Originally the Barnsley Mechanics Institute and Public Hall built by Henry Harvey in 1877, the original Civic was designed to support the town’s working classes to have access to education, specifically scientific and artisan training. There was a heavy emphasis on both social betterment and cultural enlightenment.
A few years later the building was gifted to the people of Barnsley by his brother Charles Harvey and renamed the Harvey Institute. It became the heart of the community providing many forms of entertainment from variety shows to cinema. It housed the public library, shops and provided space for public meetings and celebrations, speakers and education. The Public Hall was home to the School of Art for 70 years from 1878 to 1948 and was used as first headquarters and billets for Barnsley Pals during WW1. The building eventually became a theatre, Barnsley Civic Theatre, in 1962 but sadly closed to the public completely in 1998.
Credit: Barnsley Archive and Local Studies
For the next stage in its evolution, The Civic reopened in 2009 with a new theatre space and contemporary art gallery but unfortunately the front doors on Eldon Street are a ghost of the buildings former grandeur. Elaborate mosaics and the original ceiling are hidden from public view and three unfinished floors remain unable to be used at the centre of the building.
We are incredibly proud to be the current custodians of this amazing building and we are currently working hard to raise the funds needed to re-open up the whole site for the people of Barnsley to use.
'The building will give a vitality and dignity to the town'
Mr Edward Parker
During the laying of the cornerstone ceremony 1876
In 2021 we launched a very special digital exhibition, allowing visitors to step back in time and explore The Civic in 1878. Inside you can see an artistic vision of what the building would have looked like, find out more about some of our buildings history, as well as some of the performers who came to The Public Hall during its primary years.
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