Ardsley Gap

    Ardsley Gap is a steep sided narrow valley in coal measure hills east of Barnsley. The river Dearne runs by Monk Bretton Priory just to the north of the Gap on its way to Darfield. Less than half a mile away, to the south of the Gap a stream called Dob Sike runs to join the river Dove which in turn joins the river Dearne east of Darfield. All that separates these rivers at Ardsley Gap is a ridge of land no more than ten meters high. The gap would be formed in one of the many Ice Ages which affected our area. The old Salt Way from Barnsley to Doncaster descends from Kendray into the gap before climbing up again to Ardsley. When this road was paved with stones to make a packhorse 'causie' in the early 1700s. the bottom of the hill became known as Stairfoot. Another ancient road came north from Rotherham via Wombwell and Stairfoot on its way through Barnsley to the West Riding towns of Huddersfield and Halifax. A long abandoned packhorse road from Haworth to Hebden Bridge now replaced by the A6033, crossed Stairs Hill. On Thomas Jefferys 1772 map the hill top is called 'Top of the Stairs'.

    The first detailed map of Yorkshire was surveyed by Christopher Saxton and published in 1577. He incorrectly showed the river Dearne as passing through Ardsley Gap at Stairfoot, and marked the dry valley as 'Drax'. An indication that the river here was impassable. Later map makers including John Speed who copied much of Saxton's work in his 1610 atlas, compounded the error by marking Drax as a village. John Warburton who made a detailed map of Yorkshire in 1720 copied Saxton's rivers as a base to which he added his own survey of towns and villages, showing for the first time many of the roads between them. Unfortunately by still showing the river Dearne as passing through Stairfoot many of the details in Darfield area were misplaced. It took a completely new Survey by Thomas Jefferys published in 1772 to correctly resolve the problem.

    The erosion of Ardsley gap exposed a deposit of clay known as the Mansfield Marine Band which has been quarried extensively in the area. In 1805 the Dearne & Dove Canal was opened to link the Barnsley Canal to coal mines in the Dove valley, and by 1854 the South Yorkshire Railway had built a line through Ardsley Gap with a station at Stairfoot.