Sunday, March 3, 2024

£4m project restoring buildings on historic Eldon Street in Barnsley

Visitors to Barnsley town centre may have spotted scaffolding as work is underway to restore buildings on Eldon Street, between Regent Street and the junction of Market Hill.

The Eldon Street High Street Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) is a four-year project between Barnsley Council and Historic England which aims to bring back to life historic buildings through restoration work and cultural activity.

By the end of March, the project will have seen almost £4m of investment go into the historic street. It includes an ambitious community and schools’ engagement programme promoting creative careers and opening up possibilities within the town centre. Helping to connect the town’s heritage to the new development, The Glass Works.

The final stage of the project is about to begin and will see conservation works completed to 58 Eldon Street (Leslie Frances Hairdressing Academy), 60 Eldon Street (Globe Holidays) and 70-72 Eldon Street (Best Kebab & Pizza).

The project, delivered by Barnsley Museums, with support from other local partners, has uncovered more about the fascinating heritage of Eldon Street and hidden stories behind the historic facades.

58 Eldon Street is one of the oldest surviving buildings on the street and was originally built as a linen warehouse. It later became an adult education school in the 1870s, before it became Anne Porter’s and Sons, one of Barnsley’s first department stores to cater specifically for women.

60 Eldon Street also has a fascinating history and has been used for many things over the years. It was originally built as a furniture shop and warehouse. Then in the 1880s it was a music warehouse selling instruments and sheet music. After that, Roebuck’s furniture emporium.

In more recent years, the building has been used for a series of fast food restaurants before becoming Globe Holidays.

Next door, the Parkway Cinema is also due to have its original canopy restored as part of the street’s regeneration. The site has a long fascinating history but the current building was well known as the Odeon Cinema in the 1960s. Now as the Parkway Cinema, it is one of only a handful of cinemas in the UK to still use 70mm film.

Dr Tegwen Roberts, Heritage Action Zone Project Officer, said: “There’s so much history hidden within these buildings. To be able to uncover so much of it and to share that with local communities has been incredible.”

In this phase of restoration work, the buildings will undergo cosmetic work to restore their frontages and repair windows and other historic features. This will ensure their look and feel is in keeping with their historic façades, and compliments the work already undertaken elsewhere on the street.

As part of a £95m government-funded scheme, the HAZ’s aim nationally is to fuel economic, social and cultural recovery, while restoring previously neglected historic buildings to maintain them for generations to come.

Tegwen added: “The whole project will have a huge positive impact on Eldon Street as we connect historical areas with the exciting new developments in the town centre.

“The HAZ is not only restoring elements from the past, maintaining buildings and stories for generations to come, but it provides these buildings with a new lease of life so they can continue to have purpose now – and in the future – as part of a modern town centre.”

Eldon Street is the key missing element of the town’s current regeneration. Improving the appearance of the buildings and bringing activity back to the street will make a significant difference to the town centre as a whole.

Over the past five years, Barnsley’s town centre has transformed. Together the completion of its £200m development, The Glass Works, with its championing of its Victorian Arcade and the restoration to many buildings on its historic Eldon Street, footfall is being encouraged right across its centre.

Footfall on Cheapside in Barnsley town centre was up 5.7% in 2023 compared to 2022, and events also proved a hit in 2023. During Barnsley’s Bright Nights Festival that spanned across the town centre back in November, footfall was recorded at a significant 27.5% increase over the same event the previous year.

Cllr Robin Franklin, Cabinet Spokesperson for Regeneration and Culture at Barnsley Council, said: “The Eldon Street HAZ project is breathing life into an important historic street, which also happens to be many people’s gateway into Barnsley town centre.

“Eldon Street is a very special place with a fascinating history so we are delighted that the works taking place will restore the façades, bringing our historic buildings back to life while also encouraging experiences along the street.

“Not to mention, for the businesses that reside inside these buildings right now, it is hoped that, after surviving so much disruption throughout the pandemic and more recently the cost of living crisis, the completion of this final phase of work will beckon a time of celebration for them too.”

Nicola Brown, from Historic England, said: “It has been a joy to watch the regeneration of Eldon Street over the past few years through the High Street Heritage Action Zone programme. This latest phase of works on this historic street will cement its role as one of the most vibrant and attractive parts of the town centre.”

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