Barnsley (Black, or properly Bleak Barnsley), a market town and municipal borough in the Barnsley parliamentary division of the West Riding of Yorkshire, England, 15 m. N. of Sheffield. Pop. (1891) 35,427; (1901) 41,086. It is served by the Midland, Great Central, Lancashire & Yorkshire, Great Northern, and Hull & Barnsley railways. It is in the parish of Silkstone, which gives name to important collieries. It is situated on rising ground west of the river Dearne, and, though it loses in attraction owing to its numerous factories, its neighbourhood has considerable natural beauty. Among the principal buildings and institutions are several churches, of which the oldest, the parish church of St Mary, was built in 1821 on an early site; court house, public hall, institute and free library. Among several educational institutions, the free grammar school dates from 1665; and a philosophical society was founded in 1828. A monument was erected in 1905 to prominent members of the Yorkshire Miners' Association. The park was presented in 1862 by the widow of Joseph Locke, M.P. The manufacture of iron and steel, and the weaving of linen and other cloth, are the two principal industries; but there are also bleachfields, printfields, dyeworks, sawmills, cornmills and malt-houses; and the manufacture of glass, needles and wire is carried on.
There are large coalfields in the neighbourhood, which, indeed, extend under the town. Coal and coke are largely exported to London and Hull. In the vicinity, Monk Bretton Priory, a Cluniac foundation of 1157, retains a Perpendicular gatehouse, some Decorated domestic remains, and fragments of the church. Wentworth Castle, built in 1730 by Thomas, earl of Strafford, stands in a singularly beautiful park, and contains a fine collection of portraits of historical interest. Besides the communications afforded by railway, Barnsley has the advantage of connexion with the Aire and Calder Navigation system of canals. The borough is under a mayor, six aldermen and eighteen councillors. Area, 2385 acres.
At the time of the Domesday survey Ilbert de Lacy held Barnsley by gift of William the Conqueror as part of the honour of Pontefract, and the overlordship remained in his family until the reign of Stephen, when it was granted by Henry de Lacy to the monks of Pontefract. Henry III. in 1249 granted the prior and convent of Pontefract a market every Wednesday at Barnsley, and a fair on the vigil and feast of St Michael and two following days, and Henry VIII. in 1512 granted them a new fair on the day of the Conversion of St Paul and two following days. The monastery evidently also held another fair there called St Ellen's fair, for in 1583 Queen Elizabeth granted this fair and St Paul's fair and the market "lately belonging to the dissolved monastery of Pontefract" to one Henry Burdett, and Ralph and Henry his sons for their lives. Besides these charters and others granting land in Barnsley to the monks of Pontefract there is very little history of the town, since it was not until after the introduction of the linen manufacture in 1744 that it became really important. Before that time the chief industry had been wire-drawing, but this trade began to decrease about the end of the 18th century, just as the linen trade was becoming important.
In 1869 Barnsley was incorporated.
See Rowland Jackson, The History of the Town and Township of Barnsley (1858); Victoria County History - Yorkshire.