Doncaster Civic Trust

An independent group of local people interested in Doncaster’s heritage

Meet George Norton

Since 2015 the Trust have been giving support to the Friends of Doncaster Mansion House – to help them become established and to develop projects to make this wonderful Doncaster building more accessible to the public. Many Trust members are also Friends. Our chairman John Holmes is deputy chair of the Friends Trustees.

In 2016, the Friends in association with the Trust made contact with the University of York’s History of Art and Architecture department and were offered the opportunity to joint-fund a studentship. The scope of this was to have a post-graduate student work with the Friends at the Mansion House one day a week for a 12 month period. In addition, the student would undertake a Master of Arts dissertation on a subject which would contribute to the Trust’s educational ambitions.

In Summer 2016, a panel from the University, Friends and Trust appointed 22 year old George Norton to take up the studentship.

Some of our members will already have met George at the launch of the James Paine Festival at the Mansion House in March 2017 and had a chance to view the fruits of his labours – the James Paine exhibition and hear him as a speaker at the event, talking about how he put together the exhibition.

George graduated with a first class honours BA in History of Art from the University of York in 2015 and has worked for the National Trust at Gibside giving tours to the public and organising events. George packs a lot into his life – cricketer, musician and volunteer.

For the second part of his work at the Mansion House he compiled a web database of Paine’s work throughout the UK.

In April 2017 he began work on his dissertation. The subject, exploring the relationship between the Mansion House and Doncaster’s numerous country estates was suggested by the Trust to contribute to our education programme. His work is intended to be used to develop another schools education package along the lines of the ‘Doncaster Toolkit’ already in all of Doncaster schools.

George finished his studentship in September 2017 but we had the opportunity to find out about the results of his work when he presented his findings at the James Paine celebration event in October 2017.


Meet George Norton

George (second left) with speakers at the James Paine Launch March 2017

George’s Dissertation

Doncaster Mansion House and its place in the social and architectural landscape of the Doncaster District, 1750-1800

The dissertation begins with a thorough assessment of what Doncaster Mansion House was, addressing its typology in line with its function in chapter one, entitled ‘What Was Doncaster Mansion House?’ This reveals how the Mansion House operated in its original form to understand the intentions of the Corporation and their ambitions for the advancement of Doncaster. Comparisons are made to its only purpose-built predecessors at York and London to establish how it breaks away and evolves from the mould set by its contemporaries. These links put forward historical evidence that the Corporation of Doncaster was deeply conscious of its surroundings, improving and advancing its facilities not only in pace with other towns, but in many ways, exceeding them.

Once a clearer typology has been established, the internal divisions of the Mansion House are explored in chapter two. This addresses  how the layout of the building not only catered to the social rituals of the 18th century elite, but effected change in their customs, using space to elevate the pageantry of its events and become the most significant social space in the region.

Finally, chapter three looks at the wider impact of Doncaster Mansion House, as its placement along the Great North Road coupled with Paine’s publication carried the influence of the new building beyond the boundaries of the town.

Ultimately, the dissertation argues that Doncaster Mansion House became a social and stylistic benchmark for the elite, setting the visible standard by which all others could judge and be judged.


The dissertation reinvigorates public and scholarly attentions in the finest surviving Georgian building in Doncaster, and by extension, the growth of the town in the late 18th century. It is a study that can be carried forwards into the later revisions and alterations of the Mansion House and ultimately fill in a significant gap in the lengthy history of Doncaster.

You can download and read the full dissertation by clicking here.