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.