FIRST LOOK: New £25m heritage railway vision on track at Elsecar Ironworks
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It also includes a rail college, outdoor events area and more, writes Graham Walker.
The vision, including artist impressions, has been announced for the former site of the Elsecar Ironworks – at Barnsley’s already popular Elsecar Heritage Centre.
Funding options are now being explored for the new development, which has been costed at around £25m to be delivered in full. It may be progressed in stages as funding becomes available.
Barnsley Council site owners say it would be a major boost to visitor numbers, enrich the region’s heritage offer and the local economy.
Elsecar Heritage Centre is already being transformed with new creative studios in derelict historic spaces, maker and museum galleries and stunning new indoor and outdoor areas, for events and cultural activity, with the help of a £3.93m grant
A scheduled ancient monument, the site has been carefully developed over the past two years, based on extensive public consultation and working closely with Historic England, as a legacy project of our Heritage Action Zone partnership.
Now the heritage railway vision has been revealed for the former ironworks which includes a reconstructed 1849 Fitzwilliam locomotive, powered by sustainable fuels.
It would also be the home of a new rail college and rail technology test track, training more than 400 students each year
Advanced engineering workshops are part of the vision to highlight the region’s innovation
The site would have a new ‘Cultural Canteen’ and outdoor events and performance area, set against a spectacular backdrop of the ironworks furnaces and restored blast wall
It also includes plans for an Active Travel Hub and Cycle Hire, to enable families and visitors to travel to Elsecar, and explore the Elsecar Valley, on foot and by bike
The site sits on the east side of the successful Elsecar Heritage Centre and its major indoor events space, which is being refurbished over the next year thanks to funding already secured from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, through the Cultural Development Fund administered by Arts Council England.
Designs for new buildings for the ironworks site have been closely inspired by the Victorian furnace sheds which originally stood there. They will replace a replica station newly built in the 1990s, when the importance of the ironworks was not understood and the condition of which is deteriorating.
A series of consultation events, activities and special tours are planned for the New Year when the public, beginning with local residents, can share their thoughts about the new vision and how it should be taken forward.
The new development would transform the impact Elsecar can have for Barnsley and South Yorkshire communities and mean the village further becoming a national visitor destination.
It focuses on creating jobs, skills and quality life-changing experiences for South Yorkshire communities. It is closely aligned to Barnsley’s 2030 vision as ‘a place of possibilities’.
Elsecar has a long history as an international centre of coal mining and ironworking, with many achievements to its name. The new development will share that history and celebrate the wider innovation heritage of South Yorkshire.
Funding options are being explored for the new development, which has been costed at around £25m to be delivered in full. It may be progressed in stages as funding becomes available.
Coun Sir Stephen Houghton CBE, leader of Barnsley Council said, “We’re determined to transform this remarkable historic site, previously the home of Elsecar Heritage Railway, into something which is unique, sustainable, and will thrive long into the future.
"This will include a new heritage railway destination, a rail college, advanced engineering workshops, outdoor performance and events area, public spaces, a café-restaurant and more.
"The redevelopment of the Ironworks site and heritage railway will not happen straight away. We need to secure funding and it will take time to deliver, but this vision is the starting point for something very special for Elsecar.”
Elsecar Heritage Centre and the area has been transformed in recent years, thanks to Barnsley Museums’ Heritage Action Zone partnership with Historic England, which mobilised hundreds of local people in community activity, has led to the village’s heritage being protected with new designations and enabled exciting new proposals to be developed.
Elsecar is now recognised to have been a model village carefully created for the Earls Fitzwilliam of Wentworth Woodhouse and an international centre of industry known for its coal mining and ironmaking.
It has remarkable surviving heritage, including extensive industrial and village architecture, archaeological sites, and is home to the world’s oldest steam engine still in situ, a Newcomen Engine, constructed at Elsecar New Colliery in 1795.
The village’s last colliery closed in 1983 and in the 1990s, Elsecar Heritage Centre was created centred on Its Victorian workshops. Over 600,000 are estimated to visit each year, including the village’s park, reservoir, canal and Trans Pennine Trail.
Elsecar Heritage Centre is among more than 60 galleries, museums, libraries and cultural venues to receive investment from the government’s Cultural Investment Fund (CIF). Awarded through the Cultural Development Fund (CDF) strand of the funding, this award is supporting Elsecar to becoming an internationally recognised visitor destination.
Heritage Action Zone legacy projects and impact have included Cultural Development Fund investment in the village, extended conservation areas, new designations including Grade II* listed buildings, two new Scheduled Ancient Monuments and this exciting new proposal for the former Elsecar Ironworks site.
For more information about the heritage railway vision visit www.elsecar-heritage.com/forging-ahead