AN EX-SERVICEMAN who has found a new path in the arts believes he’s uncovered evidence that contradicts historic comments made about Barnsley by the author George Orwell.

Orwell infamously criticised the £189,000 Barnsley Town Hall when he stayed in the town during the writing of ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’, deeming it an unnecessarily lavish building project at a time when the region severely lacked housing.

Navy serviceman turned art student Chris Thompson, 38, as part of his art course at Barnsley College’s Higher Education campus, decided to look into the comments - and found evidence, more than half a century later, that shows that Orwell was misinformed.

He discovered the town hall was built using a grant from the Unemployment Grants Committee - set up by the government in 1920 to fund public works schemes other than roads and housing.

What Barnsley Council did, as Chris discovered in a battered copy of an Unemployment Grants Committee report found in an online book depository, was use this grant - which could only be used for approved municipal projects - to provide employment to hundreds of soldiers returning from the First World War.

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“I wondered how he got away with it,” said Chris, of Worsbrough Road, Birdwell.

“I’ve realised now there are some parallels between what Orwell was saying back then, and what people are saying about the town centre now.

“There’s always a level of suspicion around council spending, but in this case the council couldn’t have spent that money on anything else.”