South Yorkshire village recognised in top ten for special heritage in England

20 March 2017

The South Yorkshire village of Elsecar in Barnsley has been named a ‘Heritage Action Zone’ by Historic England - one of only ten places in the country to gain the special new status. This nationwide project will breathe new life into areas that are rich in uncelebrated heritage.

A bustling industrial village from the 1700s, Elsecar boomed thanks to its ironworks and thriving collieries, which were often visited by aristocrats and royalty.

For 150 years it was the industrial estate village of Wentworth Woodhouse just a mile away, and was developed by the Marquis of Rockingham and Earls Fitzwilliam into a model village.

Its status as a Heritage Action Zone means that Elsecar will be supported with resources and funding that will begin to realise the village’s potential as part of the region’s visitor and tourism economy.

Elsecar Heritage Centre, which already attracts more than 400,000 visitors per year, includes extensive remains of ironworks, collieries and workshops, which were built to serve local industry and the Wentworth Woodhouse estate.

Through joint-working, grant funding and sharing their skills, Historic England will work with the council and the heritage centre to unlock Elsecar’s potential by improving understanding of the village’s rich heritage, bringing historic buildings back into use, and encouraging local people and community groups to get involved in the village’s development. 

The Heritage Action Zones initiative has been launched by Historic England to support places that are rich in heritage and have the potential to become focal points for sustainable economic development and community life.

The bid for the HAZ status was put together by Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council’s Barnsley Museums service, working with local partners. The three-year status will support a new project officer, who will work closely with Historic England’s own specialist advisers on the initiative.

Cllr Roy Miller, Cabinet Spokesperson for Place at Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, said: “This is a fantastic achievement for the area. We look forward to working with Historic England and others to help Elsecar fulfil its potential as a unique historic village which brings visitors, investment and jobs to our region.”

Trevor Mitchell, Planning Director for Historic England Yorkshire, said: "We see great potential for the heritage of Elsecar to grow the local economy, attracting more people to visit, work and live in the area. We want this Heritage Action Zone to unlock Elsecar’s heritage, not just its industrial past but the story of the village, its community and links to the Fitzwilliam family – the people’s stories that make its heritage so remarkable.”

Lynn Dunning, Group Leader at Barnsley Museums, said: “It’s fantastic to see Elsecar getting the recognition it deserves and we are very excited about what this means for the heritage centre, the village and the wider area. 

“Being awarded HAZ status is the result of many years of hard work to uncover the importance of Elsecar’s heritage, combined with detailed planning to realise its full potential. We hope to use this new status to tap into other funding streams that will help us achieve our vision for Elsecar as a visitor destination.”

The other areas named as Heritage Action Zones are in Appleby, Coventry, Hull Old Town, King's Lynn, Nottingham, Ramsgate, Sunderland, Sutton and Weston-super-Mare. 

This press release was prepared by Capital B Media, a public relations and media training agency based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. For more information, please visit


Notes to editor

Attached image shows John Tanner of Barnsley Museums (second from right), at Elsecar with members of the Historic England Heritage Action Zone team. Please credit Alun Bull.

For more information, images, or interviews, contact Mary Ferguson at Capital B Media on 01226 766900 or

Jane Jackson, Historic at Risk Principal Adviser at Historic England, can be contacted at

This press release was prepared by Capital B Media, a public relations and media training agency based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. For more information, please visit


About Elsecar

For more than 250 years, this thriving and bustling village was at the centre of a great Industrial Age. Its impressive architecture grew and grew. Much still stands, including a recently restored 1795 Newcomen Engine, the oldest steam engine in the world still in its original location.

The investment and direction for all this came from 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’ Autumn Statement, with £7.6m pledged to save the historic building. Its façade is twice as long as Buckingham Palace’s.

The Earls Fitzwilliam not only invested in industry, they regarded Elsecar as an estate village and provided cottages for colliery workers designed by renowned architects, including John Carr. The Earls took a strong interest in local affairs. 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. 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.

Elsecar Heritage Centre is part of the Barnsley Museums portfolio, owned and operated by Barnsley Council. The other museums are the Cooper Gallery, Worsbrough Mill, Cannon Hall and Experience Barnsley.

About Heritage Action Zones

Heritage Action Zones will unleash the power in England’s historic environment to create economic growth and improve quality of life in villages, towns and cities.

Working with local people and partners, Historic England will help to breathe new life into old places that are rich in heritage and full of promise - unlocking their potential and making them more attractive to residents, businesses, tourists and investors. They will do this with joint-working, grant funding and sharing their skills.

Historic buildings that have deteriorated through decades of neglect will be restored and put back into use; conservation areas improved to kick-start regeneration and renewal; and unsung places will be recognised and celebrated for their unique character and heritage, helping instil a sense of local pride wherever there’s a Heritage Action Zone. 

Historic England (formerly known as English Heritage), is the public body that champions and protects England's historic places. They look after the historic environment, providing expert advice, helping people protect and care for it and helping the public to understand and enjoy it.

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