The spoliation of Roche
A surviving account of the spoliation of Roche
was written by a local priest, Michael Sherbrook, who was rector
of Wickersley, some five miles west of Roche, from 1567-c. 1610.
Sherbrook completed his account in the 1590s, but may actually have
begun writing c. 1567.(1) Sherbrook
was himself a child at the time of the Dissolution, but recounts
the memories of his father and uncle who witnessed at first-hand
the spoliation of Roche. His vivid account highlights the speed
and scale of devastation, as well as the extent of self-interest
shown by monks and locals alike.
.... and all things of value were
spoiled, plucked away or utterly defaced, those who cast the
lead into fodders plucked up all the seats in the choir where
the monks sat when they said service....
The monks, who had each been granted their cell,
endeavoured to benefit in any way that they could, uncertain, no
doubt, of what the future held. Indeed, Sherbrooks uncle was
approached by one of the monks whom he knew, and urged to buy the
door of his cell for two pennies; he declined the offer having no
use for such an item. Sherbrooks father bought timber from
the church and steeple, and when later questioned by his son as
to why he had participated in this plundering replied that surely
he should have profited from the spoils as others. Those who pilfered
the site removed doors, service-books, windows and iron wall hooks;
nothing was spared.
The official destruction of the abbey began with
the church, the symbol of monastic life and the obvious target for
the royal commissioners. They melted the lead from the roof, and
a hole in the centre of the nave that was used as their furnace
can still be seen; in fact, a quantity of lead ash was found in
The timber choir stalls were ripped out and burned,
tombs were broken and defaced; it was a scene of devastation and
brutal destruction. After the church had been laid to waste the
abbots lodgings were destroyed, and thereafter the dormitory,
refectory, cloister and claustral building. Little within the walls
was spared, although the ox-houses and swinecoates that lay beyond
the walls were treated less brutally than the church itself. Not
everything, however, was pilfered immediately, for Sherbrook notes
that he himself saw eight or nine bells that remained in the bell-tower
for over a year after the Dissolution.