Donkeys had traditionally been used for carrying heavy loads of coal throughout the UK, and in particular the East Midlands. The image shows Wilson's donkey team outside the Wagon and Coals Inn. His team carried the heavy loads of coal from Mansfield coal wharf to Farnsfield and nearby villages.
A brief history of donkeys in Britain
Many of us will remember the first time we came across a donkey, whether it was as an infant learning the story of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, or being taught to sing "Little Donkey" at the top of our voices at Christmas nativities, or when we visited the beaches and saw the donkeys giving rides there.
For the successful tradesman and the London costermonger the donkey drawn barrow came to replace the baskets and the hand carts. Hundreds of donkeys were drawn up at the markets for the carts to be filled with fresh fruit, vegetables and fish and on Bank Holidays, the donkey would be used to take the family for an outing. With all this activity there was a thriving trade in donkeys.
There were said to be 100 donkeys daily on the heath in 1836. Soon their popularity inspired cartoonists and attracted Charles Dickens and even, in the early 1850s, Karl Marx, who rode with more fervour than skill.
John Simpson Kirkpatrick was born in South Shields, County Durham in 1892. He spent his childhood working as a donkey lad on Herd Sands Beach. After the death of his father in 1909 he left Tyneside to go to sea, so he could earn a good income for his family.