1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Crowland

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CROWLAND, or Croyland, a market-town in the S. Kesteven or Stamford parliamentary division of Lincolnshire, England; in a low fen district on the river Welland, 8 m. N.E. of Peterborough, and 4 m. from Postland station on the March-Spalding line of the Great Northern and Great Eastern railways, and Peakirk on the Great Northern. Pop. (1901) 2747. A monastery was founded here in 716 by King Æthelbald, in honour of St Guthlac of Mercia (d. 714), a young nobleman who became a hermit and lived here, and, it was said, had foretold Æthelbald's accession to the throne. The site of St Guthlac's cell, not far from the abbey, is known as Anchor (anchorite's) Church Hill. After the abbey had suffered from the Danish incursions in 870, and had been burnt in that year and in 1091, a fine Norman abbey was raised in 1113. Remains of this building appear in the ruined nave and tower arch, but the most splendid fragment is the west front, of Early English date, with Perpendicular restoration. The west tower is principally in this style. The north aisle is restored and used as the parish church. Among the abbots was Ingulphus (1085-1109), to whom was formerly attributed the Historia Monasterii Croylandensis. A curious triangular bridge remains, apparently of the 14th century, but referred originally to the middle of the 9th century, which spanned three streams now covered, and affords three footways which meet at an apex in the middle.

The town of Crowland grew up round the abbey. By a charter dated 716, Æthelbald granted the isle of Crowland, free from all secular services, to the abbey with a gift of money, and leave to build and enclose the town. The privileges thus obtained were confirmed by numerous royal charters extending over a period of nearly 800 years. Under Abbot Ægelric the fens were tilled, the monastery grew rich, and the town increased in size, enormous tracts of land being held by the abbey at the Domesday Survey. The town was nearly destroyed by fire (1469-1476), but the abbey tenants were given money to rebuild it. By virtue of his office the abbot had a seat in parliament, but the town was never a parliamentary borough. Abbot Ralph Mershe in 1257 obtained a grant of a market every Wednesday, confirmed by Henry IV. in 1421, but it was afterwards moved to Thorney. The annual fair of St Bartholomew, which originally lasted twelve days, was first mentioned in Henry III.'s confirmatory charter of 1227. The dissolution of the monastery in 1539 was fatal to the progress of the town, which had prospered under the thrifty rule of the monks, and it rapidly sank into the position of an umimportant village. The abbey lands were granted by Edward VI. to Lord Clinton, from whose family they passed in 1671 to the Orby family. The inhabitants formerly carried on considerable trade in fish and wild fowl.

See R. Gough, History and Antiquities of Croyland (Bibl. Top. Brit. iii. No. 11) (London, 1783); W. G. Searle, Ingulf and the Historia Croylandensis (Camb. Antiq. Soc., No. 27); Dugdale, Monasticon, ii. 91 (London, 1846; Cambridge, 1894).