I paid a return visit to Crowland Abbey in January 2011, armed with a new camera. This was a gorgeously bright, but bitterly cold morning as the worst British winter for many, many years continued to bite. The Abbey here is one of the most distinctive structures covered withing the pages of this site, mainly due to its ruined appearance. Those visiting Crowland will doubtless be interested in the Trinity Bridge, which can be found a little way from the Abbey. This is a triangular bridge dating from the 14th century. This used to bridge over the course of two rivers, which used to go through the centre of the town. These days though the course of the rivers have been altered.
The Abbey was founded in the 8th Century, with St Guthlac living there as a hermit from the years 699 until 714. The Abbey was dissolved in 1539, and over the centuries large sections of the building have collapsed. The building itself has had a torrid history. It was ransacked by the Danes in AD 870 with the then Abbott Theodore being murdered. There was also a disastrous fire in AD 1091, in which the entire building was razed to the ground. The Abbey was re-built, but suffered another fire in the 12th Century, with some reports stating that the Abbey was also damaged in an earthquake at one point!
As well as the obvious damage, a closer look shows that many of the statues have been defaced over the years, with many heads missing and faces obliterated. Some of this damaged would have occurred during the English Civil War when the Abbey was under seige for three months. The nave roof collapsed in 1720.
The North Aisle of the Abbey is used as the Parish church today, and this is about an eighth the size of what the building would have been before 1539.
The west front here is truly remarkable for the number of exquisite carvings. These date from the 12th to the 14th centuries and it is said that the west front was an imitation of Wells Cathedral. Carvings surround what would once have been a massive window. Figures of men, several dressed in priests robes, stand next to strange grotesque creatures. One human figure strokes his beard thoughtfully, whilst next to him a bald headed man stands with a pig like creature at his feet, pulling his mouth wide open in a medieval gesture of insult. Close by a chained and fierce looking dog looks west and snarls. There is so much to comment on here, and can't possibly do it in a single page.
The photograph third from the bottom on the right of this page has an interesting story to it. Stonemasons were working on the Abbey when Halleys Comet went over. They carved their impression of what they saw on to one of the walls.
The church grounds here are massive, and very well kept. As you would expect, given the importance of the Abbey, there are some very finely carved gravestones to be found here. There are some medieval coffins laid out in front of the west end and a few late 17th century graves are dotted amongst the later Georgian ones. Several of these are still legible, including one commemorating one Frances Carrington, wife of Thomas, who died December 24th 1680.
Simply stunning! Interior photographs of Crowland Abbey can be found on a separate page. Highly reccomended for a visit, but leave yourself plenty of time as there is so much to see.