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Barnsley in 1835

Barnsley, a market-town and township in the West Riding of the county of York, in the parish of Silkston, in the wapentake of Staincross. It is 172 miles N.N.W. of London, 39 miles S.W. of York, 9 miles S. of Wakefield, and 13 miles N. of Sheffield.

Several circumstances connected with the early history of this town have contributed to its pre-eminence, in population and in prosperity, over Silkston itself and its other dependencies. Places that were under the protection of religious communities generally prospered more than those belonging to private proprietors, from the circumstance of the exactions upon the inhabitants being fewer and less rigidly enforced. This was the case with Barnsley in its early days. The monks were, in many ways, its benefactors, and they obtained for it the benefit of a market, which contributed much to bring a population within the precincts of the town. Being in a straight line between Sheffield and Wakefield, both ancient and important towns, Barnsley derived advantage from the intercourse carried on between them. But the great cause of its prosperity was the early establishment of manufactures. Wire-works were in existence here in the time of James I.

The population of Barnsley in 1831 was 10,330 ; showing an increase of 2,046 persons from the date of the preceding decennial census. The wire-works of Barnsley are said to have furnished the best wire in the kingdom, and it was greatly in demand for making needles. This manufacture has, however, fallen into decay, and there are now only two wire-works in the town. Barnsley has lost its ancient trade, and has acquired a new one, to which its present prosperity is entirely owing.

The linen trade is now the chief support of this populous town. Its fabrics are linen-cloth, damasks, diapers, drills, ducks, checks, and ticks. The great improvements which Barnsley has made during a very recent period in the production of these articles, some of which are not surpassed even by the Scotch manufactures, is a main cause of the prosperous state of the town. A better kind of work affords superior wages to the productive classes, a benefit which has been felt for several years by the weavers of Barnsley. In damasks and drills it is said that Barnsley stands unrivalled. Some of the above goods are technically called unions, from both linen and cotton being united in their production. There are extensive bleaching-works and dye-houses, as well as a spinning-factory, all connected with the staple commodity of the town. The numerous coal-mines and the iron-works in the immediate neighbourhood find occupation for hundreds of people ; there is also a glass-house and several iron-foundries. The commerce of the town is greatly aided by the Dearne and Dove canal, which passes near the town and connects it with the river Don. The Barnsley canal communicates with the Yorkshire river Calder.

The ancient church of Barnsley has been lately rebuilt ; it is considered as a chapel of ease to Silkston. It is a perpetual curacy, and is in the diocese and in the gift of the Archbishop of York. A new church was erected by the assistance of the parliamentary commissioners a few years ago. There are seven dissenting congregations, of different denominations, including four of Methodists, one of Quakers, one of Independents, and one of Catholics. There are also seven Sunday schools, which are attended by nearly 1,800 children. The National School gives instructions to nearly 400 children ; it was erected by the trustees of George Ellis's charity. A free grammar school was built and endowed in 1665 by Thomas Keresforth. This school is at present free for the teaching of Latin and Greek to children belonging to the parish of Silkston. It is a pay-school for all other branches of learning. It contains about fifty pupils.

Barnsley has only two small libraries, and few subscribers to them. A short time ago an attempt was made to establish a Mechanics' Institute. The patronage of Lord Wharncliffe and Viscount Morpeth was obtained, and these noblemen attended the first meeting that was held for this object, but from some want of unanimity the attempt failed. At present it is in contemplation to erect public buildings, including a library, news-room, post-office &c., all the shares for which undertaking are disposed of. It is the wish and the expectation of many that the projected buildings will also provide a place of meeting for mechanics of the town and neighbourhood.

Barnsley is situated on a hill, the surrounding views are pleasing, the roads good, and much of the land very fertile. The manor belongs to the Duke of Leeds. The ride from Barnsley to Wakefield is one of the most picturesque in the kingdom. The town has obtained the name Black Barnsley, supposed by some to be a corruption of Bleak from its situation ; by others said to arise from the appearance of its neighbouring moors, its ancient wire-works, its coal-mines, and its iron-works. Hunter's “South Yorkshire” informs us that “four existing baronetcies are to be traced to this town of Barnsley : Armytage, Wood, Wombwell, and Beckett,” and that “Sir Thomas Halifax, Knight, alderman and lord mayor of London, was a native of Barnsley.”