THE owner of what is believed to be the oldest pub building in the country has called on the town’s leaders to pledge their support having embarked on a quest for its Grade II listing to be upgraded due to its historical significance.

The Mill of the Black Monks, on Grange Lane, was built by and for the Cluniac monks in roughly 1150AD to service the adjacent Monk Bretton Priory.

The venue, now used as a restaurant and bar under the stewardship of husband and wife Lee and Emma Bailey, has parts dating back to about 700AD.

Having fallen into disrepair in the 1980s, it’s become a labour of love for 83-year-old owner Malcolm Lister, who told the Chronicle it’s his dream to have its Historic England grading revised to the more prestigious Grade II* rating.
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Malcolm, an award-winning architect who purchased the building from Barnsley Council, added: “When I was restoring the mill I knew it was such an important building - it means everything to me as it was extremely neglected before we brought it back to life.

“It was under four feet of mud, but it’s a staggering setting now and one that’s very much a hidden gem in Barnsley. It pre-dates even the priory and remained in use 350 years afterwards.

“This is a Barnsley mill for Barnsley people - I believe conservation officers should be ashamed of their behaviour with regards to this building as we’ve always been fobbed off with what we’re trying to achieve.

“It was listed decades ago when it was in a sorry state but the work that’s been done has peeled back some incredible history.

“There are numerous inscriptions indicating the identities of millers such a William Silvester who milled there in 1686, paying 18 shillings and eight pence per year rent to another former owner, King Charles II.

“Having the listing upgraded will make a huge difference as it’ll boost its respect level on a national stage.”

Adam Fitzwain, grandson of Ailric the Saxon, donated land to the Cluniac monks on which to build Monk Bretton Priory and added that his bequest included the ‘milne’ (mill).

Hundreds of years later, Henry VIII is said to have sent the famous Thomas Cromwell, his chief minister, to take surrender at the priory and he was accompanied by William Blythman who bought it and lived there.

“Its ownership also went into the hands of the sixth Earl of Shrewsbury, who was gaoler of Mary Queen of Scots and married to the famous Bess of Hardwick.

“It was then owned by Lady Mary Armyne who did much work on the mill. She built hospitals for the poor, donated money to educate the ‘Red Indians’ of America and built a row of six houses for the poor next to the mill.

“The history surrounding the mill is vast, but very few in our community know it - it’s like it’s been hidden in time - and we’re doing all we can to tell more people about something so historically and culturally significant.”

Malcolm’s lodged an application with Historic England and put forward evidence for his case, which would lead to more protection and potential funding streams being opened to create a historic trail with the neighbouring priory.

Chairman of the Friends of Monk Bretton Priory, Ian Stevenson, added: “There aren’t many places like both the priory and the Mill of the Black Monks, and they’re across from each other. It would be great to get a trail or something like that going.

“It’s already on the European Cluniac tourism route which absolutely boosts Barnsley’s profile and it’s due to the rich history that’s so obvious.”