The Manor of Brierley

Following the Norman Conquest, the Brierley-Grimethorpe area thus mentioned came under the rule of the De Laceys of Pontefract, with a local Saxon owner. In 1066, this owner was Ernui who was said to have six carucates of land at Brerelia and Hindelia, valued at forty shillings. (A carucate was as much land as could be ploughed in one year by one plough and eight oxen. An acre was as much land as could be ploughed in one day by one plough and a pair of oxen.) There is a possibility that Hall Steads was occupied by Ernui, although it is not mentioned until 1284 in connection with a later Lord of Brierley Manor. It is also possible that nearby Burnt Hill and Burntwood were so named due to the destruction of Brierley by William the Conqueror. However, until this idea is proved or disproved by archaeological evidence, it will remain in the realms of legend.

This land was given after the Norman Conquest to Airic who was given the whole of Staincross wapentake by libert de Lacey, the Norman of Pontefract. (A wapentake is a division of land in the North of England, corresponding to a 'hundred' in the South.) All of Yorkshire was divided into wapentakes, Staincross being the one for Barnsley area. It was about ten miles from north to south and about twenty miles from east to west, its boundaries being in the north-east the high ridge on which Brierley stands and in the south- west the water shed of the Pennines. For Airic, it would have been a case of being monarch of all he surveyed, for from his lands in Brierley he could look out to the south-west and see all Staincross wapentake spread out before him, right out to the stone cross of Lady Cross on the bleak Langsett Moors. Another cross, also called Ladycross, was erected near Grimethorpe, probably by the monks of Monk Bretton Priory, as a place of sanctuary, there being an old law protecting people on Church lands. The Ladycross figures on many deeds relating to the Priory. The I.-dy referred to in the place names of Ladycross, Ladywell and Ladywood is probably Mary Magdalene to whom Monk Bretton Priory was dedicate

The point where the wapentakes of Staincross, Osgoldcross and Strasforth meet is marked by two disused gateposts three hundred yards north-east of the road at Burntwood. Thus, Alric ruled the wapentake of Staincross, though still subject to his overlords, the De Laceys of Pontefract. It is not known where Airic or his immediate successors lived but Hall Slceads is a site of sufficient age and importance to have been their place of residonce. Alric's son, Swein, became ruler in his turn and his name is perpetuated in the local village name of Hoyland Swaine. He founded the present Felkirk Church and donated it to Nostell Priory. With the coming of Christianity, Felkirk had been chosen as the site of the church to serve the north-east of Staincross. Its parish had a boundary of about eighteen miles and on the nearest possible day to Ascension Day each year, the priest and older men of the parish would take boys of the parish round these boundaries. Sticks were carried, either to beat the boundaries or to beat the boys to make them remember where these boundaries were. The tradition came to be called 'the beating of the bounds'. On the journey round the parish, the party would stop to read the Gospel for Ascension Day. (St. Mark, chapter sixteen, verses fourteen to twenty.) The place chosen for this in the Felkirk parish was a thorn tree in Brieriev. At Ascensiontide, thorn bushes are usually the only bushes in flower and are covered with white blossom. This thorn bush in Brieriey came to be called the 'Gospel Thorn' and must have stood somewhere in the two fields west of the manor house, as this area is referred to in later documents as 'Gospel Thorn'.

The De Laceys of Pontefract established two monasteries in the area: one at Nostell, dedicated to St. Oswald from whom Oswaldcross took its name and one at Pontefract, dedicated to St. John of the Cluniac Order. Alric's grandson, Adam Fitz Swein, founded the Cluniac Priory at Monk Bretton and met with the objection that two L;Iuniae houses should noc be so close together, an argument which went on for more than a hundred years, until the Monk Bretton order was changed to Bonedictine. It was possible that the true discontent was due to the fact that a Saxon had grown powerful enough to found a monastery at all. The village of Brierley was very closely involved in this argument as, when Swein had founded the church at Felkirk, he had donated it and its parish, which included Brierley, to the priory at Nostell. He had also founded the church at Silkstone and, it seems, had also included Brierley in the parish of Silkstone, this parish coming under the joint jurisdiction of the Cluniac priories of Monk Bretton and Pontefract. The dispute was a very real one in economic terms, for it concerned the tithes payable to the church by the various villages. At this time, two parts of the tithe of corn from Brierley was payable to Monk Bretton Priory and to St. Oswald Priory at Nostel 1, the tithes being payable at Whitsun and Martinmas. During the period of these arguments, Hall Steads had come into use, probably first as a residence for Adam Fitz Swein's daughter, Matilda, and certainly by 1 284 as a home of Geoffrey Nevile of Brierley. The dispute was finally settled on the 2nd February, 1317, when it was decided once and for all that Brierley should form part of the parish of Felkirk.

An old road from Monk Bretton Priory to Hall Steads still exists and crosses the hall enclosure on an earth bank over the moat. This road passed by Ferry Moor which belonged to the Priory at the time and which was permanently under flood, making it valuable for fish and rushes.