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Crowland Abbey and Trinity Bridge, Lincs

This is, I suppose a codicil to the United Counties League, and Peterborough & District League hop, we did after all use the town as hop HQ for the weekend. It’s the lot of the participant on the organised groundhop that you don’t see too much of the area other the hotels and football grounds, but this hop broke a few moulds, and me finding time to explore was one.

Crowland Abbey dates from roughly 701 when Brother Guthlac started a hermitic monastery here. Marshland was drained and the town grew around the religious community. In 1643, during the English Civil War the town was captured by Parliamentary forces, but the abbey was extensively damaged. The nave roof fell in during 1720, and the main south wall was taken down in 1744. The north aisle of the nave was refurbished and remains in use today as the parish church.

Just down the road from there is the Trinity Bridge, a three-way stone bridge which appears to lead absolutely nowhere! It dates from the 14th century, and was built to span the confluence of the rivers Welland and Witham. Those rivers were eventually diverted, hence the bridge to nowhere!

Inevitably, with something so ancient there’s a mystery about it. On one of the abutments there’s a figure to welcome travellers. Some say its Christ, some say its Ethelbald, King of Mercia from 716-757 when he was killed by his bodyguards before battle.

Ethelbald had provoked the ire of St Boniface, who had written to him reproaching him for his sinful life. The allegations included stealing ecclesiastical revenue, violating church privileges, imposing forced labour on the clergy, and fornicating with nuns. Boniface said thus,

“We therefore, beloved son, beseech Your Grace by Christ the son of God and by His coming and by His kingdom, that if it is true that you are continuing in this vice you will amend your life by penitence, purify yourself, and bear in mind how vile a thing it is through lust to change the image of God created in you into the image and likeness of a vicious demon. Remember that you were made king and ruler over many not by your own merits but by the abounding grace of God, and now you are making yourself by your own lust the slave of an evil spirit.”

It made me wonder what the greeter was saying on the bridge. It could be a welcome, or a plea to live a better life, or even a cautionary tale when you are this close to a monastery!

I suppose we’ll never know….