Grimethorpe / Brierley

Grimethorpe means "a small farm" and Brierley "a clearing among the briars". The areas kept their post-medieval character despite development of the mining industry which saw the population in each area significantly increase.

Prehistoric and Romano-British activity is indicated by enclosures and field systems that are visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs of the area around Hallsteads medieval fortified manor house, Grimethorpe, and on land to the south of Common Road, Brierley.

Early medieval activity is indicated by place-name evidence. Recorded as ‘Breselai’ in the 1086 Domesday survey, Brierley appears to mean a ‘clearing among the briars’ (Smith 1961, 268). Grimethorpe derives its name from the Old Norse personal name ‘Grym’ and the Old Norse ‘torp’, meaning a small farm (Smith 1961).

The area was granted to Ilbert de Laci, the lord of Pontefract, following the Norman Conquest. Documentary evidence for Brierley is relatively plentiful for the later medieval period, when the manor was administered from a fortified manor house at Hallsteads. Earthworks at Ringstone Hill may also be medieval in date. These were re-used during the Civil War in 1645. A range of early post-medieval buildings remain extant in the area, with high status sites such as Grimethorpe Hall and Brierley Manor, agricultural sites such as Cliff Farm and Elms Farm, and several 18th-century domestic houses at Church Street.

Coal mining took place at Brierley from the 17th century. Documentary evidence indicates that in addition to bell pits, drift mines were worked in the area in 1638 (Watson and Harrison 1976). At Grimethorpe, deep coal mining commenced with the opening of Grimethorpe Colliery in 1895. The development of the area’s mining industry saw the population increase from 500 in 1881 to 1,684 in 1901.

While new estates were built at Grimethorpe to house the miners and their families, Brierley largely retained its rural character even after the opening of Brierley Colliery in 1910. A tram road or waggonway connected the Brierley and Grimethorpe mines. Ferry Moor Colliery opened in 1917. Coal was mined in the area through opencasting during the inter-war period, with the extraction sites then being landscaped in 1949. The Brierley Colliery spoilheap was subject to reclamation between 1959 and 1961.