According to the 2001 UK census, Darton has a population of approximately 14,927, and since 2005 has been part of the Barnsley Central borough constituency.
Darton lies on the River Dearne, directly to the east of Kexbrough, and 5 miles north of Barnsley. The name Darton is believed to be an amalgamation of “Dearne” and the Anglo-Saxon word “ton” meaning town. Hence, in ancient times it was known as the town on the Dearne. However, Darton appears in the Doomsday Book as Dentune which could mean that the name originates from a description given to a deer enclosure or something similar. Its sister townships of Barugh and Kexbrough are also in the Doomsday Book as Berg and Chizeburg. Berg means hill in German, but the ‘brough’ in Kexbrough is of Viking origin meaning a fort. The area has a real mixed ancestry.
This patchwork continued through its history. The De Laci family were the Chief Lords of the Honour of Pontefract, who received the wapentake from the Conqueror. In the early days there was a dispute between the De Lacis and a Peter De Birthwaite as to who possessed it, but it eventually passed from the De Lacis to the Earls of Lancaster and then to the crown.
In 1484 Richard III gave the living of Darton parish to Monk Bretton Priory. However, when he was defeated by Henry Tudor all his acts were revoked, and Darton became crown property again for a short time. It was returned to Monk Bretton Priory ownership in 1486 but, after the dissolution of the Priory, it went back to the crown again.
George Carr of the Marsh family had it at the end of the 16th century, but after the Civil War it was in the hands of the Wentworth family of Woolley. At the end of the 18th century the patronage passed to the Beaumont family of Bretton Hall. George Beaumont was a merchant who left considerable sums of money, to be employed in several charitable acts. £500 in particular went to the founding of a Free Grammar School.
The finest churches on the edge of the Pennines are in south-west Yorkshire. During the latter part of the 15th Century new towers were built in Silkstone, Penistone and Royston. The one on All Saints Church at Darton has the same masonry marks. The church we see today is the result of alterations made between 1480 and 1520. Bearing witness to this is an inscription in the chancel on a wallplate telling that the east end was completed in 1517 by a Thomas Tykyll, the prior of Monk Bretton and patron of the church.
All Saints is believed to have been originally built around 1150, although the parish registers detailing births, deaths and marriages date from 1539. But they are the oldest registers in the district. All Saints’ is one of the most complete and unaltered Late Perpendicular churches in South Yorkshire.
In the church is a marble monument to the memory of John Silvester, of Birthwaite Hall, which he purchased off the Burdett family. He was originally a blacksmith, and was the inventor of a curious chain made to go across the Thames. He died in 1722. Around the same time nailmakers were to be found in Mapplewell and Staincross, two of the hamlets of Darton parish, and coal-mining employed 115 miners at the start of the 19th Century.
A variety of small crafts and family businesses, such as basket weaving, glass making, pottery manufacture and tanning, wood working and shoemaking were scattered across the wapenatke, but farming remained the the main occupation, taking about 36% of the workforce. Nowadays, with the decline of the collieries, people increasingly work in the service industries.
Darton Hall Senior School was opened in the village of Darton in 1935, providing senior education for 560 pupils of both sexes. In 1957, buildings were opened at the Kexborough site, which then became the boys’ campus, with girls remaining at Darton. Currently the school caters for over 1,000 pupils. In the 1970s, preparations for the changes to comprehensive education in the area, combined with the raising of the school leaving age led to considerable developments at the Kexborough campus. Further changes came in 1990 when the sixth form provision was moved to Barnsley College. All pupils remaining at the school were moved to the Kexborough site, with the school once again maintaining a single campus.
Since 2005 Darton High School has become a specialist Humanities College, but also continues to provide a full curriculum in accordance with the National Curriculum for all pupils.
Due to the sporadic nature of developments at the school, a variety of buildings were in evidence. However, plans were put forward for a complete rebuild of the school as part of the government’s Building Schools for the Future programme. After years of consultation and planning, the £28 million Darton Super School is now under construction. The new school building will be built at the far side of the existing site and open in February 2011. Additionally, in September 2011, Darton will become an 11-19 school, with the Sixth Form being reinstated again, and including new learning, sports & community facilities.
Darton still has its own railway station which links train journeys between Sheffield and Leeds. It is especially included in the “West Yorkshire Metro” because the West-South Yorkshire boundary historically ran between the village and its main source of employment Woolley Colliery.
In 2007 the floods hit Darton hard. On 15 June, after 48 hours of torrential rain, the River Dearne burst its banks leading to heavy flooding in the village. The main road through the village was completely impassable and damage was caused to many homes and businesses, notably the village Post Office, which did not re-open until June 2008. The Darton Carnival and a local music festival were also delayed by a month. The village of Darton was submerged and farmers reported that many of their fields were waterlogged.
Darton was affected by the floods in January 2008 too. Again the main road through the village was impassible, homes close to the river were damaged, including the Post Office which was supposed to have opened after being refurbished. Schools were closed and pupils, including GCSE examinees, were sent home. However, this time round businesses had learned the lesson and were better prepared. Doors and windows were secured with plastic wrapping and sand bags and there was not as much damage as in the previous year. While Darton has many well-established families which provide a sense of continuity, the village’s proximity to the M1 motorway, and the cities of Leeds and Sheffield, has meant that many younger people have found this an attractive and convenient place to live.
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