Neighbouring village blamed for slide in visitor numbers at Barnsley attraction

They may be united by the Heritage Lottery and Arts Council England Great Places scheme, but it seems rivalry still exists between Elsecar in Barnsley and Wentworth Woodhouse across the border in Rotherham when it comes to attracting visitors.

Tuesday, 5th March 2019, 3:37 pm
Updated Tuesday, 5th March 2019, 3:38 pm
Quiet: Elsecar Heritage Centre

Both villages are set to benefit from the Great Places scheme, which sets out to promote the heritage and culture of Elsecar and Wentworth, along with encouraging more community involvement with both.

But superior Christmas attractions at Rotherham’s stately home and Wentworth Garden Centre, which occupies some of its former grounds and peripheral buildings, have been blamed for an eight per cent dip in visitor numbers at Elsecar Heritage Centre in the last three months of 2018.

The heritage centre is based in old colliery workshops, which started life as part of the Wentworth Woodhouse estate’s industrial arm before passing into the National Coal Board.

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Now re-invented as a visitor attraction, they have been open to the public since the 1990s, but latest council statistics show a significant fall in visitor numbers, with a report warning: “There was an eight per cent decrease in visitors at Elsecar Heritage Centre, despite good attendance at Elsecar by the Sea and Flavours Food Festival.

“The festive offer needs to improve in the light of local competition from Wentworth Woodhouse and Wentworth garden centre.”

The Great Places organisation is planning events in both villages this summer, including a Puddlers Fair street theatre event in Elsecar during June and a Wonder Festival, feature shows, arts and crafts in the grounds of Wentworth Woodhouse the following month.

Other visitor attractions in Barnsley had mixed fortunes at the end of last year, with Experience Barnsley showing a decrease in visitors, though a report to the council’s ruling Cabinet does not quote numbers. The background to that is a Bricks exhibition was running last year, in contrast to a “hugely successful” Egypt exhibition 12 months earlier.

Numbers visiting Cannon Hall were down by two per cent, blamed on works to improve the park, but there were healthy numbers visiting in the run up to Christmas.

Worsbrough Mill performed “above expectations” with an eight per cent increase in visitors, with “a strong Christmas offer” which attracted local audiences.