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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 the Abbey also being damaged in an earthquake in 1119.
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 Abbey is kept open to the public, and this is a popular place for tourists to look at. As you enter through the west door there is a fascinating gravestone, pictured bottom left, for one Willian De Wermington, the master stonemason, who was responsible for the vaulting in the north aisle. The inscription round the sides of the slab reads: +ICI GIST MESTRE WILLM DE WERMINGTON LE MASON A LALME DE KY DEV LY PAR SA GRACE DOUNE ABSOLUTION (Here lies William de Wermington the Mason, may God grant his soul absolution). The date of death is not recorded but it is thought to date from around 1330.
Close by this is a memorial slab to Thomas Robbarts, Gent, who passed away in October 1700 aged 23 years. The slab also commemorates his infant daughter Mary, who died a few weeks after her father aged 40 weeks.
The font is particularly ancient here and is one of the few surviving fixtures from the time of the earthquake in the first quarter of the 12th century. Also of considerable interest here, mounted on a wall, is a tiny stone coffin lid which I think is of Saxon design.
Lots of stained glass here, including a very modern piece of the south wall. Other glass here includes a fabulous Good Sherherd window and a depiction of St Guthlac.
Some interesting wall plaques hang here. One, is to Elizabeth Hurry, who dies in 1742 aged 25 years. The epitaph at bottom of the plaque is still moving all these years later..."A cruel death that separated her, a loving mother from her children dear. She was a lender Mother in her life, and to her spouse was a kind and loving wife. Her days were few. Death crop't her in her prime"
There is also a plaque commemorating Mr James Brown who died in 1684, the plaque detailing that 11 1/2 acres of land were to be left to the people of Crowland "for ever" for a charitable use.
There is, close by, a plaque commemorating Abraham Basy and his wife Mary, who died within a short time of each other in the very early 1700's. The plaque takes the form of a long and elaborate script, some of which is very difficult to deciphre. It ends though, with a warning to any onlooker reading the plaque....."O reader, then behold and see, as wee are now so must you be"
Just a very basic run down on a few of the things to note here. My main area of comment here though is regarding the church bells, as the story of them is of real historic interest. The 6th Abbot of Crowland, named Turketyl was responsible for casting a great bell here, naming it Guthlac. Six more blees were added over the next few years and this was the first peal of bells to be rung in the whole of England. Sadly, in 1091, the heat from the fire that destroyed the abbey caused the tower to collapse and the bells melted. The abbot at that time narrowly avoided being killed by the molten metal that fell from the tower as he tried to get back inside to save anything that he could. After the fire, a hunble belfry was built, which housed two small bells. John De Asheby, who died in 1992, either had the existing bells re-cast, or gave two new bells and by 1405 there were "four sweetly sounding bells" hanging here. In 1465 John Lytlyngdon had "five fine and choice bells to be cast in London" for the Abbey.
At the time of North's study of Lincolnshire church bells, there were five bells hanging at the Abbey. The first was made by Thomas Norris of the Stamford Bellfoundry in 1654. Bells two and three were each cast by Edwars Arnild in Leicester, with both being dated 1788. These have the names William Hickling and William Cook, the churchwardens of the day, inscribed on them.
The fourth bell is another from Arnold, but this one being dated 1797. This has the name of the Rector, Moore Sciebo, and churchwardens William Cook and Charles Ashby on it. The fifth is courtesy of an early London founder, and is undoubtedly one of the bells cast in 1465, this one having been in continous use for more than 400 years. Today, there is a ring of six bells, with the sixth being added in 1903.
Well worth a look. The abbey is kept open to visitors and if you are planning a trip there then you might care to know that a very popular Flower Festival is held here on the August Bank holiday weekend.