Historic abbey near Doncaster introduces 'no talking, no phones' silent hour

A historic monastery near Doncaster has introduced a silent ‘contemplation hour’ – so people can enjoy it as intended.

By Darren Burke
Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 5:00 am

Visitors to Roche Abbey, which is near to Maltby, will be told to switch off phones and stop conversations so they can enjoy spiritual buildings in relative silence.

English Heritage is rolling out its ‘hour of contemplation’ project at a number of its former monasteries.

In a month long trial, visitors are encouraged to enjoy spiritual buildings in silence, just as they would have been experienced throughout history.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Roche Abbey.

From today until 22 October, English Heritage will be encouraging visitors to turn off notifications on their phones, finish up their conversations and enjoy the final hour of public access to its abbeys and priories in contemplative quiet, enabling them to experience these spiritual buildings as they were intended.

Actor and broadcaster Stephen Fry, a tireless campaigner and advocate for mental health, has worked with English Heritage to record an audio introduction to the ‘hour of contemplation’.

The recording, available from the English Heritage website, invites visitors to seek peace and inspiration and includes an evocative reading from Saint Aelred, 12th century abbot of the magnificent Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire.

Dr Michael Carter of English Heritage said: “For those who lived there, these monastic buildings offered an opportunity to live the heavenly life here on earth, and discover a spiritual inner peace. Throughout the centuries, people have turned to the monasteries now in the care of English Heritage as havens of contemplation and places of spiritual and physical renewal.

"With many people having experienced a very difficult past 18 months, we’re inviting visitors to escape from their cares for a short time, using the quiet, the sound of the bird song, the rustle of the wind in the trees to contemplate and free their minds and spirits of the busy, noisy, demanding distractions of contemporary life.

“In a modern world, where people are constantly rushing and expected to be at the end of a phone 24/7, we often find silence disconcerting. It’s important sometimes to take a step back, centre yourself and focus on appreciating the peace and tranquillity that is unique to these historic buildings – monuments to the human spirit and the divine, our ongoing quest for inner peace and fulfilment.”