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Village News – Crowland

An extract from the 9th November 1993 The Evening Telegraph

Opinions on how Crowland or Croyland got its name are divided.

One theory is that it came from the Latin Crudam Terram —meaning marshy ground. But many other people favour Crugland which translates as the land at the bend of the river.

Every year thousands of visitors travel from all over the world to Crowland to pay a visit to it’s most famous landmark, Croyland Abbey. Originally founded in 716. the present building is the fourth on the site with most of the present structure originating from the 13th and 15th centuries although a small portion dates back to the 12th century..

It was built by King Ethelbald as a tribute to St Guthlac, a member of the royal family of Mercia who had tired of court life and went to live as a hermit on Crowland – then an island surrounded by marshes and mud in 699.

Fellow royals Would come to visit him on the island, including Ethelbald who was astounded when Guthlac told him he would one day be king and said he would also build the hermit an abbey. The abbey church is only a fraction of the size of the abbey of days gone by. Like other churches in Crowland it has a number of Organisations to which people of the area can belong. In 1983. a three-year conservation programme on the west front. costing in the region of £70,000 was completed. It won a commendation from the Stone Federation of Great Britain. Another ancient landmark in Crowland is Trinity Bridge – a triangular structure which stands in North Street and is believed to date back to the year 943. Originally built of wood the structure was replaced with stone in the 14th century and three watercourses are belived to have once united under its arches. On the bridge there is a statue which is variously supposed to represent King Elthelbald, Oliver Cromwell or Jesus Christ. Folklore attributes the reason for Croyland Abbey‘s chequered past to a curse dating back more than a thousand years. According to legend, one Christmas. some monks at the Abbey became involved in a heavy-dunking session, which in turn led to an act of sacrilege-black mass- being perforated on the altar. The leader of the renegade monks was supposedly struck down on the spot by a bolt of lightning and an apparition foretold the abbey’s destruction..

Later that year, the invading Danes arrived, slaughtered the remaining monks and destroyed the building.

Nearly 800 years later. Oliver Cromwell laid siege to the Abbey with 4,000 soldiers in a three-and-a-half month campaign. He set up three forts on high ground surrounding the stronghold at Brotherhouse Bar, Dowsdale Bank and Peakirk Bank.

Rumours abound in the town about a friendly ghost which allegedly inhabits the Abbey Hostel Hotel.

Known as Henry, the spirit is believed to be that of Henry Girdlestone a local farmer who died more than a century ago — seven years after completing a 1,000 mile walk for a bet.

The most famous son of Crowland is St Guthlac who lived as a hermit on the island during the seventh century. His name is preserved in the town at St Guthlacs School. The most famous person to come from Crowland in recent times is Andy Afford — a professional cricketer for Nottinghamshire and one-time member of the England B Team.

For more information on Crowland click HERE

Vistor comments

3 Responses

  1. From what I remember of local history lessons at Spalding Grammar School with “Chink” Hallam in the 1950s, Saint Guthlac was a bad lad in his youth, but reformed and became a hermit in Crowland. I believe he recorded that the Lord punished him by freezing him in unbearable coldness, then toasting him over the fires of hell. In fact, it was believed he was suffering from malaria, which was not unknown in the fens at the time.

      1. Geoff, I’ve just discovered that if you Google for Saint Guthlac you get the full story.

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