My View, Mel Hewitt: The house a rebellion could not stop

Mansion House after the renovation work
Mansion House after the renovation work

It’s 1745 and Bonnie Prince Charlie – the man who according to the Skye Boat Song was born to be king, but never quite made it – has already sailed past Doncaster with his army and reached Derby.

The threat to George II and the Hanoverian dynasty now seems very real and the Duke of Cumberland is sent north to counter the Jacobite advance south.

‘Butcher Billy’ as the Duke will soon be known after the Battle of Culloden the following year, pauses in his pursuit of The Young Pretender in fields just outside Doncaster – the site, in fact, of the Cumberland pub on Thorne Road.

The Bonnie Prince causes such a panic that work on Doncaster’s most prestigious new building is halted. Happily, work soon continues and the Mansion House is completed in 1748.

Our Mansion House is one of only three remaining in the country. An external restoration has just been completed, hopefully one of our most precious landmarks will continue to be appreciated and enjoyed for generations.

I also hope more people will take the chance to visit and use this Georgian gem. Open days and afternoon teas are just a couple of ways you can enjoy the magnificence of the building.

I was lucky enough many years ago to have my office based there and it was a real tonic to work in such a beautifully crafted environment – although when I was heavily pregnant the seemingly endless flights of stairs to the top floor were a bit daunting.

The Great Kitchen and interior courtyard are, for me, two of the most charming parts of the house – grandeur in miniature. Whilst the thought that Franz Liszt played piano in the ballroom on his tour of the UK in 1840s only added to the romance of the place for me.

Chippendale furniture and some fine paintings complete the picture of this jewel in our High Street’s crown. But, as we often do, we rush about eyes fixed straight ahead and tunnel vision in place and we may not actually ‘see’ what’s around us.

So the next time you’re walking past the fine work of the architect Mr James Paine – whose work also included Nostell Priory and Hickleton Hall – try to remember to look up. It really is worth it.

Last but not least, just before Christmas I highlighted the work and talent of three people – Max Bowker, Dan Morris and Geoff Hewitt – who were raising money with an original song, ‘Yule Love This Christmas’, for The Doncaster Food Bank.

Singers Max and Dan, supported by Geoff who wrote the song, performed at venues across the town bringing an awful lot of Christmas cheer to many people, who in return donated money.

Last week a cheque for more than £1,400 was handed over to the project – well done guys!