A couple with a toddler walking aloingside a steam engine

Elsecar Railway/Canal walk © Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council
Elsecar Railway/Canal walk © Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council

Elsecar Heritage Action Zone

Unlocking the rich heritage of the Earls village.

Elsecar sits in the Borough of Barnsley in South Yorkshire. Small scale coal mining and iron making had taken place here for centuries, but from the late 18th Century the village was transformed. A canal was cut, a deep colliery sunk and two mighty ironworks built. For more than 250 years, this thriving and bustling village was at the centre of a great Industrial Age.

Newcomen Engine House
Newcomen Engine House, Elsecar Colliery © Historic England DP101151

The investment and direction for all of this came from the Earls Fitzwilliam - the wealthy owners of Wentworth Woodhouse, the largest privately-owned house in Britain. Standing just a mile from Elsecar, the Georgian residence was included in the Chancellors' 2016 Autumn Statement, with £7.6 million pledged to save the historic building. Its façade is twice as long as Buckingham Palace's.

The Earls regarded Elsecar as an estate village and took a strong interest in local affairs. They provided cottages for colliery workers designed by renowned architects, including John Carr. Guests from Wentworth Woodhouse, including Royalty, were taken on visits to the ironworks, the village and even underground.

In Edwardian times the reservoir built to feed the canal became a popular attraction and families from nearby villages and towns flocked to 'Elsecar-by-the-Sea' for swimming and boating. For the first time, tourism began to fuel the local economy. A beach was even built for this 'seaside resort in the heart of the Yorkshire coalfield'. But things took a turn for the worse towards the end of the century. The last colliery closed in 1983 and a few months later, the Miners' Strike began a mile away along the village's Georgian canal.

People sitting in a boat and standing on a jetty, with opencasting at Wentworth Woodhouse in the background
Elsecar by the Sea, with opencasting at Wentworth Woodhouse in the background © Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council

How the Elsecar Heritage Action Zone will help

Whilst things have improved in recent decades, it is widely recognised that Elsecar has great potential as a visitor attraction. People living and working in the village and neighbouring communities have much to gain from its rich heritage and proud story.

This Heritage Action Zone will seek to:

  • Improve understanding of the village's heritage, which is largely hidden, extending the visitor experience to include important archaeological sites.
  • Bring historic buildings back into use, providing offices and retail units.
  • Identify suitable sites for new housing.
  • Encourage local people and community groups to get involved in the village's development - to help them forge new skills, provide rewarding experiences and raise awareness and pride in Elsecar's heritage.
Children in a vintage car and people standing on the steps of the Earl's workshops
Earl's workshops © Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council

Elsecar HAZ Partners

  • Historic England
  • Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council

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