ALMOST £4m in government funding has been secured to make Elsecar Heritage Centre a major ‘hub for cultural connectivity across Barnsley’.

The funding, from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports’ cultural development fund, is hoped to not only connect Elsecar with other cultural centres being set up around Barnsley, but also entice international recognition.

Barnsley Council has received £3.93m from the fund, delivered by Arts Council England, which will go towards several transformative projects at the attraction.

Council leader Sir Steve Houghton said: “Elsecar has always played an important part in Barnsley’s history, from its thriving industrial past to its unique heritage assets, it’s a place to be cherished and proud of.  

“Now thanks to the generosity of the DCMS-funded Arts Council managed Culture Development Fund, significant investment in the village will have a major impact on its future, catapulting it even further to become an internationally recognised visitor destination.”

In late 2020, 16 sites dotted around Elsecar Heritage Centre were listed or upgraded by Historic England - which came at the end of a far-reaching three-year study run alongside Barnsley Museums’ Dr John Tanner and Dr Tegwen Roberts, as Elsecar became one of the first Heritage Action Zones in the country.

The findings revealed Elsecar as an early model village, built around industry from the mid-18th century by the philanthropic Earls Fitzwilliam to show off their industrialism while providing high-quality housing for coal and iron workers.

The concentration of listed sites - many of which are still visible today, including the 18th century Elsecar Ironworks and the mid-19th century Hemingfield (also known as Low Elsecar) Colliery - is thought to be one of the highest in such a relatively small area.

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The Grade II*-listed heritage centre, now home to independent retailers, has been earmarked for a total of £7.9m in Barnsley Council’s five-year £260m investment plan - heralded by Coun Houghton as the biggest investment he’s ever seen while serving on the authority.

A new 3,140 square metre waterfront suite of buildings is planned for a brownfield site next to the canal, with 40 workshops, events spaces and galleries, and a new cafe.

The funding will not only support investment in Elsecar, but in creating a network of facilities across Barnsley’s Principal Towns of Wombwell, Hoyland, Cudworth, Royston, Penistone and Goldthorpe - the latter also subject to a huge £23.1m investment through the government Towns Fund.

The plan has been developed for consideration by the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority, which has agreed as part of its devolution deal with central government to establish a multi-million pound South Yorkshire Renewal Fund.

Barnsley will request £80m from the fund for ‘early delivery’ projects over the next two financial years, to contribute towards £260m total investment across 19 projects.

Priority projects include Monckton Enterprise Park at Royston and Wombwell Enterprise Centre, and the acquisition of two ‘key buildings’ in Cudworth.

Coun Houghton added: “The £3.93 million funding will make Elsecar a hub for cultural connectivity across Barnsley, for people, businesses, communities and partners. 

“New workspaces, galleries and events spaces will support an innovative new cultural programme that will hugely benefit the borough economically and culturally. ( “The funding will also connect Elsecar with new local creative hubs to be established in our Principal Towns, working together with our local communities supporting people to co-produce and take part in local cultural activities.

“These hubs and their activity will have positive impacts on our economy but also on people’s health and wellbeing.

“The hubs will create a vital and far-reaching cultural network, working to boost Barnsley’s creative sectors in many ways, through employment and partnership working.”