What effect did the dissolution of the monasteries have on English society and culture?

Roche Abbey in South Yorkshire is just one of the monasteries that was closed by Henry VIII during the dissolution of the monasteries. The ruins are now an important part of England's heritage and visited by large numbers of tourists.

Teaching idea

The dissolution of the monasteries happened during a remarkably short period of time. The buildings were abandoned and the monks dispersed. But what happened next? What effect did this have nationally and locally? Who gained and who lost out?

Students can find out the fate of a selection of monasteries, sorting them into categories and then considering what effect each of these might have had. They can search further in the image database for more examples,  including any based in their own locality. They can read a contemporary story of the spoilation of Roche Abbey which describes the feelings of local people as they dismantled the church. Students can then relate their findings to the academic debate around the relative importance of the Dissolution to the social and economic problems of Tudor Britain.

An activity is available as either a whiteboard presentation or power point to introduce the topic, help students plan their work and to suggest criteria for selecting information and making a judgement on the question. The teachers' notes and links provide background facts and further information about the events of the dissolution and the period following.

Learning aims and outcomes

  • Students will use evidence to help in their understanding of the effects of the dissolution of the monasteries
  • Students will be able to demonstrate skills in assessing and using evidence, such as the creation of criteria

Relates to:

OCR - Unit Y106: England 1485–1558: the Early Tudors - The reign of Henry VIII after 1529 – The Dissolution of the Monasteries
EDEXCEL - A1 Henry VIII: Authority, Nation and Religion,1509-40 - The Dissolution of the Monasteries
AQA - 2D Religious conflict and the Church in England, c1529–c1570 - Change and reaction, 1536–1547 - The Dissolution of the Monasteries

Prior knowledge

Some knowledge of; the events of the dissolution; its part in the Break with Rome; policies of Henry VIII and Cromwell and the changing relationship between Church and State. (Much of this information can be found in the Information for Teacher's above)

Extended learning and useful links

  • research using archive sources to find out more detail about individual monasteries and what happened to them - possibly local ones
  • relate your findings to the historical debate relating to the relative importance of the Dissolution on social and economic life
  • visit one of the monasteries in the care of English Heritage