Town’s dramatic change

Scot Lane with Yorks Post building
Scot Lane with Yorks Post building

91 years ago in 1921, Ernest Phillips, the editor of the Doncaster Chronicle newspaper speculated on the future of the town. The following article is some of his predictions.

Did he get it right? Let’s see.

Old Doncaster - Laying the tram lines in Hexthorpe.

Old Doncaster - Laying the tram lines in Hexthorpe.

To make a modern manufacturing town, there are several essentials. The first and greatest is coal.

Doncaster is not only the centre of the newest but the richest coalfield in Great Britain. It is true that it is a great depth.

Some of the new pits are over 900 yards deep, more than half a mile; but modern engineering skill has overcome the difficulties of getting coal at that enormous depth.

Powerful fans drive fresh air from above down one shaft, and after it has circulated through all the galleries it is sucked up another shaft.

Engines nowadays can be made strong enough to draw coal to the bank from almost any depth.

Thus the manufacturer has plenty of coal at Doncaster. The coal merchant has seven railways and a canal at his service if he wants to sell it or ship it to a country across the sea.

Doncaster, therefore, is in a good position to make headway; and while some enthusiasts think the town may someday be a second Leeds or Sheffield, there are others who think its greatest developments will be its coal trade, and that it may be in a few years time a second Cardiff as a coal distributing centre.

These things, however, are in the future. How soon they may be upon us, none may say; but that the town is changing every day is a certainty.

Within the last 12 years nearly ten new pits have been opened; half a dozen new branch railway lines have been constructed; at least three or more model villages have been planned; four or five new churches have been erected and consecrated.

Tramway lines have been extended from the town to three colliery villages, and the Corporation has projects for others.

The probability is that Doncaster in a generation will have completely changed its character. Its rural aspect will have gone. It will be a busy manufacturing town. A ring of coal mines will encircle it.

Iron works, glass works, woollen mills, engineering shops will stand where now the farm lad drives his team and the ploughshare furrows the loam.

The canal will bear on its bosom the products of mine and mill on their way to coastal ports for shipment over the seas.

The town itself will change. The last remnants of old Doncaster – in such narrow thoroughfares as Scot Lane – will disappear. Broad streets will be the rule.

The tramcars will link up with every outside centre of life and trade.

There will be little left to remind the visitor that he stands within one of the oldest boroughs of England – a town of Roman foundation, a borough that has lived its life in all the succeeding ages of Saxon and Dane and Norman lordship; that has echoed to the tramp of Roman Legions; that has seen Saxon and Norman at deadly grips; that has emerged out of feudal darkness into the fierce white light of 20th century civilization.

And so we see, Mr Philips’ ideas for the future were way off the mark, for in the late 80s and early 90s our coal mining industry took a nose dive.

Doncaster’s industry is now far more diverse.

We can only wonder what Doncaster will be like in another 91 years and I leave that for my grand-children to find out, as in 2103 I shall be dead and buried!