Croyland, oddly in Crowland village, is an ancient place of worship. The first Benedictine Monastery was founded in memory of St. Guthlac early in the 8th Century by Ethelbald, King of Mercia. Alas, this early Monastery did not have a happy existence. In 866 AD the Vikings raided up the Nene and totally destroyed the Monastery and slaughtered everybody who was on site.
It was refounded by King Eadred (946-955 AD) but once again its fate was to be brief and violent as it was burnt to the ground in 1091. Ten years later and it was rebuilt once more, this time by Abbot Joffrid and yet again the Abbey was ill-fated, the majority being destroyed by fire in 1170. For the fourth time the Abbey was rebuilt and it is this fourth Abbey that forms the picturesque ruin which is attached to Crowland Parish Church.
Fortune finally began to smile on Croyland after the fourth Abbey was constructed right through until the Dissolution of the Monasteries it grew in richness and power. St. Guthlacs shrine became a site of pilgrimage and the isolated position amongst the Fens allowed it to remain outside of the all the trials and tribulations such as the Anarchy and the Wars of the Roses.
The Dissolution arrived early, in 1534, and at the time there were some 28 monks in residence and the total value of the Abbey revenues is estimated at £1217 a vast figure in the 16th Century.
Although the Abbey lands were sold off, it was saved because the north aisle was always used as the Parish Church. It remains this today with the rest of the Abbey Church attached as an elegantly attractive ruin.
During the Civil War the Abbey was fortified by the Royalists and was besieged and taken by Cromwell in 1643.
Sir George Gilbert Scott restored the Abbey and the Church in the 1860s and has left us with a very eye-pleasing ruin in a lovely rural setting.
Photo - Andrew J. Müller
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