Do you have items to share at the brand new Heritage Doncaster museum?
The Evolution of Doncaster Museum
In 1899, the Doncaster Naturalists’ Society – then called the Microscopical and General Scientific Society – put a collection of their objects on display at Doncaster Guildhall. When the collection outgrew this space in 1908, Beechfield House on Waterdale was chosen as the location for a formal museum. When it opened, the museum had a collection of 1,006 objects.
The collection continued to grow, and plans were made to build a new museum, but the project was delayed by the Second World War. In 1964, the Chequer Road museum site was opened by Princess Margaret and her husband Lord Snowdon. In 1987, an extension was built to house the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Regimental Museum on the same site.
Now the museum is on the move again, with a brand new library and museum opening in summer 2020, on the grounds of the former Doncaster High School for Girls. The varied collections of Heritage Doncaster will be redisplayed at this new site, and people from across the borough are invited to share their own objects for the exhibitions.
On 28 September 2019, there will be a free Heritage Roadshow at Doncaster Mansion House. Expert curators will be on hand to uncover the stories behind the objects hidden in local attics, and consider them for inclusion in the new displays. All kinds of objects tell the story of Doncaster’s past, including these four star objects from the new displays.
Co-Op Delivery Tricycle
This Co-op delivery bike dates to the 1920s and would have been a regular sight on the
streets around Doncaster, delivering food and other items. The Co-Operative Wholesale
Society was established in 1863 and was owned by its members, not shareholders. Shops
were referred to as ‘The Co-op’ and would distribute a share of its profits according to the
purchases its customers had made that year. Many people came to rely on the convenience
and value for money that the Co-op represented. A large Co-op store was built in the town
centre in the 1930s. The building later became TJ Hughes, and is now Peacocks.
Ichthyosaurs (meaning ‘fish lizard’) were marine reptiles that became extinct about 25
million years before the dinosaurs. They were two to four metres long. The dark area on this
ichthyosaur is its gut contents, showing it had eaten belemnites (similar to squid) as its last
This ichthyosaur was discovered in the 1970s along the coast of Lyme Regis. It was
purchased by Doncaster Museum and was briefly displayed in the 1980s. It was not until
2009 that local palaeontologist Dean Lomax rediscovered it and realised its significance.
Dean’s research suggests that it may be a one-of-a-kind specimen!
Bronze Age Burial Group
This is one of Doncaster’s earliest recorded archaeological discoveries. These three objects
were described in a letter by William Sheardown Jr to the Doncaster Chronicle: “An olla, urn
or jar, seven inches high was recently found in the sand-pit near Docken Hill; it being made
of earth, very light and porous and only sun-dried. It contained a small vessel of similar
material which had in it an ornament or some other articles of brass, and it was covered
with a large flat earthen pan. Close to it was a celt of polished stone and perforated in the
middle for a handle…”.
What happened to the brass ornament (probably a pin or brooch), the flat pot that covered
them, or the cremated remains that are hinted to have been inside the pot, we will
unfortunately never know.
Quagga Hybrid Foal
Among the museum’s natural history collection is a hybrid Quagga. A Quagga was a type of
zebra from southern Africa. They were hunted to extinction by European settlers in the
1870s, and the last one died in a Dutch zoo in 1883.
This foal was born at Owston on 1 April 1830, but lived for only three weeks. Its mother was
a Quagga and father a Donkey, or as the old museum label says “The Father an Ass”, making
it a hybrid. Philip Davies Cooke had a keen interest in zoology and had inherited the family
estate at Owston in 1821, when he introduced foreign mammals such as quaggas onto the
land. Davies Cooke had the Quagga preserved by the best taxidermist in the region, Hugh
The Davies-Cooke family donated it to Doncaster Museum in 1926. Of the 23 preserved
Quagga skins in the world, the Doncaster foal is the only hybrid example, making it very rare
and scientifically important.
Local History on Display
On Saturday 28 September, a panel of experts will be urging people across the borough of
Doncaster to search their attics for family heirlooms, photographs, and objects, as they hunt
for the stars of the town’s new museum, during the free Heritage Roadshow at Doncaster
Mansion House between 11am-3pm.
For those who cannot attend the town centre roadshow, there will be three smaller
community roadshows at local libraries:
Woodlands Community Library
30th September, 12.00pm-2.30pm
7th October, 2.30pm-4.30pm
14th October, 2.30pm-4.30pm