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Barnsley is a town in South Yorkshire, England. It lies on the River Dearne, 11.8 miles (19 km) north of the city of Sheffield, 17 miles (27 km) south of Leeds and 14.5 miles (23 km) west of Doncaster. Barnsley is surrounded by several smaller settlements which together form the Metropolitan Borough of Barnsley, of which Barnsley is the largest and the administrative centre. The metropolitan borough had a population of 218,063 at the 2001 UK Census; Barnsley Urban Area had a population of 71,599.
Historically a part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, Barnsley is notable as a former industrial town centred on coal mining and glass making although in the town a few factories remain notably the glassworks and coking plant. Though these industries declined in the 20th century, Barnsley's local culture remains rooted in this industrial heritage; Barnsley has a tradition of brass bands, originally created as social clubs for its mining communities.
It is between junctions 36 and 38 of the M1 motorway and has a railway station served by the Hallam and Penistone Lines. Barnsley F.C. is the local football club.
The first historical reference occurs in 1086 in the Domesday Book, in which it is called 'Berneslai' with a total population of around 200. The exact origins of the name Barnsley is still subject to debate, but Barnsley Council claims that its origins lie in the Saxon word Berne, for barn or storehouse, and Lay, for field.
The town lay in the parish of Silkstone and developed little until in the 1150s it was given to the monastery of St John, Pontefract. The monks decided to build a new town where three roads met: the Sheffield to Wakefield, Rotherham to Huddersfield and Cheshire to Doncaster routes. The Domesday village became known as "Old Barnsley", and a town grew up on the new site.
The monks erected a chapel-of-ease dedicated to Saint Mary, which survived intact until 1820, and established a market. In 1249, a Royal Charter was granted to Barnsley permitting it to hold a weekly market on Wednesdays and annual four-day fair at Michaelmas. By the 1290s, three annual fairs were held. The town became the main centre for the Staincross wapentake, but in the mid-sixteenth century still had only 600 inhabitants.
From the 17th century, Barnsley developed into a stop-off point on the route between Leeds, Wakefield, Sheffield and London. The traffic generated as a result of this location fuelled trade, with hostelries and related services also prospering. A principal centre for linen weaving during the 18th and 19th century, Barnsley grew into an important manufacturing town. Barnsley also has a long tradition of glass-making, but is most famous for its coalfields. George Orwell briefly mentions the town in The Road to Wigan Pier. Orwell spent a number of days in the town living in the houses of the working-class miners while researching for the book. He wrote very critically of the council's expenditure on the construction of Barnsley Town Hall and claimed that the money should have been spent on improving the housing and living conditions of the local miners.
The town is known for coal mining, although most of the pits were actually in the surrounding villages, rather than in the town itself. The proportion employed in mining varied hugely, even before recent times. "Barnsley Main" colliery was in the town, but was fairly small; it closed in 1991. All of the mines in the borough are now closed; Goldthorpe was the last to close in 1994. Wire, linen and glass-making were also major industries, but only glass-making remains, with one large company still operating. The coat of arms for the town includes a coal miner and a glass-blower. It is now moving towards a service economy. As of July 2007, unemployment stands at 2.8% in Barnsley West & Penistone, 4.2% in Barnsley Central and 4.0% in Barnsley East & Mexborough, compared to the national average of 3.1%. Since 1997, unemployment fell by 55.2%, 52.5% and 52.5% in the three areas respectively.
The Western half of the Borough stretches from the M1 to the edge of the Peak District and is essentially rural in character. This Western part includes the Market Town of Penistone and some notable and remarkable places of interest, these include: Wentworth Castle and Gardens (Grade I listed gardens), Cannon Hall Park and Museum, Cawthorne Jubilee Museum, Wortley Hall and Gardens, Wortley Top Forge (16th century Forge). Pot House Hamlet
In 2002, Barnsley Council and partners launched a major consultation exercise called "Rethinking Barnsley". This led to a regeneration programme centred on Barnsley Town Centre called "Remaking Barnsley". Developments include a new transport interchange, a new cultural centre in the old Civic Hall, a Digital Media Centre (opened August 2007), and new offices and apartments throughout the Town Centre. At the same time, housebuilding has taken off and major new housing areas have been developed. Business Parks on the M1 at Junctions 37 and 36, and in the Dearne Valley, have also expanded the job opportunities locally. Unemployment is now below the national average but a large number of local people are on Incapacity Benefit. The economic development of Barnsley is led by the Barnsley Development Agency.
Significant industrial employers include the Ardagh Glass Group, Fosters Bakery, Xpress Media and others.
The main part of Barnsley town centre was constructed during the 1960s, and as with many other town centres, has become less aesthetically pleasing over time. The area around Cheapside and May Day Green, which is known as the metropolitan centre, is home to the market as well as many national high street chains such as Marks & Spencer, WH Smith, HMV, Carphone Warehouse, Vodafone, Boots, and The Body Shop. It is due to be demolished in 2009 to make way for a new retail and leisure development. The Mall Barnsley, which was opened in 1991, houses retailers such as Next and Primark. Other prominent areas include Queen Street, where Marks and Spencer and stores such as Topshop, Topman, Wallis and Dorothy Perkins are located, Market Street, Eldon Street and The Arcade, which houses the majority of the independent and designer retailers in Barnsley. The town also has a large concentration of pubs and bars in the central district. There is also a cinema called Parkway cinema.
Outside the town centre lie numerous large retail units, retail parks and supermarkets, which include Asda, Morrisons, Halfords, and B&Q.
Development work on the new shopping centre is due to start in the town centre in 2012. Several stores such as Vodafone and Halifax Bank have opened new premises in town.
Barnsley town centre is undergoing a period of change. Projects include:
- The new Barnsley Interchange.
- The digital media centre (now completed).
- Gateway Plaza at Town End (now completed). Second phase has started.
- The Markets complex which will house Barnsley Markets and be the centre of the towns retailing. It will be anchored by Debenhams.
- Experience Barnsley – The creation of the Barnsley People's Museum and Archives Centre. This project has been awarded almost £3m of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which means two floors of Barnsley's distinctive Town Hall will be transformed into state-of-the-art museum galleries, the first devoted to the borough's stories, past and present. This will be completed by July 2012.
- Barnsley college A Block is currently being rebuilt completion by July 2011.
- Alhambra Centre
- Barnsley College
- Barnsley Town Hall and
- Cannon Hall Museum, Park & Gardens
- The Civic
- Cooper Gallery
- Gawber Parish Church
- Locke Park
- Oakwell Stadium football ground, home of Barnsley Football Club
- Wentworth Castle & Gardens
- John Rideal House
- Pot House Hamlet
- Barnsley Central Offices transformed in 2009 into a large scale artwork 'Strata' part of Barnsleys City of Culture bid 2010 by local artist Patrick Murphy.
- Barnsley Interchange
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