Penistone Cloth Hall

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From the fifteenth century, many local inhabitants earned their living from making woollen cloth and especially in the Thurlstone part of the parish. The cloth trade expanded rapidly in the West Riding in the eighteenth century.  Penistone had been granted a Royal Market Charter in 1699, which led to a livestock market and sheep fairs being held in the streets near the church.

The Whitefaced Woodland sheep (wiki) which are now so common in our fields had been a combination of two breeds, one of which was the hardy 'Penistone' breed from our district. Penistone had long been known for its native sheep which could to thrive on poor-quality grazing, under harsh weather conditions and on difficult terrain. The local sheep produced a particularly strong and hard-wearing type of wool. This was often made into coats known as 'Penistones' which were sold throughout the land.

Close-up of wood cut late 19th century - not clickable 1974ish Clark's 1999

Because the market had proved to be a success, a new Cloth Hall was desired to be built close to the market, in what we now know as Clark's Chemist. Penistone's Cloth Hall was planned by the architect and master mason John Platt of Rotherham in 1763 and it was built in 1768 at a cost £800. Josias Wordsworth of Water Hall had been the main subscriber to the building and would become Lord of the Manor.

Only the central part of the Cloth Hall had been used as a public shambles and market. The current arched windows could have been open arches into the central area of the building. The Cloth Hall business failed with the decline of the woollen industry in the 1860s and the building was converted into shops.

Clark's centenaryThe corner shop shown in the wood carving shown above had been a Post Office from the inception of Post Offices until 1895 (excepting 1856-1864). Up a flight of stone steps, an upper room was used by a Barnsley magistrate on alternate Thursday market days until 1845. The White Bear public house was opened in the eastern part of the building by Ben White in 1861, with an entrance on the ginnel side of the building. Clark's Chemist moved into the building in 1899 and continues there to this day. The White Bear would become the Penistone British Legion in 1926. Some time around the mid-1960s (not sure of date), the British Legion moved to its current location opposite the old 'lock-up' town jail.

The current occupants of the old cloth hall are Clark's chemists (1 and 3 Market Street), who celebrated their centenary in 1999 with special window displays, one of which is shown here depicting Clarke's commitment to photography over the years. Where it had 'Wines' below the window, it previously had the word 'Photographic' as in the monochrome picture. That one was taken by me around 1974 and shows one forgotten feature; a door in the central part of the wall. The actual point of entry, then as now, was the door on Market Street.

This building is now Grade II listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, as amended for its special architectural or historic interest. It was listed on 23rd June 1965, amended 27th April 1978 (NHLE 1314710). English Heritage describes the building as: 'Centre part infilled, probably C19. Coursed, squared stone, ashlar to front centre bay. Stone slate roof, glass in centre. Two storeys. Formerly a U-plan, now infilled. (etc.)'

Most historic details and the wood carving illustration on this page came from the 1953 Penistone Almanac. Other details from David Hey's 'A History of Penistone', ISBN 1-903425-21-2 and from Penistone Archive.

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