charlotte White / 37 /

    1861 Census

    Thomas Topham / 49 / Farmer of 330 acres /
    Mary Ann Topham / 39 / 

    George Crowcroft / 24 / Agricultural labourer /
    Sarah Crowcroft / 22 /

    William Foster / 54 / Agricultural labourer /
    Maria Foster / 34 / 

    George Dunstan / 55 / Agricultural labourer / Shephouse
    Elizabeth Dunstan / 54 /

    William Yates / 57 / Farmer / Brick Yards

    1871 Census

    Edward Wilson / 33 / Farmer of 43 acres / 
    Mary Wilson / 24 /

    See also Gypsies above.

    1881 Census

    William Birkenshaw / 63 / Railway labourer /
    Elizabeth Birkenshaw / 64 /

    William Telford / 36 / Farmer of 162 acres / Tilts

    Thomas Beevers / 41 / Farmer of 120 acres /
    Eliza Beevers / 38 / 

    1891 Census

    John Wilson / 47 / Farmer / Tilts Hills
    Mary Wilson / 49 /

    Sarah Jane Mawson / 42 / Farmer /

    1901 Census

    Charles Schofield / 25 / Agricultural labourer /
    Jane Schofield / 25 /

    Henry Winn / 62 / Farm foreman /
    Emma Winn / 60 /

    Wormald Lawson / 40 / Potato and fodder merchant /
    Alice Lawson / 36 /

    Robert Jenkins / 74 / Farm labourer /
    Eliza Jenkins / 76 /

    Charles Briggs / 68 / Farm labourer / 

    Henry Hewitt / 58 / Farmer
    Catherine Hewitt / 51 / 

    Thomas H Bywater / 39 / Roadman / Tilts Cottage
    Ada A Bywater / 33 /

    1911 Census

    Sarah Goodworth / 61 / Farmer / Tilts Hill Farm

    Sarah Jane Mawson / 62 / Farmer

    Thomas Owen / 38 / Labourer / Tilts Cottage
    Kate Owen / 40 /

    Charles Schofield / 35 / Farmer /
    Jane Schofield / 35 / 

    Click here for part three of the Local Hamlets series, Almholme. 

    Alison Vainlo 2017