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Crowland in 1839

Crowland or Croyland is in the wapentake of Elloe, parts of Holland, near the old channel of the Welland, and near the south border of the county, 87 miles from London, through Huntingdon, Ramsey, and Thorney. It is a place of considerable antiquity and interest. It has been conjectured to have been a Roman station ; but though various Roman antiquities have been discovered in the neighbourhood, they are not sufficient to support the conjecture. In the time of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, a monastery was founded here by Ethelbald, king of Mercia, about the beginning of the eighth century. The first building is said to have been of timber ; and, from the marshy character of the soil, was founded upon piles. In or about A.D. 870, in the reign of Ethelred I, this monastery, with several others, was destroyed by the Danes. In the latter part of the eleventh century, the monastery, which had been restored, was again destroyed by fire, but was rebuilt a few years afterwards, with funds partly, if not wholly, raised by the sale of indulgences. Five thousand persons are said to have been present at the laying of the first stone; and the abbey, thus restored, increased rapidly in wealth and reputation. At the dissolution, its yearly revenues were estimated at £1,217, 5 shillings and 11 pence gross, or £1,083, 15 shillings and 10 pence clear. The buildings of the abbey were much injured during the siege of Croyland, which the royalists had fortified, by the parliamentary forces under Cromwell : there are yet standing however considerable remains of the church. This building was originally cruciform, with a central tower, which probably rose little above the roof of the church : there was a campanile tower at the eastern end of the church. After the dissolution the transepts and choir were pulled down ; the nave with its side aisles was left for use as the parish church ; but the damage sustained in the civil war led to the church being transferred to the north aisle of the nave ; and the centre and south aisle were abandoned to decay, in which state they now remain. The architecture of building varies ; part is of Norman, part of Early English, and part of Perpendicular architecture. At the west end of the present church is a massive tower of Perpendicular character : the western entrance to what was the central part of the nave is one of the most beautiful specimens of rich Early English in the kingdom. The groining of the roof of the present church is very good, and the original windows have been fine ones. There are some ancient screen-work and an ancient font. The very foundations of the other conventual buildings have been destroyed.

On the west side of the church is the triangular bridge at the confluence of two streams. There is no record of its erection, but from its style, which is Decorated English, it may be ascribed to the fourteenth century. It consists of three semi-arches meeting in a common centre, and forming by their junction as many pointed arches. The bridge is too steep for carriages, and is little used even for horses. It is supposed to have been designed as a symbol of the Trinity. At one angle of the bridge is the statue of some king much decayed.

The parish comprehends 12,780 acres, with a population in 1831 of 2,268, nearly two-thirds agricultural. The village is surrounded by fens, and the inhabitants are engaged in grazing, in the dairy, or in the breeding or taking of geese and wild-fowl. The market has been removed to Thorney. The living is a rectory, in the archdeaconry of Lincoln, of the clear yearly value of £115, with a glebe-house. There were in 1833 nine dame-schools, with about 100 children ; eight day-schools, with 225 children; and two Sunday-schools, with 206 children.