Collections and Stories

Our museum collections began with a selection of artefacts purchased by the Microscopical and General Scientific Society in 1899.  In 1910, Beechfield House opened its doors as Doncaster’s first museum and art gallery with Doncaster Art Club’s annual exhibition – still a highlight on our cultural calendar to this day.

When the museum opened, the collection had only 1006 objects, recorded in a ‘Stock book’ which the museum still has today. The book notes such exotic objects as a peach stone and seeds from a monkey puzzle tree!

Beechfield also had its own grounds where the fondly remembered Grotto was sited and, in 1956, a Zoo opened in the museum grounds and quickly became a much loved attraction.

Old photograph of Beechfield House

Beechfield House

At its height the zoo was home to around 400 animals, many of which were donated by local companies who had worked overseas. Others were injured or abandoned local species which were brought to the zoo by members of the public.

As the collections grew, it soon became apparent that Beechfield was too small to house the museum and, on 30 October 1964, the first Local Authority museum to be built after the Second World War opened at the current location on Chequer Road.

In the 1970s and 1980s, our collections grew immensely. Notable acquisitions included jewellery from Anne Hull Grundy, geological specimens from volunteer Don Bramley and a collection of Harry Stiles’ photographs.  A large number of pieces of decorative art were also purchased and developments in the town centre led to the discovery and collection of some incredible Roman and Medieval Archaeology.

Due to generous donations and grant funding, our collections continue to grow and today feature hundreds of thousands of items relating to the natural and social history of Doncaster and beyond.

We are now looking to the future and exploring how we can preserve and share our collections that are not on display in the museum.  We have digitised some objects which you can search for at the top of this page and you can find out more about our Antiquities, Archaeology, Social History, Fine Art, and Decorative Arts collections in this section.  We have also compiled a list of all the British Coleoptera in our collections.

If you wish to donate an object to Heritage Doncaster, please email us. Although we welcome offers of donations, please note that due to the new Danum Gallery, Library and Museum opening, we are currently experiencing a high number of offers and are unable to take everything into our collection. Priorities for collecting are objects which relate to Doncaster. Please see our Collections Development Policy for more details.

We do not borrow or purchase objects apart from in exceptional circumstances. We cannot guarantee that everything we collect will be on permanent display. Many of our objects are collected for temporary display or research purposes.