Experience Barnsley unlocks criminal tales of the Victorian era

Experience Barnsley has delved into the Borough’s local archives and uncovered fascinating criminal tales from the Victorian era.

Opening on Wednesday, 24 May their latest exhibition titled; ‘Changing Crimes: True Stories of Barnsley’s Criminal Past’’, discloses details of historic crimes such as murder, theft and even a case of ‘furious driving’ dating back to 1885. 

Visitors will discover the harsh punishments given to some and the surprising leniency received by others.  They will hear the stories of real people who lived in the borough and the causes and consequences of their crimes.

The Museum’s curatorial team have researched individual cases of Barnsley criminals from the Victorian period for the very first time.  These case histories are included in the exhibition alongside thought-provoking displays on the Victorian justice system.  Visitors can explore objects and archive material relating to crime and punishment and ask themselves if the punishment fitted the crime through interactive games.  There’s also a chance for children to dress up as a law enforcer or a member of the criminal classes.

People are encouraged to delve even deeper into the records of Barnsley Police, the Magistrates’ Court, as well as local newspapers and history books at the Discovery, Archives and Local Studies Centre, which is based in the Town Hall.

The Archives team has also undertaken a huge project to catalogue the records of the old Barnsley Workhouse, a place where the poorest in society and petty criminals, often ended up. To coincide with the launch of this new exhibition, these records are being made fully available to visitors for the very first time.

Barnsley’s Workhouse had originally been in St. Mary’s Place but a new, bigger workhouse was built in 1852 on the south side of Gawber Road. The design for this new workhouse included a low entrance block, behind which stood a T-shaped main building. The site eventually became St. Helen’s Hospital.

Phillip Spurr, Service Director, Culture, Housing & Regulation, said “We are delighted that another fascinating exhibition about Barnsley’s rich history will be on display in the town’s award winning museum. I am sure people will be surprised by the details included, particularly the punishments given for some acts that would be thought of as insignificant today.  We are also delighted that the old Barnsley Workhouse records will now be fully accessible to researchers, following a cataloguing project by the archives team. They will enable researchers to build a much better picture of what life was like for those unfortunate enough to be admitted.”

For more information about the exhibition visit www.experience-barnsley.com

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