The 4th Earl of Fitzwilliam inherited the Wentworth Estate from his uncle in 1782 and by the end of 1795 the Elsecar New Colliery has been sunk. By this time the Elsecar Ironworks has also been built by John and William Darwin & Co., and were originally situated near outcrops of ironstone towards the back of the Centre – you can still see the ruins of the buildings today.
The ironstone was mined close to Elsecar, although the best ironstone came from Tankersley and was brought to the ironworks by horse and cart. Darwin & Co. sold pig iron and made domestic ranges, spouting rails for colliery tramways, window frames and arches which can still be seen on various buildings around the site.
Elsecar New Colliery was much deeper than those previously sunk in the area and so a Newcomen Beam Engine was built to extract water from the mine, allowing the exploration of deeper coal seams. The Engine ran from 1795 to 1923 when it was replaced with electric pumps.
The Elsecar Steam Railway is located behind the Centre and was built to serve the Earl Fitzwilliam’s collieries and ironworks. The railway now operates on a one mile section of the branch, using historic steam and diesel locomotives.
The Elsecar workshops were built in 1850 to facilitate a more effective management of the various industrial enterprises around the Fitzwilliam estate. The coal board took over the workshops in 1947 following the nationalisation of the pits. As the collieries began to close the demand for the workshop facilities began to decline, eventually leading to their closure. In 1986 the Department of the Environment listed most of the buildings to be of special architectural or historic interest. Barnsley Council purchased the workshops along with the Newcomen Beam Engine in 1988 and started a programme of conservation and restoration.
Discover more of the Fitzwilliam family story at nearby Wentworth Woodhouse – www.wentworthwoodhouse.co.uk