A re-working of an image I made in 2009 when the snow was here...
The abbey was founded in 1147. The co-founders of Roche were Richard de Busli, likely the great-nephew of the first Roger de Busli, the Norman magnate builder of Tickhill Castle, and Richard FitzTurgis. When the monks first arrived in South Yorkshire from Newminster Abbey in Northumberland, they chose the most suitable side of the stream that runs through the valley, on which to build their new Cistercian monastery.
Twenty-five years later, at the end of the century, the Norman Gothic great church had been finished, as well as most of the other buildings.
From the start, the Abbey of Roche, built for the so-called White Monks, as the Cistercians were known, had an almost otherworldly air. It was, after all, built at the northern end of an area once covered by Sherwood Forest, and it was said that Robin Hood went to Mass here.
The Roche Abbey records were lost or destroyed so there are no accounts of what went on in the abbey, other than there were 14 monks and an unknown number of novices at the time of dissolution in 1538.
Left in ruin, the land passed through many private hands until the 4th Earl of Scarbrough decided it needed revitalising to enhance his adjoining family seat at Sandbeck Park. Lord Scarborough enlisted the talents of Capability Brown.
With an astonishing disregard for history, Brown demolished buildings, built large earth mounds and turfed the whole site. Until the end of the 19th century Roche Abbey remained buried beneath Brown's work and wooded parkland. But subsequent excavation in the 1920s returned Roche to its former splendour.
(c) Copyright Andy Milner 2011 All Rights Reserved