Barnby Basin, near Cawthorne, Barnsley


The coming of the Barnsley Canal and Silkstone Tramway to Barnby Basin changed this area from a rural to an industrial area. This can be seen by comparing maps of the area before and after the event. A map of circa 1740 showing details of Barnby Manor shows only fields in the Barnby Basin area.

Prior to the time of building the canal/tramway, Barnby Manor estate had been acquired by the Spencer family of Cannon Hall. It became part of a large area of land around Cawthorne owned by the Spencers, who also owned the mineral rights. For many years the Spencers had extracted iron ore for use in the local iron industry. Incidentally they were also involved in other aspects of the iron industry such as charcoal burning, smelting and forging. These were often more financially rewarding than agriculture.

Many people including the Spencers were looking to exploit the thick coal seams close to the surface in the Silkstone/Dodworth/Cawthorne area, and to facilitate this the canal/tramway was built. This changed Barnby Basin from a rural to a industrial area. This can be seen on the Ordinance Survey map of 1851. This shows the following features: The canal and canal basin; the waggonway with its four sidings to four loading staithes; and a series of circles shown on either side of the canal representing lime kilns, the remains of which are still visible today.

There are also a number of buildings shown of which only three still remain. One of these is a row of five cottages which probably housed work people such as a sawyer, carpenter and boat builder; occupations of the Barnby Basin residents listed in the 1841 Census. Another building still standing is a house at the very end of the canal with the tramway passing near one side of it. Its position relative to the tramway and the internal layout of the rooms indicate the possibility of a tallyman's office and house. Another building still standing is a single story small cottage close to the western side of the canal. It may have housed the boat builders and their equipment.

WarehouseTwo buildings are known to have been demolished in the 1930/1940s. One was a building adjacent to the canal basin which was a three storey warehouse, with a public house called "The Jolly Sailor" attached to one side of it, and a single storey cottage attached to the pub. It was said to be a popular venue for charabanc trips prior to its closure and demolition. The other building on the side of the A635 road was thought to be a workshop/stables, and the internal stalls still present in the 1930s confirm this.

The Barnby Basin 1841 Census shows John Tooley living at Barnby Basin and working as a waterman. He was responsible for maintaining the correct water level in the canal; he had to compensate for the loss of water resulting from the operation of the lock gates at Barugh.

Today, Barnby Basin shows little sign of its industrial heritage.

Jack Turton 2004

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