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Monk Bretton Priory Cluniac and Benedictine monastery: monastic precinct and two fishponds

A Scheduled Monument in Monk Bretton, Barnsley

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Latitude: 53.5541 / 53°33'14"N

Longitude: -1.4379 / 1°26'16"W

OS Eastings: 437335.830216

OS Northings: 406530.407465

OS Grid: SE373065

Mapcode National: GBR LWDB.HP

Mapcode Global: WHDCQ.WXGR

Entry Name: Monk Bretton Priory Cluniac and Benedictine monastery: monastic precinct and two fishponds

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 10 June 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010057

English Heritage Legacy ID: 13255

County: Barnsley

Electoral Ward/Division: Monk Bretton

Built-Up Area: Barnsley

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): South Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Lundwood St Mary Magdalene

Church of England Diocese: Leeds


Monk Bretton Priory is situated in what is now a residential area on the
outskirts of Barnsley. The monument consists of a single constraint area
containing the standing remains and part of the precinct of the Cluniac priory
of St.Mary Magdalene, which was later transferred to the Benedictine Order and
includes two monastic fishponds.
The visible remains at Monk Bretton Priory are of the church and domestic
ranges arranged round a central cloister and occupying the south and west
parts of the precinct. Northwards, these are divided from the main gatehouse
and a separate administrative building by the outer court while, to the south,
a second court served the prior's lodging and the guesthouse. The church,
which formed the north cloister range, was built in the second half of the
twelfth century and followed in its design the austerity of the Cistercian
churches of the time. By the end of the twelfth century, however, the
presbytery had been extended and a series of alterations were subsequently
carried out including, in the mid-fourteenth century, the reconstruction of
the west front and the north aisle wall of the nave. Apart from the south
transept, only the lower walls of the church remain standing but several areas
of paved floor survive in the nave, aisles and transepts. The two storey
administrative building, though altered in the seventeenth century, is of late
thirteenth or early fourteenth century date, while the main gatehouse, as it
appears today, is early fifteenth century though it incorporates the remains
of an earlier building. Within the gatehouse is a gate hall with a porter's
lodge and a room which has been interpreted as an almonry, where the almoner
would have distributed alms to the needy. On the first floor are two chambers
interpreted as the living quarters of lay officers of the priory. A second
gatehouse was built in the seventeenth century when the priory was occupied by
the Armyne family. The remains of this can still be seen to the south
spanning Abbey Lane.
South of the church, and conforming to the traditional layout, are the
cloister ranges of the priory. The temporary buildings, erected after the
priory's foundation, were replaced in stone throughout the thirteenth century
and were altered at various times during the later Middle Ages. From north to
south, the east cloister range consisted on the ground floor of the chapter
house, inner parlour and an early warming house. A passage ran between the
parlour and warming house, linking the infirmary with the cloister garth. On
the first floor was the monks' dorter or dormitory. Immediately south of the
warming house was a separate building built in the mid thirteenth century and
overlying the main drain. The first floor of this building formed the
reredorter or latrine and to the south of this lay the fourteenth century
guesthouse. East of the east range are the remains of the infirmary, with the
cemetery lying between these and the church.
The south cloister range was occupied by a later warming house and the frater
or refectory. On the north side was the lavatory, a long trough supplied with
water from a series of taps where the monks washed at mealtimes. South of the
west end of the frater are the thirteenth century remains of the kitchen,
scullery and kitchen yard, and also part of an ancillary building which is
believed to have been a bakehouse. The west cloister range comprised an outer
parlour and a vaulted undercroft used for cellarage and storage, and largely
continued in this use even after being remodelled in the mid-fourteenth
century. On the first floor were the prior's apartments which, after the
Dissolution in the sixteenth century, were altered to become accommodation for
the Talbot family. At this time, two new buildings were built to the west
and, in the seventeenth century, the Armyne gatehouse was built between them.
The gatehouse is the only part of the post-Dissolution wing to have survived
the drastic alterations caused by this wing's continued use as a farmhouse
down to the twentieth century. Also west of the prior's lodgings was a
thirteenth century pigeon cote which collapsed in the late nineteenth century.
The north and east parts of the precinct were occupied by the meadows and
gardens of the priory and have only partially survived the urbanisation of the
area. During the Middle Ages, the precinct was enclosed partly by a stone
wall and partly by an oak fence. In the south-east corner were two fishponds,
the remains of which, measuring c.20m by 50m, can still be seen. In the outer
areas of the precinct would have been a wide variety of ancillary buildings
which would have included, amongst other examples, barns and stables. The
remains of these will survive as buried archaeological features in the open
areas of the precinct. In addition, approximately 200m to the south-west of
the precinct is the priory mill, a Grade II Listed Building formerly linked to
the priory by a drain that ran south-west to north-east to flush the kitchen
and reredorter. The line of this drain, where it turned south again out of
the reredorter, can be seen within the precinct. However, the section lying
outside the precinct is not included in the scheduling as its precise
alignment and state of preservation are unknown at this time. The priory mill
is also excluded being adequately protected by current Listed Buildings
The priory was founded as a Cluniac house by Adam Fitzwane in c.1154. After a
number of disputes concerning the appointment of its priors, it severed its
ties with its mother houses, La Charite sur Loire and St.John's in
Pontefract, to become, in 1281, an independent Benedictine Priory under the
jurisdiction of the Archbishop of York. After its suppression in 1538, the
prior's house was adapted as a dwelling and subsequently passed through a
number of owners until the ruins of the priory were purchased by John Horne.
Horne arranged for partial excavations of the site to be carried out between
1923 and 1926 under the direction of Dr.J.W.Walker. The ruins have been in
State care since 1932 and are also Grade I Listed. Excluded from the
scheduling are the custodian's lodge and garden, all English Heritage fixtures
and fittings, the surface of Abbey Lane, the surfaces of the paths and
carpark, all modern fencing and walling and the ticket office and toilet. The
ground beneath these features is, however, included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

From the time of St Augustine's mission to re-establish Christianity in AD 597
to the reign of Henry VIII, monasticism formed an important facet of both
religious and secular life in the British Isles. Settlements of religious
communities, including monasteries, were built to house communities of monks,
canons (priests), and sometimes lay-brothers, living a common life of
religious observance under some form of systematic discipline. It is estimated
from documentary evidence that over 700 monasteries were founded in England.
These ranged in size from major communities with several hundred members to
tiny establishments with a handful of brethren. They belonged to a wide
variety of different religious orders, each with its own philosophy. As a
result, they vary considerably in the detail of their appearance and layout,
although all possess the basic elements of church, domestic accommodation for
the community, and work buildings. Monasteries were inextricably woven into
the fabric of medieval society, acting not only as centres of worship,
learning and charity, but also, because of the vast landholdings of some
orders, as centres of immense wealth and political influence. They were
established in all parts of England, some in towns and others in the remotest
of areas. Many monasteries acted as the foci of wide networks including parish
churches, almshouses, hospitals, farming estates and tenant villages. The
Cluniac order had its origins in the monastic reformations which swept across
continental Europe in the tenth century. The reformations which occurred were
partly a response to the impact of Viking raids and attacks on established
monastic sites in the preceding century but were also a reaction against the
corruption and excesses which were increasingly noted amongst earlier
establishments. The Cluniacs were amongst the most successful of the new
reformed orders that developed. The founding house of Cluny in south-east
France was established in AD 910. Here the community obeyed a stringent set of
rules which, amongst other things, involved celibacy, communal living and
abstention from eating meat. The ideals of the Cluniac reformers passed on to
England in the tenth century. Influential Cluniac houses had been established
in England by 1077. Once established, Cluniac houses were notable for the
strong links they maintained both with the founding house of Cluny in France
and also with other houses of their order. Most Cluniac houses in England were
established near major towns and they particularly sought locations in valley
bottoms within the protection of a nearby castle. Cluniac monasteries are
notable for highly decorated, elaborate buildings. Cluniac houses are
relatively rare, with some forty-four houses known in England, and all
examples exhibiting good survival of archaeological remains are worthy of

Monk Bretton is important for its well-preserved upstanding remains which,
together with extensive documentary and archaeological evidence, demonstrate a
continual programme of building and alteration which lasted from the twelfth
to the seventeenth centuries. The diversity of the features found at the
priory provides an important insight into Cluniac and Benedictine monasticism
and the effects of the Dissolution. Additional remains will survive in situ in
the unexcavated areas of the precinct and will include organic material in the
waterlogged deposits of the fishponds.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Graham, R, Gilyard-Beer, R, Monk Bretton Priory, (1966)
Roebuck, J., Letter to Jim Lang (IAM PIC North),

Source: Historic England

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