Rotherham's Roche Abbey has a long and fascinating history - Picture Post

Picture: Simon Hulme. Words: John Blow.

The remains of Roche Abbey in Maltby, Rotherham, appear mysterious as the morning sun thaws the frost.

But like all of Yorkshire’s former Cistercian monasteries, its history is long and fascinating.

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Founded in 1147, it is, according to English Heritage, most notable for the remains of its early Gothic church and for its 13th century great gatehouse.

Picture: Simon Hulme.Picture: Simon Hulme.
Picture: Simon Hulme.

Unlike other Cistercian monasteries in Yorkshire, such as Rievaulx or Byland Abbey, Roche was modest in size but at its peak, in about 1175, it was populated by around 50 monks, 100 lay brothers and servants.

Henry VIII supressed England’s monasteries and Roche’s monks surrendered to the king’s commissioners on June 23 1538. Consequently many of the buildings were dismantled.

Two hundred years later the ruins became the centrepiece of a designed landscape created in the 1770s by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown for the Earls of Scarbrough.

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Brown engineered a lake and islands over Roche’s southern buildings, substituted a river for the medieval water channels, created a waterfall and composed irregular tree groupings in surrounding fields.

He also levelled the ruins’ unusual walls to provide a uniform foreground for a banqueting lodge, which was built for entertaining the earl’s guests who were staying at his nearby Sandbeck Park estate.

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English Heritage assumed responsibility for the site in 1984 and it is now one of South Yorkshire’s many tourism spots.

Readers who are planning a visit should note, however, that the site is closed for winter and will be reopening in April 2022.

Technical details: Nikon D5 camera, 80-200mm lens, exposure 250th sec at f8, iso400.