People were living here long before the arrival of the Roman legions, as is shown by several sites, such as the Cheslé fortress at Berismenil. Archaeological excavations have also revealed much evidence of ancient settlements. In the mediaeval period, workers and artisans formed guilds with powerful leaders, special privileges for their members and patron saints. In La Roche, the main guilds were the weavers, the mercers, the tanners and the shoe-makers. This period was a golden age for the La Roche region.
In the mid-twelfth century, the County of La Roche passed to Henry of Namur, Count of Luxembourg. In a Charter dated 1331, Henry’s successor Count John the Blind confirmed La Roche’s privileges. As a fortified town, it gained city status. The count’s territory extended over the vast majority of the local region, as far as Marche-en-Famenne and Bastogne. The arrival of King Louis XIV of France’s army in the seventeenth century led to important changes to the castle, which was closely linked to the region’s history. To make it more resistant to artillery attack, the French covered the castle walls with tons of earth. During Austrian Habsburg rule in the eighteenth century, the castle, town and region went into decline. The castle was abandoned and became a source of building stone for the locals.
Under the Napoleonic Empire, La Roche and its surroundings were absorbed into the French département of Sambre-et-Meuse. At the Treaty of London, following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, La Roche-en-Ardenne became part of the United Netherlands and then Belgium.
In the late nineteenth century, La Roche saw the development of its tourist industry with the arrival of groups of English tourists who had come for the fly-fishing on the River Ourthe.
The town emerged from the First World War relatively unscathed but suffered heavy damage during the Second World War, when it was attacked as part of the Ardennes offensive in December 1944. The town was eventually liberated from German occupation by the British Highlanders who approached from the left bank of the River Ourthe.
Today, La Roche is an important tourist and holiday-home centre, and has facilities to welcome all sorts of visitors.