Elsecar was named one of the first ten Heritage Action Zones in the country by Historic England early last year, a scheme that aims to unlock heritage and tourism potential.
Recent archaeological discoveries in the village - such as a colliery entrance in a private garden used by King William IV and and old railway bank packed with ruins - have now prompted bold new proposals to be drawn up to safeguard these sites but also to boost tourism by creating a new visitor hub in the village’s derelict Victorian ironworks.
As an industrial estate village for the Earls Fitzwilliam, Elsecar was created at great expense and aristocrats embraced a new industrial age in a way that cannot be found elsewhere. ( Almost all the historic buildings that are part of the village’s remarkable story still stand. They include remains of its ironworks and collieries, its workers’ cottages, workshops, pubs, schools, a church, railway, village hall, miners’ lodging houses, canal and much else. It is also the home of a 1795 Newcomen Engine, the world’s oldest steam engine still in its original location.
As a heritage action zone, the village qualifies for attention aimed at breathing new life into areas rich in heritage which goes largely unrecognised.
Historic England is working with Barnsley Council and Elsecar Heritage Centre to bring other historic buildings back into use.
Sites now revealed as part of this work include a private garden through which William IV (then Duke of Clarence) went underground in 1828 and a large bank near to the rear of the village’s heritage railway packed with remains, ruins and possibly very old furnaces of what’s left of the once-famous Elsecar Ironworks.
An ironmaster’s house has been identified, designed in the early 19th century, and the full importance of the Elsecar Low Colliery has been realised as a state-of-the-art colliery when built and site of a terrible disaster in 1852, much of which survives.
Ancient woodlands above the village are also pockmarked with what could some of the earliest industrial remains in the region, with coal mines that are possibly late medieval in origin.
In light of these astonishing discoveries, a blueprint has been drawn up to be achieved in the coming years which includes saving any archaeological sites of great significance at considerable risk and building the state-of-the-art visitor hub.
Other proposals include trails and footpaths around the village linking its newly discovered archaeological sites for visitors to explore; work to enhance the workshops; and new facilities and infrastructure created for those visiting the village.
The importance and potential of Elsecar is creating a great deal of excitement.
Trevor Mitchell, of Historic England, said: ‘We’re extremely pleased with the progress of the Elsecar Heritage Zone. A real sense of the heritage of what is a very special village is now emerging and just as importantly, its great potential for the future.”
Coun Roy Miller, cabinet spokesman, agreed. He added: “Elsecar is already a great place to visit and enjoy a day out. We look forward to making sure visitors from far and wide can explore and discover its remarkable story, and everything that can mean for our communities and South Yorkshire.”