Medieval Worship near Sheffield

As we were 'in the neighbourhood' we visited two churches and an abbey not far from Sheffield.

Near Conisbrough Castle is St Peter's, the parish church. The oldest parts of the building are believed to be 8th century with additions made more or less every century through to the 15th. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the church was locked and we had to satisfy ourselves with an exterior view.

From Conisbrough we crossed to Maltby where we first went to Roche Abbey. Founded in 1147, the abbey must have been quite a sight. Today most of the site is excavated foundations, but the full height remains of the transept give an idea of how impressive the building was. It is only by chance that anything at all survives of this site: after the Dissolution, the abbey was badly raided by the local community who helped themselves to anything and everything which could be reused.

Two hundred years later, in the 1770s, the 4th Earl of Scarborough commissioned Capability Brown to landscape the valley and the area around the abbey ruins. He created a beautiful but largely man-made valley, including waterfalls and new tress. However, to give the Earl an uninterrupted view of his tableau, Brown removed many parts of the 'untidy' irregular ruins. At the same time, he filled in much of the site to bury some of the lower level ruins - again, to 'improve' the view.

With some of the now-surplus stone, a Banqueting Lodge was build so that visitors to the estate, inspired by the view across Brown's landscape, could dine while discussing art and nature.

A hundred years later, Brown's work was largely undone by a later Earl who - as an antiquarian - wanted to reveal as much as possible of the ruins, so they could be studied. Ironically, by burying much of the ruins Brown had helped to preserve them and - after about 80 years of work - they were again revealed for everyone to enjoy. This time the site was grassed over and given the character that it has today.

Our third place of worship was not far from Roche Abbey, the ancient St Bartholemew's church in Maltby. This ancient site is hidden away on the edge of this former mining town but the location was chosen for its proximity to Maltby Beck, an important source of water which also flows past Roche Abbey.

The 10th century tower is late Saxon, pre-dating the nearby abbey by at least 100 years, but it is still in perfect condition. The rest of the church was originally added in the 14th century but this was taken down and rebuilt in the 19th century in an attempt to boost dwindling attendance.

We don't often find ourselves in this part of the world and we enjoyed a few hours exploring its ancient sites, tucked away among the less inspiring modern developments.