What to See in England
By Gordon Home
Public Domain Books
Peterborough Cathedral and Crowland
=How to get there.=–Train from King’s Cross. Great Northern Rly. =Nearest Station.=–Peterborough. =Distance from London.=–76-1/2 miles. =Average Time.=–Varies between 1-1/4 to 2-1/4 hours.
1st 2nd 3rd =Fares.=–Single 11s. 3d. ... 6s. 4d. Return 22s. 6d. ... 12s. 8d.
=Accommodation Obtainable.=–"Great Northern Railway Company’s Hotel,” “Golden Lion Hotel,” “Angel Hotel,” “Grand Hotel," etc., at Peterborough. =Alternative Route.=–Train from Liverpool Street, via Ely. Great Eastern Railway.
Nine miles north of Peterborough the ruins of Crowland Abbey arise out of the flat fen country like a lighthouse out of the sea. With only the nave and north aisle standing, it breathes the very spirit of romance even in its decay. It is easy to picture the time when four streams surrounded the monastery and church and formed an island in the fens, and to recall how Hereward the Wake demanded entrance to the abbey to see Torfrida, and was refused admittance by the Abbot Ulfketyl. In those days two rivers met in the High Street of the little town that grew round St. Guthlac’s Monastery. Now the country is drained, Crowland is a decayed little town with many thatched roofs, situated in an agricultural district; the island exists no longer, and the old triangular bridge rises over the dry Square at a place where three roads meet. This bridge is older and more peculiar than any bridge in Europe that is not of Roman origin. It is believed to have been built in 870, and consists of three pointed arches rising steeply in the centre to permit the rush of water in flood times. It is too steep to admit of its use by any sort of vehicle, and one ascends by steps to the top. At the end of one portion of the bridge there is a stone image of a Saxon king–possibly Ethelbert–with a loaf in one hand.
In the time of Ethelbald, King of Mercians, a young noble named Guthlac, weary of life’s rough way, sought peace in the ascetic life. He drifted in a boat to Crowland Isle, and there lived a hermit’s life till his death in 817. On the spot where he died Ethelbald founded and endowed a monastery on the island, and it flourished exceedingly. The larger part of the conventual church is now destroyed, but the north aisle is used as the Parish Church of Crowland.
[Illustration: Photochrom Co., Ltd. CROWLAND ABBEY.
The building rises above the little thatched village, which stands on slightly raised ground in the midst of the fens.]