Taking steps to uncover a hidden wartime world in South Yorkshire
Local people can now step back in time to explore the hidden world of First World War Doncaster and its surrounding towns and villages, with the launch of a free mobile app showcasing new interactive walking trails across the borough – the result of hours of work by local historians and volunteers, as well as funding made possible by National Lottery players.
During the walks, familiar streets, homes and businesses are transformed, as they reveal secret clues to a surprising 100 year-old past, from key landmarks in the area’s wartime history to more intimate family moments, all illustrated by original photographs and real-life accounts. Launched to mark the centenary of the First World War by Doncaster 1914-18, a four-year project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the new app – suitable for both iPhone and Android devices - aims to help build a picture of wartime life in the area, and has been created by Doncaster 1914-18 project volunteers, members of the Doncaster and District Heritage Association and the Mexborough and District Heritage Society.
“The First World War changed both lives and places, and the impact on Doncaster borough is still clear today,” explains Jude Holland, Project Manager from Doncaster 1914-18. “During these short walks – between just 0.5 to 2 miles in length – you’ll be able to experience this lost wartime world as never before. You can imagine Doncaster Mansion House as a hive of wartime activity, entertaining refugees and raising funds and relief for the troops. It was the place where those who refused to fight in the Army went on trial, but it was also the place where Peace was declared. You’ll also get a glimpse into the lives of local people, like Mexborough’s William ‘Iron’ Hague, who trained as a boxer at the Montague Arms, Mexborough and became English Heavyweight Champion in 1909. He served with the Grenadier Guards joining in late 1914, surviving the war and continuing boxing for a while.”
John Adam, Chairman of the Doncaster and District Heritage Society and Rossington resident adds: “As you visit Doncaster’s historic houses and businesses and uncover these stories, you start to feel a real emotional connection to the people of the past – it all brings them a little closer, so you gain a much deeper understanding about the great contribution the area’s people made to the First World War.”
In addition to two interactive walks exploring Doncaster town centre, the app also features trails around Mexborough and Rossington, with more local history walks planned as the project progresses, including a special trail across the borough to commemorate Doncaster’s Victoria Cross winners in 2017. The Mexborough walking trail will also soon be available in paper form, thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund via the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership.
Bill Lawrence of the Mexborough and District Heritage Society, who has developed the Mexborough trail says: “By walking in the footsteps of those who went off to fight 100 years ago, or stayed to work in local industries in Mexborough we begin to understand the great impact war had on changing lives, which was felt long after the war ended. The trail not only identifies people but also places which played a role in the total war effort.”
As well as interactive walking trails, the app features an in-built camera function, so that home historians can take photographs of their family’s First World War memorabilia, and then upload them to the Doncaster 1914-18 website. Once uploaded, the stories and memories that people share are collected together to build a picture of life in wartime Doncaster. This newly-revealed heritage is available for everyone to access online, to find out more about their own local or family history. Alternatively, it is possible to use the app’s camera to take photographs of landmarks in the present day, to compare them with the historical images featured on the walking trails. To explore the area’s history in more depth, the app also contains an up-to-date calendar of Doncaster 1914-18 events taking place throughout the area.
Jude adds: “We’re keen to hear from anyone in the local community who can help us build more trails in the future. If you have a family story to share, or know about your street’s First World War history, then please get in touch! Using the App, you can also upload images of any wartime memorabilia, to add to the project’s digital archive.”
To download the app or for more details about Doncaster 1914-18, visit www.doncaster1914-18.org.uk, or search 1914-18 on the Google Play or Apple stores.
Photographs are available by following the links at the bottom of this email, or from http://news.cision.com/doncaster-1914-18.
Notes to editors:
Generously supported with a grant of more than £900,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) during the four-year project, Doncaster 1914-18 will feature an ever-changing programme of events and exhibitions, with future years uncovering the diverse experiences of Doncaster people on the Home Front, including women’s experiences of war, Doncaster’s role in the Battle of the Somme, Doncaster’s Royal Flying Corps and Airfield, the role of the local countryside and country houses, and Armistice.
About the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)
Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk @heritagelottery @HLFYandH
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