A FILMMAKER will be providing the bridge between the village of Elsecar and the Indian Ocean island of Réunion for a celebration of the 200th anniversary of a major piece of Victorian engineering.

The Isle of Bourbon’s suspension bridge was designed by pioneering engineer Marc Brunel and crafted at the Hartop, Sorby and Littlewood Ironworks in Elsecar before being shipped to the island now called Réunion, where it was opened in 1824, spanning the Sainte-Suzanne River.

The site of the ironworks in Elsecar where all the casting work was carried out is now a playing field, offering virtually no clues to its industrial past.

In 2018, though, an archaeological excavation began at the site as part of the Elsecar Heritage Action Zone and Wentworth and Elsecar Great Place projects, revealing some of the community’s ironworks history.

And now the almost forgotten page of the village’s story will be celebrated by filmmaker Wayne Sables, who is creating a film for Barnsley Museums as part of the Building Bridges and Forging Ahead project.

Barnsley Museums secured £90,000 funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the project to help protect, share and celebrate the village’s heritage, working closely with local schools, families, community groups, volunteers and partners from across Barnsley and South Yorkshire.

“The story of the bridge that went all the way from Elsecar to a small island in the Indian Ocean, where it is still in use to this day, is a fascinating but little know piece of South Yorkshire’s industrial past,” said Wayne.

“I’ll be working with children and community groups to explore the story of how the bridge was made and the impact it had on the community at the time.

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“There will be some interviews and there will also be some animations too as we recreate the construction of the bridge, with the plan being to project the film onto a building in the centre of Elsecar in November.

“It’s a complex story and one that involves not only the outstanding achievements of the Industrial Revolution but also reflects the darker side of 19th century history as slavery continued on the island into the 1840s, long after the bridge was opened.

“I want the film to reflect every aspect of this complex period of world history, though at its heart it will be very much a celebration of the working lives of people in very different communities on opposite sides of the world.”