Sunday, 24 October 2010
The Aspects of... series is one Britain's biggest and best collection of books on local history and - Hooray - its publishers Wharncliffe are based in Barnsley. Their excellence lies in commissioning local historians to contribute examples of original research which build up fascinating local histories, free of the endless recycling and repetition which - however useful for an introduction or general knowledge - limited the use of guidebooks for True North. This volume on Barnsley itself, for instance - and note that it's the fourth - has pieces on a shepherd, a Victorian 'magnetic healer' called The Superlative Professor Best, and mediaeval stained glass. There's also a fascinating piece on two brothers called Illingworth, sons of a Barnsley farm labourer, whose energies were released by emigration to the United States where both became steel-making magnates and millionaires. The cover of this volume also points up the way that the series reveals the whole context to cliched images of placess. You wouldn't maybe think that this vast mansion was in Barnsley. But it is, Wentworth Castle, sister stone elephant to Wentworth Woodhouse mentioned three posts below. It now flourishes as the Northern College, which gives a second chance at higher education to those who missed out first time. The gradual restoration of its gardens (one of the best rhododendron collections in the UK, among other things) has also won many awards.