2019 is a year of more anniversaries. It is 150 years since the Municipal Borough of Barnsley was formed and 150 years since the founding of the Penistone Local Board, forerunner of Penistone Town Council and 150 years since the opening of Hoylandswaine Parish Church. A time of great and rapid change but also one of optimism with people looking forward to a prosperous future and sure of their place in the world. The Church of St. John the Evangelist is a fine example of the Gothic Revival style and has a little-known connection with the pre-Raphaelite art movement. One of the stained glass windows was designed by Edward Burne-Jones and there is also a mural painted by John Roddam Spencer-Stanhope of Cannon Hall on whose land the church was built.
Understandably some people mistake churches like Hoylandswaine for older structures but like that most famous of Victorian Gothic buildings, the Palace of Westminster, most date from the mid 19th century. The advocates of that style, such as Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Pugin and Morris were fascinated by medaieval culture believing it to possess a spiritual dimension lost in later eras. With the industrial revolution proceeding apace it is not surprising that some people should have been attracted to the simplicity and certainties of an earlier time. However, when we look back we see that the Victorians, whatever their individual preferences, always had a ‘can-do’ attitude. Take the railways for example. Isambard Kingdom Brunel built the entire Great Western Railway in four years – less time that we have been talking about the HS2 scheme without laying a single yard of track. Similarly Joseph Bazalgette oversaw the creation of the sewerage system in London which reduced the risk of disease and the death toll from cholera epidemics
Closer to home we see that the Victorians made great strides in improving the lot of people in Barnsley. Take Ald. Richard Carter for example, Mayor of Barnsley in 1974/5. He was a civil engineer and geologist as well as being a partner in Carter Bros. a linen manufacturing business based at Oak Mills. Flax bleaching and linen manufacture was an industry in Barnsley before coal mining and glass making. Ald. Carter was responsible for improvements to the water supply and drainage in the Borough.
Unfortunately we seem to have lost the pioneering spirit of our Victorian forefathers and whereas they would see opportunities in every challenge and quickly come up with an innovative solution, now we only see problems. Perhaps, if something is desirable, we need to ask ourselves how it can be done rather that finding reasons for inaction. How had can it be?
First published by the Barnsley Chronicle - Penistone Living April 2019