25 July 2014

Roche

Approaching Roche Abbey by Firbeck Dike
Close to the former South Yorkshire coal mining village of Maltby, in a green valley that is blessed by a sparkling stream, you will find the remains of Roche Abbey. It was founded in 1147 by the Cistercian monastic order and destroyed by Henry VIII's forces some four hundred years later during The Dissolution. And after that many local people viewed the site as a free salvage yard. They would turn up with horse and carts or wooden hand carts and take away dressed stones or pieces of lead and glass. And that pillaging went on well into the nineteenth century.

If you think that Cistercian monks were all about self-denial and the worship of God, you'd be wrong. The Cistercian movement was about political and economic control as much as religious worship. Like other abbeys in Yorkshire, Roche Abbey drew its wealth from the surrounding farmland and local people were subjugated - paying rents, delivering agricultural produce and undertaking work without payment in order to keep the latest abbot happy. No doubt they were warned that if they didn't do as they were told they wouldn't enter heaven.
Just to build a substantial religious campus like Roche Abbey would have been a mind-boggling task in the twelfth century. Suitable stone would need to be identified in the local area then quarried, dressed and brought in carts to the site. No electric drills, no trucks, no dynamite, no tubular scaffolding. It makes the construction of The Shard in London - or any other modern skyscraper - seem like child's play.

There were over fifty Cistercian monasteries in England and they were like the tentacles of a movement that had its central powerhouse in France. Cistercian leaders had great political sway with monarchs and popes for five hundred years. It would have been hard not to listen to an organisation that could boast such economic power and in everyday terms governed the lives of many thousands of people throughout western Europe.
Above and below. The monasteries were skilled in controlling
and utilising their vital water supplies
Roche Abbey has a fence around it these days and is overseen by an organisation called "English Heritage". It used to be that you could wander freely around the site at any time but now you can only go inside the fence on Wednesdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays, paying £3.60 for the privilege. I took my photographs and kept on walking on another gorgeously hot and sunny summer's day. If only Roche Abbey's stones could speak. I would love to listen to their stories.

12 comments:

  1. A good look round. Is it a big fence? I notice that many of these places have a gate one can hop over.

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  2. The fence is about five feet tall. Roche Abbey just happened to be on my walking route - it wasn't my destination. Besides if you hop over a fence The English Heritage Police might get you!

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    1. They do and have. It's usually an octogenarian volunteer and when I explain I just came for a dawn shot of his wonderful edifice it's fine and better still free as he can't get at the till.

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    2. I don't think you should be swanning around snapping pictures of old men's edifices and I certainly hope you don't post any of these images!

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  3. When I saw this post's title, my mind went immediately to this gentleman, who had a few fine buildings of his own.

    I do enjoy accompanying you on your walking tours.

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    1. And I love taking you on my walks. Today we were walking by an old canal and you tried to push me in!

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  4. Lovely old buildings. I love those arches. Looks like the weather is great and they are predicting the hottest Summer ever. So how hot is hot for you? I've been in London when it was 33 degrees and it was very unpleasant with windows that don't open and one cube of ice in my lukewarm drink !

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    1. It's been lovely and hot today - over 30 degrees centigrade. I went out walking once more. Lovely. My arms are as brown as an Australian aboriginee's!

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  5. Isn't it amazing! Religion is still holding people in bondage and holding the wealth of nations hostage. What will the number be this week, Mr. Pudding, of people who die in (basically) religious wars?

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    1. Since my previous post on the Gaza strip, the Palestinian death toll has risen above 800 but there have been other religious deaths this week in Iraq, in Nigeria, in Syria, in Afghanistan, in India, in Burma. Now if we atheists ruled the world there'd be peace for ever more and religion would be banned.

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  6. The last picture is the one I like best out of the five which are, I am sure, only a tiny fraction of the number of pictures you actually took at Roche Abbey.
    I have not come across this site in any of the many leaflets and brochures about Yorkshire's many places of beauty, but it definitely looks well worth waiting for a Wednesday, Sunday or Bank Holiday when the gates in the fence will be open.

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  7. I never cease to be amazed and impressed by the construction feats of times past nor by the immense extent of the power wielded in the name of religion (both in the past and in the present). Whilst I can appreciate that someone has to look after and protect the English heritage and that English Heritage need money I do find it mildly irritating when you turn up somewhere and access is quite severely restricted (especially if one is a member of the organisation and has 'free' access anyway.

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.