Barnsley farm attraction has record year

12 December 2011

Barnsley tourist attraction Cannon Hall Farm has seen gate takings rise by over 30 per cent in 2011 thanks to an on-going programme of improvements. 
The first phase of a £3 million expansion, which has so far created about 30 new jobs, has helped bring in farm entrance revenues of around £945,700 between January and November, compared with about £723,700 over the same period last year.
It is hoped that further planned developments will see the working farm - at Cawthorne - go from strength to strength. The transformation is being carried out with the guidance of experts from business support organisation Enterprising Barnsley.  
Since Easter, children visiting Cannon Hall Farm have been able to use a new outdoor play area, including a climbing forest and tube maze, as well as hold small animals in a petting enclosure.
Next spring, subject to planning approval, work is expected to start on phase two; an indoor play zone, along with a major re-design of the farm itself to make it easier for visitors to view sheep, cattle and pigs. Also proposed are extensions to the restaurant and gift shop and a new farm shop. These developments are expected to increase the workforce from 150 to 200.
Visitor numbers totalled 249,541 this year, up from 220,739 last year. Of visitors, 15 per cent came from Barnsley, 70 per cent were from the wider Yorkshire area, with the remaining 15 per cent from other parts of the country.
Managing director Robert Nicholson said success this year had been boosted by the new play facilities and efforts to offer more activities. A major draw was a special ‘Lambing Live’ event in March when visitors could watch lambs being born during the night while sheep races proved a big hit over the summer.
Robert said: “We’re thrilled at what’s been achieved this year. We do have to work hard at offering something different for local people who come back to us again and again.
“I would say that the recession has helped us because families from Yorkshire who might have gone further afield during the summer in previous years have looked closer to home for their days out. 
“We pride ourselves on offering real value for money and, to that end, we’ve also introduced new seasonal admission charges which we think is a much fairer way of doing things.”
In October, the attraction was named ‘Best Tourism Experience’ in the White Rose Awards presented by tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire, ahead of some larger venues. Along with other winners from this year’s awards, Cannon Hall Farm will go through to the national VisitEngland Awards for Excellence in 2012.
A number of special events are happening at Cannon Hall Farm over the Christmas break such as children’s card and decoration making and ‘Santa’s Big Breakfast’ which includes breakfast and admission to the farm. In the run-up to the New Year there are activities like calendar and mask making.
For hundreds of years Cannon Hall Farm was home farm to the Cannon Hall Estate.
The estate was sold by the Spencer Stanhope family in 1957 when Robert’s grandfather Charles Nicholson paid £7,100 for land and buildings.   Around the same time the hall itself was bought by Barnsley Council and turned into a museum.
Robert’s father Roger took over the farm when Charles died and, from the 1980s, it was developed for visitors. Roger and wife Cynthia are still involved in the business, along with Robert and other sons Richard and David.
Specialists from business support organisation Enterprising Barnsley have helped the farm to expand by providing support in a number of areas including marketing, IT and use of social media.      
Enterprising Barnsley is a partnership between Barnsley Development Agency, Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre and the University of Huddersfield’s Barnsley Campus.   
The Enterprising Barnsley programme has attracted £2.89m investment from the European Regional Development Fund as part of Europe’s support for the region’s economic development through the Yorkshire and Humber ERDF Programme.
Robert said: “Enterprising Barnsley has helped maximise the potential of everything we have here and the future looks very exciting.”
For more information about the farm call 01226 790427 or visit
For more information about Enterprising Barnsley contact programme manager Martin Beasley on 01226 772648 or at or go to
Notes to News Editors:
For further information about Cannon Hall Farm call Robert Nicholson on 01226 790427.

Additional media contacts: Deborah Wain on 07903 466228 or at  or Kate Betts on 01226 766900 or 07910 165 444 or at

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