Gillian Nixon- Guest Blogger.

Gillian Nixon has worked as  Archives & Local Studies Assistant for over 25 years and is based at the Discovery Centre in Experience Barnsley Museum, Town Hall, Barnsley. Gillian’s interests include photography, art, watching motorsports and ice hockey. Gillian enjoys writing about her discoveries and has written articles for local groups. She has recently achieved her FE teachers qualification (Petals) at Northern College and hopes to teach Family and Local History in the future.

A Journey….

I have worked in Barnsley Archives and Local Studies for quite a while, when I was asked to write this blog I wasn’t sure what to write about. I decided in the end to tell you about my amazing journey and learning experience, as well as some of the amazing archives and objects we have that relate to Cannon Hall, the surrounding area and its exciting future.

Archive boxes image
Archival Boxes in the temperature controlled the Barnsley Archives and Studies stores.


When Archives and Local Studies moved out of the library and into the Museums Service, it was an exciting time for me personally, as it gave me access to all the amazing things that are cared for by them and this is what started me on my journey.

I already had an interest in the Spencer Stanhope family through my love of Pre-Raphaelite art; Roddam Spencer Stanhope being a part of the second wave of the brotherhood  but my real involvement with Cannon Hall really started when a collection of documents and photographs previously kept at the hall were transferred to archives and local studies. I was fascinated by this family that were obviously part of the local landscape but also hob-nobbed with families such as the late Queen Mothers family,the Bowes – Lyons.

Roddam Spencer Stanhope
The Spencer Stanhope Family with Friends, the Bowes-Lyons

In earlier times the Spencer Stanhope’s were very much a part of the London social scene, having at least 3 different houses in London.  As I learnt more about the family I became involved with various projects that were happening around the re-interpretation of the Hall, landscape and its occupants. I met people who were also involved in looking at and looking after the Hall, people from the Friends of Cannon Hall, a university student who was doing an in depth study on the estate and others whose knowledge all helped to increase mine.

When we opened the Discovery Centre at Experience Barnsley it created an opportunity for many archival records to be moved back to Barnsley from other record offices in South Yorkshire, this included a very large collection of manuscripts and maps that related to Cannon Hall, the Spencer and Spencer Stanhope families. As you can imagine I was like a kid at Christmas and couldn’t wait to start delving into them. The maps, especially, have proven to be extremely useful in helping the HLF/ Parks for People project. They not only show what the grounds looked like but other records such as diaries and letters are packed full of invaluable information on all sorts of subjects. I have found out a great deal of the history of the house and its owners by using them.

Map of Cannon Hall and surrounding area.

The estate is moving into an exciting period of restoration, renovation and re-interpretation which will tell the story of the house and ground at one of the most interesting periods of its life. What was formerly the military museum has now been turned back into rooms, some of which, currently house a fantastic display of William and Evelyn De Morgan paintings and ceramics. This is particularly relevant to the Hall as Evelyn’s mother was a Spencer Stanhope, and also include some of the Arts and Crafts furniture; glass and ceramics owned by the Museum Service.  The grounds will be a wonderful visual display of what they once looked like and I have even been told that a recreation of one of the young Spencer Stanhope’s boat races may be possible on the lake.

I hope in future posts to give you a taste of some of the documents and objects related to the estate that are held by the service. Please tell us if there is anything in particular you would like know about.

Barnsley Archives and Local Studies collects, preserves and makes available the documentary heritage of the Metropolitan Borough of Barnsley. Contained in secure and environmentally-controlled stores are thousands of boxes of archives donated by individuals, families and organisations, charting the history of the borough from the 12th to 21st centuries.

Contact T: 01226 773950 E: Or follow on twitter @BarnsArchives



Last month we featured images (see gallery) by photographer Timm Cleasby, who was specially commissioned to document the ‘opening -up’ of the stable block for the first time in many, many years. One of our ‘Eagle-Eyed’ readers took a distinct interest in what was first thought to be a ‘water pump’. After further research he found the pump to be in fact an AVERY HARDOLL CH1 Petrol Pump and dates back to the 1920’s. Gillian found some lovely images of the family vehicles in the Spencer Stanhope collection in Barnsley Archives. The bottom right hand image shows the car parked outside the stables.

Water Pump,Stables
The Avery Hardoll CH1 Petrol Pump

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