The abbey precinct
The abbey precinct covered some 31 acres and
was bounded by a thirteenth-century stone wall, c. 3m high, traces
of which survive. Like all abbeys the precinct at Roche was divided
into zones and access was restricted. Entrance was via the outer
gatehouse, which lay to the west of the church - on the site of
the present car-park. A walled lane led to the inner gatehouse,
which had two gateways: one led to the outer court, the other to
the inner court. The porter manned the gatehouse and directed visitors
through the appropriate entrance.
A Cistercian abbey was self-sufficient, and
whilst the community had outlying properties, much of the work
out on site. The outer court was a hive of activity, with industrial
buildings, such as the forge, mills, and tanneries, as well as
for the carpenters, tailors and other artisans. There were also
barns and stables, orchards, dovecots, and fish ponds. More domestic
buildings, such as the bake-house and brew-house, were situated
in the inner court. The infirmary, the abbots lodgings,
stores and guesthouses were also located here, namely, those
that were in some way removed from the inner life of the cloister.
The church and claustral buildings formed the
core of monastic life
and stood at the heart of the precinct, where they were sheltered
from noise and intrusion. This area was essentially restricted
the monks, and all the buildings necessary for their daily life
were accessed from the cloister. These included the chapter-house,
dormitory, refectory, kitchen, warming-house, dayroom and parlour,
as well as the sacristy and library that were adjacent to the
Access to the claustral area was restricted, to ensure privacy
and preserve solitude.
survives of the monastic buildings at Roche (see left), and not
all the site has been excavated. However, aerial photography shows
an exceptionally clear outline of the abbey, and provides an almost
complete plan of the church and monastic buildings.
This learning-package will lead you through the
gate-house that stands to the west of the abbey, the twelfth-century
church, and the buildings situated around the cloister, namely,
the chapter-house, the parlour, the warming-house, the dormitory,
refectory and kitchen, as well as the lay-brothers
quarters on the western range.