History is about chaps, Geography is about maps. But local history intertwines both in a sense of ‘place’ as man’s efforts over centuries leaves a series of overlapping imprints.
Hence Roman Doncaster, Anglo-Saxon Doncaster, Medieval Doncaster, 15th century Doncaster...
I’ve always enjoyed interpreting the cartographer’s art, whether in old maps or new ones. When at school in the 1950s map analysis was part of the geography curriculum using the OS one inch to one mile and one inch to 2.5 miles – learning to interpret the contours, recognise map symbols and analyse the landscape from map evidence. I’ve retained this skill and rather turn my nose up at sat-nav, but sadly it is no longer an exam requirement.
Later in life I found pleasure in collecting framed county maps of my Northumberland homeland – 17th century to 19th century hand-coloured maps originally the preserve of landowners and the gentry, hence tending to show market towns and estates, often with earlier versions of current place names.
It’s fascinating to follow the growth of towns through maps and the development of our toll road system and railways.
Every youngster could benefit from perusing a home copy of the latest OS 1:50,000 map of Doncaster; landranger number 111. It also covers Sheffield, Barnsley and Rotherham.
Since the first edition black and white OS maps of the mid-Victorian era, Doncaster developed eastward to ‘take in’ Hexthorpe and Balby with terrace housing, then north east to encompass Wheatley and, in time, Kirk Sandall and Barnby Dun. North of the river, the new road bridge over the railway and Don (1906) opened up tramlines and bus routes to the new mining settlements – Bentley, Adwick and Carcroft. By the 1930s the Great North Road to the South had linear suburban sprawl morphing in the 1950s and ’60s into the enormous Bessacarr and Cantley housing estates.
South of the Don, a ringlet of mining settlements arose – Moorends, Armthorpe, Dunscroft, Rossington, Harworth, plus Edlington and Denaby Main. The old market towns of Conisbrough, Hatfield and Thorne expanded their footprints considerably but Tickhill and Bawtry preserved their small town ambience.
Other once small villages became commuter settlements post 1960 – Branton, Auckley, Blaxton, Finningley, Austerfield, Hatfield Woodhouse, Sprotbrough, Cadeby, Braithwell, Wadworth, Stainton.
If you want to create an interesting present, have the Doncaster section of Landranger 111 framed to enhance the hallway. Compare it with the OS 1841 first edition before the railways arrived, when the old medieval heartland was surrounded by newly enclosed farmland north of the Don, Potteric Carr and Town Moor to the south.