Gem From The Archives – Barnsley Local Board of Health Map

Paul Stebbing, BMBC’s Local Studies Officer, examines the 19th century Barnsley Local Board of health map.


Local Boards of Health were local authorities in urban areas of England and Wales, created following the Public Health Act of 1848, largely in response to the cholera epidemics of the previous decades. These new boards had substantial local powers, including regulating environmental health risks, controlling sewers and drainage, and ensuring the supply of water. Local Boards could be formed either by a petition from the inhabitants, or by the General Board of Health, if the death rate exceeded twenty-three in a thousand in any place.

The Local Board of Health in Barnsley came about following the inspection of the town in 1852 by Mr. William Ranger of the General Board of Health. Ranger surveyed  the general sanitary condition of Barnsley, and an original copy of his published report is held by Barnsley Archives. He criticised the unsatisfactory condition of the town, particularly citing the mortality rate, the water supply, and the inefficiency of both sewerage and drainage. Conditions were such that the decision was taken to create a new board to tackle these problems.

A one page document, which is from the first board of health meeting in Barnsley on 28th June, 1853
The first Board of Health meeting in Barnsley was 28th June 1853

In May 1853, following Ranger’s report, a notice was posted in front of all public buildings in Barnsley stating that members of a new board were shortly to be elected. The following eighteen men were duly elected to serve: Henry Harvey, John Birks Pigott, Richard Inns, Joseph Canter, Thomas Cope, Edward Bromley, Edward Brady, Henry Richardson, Edward Parker, Charles Tee, John Twibell, Jonathan Carnley, Edward Newman, Benjamin Hague, James Frudd, Edward Lancaster, William Shepherd and Henry Jackson. The new board commenced its work, with the first meeting being held on June 28th1853 in the Court House, where Mr. W.H. Peacock, a local Solicitor, was elected the first clerk. Two large handwritten minute books record the business of the board during its sixteen year existence, with the very last meeting taking place on September 6th 1869, prior to Barnsley becoming a borough.

A brightly coloured section of the 1856 map focussed on the town centre
The Barnsley Board of Health Map, published in 1856

Of the many hundreds of maps held by Barnsley Archives, one gem is the map which was surveyed in 1856 to show the extent of the jurisdiction of the new Barnsley Local Board of Health. Measuring 131 x 97cm, the map is tremendously detailed, showing every house, building and structure. It stretches from Pogmoor and the Union Workhouse in the west, to Beevor Hall and Mount Osborne in the east. To the north is the Old Town and to the south is the area historically known as Barebones. The jurisdiction of the new board matched that of the local police, as noted on the map, which was compiled by Day and Son, a major British lithographic firm.

The map captures a key moment in Barnsley’s history, when local industry was booming and the town was expanding. Earlier surveys of the town, such as the 18th century enclosure plan, can be useful for research, but lack the immense detail provided by this particular map. We see for the first time the new railway station and three lines: the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway; the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway; and the South Yorkshire Railway. Most of the key town centre roads can be seen, including Eldon Street, Market Hill, Church Street, Pontefract Road and Cheapside. Buildings such as the Grammar School (now the Cooper Gallery) are also featured, whereas well known town centre buildings like the Civic (Public Hall) have yet to arrive.

The full size Board of Health Map before it was conserved
The Board of Health Map is one of our oldest and biggest maps!

The tremendous changes that have occurred in the last 160 years are also demonstrated. The area at the top of Market Hill, now occupied by the Town Hall and Barnsley Sixth Form College (previously the Central Library) has changed beyond all recognition, with the housing, lanes, pubs and alleys having been cleared away during the 20th century. We can also see Barnsley’s tithe barn, the old St. George’s Church, and numerous linen mills – all now consigned to history. As for sport, it was to be another 30 years before the Reverend Preedy founded the town’s football club. Where Oakwell now is was just open fields back in 1856!

More Gems From The Archives

Read more articles from this series: https://barnsleymuseums.art.blog/category/gem-from-the-archives/

There’s more about Barnsley Archives and Local Studies on our website: https://www.experience-barnsley.com/our-archives

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