BARNSLEY, a market-town and chapelry, in the parish of Silkstone, wapentake of Staincross, W. riding of York, 14 miles (N.) from Sheffield, 38 (S. by W.) from York, and 177 (N. W. by N.) from London; containing 12,310 inhabitants. This place, in the Domesday survey "Bernesleye," and called also Bleak Barnsley from the exposed situation of the original town, now a hamlet in the chapelry, was anciently celebrated for the manufacture of steel wire, which is still carried on to a moderate extent. The favourable situation of the present town in the heart of a district abounding in coal, iron, and stone, amply supplied with water, and intersected with canals in almost every direction, affording facilities of communication with many of the principal towns in the kingdom, rendered it peculiarly eligible for the purposes of trade; and the introduction of the linen manufacture, towards the close of the last century, appears to have laid the foundation of its subsequent increase, and its present prosperity. Since the introduction of that branch of manufacture the place has been steadily advancing in importance, and so rapid has been its progress, that within the last thirty years its population has been nearly quintupled. The chief articles manufactured here for many years were the coarser kinds of linen goods, principally towelling, sheeting, dowlas, and duck; but about the year 1810, the manufacture of huckabacks, diapers, damasks, broad sheeting, and the finer sorts of linen, was attempted and carried on with complete success; and since that period, the improvement made in this branch of manufacture has been such as to rival in fineness of texture and beauty of pattern, the most costly productions of Scotland and Ireland.

The town is pleasantly situated on the acclivity of a hill rising from the bank of the river Dearne, and consists of several streets, of which the more ancient are narrow and irregularly formed, but those of more modern date spacious, and uniformly built. Considerable improvements have been made by the erection of good houses on the sites of many that have been removed; by the widening of some streets; and the building of others: and the houses being generally of stone, procured in the neighbourhood, the town has a handsome and imposing aspect. The streets are lighted with gas by a company of shareholders established under an act of parliament in 1821, with a capital of £6000, raised in shares of £10 each; and the inhabitants are supplied with water by another company established under a more recent act, and having a capital of £9000. The water, which is of excellent quality, is obtained from the Dearne, about a mile from the town. The public rooms were erected in 1837, at an expense of £1500, by a proprietary of £25 shareholders; the principal front is of the Ionic order, and the building contains a subscription library and news-room communicating with each other, so as to form one room occasionally for the delivery of lectures. The news-room is embellished with an original full-length portrait of the Duke of Wellington, painted by H. P. Briggs, Esq., R.A., and a likeness of Archdeacon Corbett, by the same artist. The mechanics' institution for the promotion of science by mutual instruction and stipendiary lectures, was established in 1837, and has a good library. The theatre, a neat plain building, was erected in 1814, at a cost of £1400, and is opened at intervals. The hall for the society of Odd Fellows, forming a branch of the Manchester union, is a handsome structure of the Grecian-Ionic order, erected in 1836 at an expense of £1100, in shares of £1 each; the great room in which the lodges are held is elegantly decorated, and of ample dimensions. The environs of the town present a pleasing diversity of scenery, and the land is richly cultivated: among the numerous seats are the mansions of Earl Fitzwilliam, Lord Wharncliffe, Sir W. Pilkington, Bart., and F. T. W. V. Wentworth, Esq.

The inhabitants are chiefly employed in the linen manufacture, and, at present, the demand for drills has become so extensive as to form the principal branch of trade; not less than 4000 hand-looms are constantly employed in weaving these articles in an endless variety of patterns, producing annually more than 220,000 pieces of drill, each fifty yards in length. So great, indeed, is the number of hands engaged in this department, that the manufacturers of the other articles have been obliged to introduce power-looms, which are well adapted to the heavier kinds of linen, and in the superintendence of which the weavers obtain higher wages than they previously earned by hand-loom weaving. The total amount of the linens manufactured averages about £1,000,000 per annum: the Barnsley ducks, so generally in demand for smock-frocks, have been for some time superseded by a fabric of thicker and warmer texture, called "drabbets." In the town and its vicinity are extensive works for bleaching, some dye-houses, and two large calendering establishments; there are also flax-mills for spinning yarn, but the greater portion of the yarn used in the factories here is brought from Leeds, and still more distant places. There are several iron-foundries, and two manufactories for steel-wire, the produce of which is used by the needle-makers. Coal of excellent quality is obtained in the immediate vicinity; one seam, called the Barnsley thick bed, averages about ten feet in thickness, and there are other extensive mines in operation, the produce of which, with the iron and freestone with which the district abounds, forms a considerable source of trade. Great facilities of conveyance are afforded by the Barnsley canal, which was constructed in 1794, and extends from the river Calder, near Wakefield, to the Dearne and Dove canal at this place; the Midland railway, also, passes within two miles and a half of the town. The market, which is toll-free for all kinds of grain, is on Wednesday, and there is also a market for provisions on Saturday; fairs for cattle and horses are held on May 13th and Oct. 11th, a great market for live-stock on the last Wednesday in February, and another for swine on the Wednesday before Old Michaelmas-day. The town is within the liberty of the honour of Pontefract, and its management is vested in commissioners chosen at the court of quarter-sessions, under an act, 3rd George IV., cap. 25, for lighting, paving, watching, and improving the place. A court baron for the manor of Barnsley and Dodworth is held annually by the steward, and a court of petty-sessions every Wednesday by the magistrates of Staincross wapentake. The powers of the county debt-court of Barnsley, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Ecclesfield, and part of that of Wortley. The court-house is a neat substantial building, erected in 1833 at an expense of £1300, of which £500 were raised by rate, and the remainder by subscription: it contains the various rooms for holding the courts, and for the transaction of business relative to the town; and the hall contains a fulllength portrait of the late Lord Wharncliffe, lord-lieutenant of the county, by Briggs.

The chapelry comprises by measurement 2116 acres. The chapel, dedicated to St. Mary, with the exception of the tower, has been rebuilt of freestone found in the neighbourhood, at a cost of £12,000, raised by rate on the inhabitants: the present structure is in the later English style, and contains 1050 sittings; the east window is embellished with paintings of Our Saviour, the Virgin Mary, and the Four Evangelists, in stained glass. The living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £225; patron, the Archbishop of York. The church dedicated to St. George, to which a district has been assigned, was erected in 1823 by the Parliamentary Commissioners, at an expense of £6500: it is a handsome structure in the later English style, with some details of more ancient character, and has turrets at the angles, and embattled parapets; it contains 1174 sittings. The living, which is endowed with £1500 three-and-a-half per cent. stock, has a net income of £150; patron, the Archbishop. A church district named St. John's was formed in 1844, and endowed by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners: divine service is performed in a schoolhouse licensed by the Bishop of Ripon, who is patron of the living alternately with the Crown. There are places of worship for the Society of Friends, Independents, Primitive Methodists, Methodists of the New Connexion, and Wesleyans; and a Roman Catholic chapel. The free grammar school was founded in 1665, and endowed with property now producing £50 per annum, by Thomas Kerrisforth. A considerable estate has been vested in trustees by Rodolph Bosville, Esq., of London, for the general benefit of the inhabitants. Edmund Rogers, in 1646, left an estate at Thorpe-Audlin, for the benefit of the poor, to whom also Thomas Cutler in 1614, and his wife Ellen in 1636, devised lands; and Thomas Thwaites, in the 10th of Elizabeth, bequeathed property producing £179. 17. per annum for "the general weal of all the township of Barnsley."

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.