When the first visitors to Experience Barnsley pass through its doors in September 2012 they will be able to see a state-of-the art heritage and archive centre housed in one of the most impressive art decor public buildings in the north of England, Barnsley Town Hall. The lottery-funded ‘people’s museum’ has taken more than ten years of planning thanks to the help of volunteers, councillors and professionals. But the main impetus has been the willingness of Barnsley people to donate objects and provide information celebrating the history and heritage of the town and its neighbourhood. Barnsley people are proud of its long and interesting history. For well over a century coal mining was the dominant industry, at a great human cost for many families. Other economic activities however also need to be recognized, especially linen and textiles, glass, leather, iron working and metal trades; and from medieval times Barnsley, with its weekly market and annual fairs was an important place for trade and travel epitomized in the later 'BARNSLEY FOR BARGAINS' slogan.
Today, Barnsley is rightly being marketed as a 21st-century market town and many new and restored public and private buildings reflect a ‘new town’ and forward-looking urban feel: for example, the Transport Interchange, Gateway Plaza, Digital Media Centre, Barnsley College, University Centre Barnsley, Civic Hall and Town Hall. In a sense the new and revamped landmarks reciprocate a vision of hope and aspiration that began in Norman times when a new market town was strategically established in a key part of southern Yorkshire. The post-pit closure years affected the town and its old mining communities badly and it has been a long haul to remake and recreate new services and facilities. The hard task continues in the wake of national and international upheaval. And yet Barnsley’s greatest asset, historically speaking and in the present day shines through: its people. Everyone has heard of Michael Parkinson and Dickie Bird but Experience Barnsley will reflect countless lost heroes of the town in areas such as Art, Music, Literature, Science, Business, Politics, Sport and Entertainment; and of course will not forget those who have given so much to their town and country via the armed services. Enjoy the New Barnsley by all means but lets also not forget the Old.
Barnsley Then & Now by Brian Elliott
£12.99 Hardback, 978-0-7524-6402-2