Barnsley leads on experimental new cultural project

The history of Kendray, in Barnsley South Yorkshire, is being explored through an experimental new cultural project focusing on the local Swanee Pond and its importance to the local community.

Lead by Barnsley Museums, and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Barnsley Museums & Heritage Trust (BMHT), Up the Swanee! focuses on the history of the pond, a much loved but often overlooked spot, which offers relaxation and a connection to nature. Although not a typical heritage spot, it has an abundance of hidden history and rich folk law to explore. 

Keen to showcase culture and art in unusual spaces, Barnsley Museums is ensuring that history happens everywhere, not just in the obvious places but in communities, green spaces, and high streets. Up the Swanee! aims to do this in the most creative of ways. 

A key part of the project is collaborating with local people through the co-curation of art, music, and poetry. It will result in a very special musical performance on the banks of Swanee Pond on Friday the 6 October. It will see performances by poet and BMHT Trustee, Ian McMillan and composer Luke Carver-Goss. 

Creative workshops are taking place in the area at Kendray Hospital, Barnsley Academy, Forest Academy, and St. Andrews Community Centre over the forthcoming weeks and months. Other activity includes oral histories recording living memories of local residents, celebrated artist Richard Kitson creating artworks, and illustrator Liz Kay creating drawings.

There is little research available about the history of the area, so as part of the project local historian Jane Ainsworth has discovered some fascinating historical facts ranging from a priest watching the Aurora Borealis reflected in the pond in 1882 to Mary Queen of Scot’s armour being kept as a relic in a mansion house that the pond once belonged. The project also uncovered the source of the name The Swanee, originating from a posh boating pond called Swan Pond. 

Jon Finch, Head of Culture and Visitor Economy, said: “History is not just about objects and artifacts it's also about spaces and memories that connect with people in lots of different ways. The Swanee Pond is a real gem, with lots of fascinating stories connected to it that would not have been unearthed had it not been for this project. Always keen to lead the way in collaborating with local people and celebrating unexpected places we want people to be able to learn, enjoy and have real pride in their local history and for activities such as this to have long-lasting positive impacts.

For more information about the project contact or follow the progress of the project on our Barnsley Heritage Connects social media: Barnsley@HC1.

A Barnsley Heritage Connects project by Barnsley Museums with support from the Heritage Fund / Barnsley Museums Heritage Trust.