Barnsley is a large town in South Yorkshire in the north of England. It grew up as a linen-making town, but then in the 18th and 19th century made its living from coal-mining, glass-making and steel. All those heavy industries have gone but Barnsley continues with light industry and as a commuter area for Sheffield and to some extent Leeds.
Some 300 million years ago, a vast triangle of swamp and forest became buried, and morphed into the York-Derby-Notts coalfield, with one large component being the South Yorkshire coalfield. The coal outcropped in the west towards the Pennines, becoming deeper to the east beyond Doncaster, so it was easily mined around Barnsley from medieval times. First excavations were simple pits dug into outcrops, deepening into "drifts", then "room and pillar" techniques, then sideways-creeping tunnels for long-wall mining and total extraction. The "Barnsley Bed" coal was suitable for coking to support glass and steel manufacture, and the seam was up to ten feet thick. Profit! Whatever the height of the seam, that's what the miner has to work in, since the rock above and below is unprofitable. The colliery owners made vast fortunes and built colossal mansions, some of which still stand near town and can be visited, as can some of the surface workshops. It all came to an end in the late 20th century with the exhaustion of the better seams, cheaper foreign imports, the long bitter miners' strike, the "Dash for Gas" in electricity generation then the shift to non-carbon fuels. And so away went much of Barnsley's livelihood. It's struggled to reinvent itself since.
See Yorkshire#Talk for the mysteries of local speech, which is perhaps more distinctively Yorkshire here than in the other large towns. Those other towns have had more population mix; Barnsley has seen outflow but in modern times little inflow, with limited employment opportunities. However the dialect is perfectly comprehensible, and if someone uses traditional terms like "thou" or "thee" they're either over 70 or being ironic.
The M1 runs a couple of miles west of town, use jcn 37 onto A628.
The town transport hub is the 1 Interchange, with both the railway and bus station. Barnsley is not on the Sheffield tram network.
- Wikivoyage has a guide to Rail travel in the United Kingdom.
Trains from London St Pancras run to Sheffield twice an hour, change there for frequent trains to Barnsley heading for Leeds or Huddersfield; travel time is just under 3 hours. Change in Sheffield or Leeds for most other destinations, but there's also a direct train from York via Barnsley to Sheffield three times a day.
National Express NX560 runs twice a day from London Victoria to Barnsley, taking just over 5 hours. For other routes change in Sheffield or Leeds. Megabus doesn't serve Barnsley.
Stagecoach Bus X2 runs from Sheffield to Barnsley M-Sa every 30 min, taking an hour. On Sundays Bus 2 plies the same route hourly and takes 90 min.
Bus 22X runs between Rotherham and Barnsley taking 70 min. It runs M-Sa every 10-20 min, hourly on Sundays.
Bus X19 runs between Doncaster and Barnsley taking 45 min. It runs M-Sa every 30 min, hourly on Sundays.
Local buses meander through the lanes, burbs and industrial estates from Wakefield (Bus 59) and Pontefract (Bus 28).
- 2 Doncaster-Sheffield Airport (DSA IATA) or "Robin Hood" has flights from several European cities, especially in Poland and Lithuania. Take a bus from the airport to Doncaster or Sheffield then train.
- Manchester Airport (MAN IATA) has global connections and competitive fares. From the airport take the hourly train heading for Cleethorpes, and change in Sheffield.
- East Midlands Airport (EMA IATA) near Nottingham has flights from across western Europe and the Med. You can take the train from East Midlands Parkway Station.
- Leeds-Bradford (LBA) has similar flights to East Midlands but is the opposite side of congested Leeds, with no rail link.
- Town centre is compact, just walk.
- For Silkstone take Bus 20 (heading for Penistone) which runs hourly, taking 20 min.
- For Elsecar take Bus 66, which runs every 20 min, taking 35 min. Or take the train for Sheffield, which runs twice an hour and takes 10 min to Elsecar, then it's a ten minute walk to the Heritage Centre.
- Taxis: operators include Blue Line (+44 1226 244444), A-line Taxis (+44 1226 285999) and Uber.
- 1 Barnsley Town Hall, Church St S70 2TA. M-F 10:00-16:00, Sa 10:00-15:30. This elegant Portland stone building with its Art Deco clock tower was opened in 1933, a smaller version of Stormont in Belfast: George Orwell (having moved on from Wigan Pier to study Yorkshire) was appalled at the expense. It has housed the borough council but most of these offices have moved elsewhere. The space has been turned into a museum, Experience Barnsley, and you can also look in at the civic chambers. The war memorial at the front pre-dates the building. Free.
- 2 Cooper Gallery, Church St, Barnsley S70 2AH, ☏ . M-F 10:00-16:00, Sa 10:00-15:00. The permanent collection has over 400 works, including by JMW Turner and Corot. With pleasant cafe. Free.
- 3 Monk Bretton Priory is the scrappy ruin of a Cluniac monastery, active 1154-1538. It's two miles east of town at the junction of A628 and A633. It's open Th-Su 10:00-15:00, free.
- 4 Cannon Hall, Bark House Lane, Cawthorne S75 4AT, ☏ . Th-Su 11:00-16:00. This mansion was rebuilt in the 18th century by the Spencer-Stanhopes from their iron and coal fortune; it was sold to the council in 1951. The main museum displays paintings, metalwork, ceramics, glassware and furniture, while the de Morgan collection showcases the work of that ceramicist and painter couple. There are extensive Victorian and Georgian gardens and wooded parkland. A "Maize Maze" is laid out to a different pattern each year. Free.
- Cannon Hall Open Farm is next door to the Hall.
- Flashes are areas of land that sank and became flooded when the coal beneath them was extracted; nowadays they're often parkland and wildlife habitats. There's a string of them along the River Dearne, such as "The Fleets" half a mile north of town centre.
- 5 Silkstone is an attractive little village four miles west of Barnsley: "Sylc" was probably the name of its Anglo-Saxon farmer. The coal seam here was near the surface, so there has long been mining. Part of the wagonway for coal tubs has been preserved, a scenic walk; but the sombre background is the Huskar Pit disaster of 1838 when the pit flooded and drowned 26 workers, all children aged 7-17. All Saints Church, dating from 12th century, is where they are buried; there's a stain-glass commemorative window. Pot House Hamlet just east of the village was a pottery and glassworks, and is nowadays an artisan and retail mall. The village pub and restaurant is The Bells Steakhouse.
- 6 Wentworth Castle is a grand 18th century mansion in Franco-Prussian style. It's become dilapidated and you can't go inside, but the gardens are maintained by the National Trust. Its predecessor Stainborough Castle has gone but a sham ruin of that name was put up as a folly. The gardens are open daily April-Oct, adult £9.35, child £4.70, NT free.
- 7 Elsecar is a former coal-mining and steel-making village with many well-preserved buildings. The Heritage Centre in a former foundry is basically a retail mall, open daily 10:00-16:00. The Heritage Railway is a standard-gauge line a mile long, with trains (often steam-hauled) on Sundays. There's also a static Newcomen Beam Engine in working order. The village has several eating places and pubs, and a regular bus and train service.
- North just over the boundary into Wakefield are:
- - 8 Yorkshire Sculpture Park, with work by big names such as Elisabeth Frink, Barbara Hepworth, Antony Gormley and Henry Moore.
- - National Coal Mining Museum along A642, where you descend into the same coalfield that was mined in Barnsley.
- East just over the boundary into Doncaster are Conisbrough Castle, Brodsworth Hall and the hamlet of Hooton Pagnell.
- What's on: read the listings in the Barnsley Chronicle online or in the Friday print edition. Local radio station Dearne FM broadcasts on 102 FM and 97.1 FM.
- Parkway Cinema, 62 Eldon St S70 2JL (just west of Interchange), ☏ . There are two screens, and it's cheaper than going to Sheffield or Doncaster.
- Metrodome Leisure Complex and Calypso Water Park are a quarter-mile east of the Interchange.
- Listen to a brass band, the most famous being Grimethorpe Band from that village five miles east. They were originally miners at the village colliery, but kept playing when it closed in 1993; they featured in the film Brassed Off (1996) which depicted the decline of colliery, band and community.
- Walk or cycle the Transpennine Trail and other routes. Use OS Landranger Map 111 (Sheffield-Doncaster) for the area round town, and Map 110 (Sheffield-Huddersfield) for Silkstone and the hills to the west.
- Watch football (ie soccer) at 1 Barnsley FC, Oakwell Stadium, Grove St S71 1ET, ☏ . They were promoted in 2019 and now play in the Championship, the second tier of English football. Oakwell Stadium, capacity 23,000, is half a mile east of the railway & bus station.
- Club cricket is played at Shaw Lane by Barnsley Woolley Miners, in the Yorkshire South Premier League. Famous names who've played for the club are Geoff Boycott, Michael Parkinson and Dickie Bird. In winter Barnsley's rugby union team play here.
- Barnsley Central Library has a large collection of books (fiction and non-fiction), a reference section, and a learning centre that offers self-study courses on a wide range of topics. Public internet access is also available. The library is on Shambles Street (almost opposite the top of Market Hill).
- Barnsley College offers vocational subjects, A levels, night classes and degrees.
- The University Centre is a campus of the University of Huddersfield in Barnsley based on Church Street next to the town hall.
- Barnsley Market is just south of the Interchange. It's open M-Sa 08:30-17:00, individual traders vary but the main market days are Wednesday and Saturday.
- The Market adjoins Alhambra Shopping Centre south and The Arcade north, with the usual High Street stores.
- Other central retail areas are along Queen Street and Cheapside.
- Peel Retail Park is the main mall, half a mile northeast of the centre at the junction of A61 and A635.
- Visit attractive Silkstone for Pot House Hamlet artisan and retail outlet.
- Meadowhall is an enormous shopping mall at junction 34 of M1 on the northeast edge of Sheffield. People from Barnsley drive there for their "big shop" and for big-ticket items, and this has sapped the viability of their town's own shops.
- Barnsley Steak (or chop or "double") is actually lamb. It goes well with green beans and new potatoes, and a big chug of red wine.
- The main strip of eating places is along Peel St and Wellington St. As well as the fast food chains, there's 1 Momento, Lemon Tree, Bistro Romano's, Supper Club and Favela Brazilian Grill. Another little cluster on Pall Mall includes Grille Steakhouse, Pinnocchio's and Istanbul Kitchen.
- 1 Beatson House Restaurant, 2 Darton Rd, Cawthorne S75 4HR, ☏ . Tu-Th Sa 18:00-23:30, F 12:00-14:00, 18:30-00:00, Su 11:30-17:30. Great traditional British fare in an attractive setting.
- The Joseph Bramah is a JD Wetherspoon on Market Hill, open daily 08:00-00:00. It's named for the prolific and successful inventor Joseph Bramah (1748-1814), who grew up in Silkstone before settling in London. His many inventions include an improved flush toilet (one served Queen Victoria in Osborne House, Isle of Wight, and is still in use), tamper-proof locks (offering 200 guineas for anyone who could pick the "challenge lock", a reward not claimed for 67 years), the hydraulic press and many other hydraulic devices, a machine to print banknotes with sequential numbers, and extrusion processes for lead pipes. All this was underpinned by his novel standards for engineering precision and quality control that made possible the high-pressure steam engines of the Victorian period. He died of a cold caught while supervising his machine for uprooting trees.
- Other pubs in town centre are The Court House on Regent St; Annie Murray's, White Bear and Garrison near the market; and Treadle's Winebar, Chennell's and The Shakespeare along Wellington St.
- Local breweries are Geeves, Acorn, and Outhouse.
- Premier Inn is a reliable budget chain in town centre off Sackville St.
- Ibis Styles is at M1 jcn 37 two miles west of town centre.
- 1 Holiday Inn, Barnsley Rd, Dodworth S75 3JT (jcn 37 of M1), ☏ . A travel motel with restaurant and conference facilities. The fitness centre has exercise equipment and a pool.
- 2 The Fairway Pub (formerly Bluebell Inn), Elmhirst Ln, Dodworth S75 4LS, ☏ . Budget accommodation for business travellers and families.
- Travelodge is two miles southeast of town, opposite Aldi at the junction of A633 and A635.
- Wombwell and Brampton four miles southeast of town have a cluster of accomodation including OYO Churchill, Premier Inn, and Holiday Inn just across the boundary into Rotherham.
Barnsley has 4G from all UK carriers. As of Jan 2021, 5G has not reached this area.
- For big city attractions, the obvious choices are Sheffield and Leeds, all within an hour by train; it's not much further to Manchester.
- York and Lincoln are well-preserved historic cities.
- The most scenic countryside, south of Sheffield, is the Peak District.
|Routes through Barnsley|
|Leeds ← Wakefield ←||N S||→ Rotherham → Sheffield (East & South)|
|Leeds ← Wakefield ←||N S||→ Sheffield (North & West)|