A glass act opens in Barnsley

Following a six-year regeneration project and more than £200 million of investment, there is a clear end in sight as Barnsley’s ambitious town centre redevelopment, The Glass Works, marks the final phase of its grand opening.

To reflect the changes in society and future proof the town, The Glass Works is bold and vibrant and holds the people of Barnsley at its core, shattering any outdated preconceptions about Barnsley along the way.

Throughout the Covid pandemic, The Glass Works was one of only a few leisure and shopping projects under construction. The project also beat seven others to win the prestigious regeneration award at The Planning Awards 2021 in April.

What has been masterfully created is dynamic and daring to highlight the council’s long-term commitment to trading in the town centre. The redevelopment project has also kept Barnsley’s heritage in sight. The Glass Works name itself pays homage to the town’s industrial past, while this is reflected in the sleek and refined glazed boulevards and retail units that now stand proudly in the centre of town.

But The Glass Works is not just another shopping centre – far from it. When planning began in 2015, the initial outlook was always to enhance the leisure and hospitality offer within the town centre to attract new audiences to Barnsley.

Distinct community cornerstones have been developed to appeal to people of all ages, enticing families, young professionals, and loyal town centre shoppers to take ownership of this diverse new offer and spend the whole day and night in Barnsley.

Shop, dine, play – stay the whole day

The Glass Works includes the refurbished Barnsley Market with the sensational Market Kitchen dining space that has already brought a huge amount of footfall to the town.

High Street favourites such as TK Maxx and Next have moved into larger, more accessible and visible stores. This new wave of retail has also attracted new names to Barnsley, such as the prestigious Flannels department store which opens its doors early next year.

For families and young people, there is now a thrilling leisure offer with the newly opened Superbowl UK that has a 12-lane bowling alley, huge soft play area, and retro Sega arcade zone to keep the fun going all day long. Next year, Cineworld opens its 13-screen cinema complex which includes a state-of-the-art 4DX screen and a Starbucks concession.

Whether you’re looking for somewhere to grab a quick working lunch, refuel the kids after an exhilarating afternoon at Superbowl UK, or enjoy drinks and dinner in the evening, the Glass Works has a host of bars and restaurants to try, including quality street food from around the world in the remarkable Market Kitchen.

At the end of this year, two new independent bars are set to launch from the owners of Cucina Sky Lounge, the popular cocktail bar from the Market Kitchen. SALT ROCK will serve continental food and cocktails, and the second is a wine and tapas bar called BLACK AND WHiTE. Next year, you’ll even be able to grab a cheeky Nandos when you’re visiting Barnsley.

Barnsley Market

Barnsley’s famous market hall is the epicentre of Barnsley town centre’s renaissance, symbolising the significant role that markets play in the survival of the high street. And the future is bright thanks to the vibrant new market with a fantastic street food dining offer which is renewing local interest, support and trust in shopping in Barnsley.

There has been a market in Barnsley since the town received its original Royal Charter in 1249 and it has remained at the heart of the community for centuries. This historic mainstay has thrived and survived through difficult times, from seeing an influx of shoppers in the 1930s depression to being dug up to build air raid shelters in World War II.

But the brand new market hall, which opened at the end of 2018 as part of the Glass Works project, is the biggest transformation of all.

The Glass Works is unique in that the retail and leisure space has been built around the market to ensure it remains at the heart and soul of the town. The market was the first part of the redevelopment scheme to open, and it has since attracted more people to Barnsley town centre, stimulating economic growth than ever before.

The outdated and cramped building from the 1970s was demolished and traders relocated to a temporary home while construction was finished. But the 80 traders who have since moved into the new market hall have reaped the rewards of what is now one of the best markets in the country.

With wide, spacious aisles and a bright, contemporary feel, the refurbished Barnsley Market comprises of a series of interlinked market halls across two floors. On the upper floor there is also the innovative Market Kitchen, a 500-seater dining hall unlike anything you’d expect to find in a market.

The new market is more accessible, with three entrances, strategically placed lifts and escalators as well as a dynamic layout so that shoppers can easily view all stalls. To help sustain the future of Barnsley Markets, the new market hall has environmentally friendly aspects such as solar thermal panels to heat the water and a heat-absorbing concrete ceiling.

Inside, visitor numbers continue to increase, attracting more than 64,000 people a week from far and wide who come to shop from the many independent traders, many of whom have been on Barnsley Market for generations.

One such stall holder is Devine’s Footwear on the lower floor, a family-run business which has been trading on Barnsley Market for 90 years. Current owner Karen has worked on the stall for over 55 years and took over from her father, John Devine who started the business in 1931. She now has customers from Barnsley and beyond, sending their fine men’s shoes to Cawthorne and Mapplewell as well as Canada and Qatar.

“Barnsley people are very loyal. If they’re happy with what they’ve had then they’ll keep coming back. But we only sell the best. People know our shoes are quality and made to last which is why we’ve built up such a good name in 90 years. It’s marvellous what the council has done with the new market and everyone who visits us loves it,” Karen says.

You’ll find everything you need and more at Barnsley Market, from greetings cards and confectionery to craft and textile supplies. You can choose a full new outfit, have your hair or lashes done, get your shoes or watch repaired, pick new furniture and carpets for your home, or even book a holiday at the many specialised stalls.

The expansive food hall has almost 20 fresh produce stores from butchers and bakers to greengrocers and fishmongers. There is even a Mediterranean deli selling Persian pickles, Turkish delight, Greek feta, traditional baklava, cinnamon candied walnuts and chocolate covered coffee beans.

For all your festive baking, be sure to stock up on the dry ingredients you need at the weigh to save stall. Bring your own container and only pay for the amounts you need or want, with grains, pulses, nuts, and dried fruit just some of the ingredients on offer. They also sell cake, scone and pastry mix, as well as cake decorations and boxes.

With Christmas around the corner, there are many stalls already bursting with festive inspiration, from outdoor winter animal displays and indoor decorations to traditional Christmas outfits and wooden toys for the kids. You can even have pyjamas and stockings for all the family personalised ready for Christmas Eve.

Market Kitchen

After all that shopping, be sure to head upstairs to the Market Kitchen. But forget anything you’ve ever thought about food halls; the Market Kitchen will take you by surprise.

With industrial luxe styling and an upmarket feel, the tasteful dining hall has been designed to create different seating areas, with comfy leather sofas, booths and tall tables for you to choose from.

In the centre is the sky lounge bar which helps the Market Kitchen seamlessly flow from day to night, with breakfast and brunch transitioning into an atmospheric evening venue. Whatever time of day you visit, the cocktail bar is always bustling and has clearly become a firm favourite in the town.

Footfall and traffic to the Market Kitchen has been immense since it opened in October 2019, with it becoming a social hub for parents and young children, students, and workers in the town. There’s music playing, a buzz of chatter, and free WIFI to cater to all visitors.

The food offering has been amplified with a variety of street food vendors for visitors to choose from. Sample culinary delights from a range of cuisines from around the world and try something new with each visit – and the good thing is everyone in your group can have whatever they fancy!

The three traditional market cafes are open from early morning and are still serving freshly made favourites. There is also a coffee bar which roasts its own beans in Barnsley.

At lunch or teatime, take a tour of the world with Indian, Thai, or Turkish dishes. Share a pizza, grab a gyros, or sample Barnsley’s only poutine – a Canadian delicacy of chips topped with cheese curds and gravy.

And don’t forget to finish with an ice cream or dessert from Dolly’s Desserts. Run by young entrepreneur, Charlie Smark, Dolly’s has helped bring thousands of people from across the country to the Market Kitchen. While closed during lockdown, Charlie and her young team turned to social media to boost their profile, racking up 830,000 followers on Tik Tok and sending their sweet treats viral.

“We make our own gelato on site here in the Market Kitchen which is what people love. Because it’s all homemade, we throw in all sorts of ingredients to make our own unique flavours. We’re already working on our festive flavours. Our bubble waffle cones are another big hit, as are the cookie dough kits we sell online for people to make at home,” Charlie says.

More than just a retail centre

A unique part of The Glass Works is the addition of the welcoming four-storey Library @ The Lightbox. The library has become a connecting place for various communities to use for learning and discovery and includes a themed children’s library, autism-friendly sanctuary room, study space with computers, and a STEM makerspace lab with a 3D printer. There is also an events space and roof terrace which has brilliant views across the town.

Barnsley is well-known for its mix of museums across the borough and this captivating cultural aspect has spread into The Glass Works with the launch of three pop-up museum spaces. Get hands-on and discover more of the town’s rich past and present history with the interactive displays at Explore @ The Glass Works or immerse yourself in its future with a fun and surprising 360-display at Digital @ The Glass Works. There is also a changing exhibition and arts space in the form of Gallery@ The Glass Works which will also offer creative activities.

You will even be able to access health services at the new Community Diagnostic Centre which is currently being developed as part of a national programme. The space will be a one-stop-shop for health checks, scan and tests and is set to include facilities for ultrasound, x-ray, breast screening, phlebotomy, and ECGs. 

Finally, there are also plans in the pipeline to look at how The Glass Works can offer easy-to-access drop-in workspaces.

A community space for all

The scale and quality of the town centre’s transformation culminates in a modern, landscaped town square which mixes greenery with water features, high quality seating, and encompassing views of the new development. In November, Barnsley’s Covid memorial will also be erected in the Glass Works Square to commemorate the plight of the town throughout the pandemic.

As every route into the town centre now meets at the town square, it has also been designed to host community events. Kick off the festive season with the annual Bright Nights Winter Lights Festival. From Thursday 25th to Saturday 27th November, take a winter trail and see illuminated installations across ten venues such as Barnsley College, The Cooper Gallery and The Civic. There will be a chance to see STORM, a giant ten-metre mechanical puppet, as she makes her way through the town from County Way to the Glass Works Square. On Saturdays in December, the square will also play host to many brass bands who will be playing festive tunes between 10.30am-4.30pm.

Whatever your reason to visit, whether to shop, dine or play, The Glass Works is conveniently located within close proximity to all parts of the town centre, from the bus station to town hall. There is also a new multi-storey car park with reasonable tariffs.

The Glass Works construction may be drawing to a close, but we must not forget how fundamentally important our town centres are to the communities we serve. This project in particular has not only rejuvenated the visitor experience and helped Barnsley bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic, but it has also created new jobs from the many businesses who have opened, relocated or expanded thanks to The Glass Works.

For more information about The Glass Works, visit theglassworksbarnsley.com/