Records of times gone by go back on show at former council site

Historic records from the former Penistone Urban District Council, unearthed from the archive and meticulously catalogued, will go on view in the town next week.

Barnsley Archive's David Blunden with signage taken from Pensitone Library. Picture: Scott Merrylees

The documents include lists of residents who paid rates to the council, details of air raid precautions, planning records and posters.

Rarely seen by the public, they offer an unusual insight into social conditions in the area during a period of dramatic change.

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An annual report by Penistone’s medical officer, James A Ross, dated 1903, refers to the town still having a workhouse, and to the mains water supply being placed at last on a “firm footing”with the installation of a compressed air pumping plant.

Mr Ross also reports that 32 “nuisances” had been notified, including the state of the drains. In Unwin Street, he says, the houses drain into an open cesspool near the tennis courts.

He adds: “The emanations of sewer gas from the manholes, though still bad at times, have not been so markedly offensive as in the previous year.”

Contagious diseases still rife included smallpox, diphtheria and whooping cough, with three of the victims children.

As late as 1970, when Penistone contained 3,053 houses, council reports could still confirm cases of dysentery and scarlet fever in the town.

Penistone UDC had been founded 18 years before the 1903 report, and was also responsible for housing, planning and allotments. It was abolished in the local government sake-up of 1974 and its functions transferred to Barnsley Council.

Coun Roy Miller, Barnsley’s “cabinet spokesperson for place”, said: “People with an interest in local history can study these unique documents, which often mention people who lived and worked in the area.”

They will be on show at the former Penistone council offices in Shrewsbury Road next Wednesday, between 10am and 2pm, and can also be seen in Barnsley Town Hall.