Penistone is a market town and civil parish in the Metropolitan Borough of Barnsley, in South Yorkshire, England. It had a population of 10,101 at the 2001 census. Historically within the West Riding of Yorkshire, it lies west of the town of Barnsley north-east of Glossop, north-west of Sheffield, the nearest city and east of Manchester in the foothills of the Pennines. The highest point in the surrounding area is at Hartcliffe Tower at 1,194 ft (364 m) above sea level, which has views over the Woodhead bypass and the Dark Peak. The surrounding countryside is predominantly rural with farming on rich well-watered soil on mainly gentle slopes rising to the bleak moorland to the west of the town centre. Dry stone walls, small hamlets and farms surrounded by fields and livestock are synonymous with the area. The area is known for its rugged breed of sheep, the Whitefaced Woodland.
Penistone derives from penn the Primitive Welsh which means head, end, top, height or hill, and the Old English ing, a place-name forming suffix and tun, an enclosure, farmstead, village or estate. It most likely means a farm or village at or called Penning. It has frequently been noted on lists of unusual place names.
Sir Gyles Penyston (fl. 13th century), whose family seat was in Cornwall (perhaps at Truro) before his time, and who is an ancestor of the Penyston Baronets, was styled of Penyston, denoting that he resided in Penistone.
The town remained small until the coming of the railway in 1845, although several pre-19th century buildings survive. The oldest still standing is 'Penistone Church'. This is the Grade I listed mediaeval parish church, St. John the Baptist Church. The White Hart pub in the town dates from 1377. Penistone had a market for a long time before its royal charter was granted in 1699, although its historic livestock market was closed recently to make way for town centre re-development. A new landmark building has been built in Penistone for the Market Place. This is an oaken 'Cruck Barn' and was built by Carpenter Oak of Totnes, Devon.
The Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway via Penistone, Dunford Bridge and the three-mile Woodhead Tunnel opened on 15 July 1845. Construction conditions were difficult and 32 men died during the tunnel's construction and 28 died of cholera. In 1849, Penistone's 29-arch viaduct was built by Messrs Ingham and Bower. Stone was obtained from Walk Mill Bank, Oxspring, and conveyed by a tramway on the side of the River Don. The Penistone to Huddersfield Railway Line opened on 1 July 1850. The second and third arches of Penistone Viaduct collapsed on 2 February 1916 when heavy rain weakened the foundations. The driver and fireman of a stationary goods locomotive were able to jump clear and survive the collapse. Cracks in the parapet had been observed some days earlier. The viaduct was repaired and in service in August of the same year.
Penistone became a railway junction with a depot for engineering trains. Penistone station had frequent trains to Manchester, Sheffield and Huddersfield but after the Beeching cuts, passenger trains on the Woodhead Line to Manchester finished. Goods trains continued until the line closed and much of the railway infrastructure was removed. The town's station is served by Huddersfield-Sheffield trains on the "Penistone Line".
The town was served by the Woodhead Line between Manchester (Piccadilly) and Sheffield (Victoria) via the Woodhead Tunnel. Penistone railway station was served by express passenger trains. Following major investment (started in 1935 but delayed by the Second World War), the electrification of the railway was completed in 1954 and the line's power control centre was built adjacent to Penistone railway station. The building stands and has been converted to commercial use. The Woodhead Line was the first main line railway in the UK to be electrified, but its once-pioneering 1500 V dc system became non-standard. Penistone railway station lost its Woodhead Line passenger trains on 5 January 1970, but goods trains (mainly coal) continued for a further 11 years. The line was controversially closed between Penistone and Hadfield in 1981 and the track lifted several years later. The route of the track is now used as part of the Trans-Pennine Trail.
Plans to re-open parts of the Woodhead line as the Don Valley Railway between Sheffield to Deepcar/Stocksbridge could reduce travel time to Sheffield.