Roche Abbey is nestled within a secluded wooded valley near Maltby, Yorkshire. A remarkable ruins that still was founded in the 12th century and still has the remains of the original 12th century new gothic style church.
I was on a walk in the area when I came upon it and just had to stop and dwell in the area to see and learn more about it. Every angle of view gave a whole new perception and you wonder what it looked like in its heyday all those centuries ago.
The history of Roche Abbey through the centuries contains many ups and downs both before and after the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century.
Roche Abbey was founded in in 1147 and built by Cistercian Monks that had travelled from Newminster Abbey in Northumberland. It was the Cistercian way that any new monastery had to be founded from one already existing.
The land was owned by Richard de Bully, Lord of Tickhill, and Richard, son of Turgis who gifted the area to the monks.
The Norman Gothic church was completed by 1170 and was dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Over the next few centuries there was nothing more remarkable than the monks going about their business, using the land and animals, growing food and being self sufficient.
Even way up here in Maltby, Yorkshire, we must remember that in the 13th Century this was part of the northern end of Sherwood Forest. There are tales that Robin Hood came to mass at Roche Abbey.
Dissolution Of The Monasteries
The dissolution of the monasteries came about in the 1530s, famously by Henry VIII. Of course Roche Abbey was going to fall victim to this.
On 23 June 1538 the abbey was handed over to the Royal Commissioners by the remaining monks. Not much time wasted in dismantling the building and contents.
Any furniture or free standing objects were sold off at auction. But very soon the locals saw the empty abbey as the perfect place to pillage whatever they needed.
The whole pillaging was documented in great detail by a local priest named Michael Sherbrook. He watched as floors where ripped up for wood, all the lead taken. Stones, walls and seats taken out for use elsewhere. It is remarkable the ruins we see today are as extensive as they are.
The ruins stayed as they were until the 1770s when the then owner, The 4th Earl of Scarborough, decided to revitalise the place. he called in the famous landscape designer Capability Brown. Now then, this man had no regard for history and completely transformed it.
He was responsible for completely burying and covering the foundations and pillars of the ruins with grassy turf and creating a wooded parkland with mounds and trees. Only the tall parts of the ruins could be seen when he finished and the rest was covered by manicured landscape.
He also built the banqueting lodge in the 1770s that is now used as the entrance by English Heritage. This lodge served as a place for the earl to entertain guests with views over the newly created parkland estate.
Rievaulx and Fountains Abbey also have the same kind of lodge for similar purposes if you look.
Roche Abbey Waterfall
If you wander into the trees behind Roche Abbey from the entrance you will find what is now a little beauty spot that was also created at the time. Roche Abbey Waterfall.
The dogs loved it here. within the gorgeous woodland, playing in the water.
Bringing The Ruins Back
Times change and fashions change. By the time of the 19th Century the then Earls of Scarborough wanted to start to bring the ruins back to their former glory and get rid of the manicured land that covered them.
Although started in the late 1800, the ruins were excavated a lot more in the 1920s as a way of provising work to the unemployed after WW1. This is when the State took over the site.
In 1984 the Abbey came under the arm of English Heritage and further work has been done to make more authentic to the original monastic land as it would have been. For example replacing turf with wild meadow.
If you want to find and visit Roche Abbey then you will find it by heading out south from Maltby on the A634. After half a mile or so turn right at the sign.
Postcode: S66 8NW
I found Roche Abbey whilst taking in a walk in this quiet and beautiful area. It was picture perfect in the sunshine and a perfect area for a dog walk.
There are many walks to be had from here in many directions. But Roche Abbey creates some awe and history along the way, nestled in the trees.