Local Case Study: Barnsley
Our ‘Map of Sites’ continues to grow and we are now gaining insights into how the First World War affected villages, towns, and cities throughout the country. Recording First World War sites may allow you to create a Case Study which will help build up a picture of the home front in your local area.
The town of Barnsley is located 20 miles North of the city of Sheffield. In the early part of the 20th Century the town was highly industrialised with coal mining, linen production, and glass making being the main local industries.
Recruitment of the Barnsley Pals
On 7 August 1914 Field-Marshal Lord Kitchener launched his recruitment campaign to create ‘New Armies’ formed of volunteers.
During this recruitment campaign Barnsley raised two battalions, approximately 2,000 men, the 13th & 14th Battalions York & Lancaster Regiment; more commonly known as the Barnsley Pals.
Many buildings in and around Barnsley were requisitioned to act as recruitment offices and billets for the new recruits. A high profile recruitment campaign was also organised by the council and condcuted by local Civic Leaders; they toured the nearby villages, holding meetings and gatherings to raise men for the new Pals battalions.
The first of these meetings took place in The Old Picture House, Mapplewell, on 1 September 1914. The building was packed to the rafters with people from Mapplewell and Staincross who wanted to volunteer. The picture house still survives and is now used as a carpet warehouse and shop.
The Old Picture House
Wesleyan Chapel, Wombwell
Another building associated with the Civic Leader’s recruitment campaign is the Wesleyan Chapel in Wombwell. A meeting held on Tuesday 29 September 1914 saw 30 men volunteer. These volunteers were given orders to report to Wombwell Town Hall first thing the following morning.
Following the local recruitment drive it was soon realised by the Battalion commanders that billets, and a suitable place to conduct drill and parades, would be required.
The Harvey Institute
The Harvey Institute & Public Hall, now known as the Civic, was one of the first buildings to be requisitioned to serve as a billet and the new Battalion’s Headquarters, the nearby Queen’s Ground, a local recreation ground, was earmarked for drill and parade purposes.
The Harvey Institute struggled to cope with the sheer number of recruits, men were sleeping on the floors and even in the galleries of the Arcade Hall. Further buildings in the town centre had to be requisitioned to provide accommodation. The Regent Street Congregational Church Schoolroom (now demolished), Arcade Hall and Blucher Street Chapel were transformed into makeshift billets, helping to ease some of the overcrowding in the Arcade Hall.
Training at Newhall Camp
To ensure the raw recruits of the Barnsley Pals battalion were properly accommodated and trained a purpose built training camp had to be constructed. It was decided that this camp would be built in nearby Silkstone and, when ready, the soldiers billeted in Barnsley town centre would be accommodated and trained there.
Site of Newhall Camp
The men of the 13th Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment (1st Barnsley Pals) moved into the Newhall Training Camp on 20 December 1914.
A number of local buildings and areas of land in the village of Silkstone were requisitioned to enable the training of the soldiers. Route marches took place on the local roads and practice trenches were dug on the moors near Penistone.
Newhall training camp continued to be used throughout the war for training and accommodation of soldiers; including the 14th Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment (2nd Barnsley Pals) and the Royal Engineers.
The remains of the camp’s ablution blocks and accommodation huts are still present on the current day Silverwood Scout Camp. These remains were surveyed by Elmet Archaeology in 2014.
Munitions and Uniform Production
The men of the new Barnsley Pals Battalion needed to be clothed with appropriate khaki uniforms. At first there was a national shortage of khaki cloth and the recruits were issued with the famous Kitchener Blue uniform. Taylors Mill, originally located on Peel Street, was awarded the local contract to supply the first khaki material for the new uniforms for the Barnsley Pals battalions. The Barnsley Pals didn’t receive khaki uniforms until Easter 1915.
Barnsley was also home to two National Shell Factories that produced 4.5inch shells for the war effort.
These factories had been turned over to war production with Barnsley No. 1 factory originally producing forgings for the railway industry and Barnsley No. 2 (Hope Works) factory being home to a textile factory and engineering works before the war.
Site of Barnsley No. 1 Factory
Both of the factories have been recorded in Historic England’s ‘First World War National Factories:- An archaeological and historical review’ by David Kenyon.
On the night of 27 November 1916 Dodworth, to the West of Barnsley, was rocked by an explosion; a Zeppelin raid was under way. Zeppelin L-21 had already attacked Leeds but met fierce anti-aircraft gun fire, which forced it to change targets.
Having just bombed Shafton the Zeppelin raider headed South-West, releasing three bombs over the village of Dodworth, two of which failed to detonate. The one bomb that did explode fell on the Dodworth Main Colliery ‘muck stack’, causing no damage.
Site of the Dodworth Main Colliery ‘muck stack’
L-21 then continued West, hovering over nearby Silkstone, before heading for the coast. L-21 never returned to base; intercepted by three Royal Navy Air Service fighters it was shot down, crashing into the sea near Lowestoft.
The bombing may have been much worse had Barnsley not been under blackout at the time; L-21 had passed over Barnsley town centre a few minutes before dropping its deadly cargo on Dodworth. The blackout had worked!
The unexploded bombs were also displayed at Newhall Camp the following day. Rev. Joseph Prince of Silkstone described them as ‘…death-dealing-looking things’.
Over To You
Recording First World War sites in your local area will help you to build up a picture of the home front, allowing you to add to the story of your village, town, or city. You may discover that many remaining local buildings had a war time function that is yet to be recorded.
To get involved with Home Front Legacy simply register to access our on-line Toolkit, recording app, and resources.
You can also explore the records in the Barnsley area further on our ‘Map of Sites’ below (If the Red Pins are not visible press the ‘Search’ button).