The Museum collections of fine and decorative arts are displayed in a beautiful house with a long and rich history.

Creating a House of Significance

Where did the name Cannon Hall come from? Way back in the 13th century, Gilbert Canun was the first recorded inhabitant of a property on the site, and this is thought to be the origin of the name. Ownership then passed to the Bosville family of Ardsley, and on to different families over the centuries until John Spencer bought the estate in 1660. This marked the start of almost 300 years of the Spencer and Spencer Stanhope family expanding and improving the Hall and grounds, funded by great wealth made in the local iron industry. Now an impressive and elegant building, Cannon Hall stands in 70 acres of historic parkland looking towards the village of Cawthorne to the west of Barnsley.

A man's head and shoulders, wearing a white wig and Victorian jacket and necktie, in front of a red background.

'Portrait of Walter Spencer Stanhope’ by John Hoppner

Gentlemen, Activists and Artists

We’re lucky to have an extensive historical archive of the family including letters, diaries and photographs. This provides a glimpse of the personalities and lifestyles of the different family members and is also a great record of how the estate was run and the family’s role in Barnsley, Yorkshire and Britain. The archives are kept at Barnsley Archives and Local Studies – click on the Archives link above to find out more.

John Spencer, who loved his books, sport and fine dining, was responsible for adding two ground floor wings to the building in the 18th century, creating the Library and Dining Room. His nephew and heir, Walter Spencer Stanhope was a supporter and friend of William Wilberforce. He and his wife Mary Winifred had so many children they added further rooms to the upper floors in the early 19th century to fit everyone in. Later members of the family John Roddam Spencer Stanhope and his nieces Gertrude Spencer Stanhope and Evelyn De Morgan were all renowned artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was in the late 19th century that the final additions to the house were made, including a ballroom, kitchens and servant quarters.

Black and white photograph of the drawing room at Cannon Hall, 1900, with paintings on the walls and a chez longe.

Photograph of the drawing room at Cannon Hall, 1900, from the Spencer Stanhope family albums, Barnsley Archives

From Family Home to Public Museum

Elisabeth Fraser Spencer Stanhope, the last of the family line, sold the Hall to Barnsley Corporation in 1951 and the decision was made to turn the building into a museum, which opened in 1957. The house was almost empty when bought and the first curator had the enviable task of beginning a collection of fine and decorative arts from scratch. From the 1950s to the present day, a remarkable mix of paintings, drawings, ceramics, glass, metalwork and furniture has been brought together for the public to enjoy. The rooms at the Museum include both historic room settings and gallery displays of artworks spanning the centuries. We are also delighted to host ‘A Family of Artists’ exhibition with the De Morgan Foundation, featuring paintings by Evelyn De Morgan and ceramics by her husband William De Morgan.

We hope you love the Museum as much as we do!

‘Orpheus’ bronze sculpture of a man sitting looking down at his hands

‘Orpheus’ bronze sculpture by Gertrude Spencer Stanhope (1857-1944)

360 virtual tour

Take a look around some of our collections on this stunning 360 tour