Margaret Herbert: These are a few of my favourite things

Margaret Herbert
Margaret Herbert

Doncaster born, bred and educated, Margaret has long been a lover of the town and borough, particularly its historic buildings and theatrical heritage.

Here, accompanied by local streets photo quiz and re-run of latest St Leger classic, are a few of her favourite things ...

The Theatres

I was born and educated in Doncaster with the paternal side of my family all in business and building, maternal family in the police force and railways. I did 12 shows with what was then Doncaster Thespians, now called The Phoenix, the first shows at the Grand Theatre, The Civic and The Gaumont. My first choice has to be theatre and to encourage young people in Doncaster into art and culture. I am sure there is no better way than being involved in drama, where they would be taught the arts of speaking properly – which is something a lot of young people sadly lack in these days – as well as acting, singing, dancing and appreciation of some of our great writers. If we can get the Grand Theatre restored and reopened again, this would give a theatre large enough to seat around 900 – its previous capacity was 1,300 but facilities for disabled has to be a priority – to enable larger touring companies to perform there, thus eliminating need to go out of town to Leeds and Sheffield to see larger productions, now very expensive and beyond the pockets of most younger people who need to see these productions. The Grand is town centre, adjoins the Interchange, Railway Station and has 1,700 car parking spaces on top of the Frenchgate Centre with 24-hour security. Cast is ideal for smaller productions, band concerts, one-man shows. The JKL team there do a great job with the young people but, unfortunately, they have to perform in the second space which does not always give the manoeuvrability and effects of a larger stage area.

Railway Station area

This is finally going to have a facelift, so badly needed for so long. This is another listed building, spoilt by the outlook of parked cars, which are now going to a new home in West Street. I must admit to liking the new open area design, hopefully with a water feature and possibly some form of sculpture relating to the railways? The station would benefit from hanging baskets, old railway posters and seats in the booking hall, which has been achieved on old steam railway stations. Surely that would not be difficult! Doncaster, which produced many of the most famous steam engines and employed so many people, does not need to be forgotten.

The Racecourse

One of the finest in the country, this not only has the St Leger - the oldest classic race, first run in 1776, founded by Anthony St Leger in which only five horses ran - it hosts many events throughout the year including antique fairs, conferences and seminars. There are good parking and public transport facilities and it will shortly have its own Hilton Hotel. It is a racecourse to be proud of.

The Mansion House

I have been going into the Mansion House since I was three years old, when I was invited to the mayor’s party, and have attended many functions and great dances in the ballroom. At four years old, I stood and chatted with Her Royal Highness Princess Mary, Countess of Harwood, when she visited Doncaster raising funds for the YMCA. It is one of only three in the country. This year, The Friends of the Mansion House – of which I am a member – are celebrating 300 years since the birth of James Paine, renowned architect who was also responsible for part of Cusworth Hall, another of my favourite houses, and many other famous buildings throughout the country. He established himself as one of the great architects of the Palladian revival of the mid-eighteenth century, admired for his ability and design of grand houses. The Mansion House was used by the council for some years, but is now back into public use, offering great afternoon teas, tea dances and open days, generally Tuesdays and Fridays, when the public are free to go in and view this iconic building.

Grand design

Grand design

The Wildlife Park

This is a wonderful day out for all the family, fast becoming a worldwide attraction with the great work they are doing there for preservation and survival of wildlife. The lions and polar bears, in a very poor state when they first arrived, now look proud and content as they move around the great spaces that have been created for them. It is great for education as children can be in close contact with smaller animals.

Like to get involved? Email chris.page@jpress.co.uk with 770 words detailing a few of YOUR favourite things in and around Doncaster.

St Leger crowds

St Leger crowds

Rail improvement

Rail improvement