by ANTONY CLAY
IF ever there was a museum that reflected the full history of its town or city then Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery would be it.
The extensive collection goes from the time before the dinosaurs right up to its modern sporting success.
A busy museum with plenty to see wherever you look, the Chequer Road-based establishment has been an educational and cultural base for the town since the Sixties.
In a distinctive building just off from the town centre, the museum has packed as much as it can into two floors.
Every aspect of the Doncaster area’s history is covered, from its prehistoric people to the Romans to peat extraction and coal, then onto the growth of the railway, the town’s health improvements and even the town’s famous horse racing prowess.
There is an order to it all and if you walk round in the proper way you will be taken on this long tale via innovative and attractive displays.
There is a duck decoy showing how wildfowlers trapped birds when the area was more marshy than it is today. There is a coalmine display where you get a sense of the oppressive darkness surrounding a miner’s daily work. There are shop fronts and dressed-up dummies. It really thoughtful and educational.
Marvel at the silverware associated with horse racing, be amazed at a massive sturgeon or wonder at the museum’s famous skeleton – known as the Pillington Skeleton – in a coffin found at a local quarry.
A display of Yorkshire Pots and Potteries tells the tale of an aspect of Doncaster’s history which many may not be familiar with and two full-size planes – one called The Flea – indicate an aeronautical tale to tell.
The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Museum takes people on a journey from conflicts in India and South Africa to the horrors of the First World War. Particularly poignant is a roll of honour for the fallen from Doncaster, and a room full of medals next to pictures of their recipients.
The museum has some fascinating Bygone Doncaster videos to watch, showing snatches of real life from the past. One film shows the townspeople celebrating the country’s entry into the EEC with a massive parade of floats. How times have changed.
It was the railway which made Doncaster grow from a quiet country town when a line came to the settlement in 1849, closely followed by the development of the Plant rail engineering works in 1853. By 1901 the population had doubled to 29,000 with the usual housing and health traumas that came with it, prompting the growth of religion in many forms. The museum does a great job telling this story.
The art gallery is impressive with a fair range of styles and periods of art on display, and the museum has exhibitions such as Terence Bennett: A Retrospective which runs until June 30.
Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery is well worth a visit. You can spend hours there, which isn’t bad considering it’s free.
It is set to move home next summer so make sure you see what is there now.
The Queen’s first visit to Doncaster was, apparently, to open Doncaster’s first museum and art gallery in 1964. It has certainly earned its keep since then and should be supported as a popular tourist attraction.
Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery, Chequer Road, Doncaster, DN1 2AE
Opening hours – Wednesday to Friday 10am-4.30pm; Saturday and Sunday 10.30am-4.15pm; Monday and Tuesday closed.
Website – http://www.doncaster.gov.uk/services/culture-leisure-tourism/doncaster-museum-and-art-gallery
Email – Heritage@doncaster.gov.uk
Telephone – 01302 734293