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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

The foundation of Roche


For, rivalling the fruitfulness of her mother,
she (Newminster) conceived and brought
forth three daughters, Pipewell,
Salley and Roche.(1)

The gatehouse at Roche Abbey
©Ray Thompson
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The gatehouse at Roche Abbey

Roche was founded in 1147, the Golden year of Cistercian expansion, but a time of civil strife in England. The foundation was a joint venture by Richard de Busli, lord of Maltby, and Richard FitzTurgis, lord of Hooten, whose lands were divided by a small brook. De Busli was lord of Tickhill Castle and held most of the manor of Maltby. Monks from Newminster Abbey in Northumberland, were sent to colonise the house. Newminster was the daughter-house of Fountains Abbey, and Roche was thus affiliated to Fountains and joined to the Clairvaux line.

The two foundation charters reveal a rather unusual arrangement, by which the monks were to choose whether to settle on De Busli’s or FitzTurgis’ side of the Beck. Regardless of their decision both men would be considered equal founders. Durand and his twelve followers selected De Busli’s half, north of the Beck; this was, evidently, a good choice for the community never had to relocate. Cistercian legislation stipulated that an oratory, dormitory, guest-house and gate-house should all be erected before the arrival of a new community, and it has been suggested that lay-brothers from Newminster preceded the monks to construct these temporary huts, which may have been situated where the cloister is today.(2)

Let it be known to all who see or hear this charter that I, Richard FitzTurgis, with the consent of my wife and heirs, have given to God and St Mary, and to the monks of the Rock (Roche), for the salvation of my soul...

[Read more from Richard FitzTurgis’ foundation charter 30 July 1147]

Richard de Busli and Richard FitzTurgis provided land, pasture and wood for building. The monks’ next task was one of consolidation – they had to develop the site to provide for a self-sufficient community, and secure additional gifts to support their work and expansion.

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