A very unusual museum, billed as a Living History centre. It also comprises various shops ( such as Emily's Traditional sweets and Bygone Times - selling antique timepieces), galleries, art studios and an exhibition hall. It runs craft workshops, special events, and a monthly antiques fair. The buildings were originally used for various industries including ironworks and forges, a distillery, and engineering workshops. These fell into decline when the coal mines in the village closed. The 4th Earl of Fitzwilliam inherited the Wentworth Estate from his uncle in 1782 and by the end of 1795 the Elsecar New Colliery has been sunk. By this time the Elsecar Ironworks had also been built by John and William Darwin & Co., and were originally situated near outcrops of ironstone towards the back of the Centre – you can still see the ruins of the buildings today. The ironstone was mined close to Elsecar, although the best ironstone came from Tankersley and was brought to the ironworks by horse and cart. Darwin & Co. sold pig iron and made domestic ranges, spouting rails for colliery tramways, window frames and arches which can still be seen on various buildings around the site.
Elsecar New Colliery was much deeper than those previously sunk in the area and so a Newcomen Beam Engine was built to extract water from the mine, allowing the exploration of deeper coal seams. The Engine ran from 1795 to 1923 when it was replaced with electric pumps. The Beam Engine is still in situ, the only such in the world. The Elsecar Steam Railway is located behind the Centre and was built to serve the Earl Fitzwilliam’s collieries and ironworks. The railway now operates on a one mile section of the branch, using historic steam and diesel locomotives. The Elsecar workshops were built in 1850 to facilitate a more effective management of the various industrial enterprises around the Fitzwilliam estate. The coal board took over the workshops in 1947 following the nationalisation of the pits. As the collieries began to close the demand for the workshop facilities began to decline, eventually leading to their closure.
The beam engine is only open for pre-booked guided tours at the moment and is not wheelchair accessible. The visitor centre and other buildings are accessible. Assistance dogs are welcome and there are many objects to handle.
Location : Wath Road, Elsecar, Barnsley S74 8HJ
Transport: Elsecar (National Rail) 1/2 mile. Bus Routes : 66 and 227 stop outside.
Opening Times : Daily 10:00 - 17:00
Tickets : Free
Tel: 01226 740203