THOUSANDS of big-spending Chinese tourists could be coming to Barnsley as a local group aims to create a new heritage trail.

The James Hudson Taylor group wants to put plaques around the town celebrating the life of James Hudson Taylor, a 19th century Christian missionary who is hailed as a spiritual leader by more than 70 million Christians in the Far East.

Some Chinese pilgrims have already visited Barnsley - a group of about 15 attended Salem church, Blucher Street, where there is already a plaque in his honour. They also visited Cheapside where he was born and the family ran a chemist's, where Boots stands - one even kissed the floor outside Boots, referring to it as their spiritual home.

John Foster, chairman of the Barnsley Work and Skills Board, said: "More than 50 per cent of the overseas tourists visiting Britain are Chinese and they are already visiting places like York and Howarth.

"They've got spending power and are visiting in massive numbers. There are more Christians in China and the Far East who owe their heritage to James Hudson-Taylor than there are people in Britain and Barnsley has this unique claim to attract them. It could be a place of religious interest like Canterbury or Lourdes."

Plaques are planned for Boots, a house at Paddock Close, Staincross, where his descendants lived, and another at the top of Old Mill Lane where they moved. There will also be a permanent exhibition at the new Experience Barnsley museum in the town hall.

Anyone who wants to support the group should contact or ring 242975.