Iron Age and Roman settlements dot the area covered by the district, including a small Roman fort to the south-west in the upper flood meadow of the Don. Rotherham was founded in the very early Middle Ages. Its name is from Old English hām 'homestead, estate', meaning 'homestead on the Rother'. The river name was carried into Old English from Brittonic branch of Celtic words: ro- 'over, chief' and duβr 'water', thus 'main river'; a similar size namesake is in East Sussex, see Rother. It established itself as a Saxon market town, on a Roman road near a forded part of the River Don.
By the late Saxon period, Rotherham was at the centre of a large parish on the Don's banks.
Following the Norman Conquest an absentee lord held the most inhabited manor, Nigel Fossard (however today's city proper takes in eight outyling Domesday estates). The Domesday 'Book' or Survey records this lord of the manor with a Norman name took the place of the Saxon lord Hakon holding 20 years before in 1066 and was tenant of an overlord of hundreds of such manors, Robert de Mortain, the Conqueror's half-brother. The central assets at the time were medium in rank among manors: eight adult male householders were counted as villagers, three were smallholders and one the priest, three ploughlands were tilled by one lord's plough team and two and a half men's plough teams were active. The manor's other resources were a church, four loosely called 'acres' of meadow, and seven of woodland. Rotherham had a mill valued at an ordinary half of one pound sterling.
His successors, the De Vesci family, rarely visited the town and did not build a castle but maintained a Friday market and a fair. In the mid 13th century, John de Vesci and Ralph de Tili gave all their possessions in Rotherham to Rufford Abbey, a period of growing wealth in the church. The monks collected tithes from the town and gained rights to an extra market day on Monday and to extend the annual fair from two to three days.
The townsmen of Rotherham formed the "Greaves of Our Lady's Light", an organisation which worked with the town's three guilds. It was suppressed in 1547 but revived in 1584 as the feoffees of the common lands of Rotherham, and remains in existence.
In the 1480s the Rotherham-born Archbishop of York, Thomas Rotherham, instigated the building of a College of Jesus or Jesus College, Rotherham to rival the colleges of Cambridge and Oxford. It was the first brick building in what is now South Yorkshire and taught theology, religious chant and hymns, grammar and writing.
The College and new parish church of All Saints made Rotherham an enviable and modern town at the turn of the 16th century. The college was dissolved in 1547 in the reign of Edward VI, its assets stripped for the crown to grant to its supporters. Very little remains of the original building in College Street. Walls of part of the College of Jesus are encased within number 23 and Nos 2, 2A, 4 (later for a time Old College Inn, a beerhouse), 6 and 8 Effingham Street. Its fragments of walls are the earliest surviving brick structure in South Yorkshire and are remains of the key institution to Rotherham's growth into a town of regional significance. Sixty years after the College's dissolution Rotherham was described by a wealthy visitor as falling from a fashionable college town to having admitted gambling and vice. The history of Thomas Rotherham and education in the town are remembered in the name of Thomas Rotherham College.
The region had been exploited for iron since Roman times, but it was coal that first brought the Industrial Revolution to Rotherham. Exploitation of the coal seams was the driving force behind the improvements to navigation on the River Don, which eventually formed the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation system of navigable inland waterways.
In the early Industrial Revolution major uses of iron demanded good local ore and established processing skills for iron strength, qualities found in Rotherham's smelting plants and foundries. Iron, and later steel, became the principal industry in Rotherham, surviving into the 20th century. The Walker family built an iron and steel empire in the 18th century, their foundries producing high quality cannon, including some for the ship of the line HMS Victory, and cast iron bridges, one of which was commissioned by Thomas Paine.
Rotherham's cast iron industry expanded rapidly in the early 19th century, the Effingham Ironworks, later Yates, Haywood & Co, opened in 1820. Other major iron founders included William Corbitt and Co; George Wright and Co of Burton Weir; Owen and Co of Wheathill Foundry; Morgan Macauley and Waide of the Baths Foundry; the Masbro’ Stove Grate Co belonging to Messrs. Perrot, W. H. Micklethwait and John and Richard Corker of the Ferham Works.
The Parkgate Ironworks was established in 1823 by Sanderson and Watson, and changed ownership several times. In 1854, Samuel Beal & Co produced wrought iron plates for Isambard Kingdom Brunel's famous steamship the SS Great Eastern. In 1864, the ironworks was taken over by the Parkgate Iron Co. Ltd, becoming the Park Gate Iron and Steel Company in 1888. The company was purchased by Tube Investments Ltd in 1956 and closed in 1974. Steel, Peech and Tozer's massive Templeborough steelworks (now the Magna Science Adventure Centre) was, at its peak, over a mile (1.6 km) long, employing 10,000 workers, and housing six electric arc furnaces producing 1.8 million tonnes of steel a year. The operation closed down in 1993.
Joseph Foljambe established a factory to produce his Rotherham plough, the first commercially successful iron plough.
A glass works was set up in Rotherham in 1751, and became Beatson Clark & Co, one of the town's largest manufacturers, exporting glass medicine bottles worldwide. Beatson Clark & Co was a family business until 1961, when it became a public company. The glass works operated on the same site, although the family connection ceased and the company is owned by Newship Ltd, a holding company linked to the industrialist John Watson Newman. It continues to the manufacture glass containers for the pharmaceutical, food and drinks industries. In the 19th century, other successful industries included pottery, brass making and the manufacture of cast iron fireplaces. Precision manufacturing companies in the town include AESSEAL, Newburgh Engineering, Precision Magnetics, Orkot Composites and Darron Oil Tools SBO. Rotherham is the location of the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP).
The district abounds in mineral wealth; coal and iron ore are found in great profusion, and have been wrought from [long ago]. The town was formerly celebrated for its manufacture of edge tools; and in 1160, there were mines of ironstone, smelting-furnaces, and forges in the neighbourhood. But the most extraordinary establishments of this kind, of late years, were the iron-foundries belonging to Messrs. Walker, in which immense quantities of cannon of the largest calibre were wrought for government during the war, till the works were given up by the original proprietors, and let out to small capitalists. The spinning of flax affords employment to about 200 persons; there are manufactories for rope and for starch, a large malting establishment, two large ale and porter breweries, several oil and chemical works, and a glass-[making] house. Some other manufactories and works are noticed in the article on Masbrough. The Don, which is navigable to Sheffield, communicates with the river Aire on the north-east, with the Stainforth and Keadby canal on the east, with the Dearne and Dove canal and the Barnsley canal on the north-west, and consequently with the river Calder; by which means Rotherham enjoys [goods trade] with all the principal towns in the great manufacturing districts of Yorkshire and Lancashire. In 1836 an act was passed for making a railway to Sheffield, with a branch to the Greasbrough canal and coal-field; it was opened [in] 1838, and the distance is about six miles....The market is on Monday, for corn, cattle, and provisions: on alternate Mondays is a celebrated market for fat-cattle, sheep, and hogs, numerously attended by grazers from distant parts of the country; and fairs take place on Whit-Monday and December 1st, for cattle. A court leet is held annually, at which constables and other officers for the internal regulation of the town are appointed
Milling grain into flour was a traditional industry in Rotherham, formerly in the Millmoor area, hence Rotherham United F.C.'s nickname "The Millers". Flour milling continued at the Rank Hovis town mill site on Canklow Road until September 2008. The site of the mill is a warehousing and distribution facility for Premier Foods.
Rotherham was affected by flooding in the summer of 2007, which caused the closure of central roads, schools, transport services and damaged residential and commercial property, including the Parkgate Shopping complex and the Meadowhall Centre, which suffered considerable internal water damage. Ulley Reservoir caused major concern and forced the evacuation of thousands of homes when its dam showed signs of structural damage, threatening to break and release water into the suburbs of Treeton, Brinsworth and Canklow as well as potentially flooding the Junction 33 electrical sub-station. Rother FM evacuated its studios, passing its frequency temporarily to neighbouring station Trax FM. A stretch of the M1 motorway was closed for three days owing to the flood risk in the event of a breach of the reservoir. Fire service and police officers used thirteen high-powered pumps to lower the water level in the reservoir and reduce pressure on the dam wall, which was damaged but held. By summer 2008, the reservoir and surrounding country park reopened.
A new wetland and flood storage area, Centenary Washlands, has since been built by Rotherham Council and the Environment Agency to prevent flooding in the future. Sheffield Wildlife Trust manages the site as a local nature reserve.
Following a 2012 article published in The Times alleging the cover-up of organised, large-scale sexual abuse of young children by gangs of people of Pakistani origin in Rotherham, Rotherham Council commissioned Professor Alexis Jay, a former chief social work adviser to the Scottish government, to lead an independent inquiry about the handling of the cases and a suspected child exploitation network. She issued an exploitation report stretching beyond police-level investigated cases. Her report of August 2014 revealed an unprecedented scale of reported child sexual abuse within an urban area of this size over a 16-year period.
Her report, and a subsequent Best Value/Fit for Purpose report by Louise Casey, stated that a majority of the known perpetrators were of Pakistani heritage, and reported a denial of severity which was to an extent the responsibility of Councillors. The report concluded that at the time of her inspection the Council was not fit for the purpose, and identified some necessary measures for preventing further repetition. On 4 February 2015, after receiving Casey's report, Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said that commissioners would be appointed to run the council pending new elections, and the council leader and cabinet resigned en masse to allow for a 'fresh start'. The National Crime Agency was called in to investigate whether Rotherham councillors were complicit in hiding the depth and scale of the child abuse (the figure of 1,400 children is now said to be conservative) due to a 'fear of losing their jobs and pensions' following a concern that they might be considered 'racist' if they spoke out. Also, according to the new report, the councillors were driven by "misplaced political correctness".
Jayne Senior, a former youth town worker, was reported to have worked for more than a decade to expose rampant child sexual abuse in Rotherham, but she was met with "indifference and scorn". Senior was awarded an MBE in the 2016 Birthday Honours.
Rotherham has three further education institutions and colleges. These are Thomas Rotherham College, Dearne Valley College and the Rotherham College of Arts and Technology. The Rotherham College of Arts and Technology has a campus in the Rotherham town centre and a second site in Dinnington.
The Labour Party, who have controlled the authority since its 1974 incorporation currently hold 74% of local government seats. Rotherham's shadow cabinet local opposition is currently UKIP with 20% of the seats, no longer the Conservative Party who went from 8% to 4% of seats in 2014, Independents account for 2% of seats and having had elections by thirds every other year. The method of election is changing to whole council elections every four years, from 2016.
In 2013, Professor Alexis Jay published a report about the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal (1997–2013). Following the report's publication, the council leader, Roger Stone of the Labour Party, resigned - an act of contrition the report said should have been made years earlier - saying he would take full responsibility for "the historic failings described so clearly in the report." Labour Councillors Gwendoline Russell, Shaukat Ali and former council leader Roger Stone were suspended from the Labour Party, as was former Deputy Council Leader Jahangir Akhtar, who had lost his council seat in 2014. Chief Executive, Martin Kimber, said no council officers would face disciplinary action. Kimber announced on 8 September that he intended to step down in December 2014, and offered his "sincere apology to those who were let down". The council's director of children's services, Joyce Thacker, also left the authority by mutual agreement. Malcolm Newsam was appointed as Children's Social Care Commissioner in October 2014, and subsequently Ian Thomas was appointed as interim director of children's services.
Shaun Wright, the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for South Yorkshire from 2012, was the Labour councillor in charge of child safety at the council for five years from 2005-10. He initially refused demands to resign as PCC from the Home Secretary, Theresa May, as well as members of his own party and local Labour MP Sarah Champion, saying: "I believe I am the most appropriate person to hold this office at this current time." He resigned from the Labour Party on 27 August 2014, after an ultimatum by the party to either resign or face suspension from the party. Wright stood down as PCC on 16 September, saying that the prominence given to his role distracted from "the important issue, which should be everybody's focus - the 1,400 victims outlined in the report - and in providing support to victims and bringing to justice the criminals responsible for the atrocious crimes committed against them."
The former Chief Constable, Meredydd Hughes, who served from 2004 to 2011 and who had unsuccessfully stood for the Labour Party nomination in the Police Crime Commissioner elections, was told by Labour MP Keith Vaz that he had 'failed' abuse victims.
The inspector, Louise Casey aided by seven assistant inspectors produced the Inspection Report on 4 February 2015. Following its conclusion that the Council was not fit for purpose the minister directed that the powers of the Council (RMBC) be transferred to his department and the cabinet would need to resign unless RMBC made sufficient representations within 14 days to contradict the report. The Secretary of State empowered a team of five Commissioners to replace councillors before a full election in 2016 and on the Report's strength, stated that as the authority was not currently fit for purpose its powers would not revert until the dis-empowered councillors could prove their fitness to carry out all of the Council's duties without intervention. One of these commissioners was appointed to specialise in child protection.
Like all of South Yorkshire the area consists of representatives of the Labour Party at the Parliamentary level whose seats have been almost universally cast among analysts as 'safe', that is having enjoyed 'substantial' majorities over a 'long' period of time; a typecast which heightens the incumbency factor present in first past the post elections. The town's seat, including all its near suburbs, has been held by Labour MPs since a by-election in 1933. After the resignation and jailing of Denis MacShane in November 2012 due to expenses abuse, this area required a by-election in 2012 and Sarah Champion for Labour became the MP at that by-election.
The town in great part occupies the slopes of two hills; that in the west is the start of a 3 miles (4.8 km) north-west crest topped by Keppels Column, that in the east is a narrower crest alongside the Rother known as Canklow Hill, topped by a protected formally laid out public area, Boston Park, less than 500 east of and 80 metres above the Rother. The Rother here is between 32 and 34 metres above sea level. The south scarp here is slightly higher still, the Canklow Hill Earthworks, a Scheduled Ancient Monument, one of relatively few in the borough, as pre-dating recorded history. This compares to 524 listed buildings and structures by English Heritage in the district. Samuel Lewis describing the town with its townships as having nearly 14,000 people in 1848, described the southern green slope by saying the town lies "partly on the acclivities of an eminence...great improvements have been made within the last twenty years; in the immediate neighbourhood, several substantial and respectable dwellings have been recently built".
Rotherham's commercial town centre occupies the valley in between these hills on the navigable part of the River Don flowing from the south-west after it has turned approximately due north. The town centre is less than 0.5 miles (0.80 km) below and north of the confluence of the Rother flowing from the south. The Mid Don Valley continues adjoining towns in the north of the Metropolitan Borough.
Beyond the town centre and away from the Don Valley, the Rotherham district is largely rural, containing a mixture of retired people, larger properties, some farming and tourism and the landscaped Wentworth Woodhouse estate, where the last surviving kiln of the Rockingham Pottery can be seen.
Aside from two regular roads and two bypasses (one being the motorway network), Sheffield is connected directly by the Trans-Pennine Trail which passes the Meadowhall Shopping Centre on both sides (which between the two places) as it includes Sheffield as southern detour.
Rotherham Central railway station has frequent trains connecting to Sheffield in a time of 14 minutes; Manchester through a change in Sheffield is accessible in a similar circa 70 minutes to nearer Leeds and York as many towns and suburbs in South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire are all stops on Rotherham's railway – it is Doncaster which has the East Coast Main Line providing express intercity services.Districts and suburbs of Rotherham include.
In 2011, Rotherham had a population of 109,691, this figure is for an urban subdivision and roughly corresponds with ward and output area boundaries. The population in 2001 was 117,262 but the figure includes Catcliffe which was a separate subdivision a decade later, so there may not have been an actual decrease in population.
The population of Rotherham is increasing slightly because 110,550 people lived in the town in 2014.
In 2011, 14.4% of Rotherham's population were non-white British compared with 8.1% for the surrounding borough. Rotherham town has over double the percentage of Asian people compared with the Metropolitan Borough of Rotherham and a slightly larger percentage of black people. Rotherham is about as ethnically diverse as Middlesbrough and Doncaster and in 2001, 93.0% of Rotherham's residents were White British, so the town's non-White British population has gone from 7% to 14% since then.
Rotherham Minster or All Saints' Church in All Saints Square built largely of neat-cut pieces of sandstone and low-pitch lead roofs dates from the 15th century and includes parts from earlier Saxon and Norman structures. Clayton and Bell working to George Gilbert Scott's designs constructed the east window. Stained glass makers and designers A. Gibbs, Camm Brothers, Heaton, Butler and Bayne and James Bell are known makers of the other windows. Gargoyles flank its clock on each face. It has a "recessed octagonal spire with crocketed arrises and pinnacled shafts rising from corner faces and a gilded weathervane." Architectural critics Pevsner and Simon Jenkins considered it "the best perpendicular [style] church in the country" and "the best work in the county", respectively. It is a listed building in the highest category of architecture, Grade I.
Close to the town centre is the 15th-century Chapel of Our Lady of Rotherham Bridge (or "Chapel on the Bridge"), beside Chantry Bridge (a road bridge opened in the 1930s). It is one of four surviving bridge chapels in the country. The chapel was restored in 1923, having been used as the town jail and a tobacconist's shop.
Built in the 18th century, Clifton House houses Clifton Park Museum. The remains of the 16th-century College of Jesus are in the town centre. Boston Castle, in the grounds of Boston Park, was built as a hunting lodge by Thomas, 3rd Earl of Effingham between 1773 and 1774 to mark his opposition to British attempts to crush the Americans in their war for independence. It is named after Boston, Massachusetts, the scene of the Boston Tea Party.
On the outskirts of Rotherham, a brick-built glass making furnace, the Catcliffe Glass Cone, is the oldest surviving structure of its type in Western Europe and one of four remaining in the United Kingdom – the others being the Red House Cone in the Wordsley centre of the Dudley Glassworks in the West Midlands, Lemington Glass Works west of Newcastle upon Tyne and Alloa in Scotland. Threatened with demolition in the 1960s, it has been preserved as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and stands as a focal point in a sheltered housing complex and close to the path leading up the Rother valley.
South of Maltby in the east of the district, half-way to Worksop are the ruins of Roche Abbey, among the small minority in the United Kingdom bearing multi-storey walls, as most others are no more than foundations or a single storey of ruins following the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s.
The Magna Science Adventure Centre, an interactive science and adventure centre built in a former steel works in Templeborough, has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region.
Clifton Park Museum medium-sized museum in Clifton Park. Admission is free.
The Civic Theatre and an Arts Centre is in the town centre.
The Westgate district of the town centre is home to many pubs, bars and clubs and is the focal point of Rotherham's nightlife. .
In 2015, The former Tesco forge island superstore will become as a new 10 Screen Odeon Cinemas as a refurbishment since the store moves to a new home in the town centre as the Extra store.
Rotherham holds several public event through the year:- A fashion show Rotherham Rocks in July, takes place in 'All Saints Square' and Rotherham by the Sea, in August, is held in the same location, where it is transformed into a seaside beach with sand, deckchairs and other traditional seaside attractions. Rotherham Show is an annual event, held in Clifton Park, with stalls from all sectors of the community, shows and live bands in September.
Clifton Park, in the town centre, includes sport facilities, an outdoor paddling pool, a small fairground and an adventure park.
Minster Gardens is an urban park in the heart of the town centre, next to Rotherham Minster and All Saints Square. It has an amphitheatre and space for open-air events, with stepped seating, lawns, grass terracing and a meadow area. Kiveton Park is the third significant park without leaving the urban area.
Rotherham has several Brass band clubs. It has also produced many classic and progressive rock bands, supported by the Classic Rock Society, such as Deadline, Saxon, Jive Bunny, Bring Me the Horizon, Phuturistix, Disarm and Soul Seekerz.
Rotherham town centre has various chain stores including Tesco Extra and Primark. Following the availability of "Vitality Grants" from 2009 onwards, a number of new independent businesses opened in the town centre such as Yella Brick Road . In 2015, Rotherham won the Great British High Street award for its independent town centre shopping. Judges praised the transformation of key properties and the restoration of its "historic core" .
Chef-writer Jamie Oliver's television series Jamie's Ministry of Food (2008) was based in Rotherham. He aimed to make Rotherham "the culinary capital of the United Kingdom" by his 'Pass it on' scheme, teaching groups some of which went on to work in restaurants.
The Arctic Monkeys' song "Fake Tales of San Francisco" has a tribute line: "Yeah I'd love to tell you all my problem. You're not from New York City, you're from Rotherham".
The 2013 film Five Pillars was largely set and filmed in Rotherham, which is also the hometown of the writer and director.
The town's association football team, Rotherham United plays in League One. The team currently plays at the New York Stadium. Historically the town was represented by Rotherham Town, and Rotherham County, who both played in the Football League.
Rotherham Titans rugby union team reached the Guinness Premiership in 1999 and 2003 before being relegated. The club plays at the Clifton Lane Sports Ground. The town is also represented in rugby league by the Rotherham Giants of the Rugby League Conference.
Former Formula One team Virgin Racing were based in Dinnington in the borough. IndyCar and former ChampCar and Formula One driver Justin Wilson was from Woodall, which is in the Metropolitan Borough of Rotherham. Motorcycle speedway racing was staged in the town about 1930.
Hurdler Chris Rawlinson, Olympic gold medallist sailor Paul Goodison, Olympic silver medallist Peter Elliott, former England goalkeeper David Seaman, golfer Danny Willett and 2010 FIFA World Cup Final referee Howard Webb are all from Rotherham.
On Monday 3 August 2009 Rotherham became the first town to bestow the Freedom of the Borough on the Yorkshire Regiment, giving it the right to march through the town with "flags flying, bands playing and bayonets fixed". At a ceremony outside the Town Hall, the Regiment paraded two Guards of soldiers who had recently returned from Iraq and the Colours of the 3rd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment (Duke of Wellington's), led by the Kings Division Band, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Vallings, the battalion commanding officer. The Mayor of Rotherham, Councillor Shaukat Ali, on behalf of the borough, presented the Freedom Scroll to Colonel Simon Newton, who accepted the honour for the regiment. The regiment is the only military unit to become Honorary Freemen of the Borough.
Rotherham is the hometown of the Chuckle Brothers, Arsenal and England goalkeeper David Seaman, along with World Cup and English Premier League referee Howard Webb. Sean Bean began his acting career in Rotherham while actors Liz White, Ryan Sampson, Dean Andrews and Darrell D'Silva also hail from Rotherham, as does former leader of the Conservative Party, William Hague, and Sir Donald Coleman Bailey. Presenter James May grew up in Rotherham. His co-presenter on Top Gear Jeremy Clarkson trained to be a journalist at the Rotherham Advertiser.
Comedians Sandy Powell and Duggie Brown were born in Rotherham, as was actress Lynne Perrie. Christopher Wolstenholme of Muse, Dean Andrews of Life On Mars, artist Margaret Clarkson, band Jive Bunny & The Mastermixers and singer-actor Rob McVeigh were all born or mostly raised in Rotherham.
Rotherham's official twin towns are: Saint-Quentin, Aisne, France
Offenbach, Germany (since 1982)
Rotherham has three partner towns: Cluj-Napoca, Romania