The changing face of The Earl of Doncaster

Peglers staff dance at the Earl of Doncaster in 1962.
Peglers staff dance at the Earl of Doncaster in 1962.

In 1816 the ‘Doncaster Arms’ opened on the site of the present Earl of Doncaster, then at a point in the 1800s the Doncaster Arms changed it’s name to the “Turf Hotel” - an obvious reference to its proximity to Doncaster Racecourse, home of the St. Leger which first took place in 1776.

The development of the railway industry in the town saw the decline of coaching as a popular transport and in turn the fortunes of coaching inns including the Turf Hotel. However, with the development of the motor car and the Great North Road - now the A1 - this route again became a major travelling thoroughfare and Doncaster and the Earl resumed their positions of importance.Then in 1908 the ‘Turf Hotel’ was renamed ‘The Earl of Doncaster Arms Hotel’.

Moving rapidly forward in time and in 1933 the hotel was demolished and plans were made to replace it with a new, modern hotel. The owners ,Barnsley Brewery, wanted the new building to reflect modern tastes and design, so it was that the new hotel was built in the popular Art Deco style of that era famous throughout the 1930s, finally being completed in 1938. In fact to this day it remains one of the finest examples of this style in South Yorkshire.

Then came the outbreak of World War II which prevented The Earl from opening fully - during the war and for some some time after, the Ministry of Food used it as a sugar storage factory leaving only two ground floor bars open to the public.

It wasn’t until November 5, 1954 that the Earl finally opened fully, being described in the Doncaster Gazette as “Doncaster’s most up-to-date residential hotel, equipped and tastefully decorated in luxurious west-end style”. It boasted “A magnificent ballroom accommodating 250, 5 bars, an elegant restaurant serving 120, and 30 bedrooms furnished in contemporary style at its best”.

The next thirty years proved to be a period of uncertainty with various owners and even a name change becoming known as the ‘Doncaster Acorn’ in 1969, a name which lasted until 1974 when it was restored to simply ‘The Earl of Doncaster’.

In the mid 1970s the building was renovated to accommodate more guests and to provide greater comfort. - the bars, restaurants and ballroom were all modernised, although the alterations did produce a confusion of styles and, unfortunately for the traditionalists ,much of the Art Deco design disappeared.

Finally, in the early 1990s and once again under new management, an extensive refurbishment was undertaken to restore the Earl to its former glory by returning to the splendid Art Deco design, decoration and features of 1938.

That’s how it has stayed with the venue now established as one of Doncaster’s finest hotels offering some of the finest accommodation and facilities in the area.

Many local firms as well as private individuals have used the grand facilities over the years for their celebrations.

Do you have any pictures of the Earl of Doncaster from days gone by? Information courtesy of The Earl of Doncaster Hotel.