Monk Bretton Priory

August 2020

Monk Bretton has been closed since March due to COVID. Although it is a free site, sadly in the past, the ruin has been damaged by vandals and so the site can not remain open at all times. Despite the site being free entry, the gates get locked every day at 3pm and re-open at 10am.

It is unfortunate that Monk Bretton does not get the same protection as other English Heritage sites. Roche Abbey is similar in size and yet that is a staffed site. During my visit I witnessed an incredibly ignorant individual who was climbing up the ruin (I have made a video with a little more information and a picture of said individual below). As Monk Bretton is un-staffed, English Heritage rely on people using common sense and being respectful, clearly they cannot rely on this. I do think they need more signs that say ‘DO NOT CLIMB ON THE RUIN’. If this fails, I personally think that the gates should remain locked and only opened maybe once a month when it can be staffed.

From what I can gather, the volunteers of this site take care of it, rather than English Heritage that don’t seem to care much. The gatekeepers are volunteers, which makes it more upsetting when you see litter, graffiti and idiots climbing the ruins.

Monk Bretton was founded in about 1154, by a local landowner called Adam Fitzswaine. The priory served as a daughter house to the rich Cluniac priory at Pontefract. After 50 years of disagreements, Monk Bretton seceded from Cluniac Order in 1281 and became a Benedictine house.

The priory was quite substantial as it owned properties across South Yorkshire, with rights over five parish churches. It is also said that Monk Bretton worked coal and ironstone in the Barnsley area. After Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, Monk Bretton was closed and materials from the priory were used elsewhere.

The priory passed into the ownership of the Blithman family and then in 1589 the estate was bought by William Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury. He converted the west range of the cloister into a country house for his son Henry.

Today, the site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and now in the care of English Heritage/ volunteers.

Thanks for reading.

Roche Abbey Ruins.

August 7th 2020.

Roche Abbey was founded in 1147 and housed Cistercian Monks. (The Order of Cistercians are a Catholic religious order of monks and nuns that branched off from the Benedictines and follow the Rule of Saint Benedict. Also called ‘white monks’ due to their light colour robes).

At its peak in around 1175, there were approximately 50 monks, 100 lay brothers and servants. Roche Abbey was suppressed in 1538 when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries.

Today the site is managed by English Heritage. Entry is £5 for adults and £4.50 for concessions. As of August 2020, you must book online before visiting, this also includes EH members.

There is only one interpretation board on site. When staff scan your ticket, they ask if you want to buy a guide book for £4.50. I think this is a little bit wrong, I understand that the extra money goes towards the upkeep of the site. However, some more boards would be nice, rather than trying to get people to buy the book.

Thanks for reading.

The one interpretation board on site.
The Gatehouse
I also have a YouTube channel, I would really appreciate if you could like my video and subscribe to my channel :).

Bolingbroke Castle, Lincolnshire, England.

Bolingbroke Castle was one of three castles built by Ranulf de Blundeville, Earl of Chester and Lincoln, in the 1220s after his return from the Crusades (the others being Beeston Castle, Cheshire, and Chartley, Staffordshire). After Blundeville’s death, the castle remained in the ownership of the Earls of Lincoln and was later inherited through marriage by John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.

During the English Civil War (1642–8), the castle became a defensible base for a Royalist garrison and was surrounded by armed Parliamentarian forces in 1643. The Royalists surrendered that winter, and the entire castle was destroyed. The remains of the castle gradually deteriorated and in 1815 the last remaining structure fell. The site was a bumpy field until archaeologists excavated the site in the 1960s and 1970s.

Today, the castle is managed by English Heritage, entry is free and it is open year round and is easily accessible from the road. There isn’t much parking as it is located in a small village.

Kirkstead Abbey, Lincolnshire, England.

The Cistercian Abbey at Kirkstead was founded in 1139 by Hugh Brito (Hugh son of Eudo), lord of Tattershall. Cistercian monks and nuns were founded in 1098 and followed the rules of St Benedict (obedience, poverty and chastity). They are often referred to as the ‘White Monks’ because of the light coloured robes that they wore, as opposed to the Benedictines who wore black robes.

In 1536, 17 of the monks were involved in the Lincolnshire Rising. A protest against Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the monasteries. The abbot supported the insurgents and as a consequence, he and 3 monks were executed, and the abbey destroyed.

Little remains of the Abbey, below are a few images from my visit.

The abbey is about 100 meters from the road, I parked at the gate and walked down the dirt track to the abbey.

Conisbrough Castle,South Yorkshire.

Conisbrough Castle is located just outside Rotherham in South Yorkshire and is managed by English Heritage. The original Castle was built by William De Warenne, the 1st Earl of Surrey who was the son-in-law of William the 1st (William the Conqueror) sometime in the 11th century . The castle passed to Isabel De Warenne in 1147, and the keep was built by her husband, Hamelin Plantagenet in the late 1170s or 1180s. The castle inspired Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Ivanhoe, published in 1819.

I did not visit, but the nearby Anglican Church of St Peter has stood in Conisborough since the 8th century, and is the oldest standing building in South Yorkshire.

Personally, I always prefer English Heritage places over National Trust, I think it’s because I find ruins more fascinating. I really enjoyed Conisbrough Castle. However, there are a few things to bear in mind if you plan on visiting. Firstly, the parking. I usually look in advance before I travel on what the situation is with parking, but this time I did not. When I arrived at the castle the signposts send you into a privately run car park. I parked up and got my little pot of car park change from my glove box that I keep for such situations. I went to find the machine, but there was not one in sight. The car park requires you to either download an app, or to call and pay by card. Bear in mind that parking is 50p an hour. I thought this seemed like a lot of faff for 50p. I tried scanning the QR code, like the sign said, but nothing happened, so I drove out of the car park and parked on a nearby street. I don’t usually like parking in residential areas as I’ve had bad experiences with people who don’t like you parking in front of their houses, even though you can park where you like as long as there are no parking restrictions, or you aren’t blocking anyone ones access, etc. But, often people get real funny about parking. Anyway, there is plenty of free on street parking, that isn’t outside anyone’s house, if you don’t mind a short walk to the castle. If the car park was English Heritage, I would have paid the money, but as it was a private company, I did not bother. I think this is a bad call from English Heritage. If people don’t have a mobile with them, I know my parents don’t always take their mobile phone out with them, how are you meant to pay? Or if you don’t take your bank card out with you, you can’t pay as there is no machine.

The other thing to consider at Conisbrough is that there are narrow stone stairs in the castle with no lift. If you are disabled or have push chairs, you might not be able to access the castle, but I would double check with English Heritage before you go.

Some of the winding stairs inside the castle.
The parking situation.

Thanks for reading.