The early 20th century “A1” was carried over the Don by a low iron bridge alongside an imposing four storey corn mill. The crossing point moved 2 miles south-west in 1961 with the construction of the Doncaster by-pass, one of the earliest stretches of motorway in the country. If you don’t spot the sign it is easy to miss the river as you soar 20m above a quite deep and narrow valley cut by the Don through the Cadeby limestone.
The modern bridge carrying the A1 – soon after a tragic accident in 2016 when a car plunged into the river below
About the River Don
The Yorkshire Don is not to be confused with its more photogenic namesake near Aberdeen. That said, de-industrialisation and concerted efforts by environmental groups have started to recover the reputation of the Don as a river for fish. An Atlantic salmon was first spotted in Doncaster in 1995 and with upstream ladders installed they are now becoming more firmly established.
The River Don rises in the Pennines at about 460m. It flows through Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster before joining the Ouse at Goole. Its path through the cities and across the low-lying land east of Doncaster have been much manipulated over time. During the Roman period it flowed from Doncaster to join the Trent but was diverted northwards and canalised by Cornelius Vermuyden and subsequent water engineers. The River Don Navigation was an initiative to make the river navigable for larger vessels up to Sheffield.
The middle section of the river through Sheffield and Rotherham contains many weirs, which were built to supply mills, foundries and factories with water power. Famous factories alongside the river have included the Bassett Confectionery company, Naylor Vickers, and Walter Spencer’s Crescent Steel Works.
The Crescent steel works in Sheffield, 1957
Of its many bridges perhaps the one most worthy of note is that in the centre of Rotherham. The bridge was constructed in 1483. It includes a chantry chapel said to be the best preserved in England.
Nathaniel Whittock in ‘A New and Complete History of the County of York’, 1829
More Information about the River Don
Detail on St Mary’s Bridge area by local historian
Shortly before the Doncaster bypass there was an upgrade of St Mary’s bridge. This is captured in an amateur video available at the British Film Institute.