Sources for Roche Abbey

These lists provide a summary of the main sources for our knowledge and understanding of Roche Abbey.

Four well-preserved iron keys found at Roche, dating from the time of Roche abbey
Iron keys found at Roche, dating from the time of the abbey

Primary Sources (Unpublished)

Bodleian Library, Oxford

  • Dodsworth MSS 8: transcriptions of several Roche Abbey charters made by Roger Dodsworth in the 17th century.

British Library

  • Add MS 5813, fol 5, p 1: a contemporary account of the spoliation of Roche Abbey written by Michael Sherbrook, c 1567–90 [for a transcription, see Dickens, AG (ed), Tudor Treatises, Yorkshire Archaeological Record Series 125 (Wakefield, 1959), 123–6].

The National Archives

  • map showing granges of Roche Abbey in Derbyshire, 1528, MPC 1/59 [reproduced on The Cistercians in Yorkshire project website, accessed 10 Dec 2013]
  • deed of surrender of Roche Abbey, 1538, E 322/204 [reproduced on The Cistercians in Yorkshire project website, accessed 10 Dec 2013]

The Lumley Estate Archives

The Lumley Estate Archives at Sandbeck Park, South Yorkshire, hold various documents relating to the post-Suppression history of the house including those relating to the work of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and the excavations undertaken by the Earls of Scarbrough. Enquiries should be addressed to the Rt Hon the Earl of Scarbrough, Sandbeck Park, Maltby, Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

Primary Sources (Published)

Addy, SO, Cartae XVI ad abbatiam Rupensem spectantes: XVI Charters of Roche Abbey (Sheffield, 1878)

Dugdale, W, Monasticon Anglicanum, ed J Caley, H Ellis and B Bandinel, vol 5 (London, 1825), 501–7 [includes Dodsworth’s transcriptions of several charters; accessed 10 Dec 2013]

English, F and Barr, B, ‘The records formerly in St Mary’s Tower, York – part I’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 42: 166 (1967), 128–235

Hall, TW, ‘Roche Abbey charters: transcripts with introduction and notes, by Sidney Oldall Addy’, Transactions of the Hunter Archaeological Society, 4: 3 (1935 for 1932–4), 226–48

Material Sources

Roche Abbey

On site is an extensive collection of architectural stonework recovered from the site clearances by the Ministry of Works in the 20th century. A full catalogue of this material is kept at English Heritage’s Helmsley Archaeology Store (see below). 

English Heritage Archaeology Store, Helmsley, North Yorkshire

The English Heritage Archaeology Store at Helmsley holds a range of small finds recovered during site clearances by the Ministry of Works, including personal dress accessories, book fittings, coins, a complete set of travelling and folding weighing scales, locks, keys, a scourge, a pilgrim badge, a lead seal from a papal bull, and an inkwell. There is also a small collection of architectural stonework.

The paper-based archive includes finds sheets and notes from the site clearances, a catalogue of the stonework, photographs and collections research. 

The Lumley Estate Archives, Sandbeck Park

The Lumley Estate Archives in the ownership of the Earl of Scarbrough contain small finds recovered during 19th-century excavations and the Ministry of Works site clearances, including a silver spoon, a fragment of a gold vestment, lead came for stained-glass windows, wings from lead statuary, a seal and a lead weight. (English Heritage holds copies of the last three items.) 

Clifton Park Museum, Rotherham

The Clifton Park Museum holds a collection of fragments of window glass and small finds recovered from the 19th-century excavations and later interventions, ceramics recovered from the site clearances, and an associated paper-based archive.

Engraving of Roche Abbey (1725) by the Buck brothers
Engraving of Roche Abbey (1725) by the Buck brothers. By this date the abbey church had lost its roof

Visual Sources

The earliest depiction of Roche Abbey is the engraving of 1725 by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck:

  • ‘The west view of Roche Abbey, near Tickhill in Yorkshire, 1725’, in Buck’s Antiquities or Venerable Remains of above four hundred Castles, Monasteries, Palaces, &c. &c. in England and Wales. With One Hundred Views of Cities and Chief Towns, vol 2 (London, 1774), plate 339

Other depictions of Roche Abbey include:

  • P Sandby, ‘Roche Abbey, Yorkshire’, c 1770s, watercolour over graphite, Royal Academy of Arts, London [reproduced in the English Heritage guidebook to Roche Abbey, 37]
  • P Sandby, ‘Roche Abbey, Yorkshire’, 18th century, watercolour and gouache, Leeds Museums and Galleries (Leeds Art Gallery)
  • J Buckler, view of one of the ruined transepts, watercolour, 1810, British Library, Ktop XLV 67-b [accessed 10 December 2013]
  • photographs recording the 19th-century clearance of the site by the Earls of Scarbrough, Lumley Estate Archives, Sandbeck Park, South Yorkshire.

Historic England Archive

Items in the Historic England Archive at Swindon relating to Roche Abbey include:

  • album of early photographs, engravings and prints, mostly of Roche and Kirkstead abbeys [AL0130]
  • album of 33 pages containing 51 prints and 3 postcards of Roche Abbey, 1921–75 [AL0879]
  • property file containing 201 sheets of drawings of Roche Abbey, all made during the 20th century (with Ordnance Survey map sheets dating from the 19th century) [PF/ROA]
  • photographs taken in the 1950s by the architectural photographer John Gay [AA081293–308].

More details of these and many other items can be found in the online catalogue. Some material is not yet listed online, including a large collection of aerial photography; for a full search, please contact the search team.

Copies of images and documents can be ordered through the website or by contacting the archive. For details of current charges for these services see the archive price list.

Secondary Sources

Aveling, JR, The History of Roche Abbey from its Foundation to its Dissolution (Worksop, 1870) [accessed 10 Dec 2013]

Beastall, T, ‘An abbot in retirement’, in Aspects of Doncaster: Discovering Local History, vol 1, ed B Elliott (Barnsley, 1997), 39–48

Bilson, J, ‘Roche Abbey’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 20 (1908–9), 447–54

Carter, M,  ‘Michael Sherbrook, the fall of Roche Abbey and the provenance of Cambridge University Library MS GG. 3.33’, Notes and Queries, 63:1 (2016), 19–22

Cassidy-Welch, M, Monastic Spaces and their Meanings: Thirteenth-Century English Cistercian Monasteries, Medieval Church Studies 1 (Turnhout, 2001)

Coppack, G and Harrison, S, Kirkstead Abbey, Lincolnshire: Charters, Earthworks and Architecture of a Large Cistercian House (forthcoming)

Cross, CM, ‘Monasteries and society in sixteenth-century Yorkshire: the last years of Roche Abbey’, in Monasteries and Society in the British Isles in the Later Middle Ages, Studies in the History of Medieval Religion 35, ed K Stöber (Woodbridge, 2008), 229–40

Davis, J and Manning, T, Wall Painting Condition Audit, Roche Abbey, South Yorkshire, English Heritage AML Reports, new series 39/1997 (London, 1997)

Dukinfield Astley, HJ, ‘Roche Abbey, Yorkshire: its history and architectural features’, Journal of the British Archaeological Association, new series, 10 (1904), 199–220 [accessed 10 Dec 2013]

Fergusson, P, ‘Roche Abbey: the source and date of the eastern remains’, Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 34 (1971), 30–42

Fergusson, P, Architecture of Solitude: Cistercian Abbeys in Twelfth-century England (Princeton, 1984)

Fergusson, P and Harrison, S, Roche Abbey (English Heritage guidebook, London, 2013) [buy the guidebook]

Hall, J, ‘East of the choir: infirmaries, abbots’ lodgings and other chambers’, in Perspectives for an Architecture of Solitude: Essays on Cistercians, Art and Architecture in honour of Peter Fergusson, ed TN Kinder, Medieval Church Studies 11 (Turnhout, 2004), 199–211

Harrison, S, ‘Dissolution: the dissolution of the monasteries’, in Art under Attack: Histories of British Iconoclasm, ed T Barber and S Boldrick (London, 2013)

Historical Notices of Roche Abbey (Skegness, 1939)

Jackson, T, Reminiscences of Visits to Roche Abbey: comprising historical notes of the monastery, sketches of scenery and copious remarks; also an account of a ramble at Sanbeck Park (Rotherham, 1864)

Ker, NR, ‘The mediaeval pressmarks of St Guthlac’s Priory, Hereford, and of Roche Abbey, Yorks’, Medium Aevum, 5: 1 (1936), 47–8

Knowles, D, Bare Ruined Choirs (Cambridge, 1976)

Knowles, D and St Joseph, JKS, Monastic Sites from the Air (Cambridge, 1952), 98–9

Norton, C and Park, D (eds), Cistercian Art and Architecture in the British Isles (Cambridge, 1986, reprinted 2011)

Page, W (ed), ‘Houses of Cistercian monks: Roche’, The Victoria History of the County of York, vol 3 (London, 1913, new edn, 1974), 153–6 [accessed 20 April 2014]

Parsons, D, ‘A note on the east end of Roche Abbey church’, Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 37 (1974), 123

Pevsner, N and Radcliffe, E, Buildings of England: Yorkshire, The West Riding (Harmondsworth, 1967), 414–17

Rigold, SE, ‘A medieval coin balance from Roche Abbey, Yorkshire’, Antiquaries Journal, 58 (1978), 371–4

Robinson, D and Harrison, S, ‘Cistercian cloisters in England and Wales part I: essay’, in The Medieval Cloister in England and Wales, special issue of Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 159, ed J McNeill (2006), 131–207 [subscription required; accessed 7 March 2018]

Rodgers, A, ‘Lifting the dark veil of Earth: Roche Abbey excavations, 1857–1935’, in Aspects of Rotherham: Discovering Local History, vol 2, ed M Jones (Barnsley, 2000), 95–114

Stacye, J, ‘Roche Abbey’, Associated Architectural Societies Reports and Papers, 17 (1883–4), 39–54 [accessed 10 Dec 2013]

Thompson, AH, Roche Abbey, Yorkshire: Official Guide (1954)

Wilson, C, ‘The Cistercians as missionaries of Gothic’, in Cistercian Art and Architecture in the British Isles, ed C Norton and D Park (Cambridge, 1986, reprinted 2011), 86–117

Other Sources

Roche Abbey on The Cistercians in Yorkshire project website

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