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Little known tale of woman who tried to blow up Doncaster stately home

Wheatley Hall was the target of the Suffragettes.
Wheatley Hall was the target of the Suffragettes.

Today it is a quiet residential street in a leafy part of Doncaster - but more than 100 years ago, a house in Town Moor was the setting for a plot to blow up a local stately home.

The year was 1913 and the target was opulent Wheatley Hall, one of Doncaster's finest stately homes.

The memorial to Kathleen Brown in Newcastle.

The memorial to Kathleen Brown in Newcastle.

And in a house in Osborne Road, Town Moor, a group of women hatched their plot to blow the building to bits.

They were all part of the Suffragette movement and were led by Newcastle-born Kathleen Brown.

In the safe house in Osborne Road, the group came up with a number of ideas and schemes to draw attention to their cause - which was to secure women the right to vote.

Kathleen had already made waves in the suffrage movement before her arrival in Doncaster.

Osborne Road in Town Moor was a hive of Suffragette activity.

Osborne Road in Town Moor was a hive of Suffragette activity.

After throwing stones in Whitehall, Brown was sentenced to to seven days solitary confinement at Holloway Prison, where she went on hunger strike.

On her release, in July 1909, a large group of supporters met her at Newcastle Central Station, bearing banners and carriages decorated in the suffragette colours of white, green and purple.

Following a celebration tea at the Turks Head Hotel, she gave a speech to a large crowd at the Haymarket and later that year there were protests when Chancellor, Lloyd George, visited the city.

Brown was amongst those who threw stones, in what was later referred to as 'The Battle of Newcastle.'

She later moved south to Doncaster where the plot to attack Wheatley Hall - now demolished - was hatched.

The area of course gave rise to Wheatley Hall Road and the area the hall occupied, around the current Parklands Social Club, is now home to car showrooms and factories.

Back then, the hall was in sprawling open countryside - a perfect unguarded target for a Suffragette attack on the country's higher echelons of society.

The seat of Sir William Henry Charles Cooke-Bart, Lord of the Manor and principal landowner of the day, Wheatley Hall was built in 1680 close to the River Don.

The building itself remained the seat of the Cooke family until around 1914 when the latest lord, Sir William Cooke, moved out to be nearer the colliery he owned in neighbouring Bentley - a year after Brown's planned attack.

However, the incident never took place. Brown was suspected of plotting the blast but she failed - and no-one was harmed.

She went back to living in the safe house in Osborne Road, where she and other Suffragettes continued to fight for their cause.

The hall meanwhile was later leased to Wheatley Golf Club, who used the ground floor as a club house and sub-let the upper two storeys as flats.

By 1933, upkeep of the by now deteriorating building had become too much for the golfers, who moved to their current home on Armthorpe Road.

The estate, much of which had been converted into a golf course, was eventually purchased by Doncaster Corporation for housing, whilst the crumbling Jacobean Hall itself, like many other impressive local structures, was demolished in 1938.

The site of the Hall was then converted to industrial use and occupied by International Harvesters then the McCormick International Tractor factory complex and at the same time the estate disappeared beneath the Wheatley Park housing estate.

On March 8 2017, to mark International Women’s Day, a heritage plaque was installed on the former Turks Head Hotel in Newcastle with the wording: "Meeting place where suffragettes celebrated the release of Kathleen Brown from Holloway Prison July 19th 1909 and stopped for refreshments on the march from Edinburgh to London, October 21st 1912.”