Barnsley Beck

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Many people believe that Barnsley Beck is so called because it is starts on Baildon Moor on the edge of the Barnsley coal seam. The beck runs between the old Yorkshire Water pump/filter house and Baildon Golf Club club house. Note that this is 2017 and there are plans for the existing club house to be sold for development and the pump/filter house to be converted to be the club house. However, there are maps that give the beck different names as it goes. In some maps it is only once the beck goes under Station Road that it is called Barnsley Beck.

John La Page, on page 78 of The Story of Baildon, in the chapter on Springs and Wells, mentions that, until the late 1800s, the water from the beck was used for washing and general purposes and that from the moor to Towngate, having been open to that point, was called Moor Beck. The beck disappeared down a tunnel near the Fountain to emerge again near Kelcliffe (near the Primitive Methodist Chapel) where it was then called Kellcliffe Beck until it reached Station Road and changed its name to Barnsley Beck. Paley Baildon, in Baildon and the Baildons says he can find no map or other evidence to support these changes in name.

The 1852 and later OS maps do not seem to show the beck being open between Moorgate and Kelcliffe.

1852 Report to General Board of Health

There are several paragraphs related to Barnsley Beck in the 1852 Inquiry Report to the General Board of Health into the sewerage, drainage and water supply of Baildon. They paint a rather grim picture.[1]

Page 7

Through the centre of the village there is a deep ravine, down which a beautifal stream of water once flowed. There is now a cascade of from 30 to 40 feet of foul sewage water. Previous to the habitation of man, no fluid would have remained upon any part of the surface of the site of Baildon. It required something more 'than mere neglect, - a more culpable ingenuity, - to surround the dwellings of such a place with filth, manure, and ordure, in a state of stagnation and decomposition.

Page 12

At the Town Cross the stream is reached by a flight of steps, walled on each side. The stream was unfit for anything but liquid manure; the stench was intolerable, and the steps covered with human ordure. The ravine down which the drainage passes is called Celcliffe. At the opening of this the stream gushes with a considerable stench from under a house, and leaps over the rock probably 30 to 40 feet; it then passes down an open channel, with occasional pools, and realizes the almost inconceivable fact of a bad drainage with an inclination of nearly 45 degrees. The sides of the ravine are partially cultivated as garden ground, and are also intersected with pathways to several spring wells. In addition to these, there are some filthy privies; and it seems, by the innumerable deposits of ordure, to be a general resort for those who have not the convenience of a privy. Instead of being the most attractive feature of Baildon, this Celcliffe is made a nuisance and a disgrace to the inhabitants.

Page 14

Below the Celcliffe ravine the polluted stream, already spoken of, passes through some meadows, where it is used by Mr. Garnett, of Baildon Hall, and one or two others, for irrigation. The operation has been going on 30 or 40 years. Mr. Garnett has about 10 acres under irrigation. A second crop of grass can be eaten eight weeks after mowing. This land lets at £4 per acre. The rent would be £2 per acre without the irrigation. With such an example of the fertilising properties of sewage-water, the inhabitants of Baildon cannot doubt that under a proper system of drainage, the refuse of the houses, privies, stables, etc. might be turned to profitable account in reduction of the public rates.


Soon after going under Pennithorne Ave the beck is culverted to splitting arrangement approximately at Butler Lane. A limited amount of water is allowed to emerge below the Primitive Methodist Chapel on Browgate and follow its old, above ground, route behind Baildon Hall and along the back gardens of Whitelands Road. It then goes underground again to go under Station Road and along the right hand side of Barnsley Beck Grove, under Woodcot Avenue. The diverted flow, including storm water, passes through a pipe under Whitelands and rejoins the old course towards the southern edge of Barnsley Beck Grove. Up until the early 1970s the course ran above ground to the railway and through open areas to what is now Dewhirst Rd. It then turned right and ran around the edges of the Charlestown Allotments, then by the side of Barnsley Cottage, under Otley Road and under the western side of Charlestown Cemetery to spill into the River Aire.<Lower reaches - "edges of Charlestown Allotments...." needs confirmation>

By the 1980s, the open area south of the railway had been developed. Barnsley Beck was put in a new culvert all the way from Woodcot Ave to the River Aire at the eastern edge of Charlestown Cemetery. It no longer flows through the allotments to the outfall on the west of the Cemetery.


The photo above shows the culverting opening into the splitting chamber. It shows a concrete channel(?) carrying the water across the chamber. The channel can only carry a certain amount of water and any excess will spill over the sides into the chamber. The purpose of the channel is to maintain a controlled water flow along the overground section of the Beck and remove the risk of flooding the gardens.

Channel outlet

This photo shows the lower section of the channel feeding into a cutout. The water flowing down this soon appears over ground near Butler Lane to flow in the old Barnsley Beck route behind Baildon Hall as mentioned above. Any obstruction in this channel, or at the cutout, or before the water appears over ground, could cause more water to spill over the sides of the channel and very easily reduce the flow of water along the back gardens of Whitlenads Road. Reduced flow was being reported by residents on Whitelands Road in 2018/9. In June 2019 material that was causing an obstruction at the outlet of the chamber was removed and within hours residents were reporting a reasonable flow down the Beck.

In the photo the circular opening of the continuation of the culverting can be seen below the channel. Any water not carried along the channel would go down into this culverting that takes the water underground through the gardens of Whitelands Road. It is assumed that the over ground water joins with this underground culvert somewhere after Station Road unless they follow separate routes to the river behind the Charlestown Cemetery.

Culvert below Primitive Methodist Chapel

This photo shows the culverting in the gardens below the Primitive Methodist Chapel in 1973. Courtesy Tim Ellis.

The houses along Netherhall Road were built around 1938 before the beck was culverted and residents talk (facebook 2018) of playing along the beck and back gardens being flooded in the 1950s. There are maps showing Barnsley Beck behind Netherhall Road houses dated late 1960s and early 1970s. Slightly earlier maps show that the last 4 houses at the bottom left of Netherhall, 73 onwards, were built later than the others.

This 1960s map, below, shows the path of the beck from Kelcliffe (behind the Primitive Methodist Chapel) down to Barnsley Cottage, Otley Road at that time. This is after the houses on Netherhall Road had been built. Previous investigation of the route of the beck suggested that the culverting went under the drive between 71 and 73 Netherhall Road. This investigation was done when Baildon Horticultural Society were reporting flooding on some of the Charlestown Allotments. They were suggesting it was due to damaged culverting of the beck. Attempts by Baildon Parish Council to trace the route unearthed very few records of the time and they could not find any plans, maps or drawings showing the route of the culvert. However there was a definite suggestion that the route was under the driveway of 71 and 73 Netherhall Rd.[2] and that the route was probably around the outside of the allotments. A manhole cover at the top end of Barnsley Cottage land (now in 2018 built on) shows water being directed through 90 degrees to go down the entrance road to the allotments. The route therefore seems largely the same as the original uncovered beck, which seems sensible. The lengths of the gardens on Netherhall Rd. vary to follow the original beck.

1960 map of Barnsley Beck with Netherhall Rd.

The contemporary map (2019) below shows the course of the BEck from where it comes off Baildon Moor to its outfall into the River Aire. It no longer follows the old course through the allotments.

Drawn in 2019, this shows the old and current courses of Barnsley Beck from the Moor to the Aire

2017 Sink Hole

Around 11am on 25 September 2017 the pavement at the pedestrian crossing on Browgate collapsed and a sink hole opened up.

Sinkhole. An opening the size of a bath

Peering into the hole shows that the space underneath is much larger than the surface opening. The Belisha Beacon has fallen into the hole showing that it is several metres deep.

The hole doesn’t look very dramatic from the pavement, but underneath the space it has left is the size of a small room. is important that no one goes beyond the barriers for a closer look because more of the ground could give way.[3]

An added complication was that various utilities had been exposed, including two gas pipes.

There was speculation about it being collapsed cellars from the buildings that had been on that side of Browgate or the culverting of Barnsley Beck had collapsed.

Richard Todd of Bradford Council's Structure Department confirmed that the sink hole was created by the collapse of Barnsley Beck and work on repairs could only start after the area around the gas mains had been safely shored up by a specialist team.

More than 200 tonnes of debris was dug out by hand plus another 50 tonnes of material dragged back up the culvert and out.

The work was completed before Christmas.

Mechanics Institute Clock Commemoration Stone

One of the buildings demolished to allow the building of the car park and Ian Clough Hall was the Mechanics Institute. At the top of the building was a clock and a carved stone commemorating the installation of the first clock. Material from the demolition was used to fill and level the site and one such piece was the commemorative stone. Read more on the Mechanics Institute page.

Mechanics Institute clock carved stone

John Jowett, butcher, tiled sign

One of the first shops on Browgate at the time of demolition was John S Jowett butcher's shop. It had a white tiled front with the name of the shop in green tiles.

"John" green tiled block - from John S Jowett's butchers shop.

Tiled block from front of John S Jowett butchers

This photo, below, shows the Mechanics Institute in the process of being demolished. The clock and carved stone have gone but the tiled front of John S Jowett, butchers can be seen.

Mechanics Institute demolition. Late 1960s.


Above Ground

Barnsley Beck footbridge at the Golf Club
Close view of the Golf Club Bridge

Photos of the Sink Hole

These show the early stages of the work. Taken 1 Oct 2017.

Photos inside the Sink Hole

These photos were taken on 28 Nov 2017 from inside the sink hole after almost all the debris had been cleared. Once this work had been completed the piping and re-reinstatement could proceed reasonably quickly.

Below Ground

These are photos of Barnsley Beck below ground. They were taken at the time of the sink hole in 2017 and a couple of them show the blockage.


  • Article by Terrafirma here.
  • Baildon Town Council on facebook.
  • T & A. Repairs due completion by Christmas - here


  1. Public Health Act. Report To The General Board Of Health On A Preliminary Inquiry Into The Sewerage, Drainage, And Supply Of Water, And The Sanitary Condition Of The Inhabitants Of The Township Of BAILDON, In The County Of York. By William Lee, Esq., C.E., Superintending Inspector. 1852 (Full PDF)
  2. More evidence needed
  3. Mark Scimshaw, Baildon Town Council Environmental Warden