Neighbouring villages connected by an Earldom and its industrial empire, Wentworth and Elsecar have long been allies with a remarkable shared heritage.
After identifying the huge potential to expand on the link between the two villages, Rotherham and Barnsley Councils have recently joined forces in a bid to provide a better future for the children and young people of South Yorkshire.
One of 16 pilot areas in the UK, Elsecar and Wentworth have been awarded £1.2million joint funding as part of the Great Places Scheme. Thanks to support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England, the project will see both councils creating major events and activities focused on the two villages through one combined programme.
How the two villages are linked
After inheriting Wentworth Woodhouse from his uncle, Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham, in 1782, the estate’s most prolific owner William Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, 4th Earl Fitzwilliam invested in both Wentworth and nearby Elsecar which he transformed into his industrial domain.
His wealth soon trickled through to Elsecar thanks to the Earl’s heavy investment in his workers and their living conditions; he developed a model village built from stone cottages to house those who worked in his bustling ironworks or collieries.
Many of these buildings still remain, with the ironworks and its workshops currently home to Elsecar Heritage Centre which is run by Barnsley Council’s Barnsley Museums service.
Looking to capture the imagination of its residents through the inspiration of the Fitzwilliams’ 150-year success in the villages, the Great Places Scheme will be a project aimed at improving knowledge, well-being and opportunities for young people.
Bringing a boost to quality of life in the surrounding area, the link will hopefully see both villages prosper through increased economic growth by helping realise the potential of the villages as visitor attractions.
Double success for Elsecar
While plans are underway to develop the imposing Wentworth Woodhouse thanks to the new Preservation Trust owners, Elsecar is also seeing major investment to its heritage plans thanks to being named as one of the UKs first ten Heritage Action Zones.
Awarded by Historic England, the new HAZ status means that Barnsley Council now has the means to breathe new life into the village which is rich in uncelebrated history.
Although known for its links to the Earl Fitzwilliams, there are many other areas of the village’s heritage and archaeological sites which have never been fully brought to life.
While already attracting over 400,000 visitors to the heritage centre every year, Barnsley Museums will be working with Historic England specialists to boost its tourism potential through ingenious ideas linking back to its history.
Tourism in the area saw an exponential rise during Edwardian times, with punters flocking to the reservoir which served the canal for recreational swimming and boating. This aptly gave Elsecar the nickname, Elsecar by the Sea due to its memorable waterside ambience for families.
The village was even visited by royalty and aristocracy during their industrial reign thanks to the Earls’ peerdom links.
Plans are also currently underway to bring more industrial buildings back into use, with much of the village’s former glory seeing a decline since the pits closed in the 1980s. The Newcomen Beam Engine, built in 1795, was pivotal in the Earl’s colliery success and is one England’s finest remaining monuments to the Industrial Revolution.
The canal, which was opened in the 1700s, has had samples taken to be analysed by a geophysics team to discover any artefacts hidden since it was filled in 150 years ago.
Opening doors to resources and funding, the three-year HAZ status is the missing piece of the Wentworth and Elsecar puzzle, serving to further underline the potential of two of our greatest historical villages in South Yorkshire.