Step back in time and explore the hidden history of First World War Doncaster and its surrounding towns and villages, on new interactive walking trails.
A free mobile app has been launched, that opens up whole new dimensions about areas covered. It is the result of hours of work by local historians and volunteers, with funding from the National Lottery.
During the walks, familiar streets, homes and businesses are transformed, as they reveal secret clues to a 100 year-old past, from key landmarks in wartime history to intimate family moments, all illustrated by original photographs and real-life accounts.
Launched to mark the centenary of the First World War by Doncaster 1914-18, a four-year project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the new app helps to build a picture of wartime life in the area. It has been created by project volunteers, members of the Doncaster and District Heritage Association and the Mexborough and District Heritage Society.
“The First World War changed both lives and places, and the impact on Doncaster borough is still clear today,” said Jude Holland, project manager from Doncaster 1914-18.
“During these short walks, just 0.5 to 2 miles in length, you’ll be able to experience this lost wartime world as never before. You can imagine Doncaster Mansion House as a hive of wartime activity, entertaining refugees and raising funds and relief for the troops.
“It was the place where those who refused to fight in the Army went on trial, but was also the place where peace was declared. You’ll get a glimpse into the lives of local people, like Mexborough’s boxing champion William ‘Iron’ Hague. He served with the Grenadier Guards from late 1914, survived the war and continued boxing for a while.”
The app features an in-built camera function, so that home historians can take photographs of their family’s First World War memorabilia, then upload them to the Doncaster 1914-18 website.
To download the app, visit www.doncaster1914-18.org.uk, or search 1914-18 on the Google Play or Apple stores.
John Adam, Chairman of Doncaster and District Heritage Society and a Rossington resident said: “As you visit Doncaster’s historic houses and businesses and uncover these stories, you start to feel a real emotional connection to the people of the past – it all brings them a little closer, so you gain a much deeper understanding about the great contribution the area’s people made to the First World War.”
In addition to two interactive walks exploring Doncaster town centre, the app features trails around Mexborough and Rossington. Further history walks are planned as the project progresses, including a special trail across the borough to commemorate Doncaster’s Victoria Cross winners in 2017.
The Mexborough walking trail will also soon be available in paper form, thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund via the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership.
Bill Lawrence of the Mexborough and District Heritage Society, who has developed the Mexborough trail says: “By walking in the footsteps of those who went off to fight 100 years ago, or stayed to work in local industries in Mexborough we begin to understand the great impact war had on changing lives, which was felt long after the war ended. The trail not only identifies people but also places which played a role in the total war effort.”
As well as interactive walking trails, Once uploaded, the stories and memories that people share are collected together to build a picture of life in wartime Doncaster. This newly-revealed heritage is available for everyone to access online, to find out more about their own local or family history.
Alternatively, it is possible to use the app’s camera to take photographs of landmarks in the present day, to compare them with the historical images featured on the walking trails. To explore the area’s history in more depth, the app also contains an up-to-date calendar of Doncaster 1914-18 events taking place throughout the area.
Jude added: “We’re keen to hear from anyone in the local community who can help us build more trails in the future. If you have a family story to share, or know about your street’s First World War history, then please get in touch! Using the App, you can also upload images of any wartime memorabilia, to add to the project’s digital archive.”