THIS week, in the first of a three part feature, our local history writer Symeon Waller looks back more than 90 years to see if the predictions of a new dawning for Doncaster by a local newspaper editor came to fruition...
CAN you see the future?
91 years ago in 1921, Ernest Phillips, the editor of the Doncaster Chronicle newspaper, speculated on the future of the town.
The following article features some of his predictions. Did he get it right? Let’s see!
“Doncaster is ever changing. Unlike some old towns – Chester, Lancaster, and York – it retains none of its mediaeval characteristics. It is essentially modern.
“It has been built and rebuilt times without number. It is now undergoing its greatest change.
“For centuries it was a quiet market town. There was no bustle and clang of commerce, no feverish race for wealth in industry. The smoke of Sheffield and the activity of Leeds seemed a long way off.
“At the beginning of the last century (early 1800), Doncaster was described as one of the handsomest residential towns in the whole of England.
“The massive houses of Hall Gate, Priory Place, and a few other thoroughfares testified that it was a town where well-to-do families loved to take life easily and placidly.
“A change has now come over the scene. Doncaster is destined to be the centre of a great and rich industry. The base of this country’s industrial greatness is coal.
“Wherever you find coal, there you find trade and industry active – iron and steel works, cotton and woollen mills, engineering shops, and the hundred and one manifestations of our national genius for making things.
“There is coal all around Doncaster and, in fact, under Doncaster as well. There is coal under the racecourse; there is coal under the corporation reservoir at Thrybergh. It stretches right to the East Coast, dipping deeper and deeper, until it reaches a depth where it is unworkable. But it is workable all around Doncaster, and this has led to a remarkable development during the last 15 years (since 1906).
“Over half a dozen new coal-pits have been sunk and are now working daily. The nearest to Doncaster is at Bentley, scarce 3 miles away.
“Others are at Carcroft, Askern, Woodlands, Edlington, Rossington, Hatfield, Thorne, etc., and others are in contemplation at Armthorpe, Finningley, and elsewhere.
“The result of this is that networks of villages are springing up around the town. A modern colliery gives employment to 2 or 3 thousand hands. It raises 2 or 3 thousand tons of coal each day.
“Some of them, like the one at Hickleton, only about 7 miles out of Doncaster, raise even 4,000 tons per day.
“A village springs up. It houses 5 or 6 thousand folk. A new church is erected, chapels and schools are reared, shops and picture-houses and clubs appear almost by magic; and lo, where a year ago you had a sleepy hamlet, now you have a throbbing industrial town, with a rattle of railway wagons, the clang of pit head gear, and all the usual features of town life.”