28 April 2015

Priory

Dandelions where monks'  hymns once reverberated
A priory is a small monastery or nunnery. Often it was an outpost of a castle, bigger abbey or large country estate. It would have had several purposes - never solely a place where pious monks paid homage to God.

For almost four hundred years, Monk Bretton Priory operated in the heart of South Yorkshire. It was built by the noble and fabulously rich Norman family that developed Pontefract Castle - twelve miles north east of Monk Bretton. The family wanted their monks to pray for their mortal souls and they also wanted them to control tenant farmers and collect rents.

In the twelfth century the nearby River Dearne would have been a silvery stream containing fresh fish and pure water from the Pennine hills. Building the priory would have involved enormous effort. Thousands of stones would have had to be quarried from faraway hills and transported on river rafts or by horse and cart on rutted roads.to the chosen  green and peaceful location.
The gatehouse at Monk Bretton Priory
The priory had a large gatehouse to control entrances and exits. There was an administration building where financial matters were conducted. There was of course a large chapel for worship and  prayer but also a dormitory  for the monks, stables, gardens,  a refectory for meals and a large kitchen which had ingenious channels for both fresh water and drainage. In short it was an enclosed self-functioning complex. It even had its own graveyard.

In the middle of the sixteenth century, long standing tensions between church and state saw King Henry the Eighth calling for The Dissolution of the Monasteries. Along with other priories around the country, Monk Bretton was closed down, its monks departed and the building gradually fell into disrepair. Thousands of stones were filched for local building projects so what you see today is mostly ruins - a pale but evocative shadow of what once was.

The monks would never have imagined that one day the surrounding area would become very industrialised or that the town of Barnsley would stretch out its tentacles to embrace local villages like Monk Bretton and Lund. But that is what happened and now the old priory sits in the suburbs of the town on the edge of an impoverished council estate called Lundwood where once monks would have wandered collecting nuts and berries and listening to the birds in the trees that stretched heavenwards.
The priory's restored administration building
Monk's grave
Drainage channel heading to The River Dearne
Kitchen with water channel

13 comments:

  1. One can't help but be in awe when thinking how buildings were erected in days of yore.

    It's amazing!

    Good post, Yorky. :)

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    1. The methods of construction and the sourcing and transport of stone are matters that onlookers will often overlook. So many man hours were involved and those builders are generally forgotten.

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  2. It looks perfect and a vandal free zone.
    I enjoy medieval ruins so thanks for this.

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    1. Though you can't see it, the complex is surrounded by a big green metal fence with spikes. This was my first first and I thought the place was delightful.

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  3. I never knew that a priory is a small monastery!
    Bloody hell...ive learnt somthing today!

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    1. With Chris working away so much you could be a monk.

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  4. Interesting post - once again YP! We visited the priory grounds a few years back as they held a summer fair there. I remember well the channels you've snapped.

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    1. I hope you didn't run around climbing on the ruins Brian!

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  5. Great pictures, especially the first two.
    Although I have spent quite some time in Wath upon Dearne (Steve's birth place), we never went to Monk Bretton, although it's only about 6 miles away. I now wonder why we never did, it looks exactly the kind of place we enjoyed visiting together.

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    1. When I made this post I thought to myself - I bet Miss A has been there. Perhaps Steve had wandered there with a previous girlfriend!

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  6. It can be very rewarding to visit 'spiritual' places whatever one's thoughts bout deities and things.

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    1. That's true Graham. Even though I am one of the world's most vehement atheists, I feel the presence of our forebears in old churches or ruined abbeys. A link with past times.

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  7. Such wonderful history around every corner in England. I'm so glad it is so well preserved and valued.
    I've always thought for some reason that Priories were more to do with Nuns than monks. Don't know why.

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