Houses of Benedictine monks: The abbey of Crowland

A History of the County of Lincoln: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1906.

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'Houses of Benedictine monks: The abbey of Crowland', A History of the County of Lincoln: Volume 2, (London, 1906), pp. 105-118. British History Online [accessed 24 June 2024].

. "Houses of Benedictine monks: The abbey of Crowland", in A History of the County of Lincoln: Volume 2, (London, 1906) 105-118. British History Online, accessed June 24, 2024,

. "Houses of Benedictine monks: The abbey of Crowland", A History of the County of Lincoln: Volume 2, (London, 1906). 105-118. British History Online. Web. 24 June 2024,

In this section


The origin and foundation of the monastery of Crowland are veiled in obscurity. Until the first quarter of the nineteenth century was past, a history purporting to have been written by Ingulf, the first Norman abbot, from the muniments of the house and the materials of his predecessors, (fn. 1) was accepted as a genuine and valuable chronicle. Later scholarship has, however, rejected it. (fn. 2)

In 714 an anchorite of widespread fame died at Crowland. Guthlac was the son of a Mercian lord, and when he grew up he became the leader of a band of youths who lived a life of fighting and plunder. At the age of twenty-four he suddenly repented, and entered the double monastery of Repton. But he craved for solitude and a more austere life. At the end of two years he left Repton, with the leave of his superior, and in 699 took refuge with two followers at Crowland, then a lonely island in the marshes. The story of his life was written before 757 by a certain Felix, (fn. 3) at the will of Ethelbald, then king of the Mercians, who, when a fugitive from the wrath of King Ceolred, had come to visit Guthlac.

In 1051 there was a monastery at Crowland, which at that time seems in some way to have been subject to the abbot of Peterborough. (fn. 4) In that year, at the will of Abbot Leofric, Edward the Confessor appointed Ulfcytel, a monk of Peterborough, abbot of Crowland. When in search of materials for his Ecclesiastical History, Orderic Vitalis came to Crowland for a stay of five weeks, on the invitation of Abbot Geoffrey (1109-24). He put together the traditions of the monastery, which he learnt from Ansgot, the sub-prior, and some of the older monks. (fn. 5) They told him that after the death of Guthlac in 714, Ethelbald, king of the Mercians, founded a monastery on the island of Crowland, and gave a charter setting forth the bounds of its possessions in the marshes. In those days an abbot named Kenulph bore a great reputation. There had never been a break in the monastic life of the house. In the Danish invasions, in 870 Crowland, like other monasteries, was burnt, and its possessions were occupied by lay lords. In the reign of King Edred (946-955) a clerk of London, Turketyl, a kinsman of Osketul, archbishop of York, had great possessions, which he longed to use in God's service, and he begged that Crowland might be given to him. The king granted his request, he was received by the monks of Crowland and chosen as their abbot. He gave his lands at Wellingborough, Elmington, Worthorp, Cottenham, Hokington, and Beby to the monastery. He was the familiar friend of Dunstan, Oswald, and Ethelwold, and had their advice and help. Six abbots ruled Crowland between the death of Turketyl and the accession of Ulfcytel, in 1051. During the abbacy of Osketul the bones of St. Neot were brought to Crowland. The monastery of Peakirk was united to Crowland, and ruled by Abbot Wulgeat after 1044. Whether these traditions had any foundation in fact, it is difficult to decide. It is not improbable that Ethelbald should have founded a monastery at Crowland, but at that time monastic life in England had greatly degenerated. It is not, impossible that Crowland was refounded at the same time as Ely, Peterborough, and Thorney, but the silence of writers of the tenth century is very baffling. Two documents of which Orderic made mention were most probably forgeries. (fn. 6) After the Conquest, when many of the older monasteries lost some of their possessions, the claim to be founded several hundred years ago by a Saxon king was an obvious advantage. It was of the utmost importance to be able to show that the relics of the monastery were genuine. There can scarcely be a doubt that the interesting story of the destruction of Crowland by the Danes, the sparing of the boy Turgar by Jarl Sidroc, and the return on the next day of the younger monks who had been sent away with the relics of St. Guthlac, the charters and jewels of the house, grew out of the imagination of the fourteenth-century writer. His object was to find a clear proof of the continuity of the history of Crowland. The reputation for hospitality which afterwards made 'Courteous Crowland' (fn. 7) proverbial may have suggested to him the story of the kindly welcome given to Turketyl on his first visit to the poor old monks. The account of the founding of a cell at Spalding by Thorold de Bukenhale in 1051 occurs for the first time in his work, (fn. 8) and the charter granted by Thorold is another obvious forgery. About 1085 Ivo Tailbois founded a cell at Spalding for the monastery of St. Nicholas at Angers. (fn. 9) As the abbot of Crowland then held two carucates and a granary at Spalding, (fn. 10) strained relations with the monks of Spalding were inevitable. It is possible that Ivo Tailbois deprived Crowland of part of its lands for his foundation, and after the lawsuits of the thirteenth century a claim to prior possession would easily have occurred to the writer of Ingulfs history.

As it is impossible to warrant the truth of much that is contained in the histories ascribed to Ingulf and Peter of Blois, (fn. 11) there is but little to record of the earlier abbots of Crowland. Abbot Ulfcytel began to build a new church, and received much help from Waltheof, then earl of Northampton and Huntingdon, afterwards earl of Northumbria. (fn. 12) He gave the vill of Barnack, noted for its quarries. (fn. 13) After the earl's unjust execution in 1076 his body was brought to Crowland and buried in the chapter-house. (fn. 14) It was the deliberate policy of William I and Lanfranc to get rid of English abbots, and at the mid-winter council of 1085 Ulfcytel was deposed, apparently for no other reason than that he was English, and sent to the monastery of Glastonbury. (fn. 15) In his stead William appointed Ingulf, prior of the Norman monastery of St.Wandrille. He was by birth an Englishman, and had been in William's service as a clerk. On his return from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem he became a monk at St. Wandrille. In spite of some misfortunes the monastery prospered under his rule. (fn. 16) The possessions, according to the Domesday Survey, consisted in Lincolnshire (fn. 17) of the manor of Holbeach and Whaplode, two carucates in Spalding, the manors of Dowdyke in Sutterton, Langtoft and Baston, berewicks in Drayton and Algarkirk (Alfgare), and a bovate in Burtoft, the manor of Bucknall; in Leicestershire (fn. 18) of two carucates in Sutton and two in Stapleton, the manor of Beby; in Northamptonshire (fn. 19) of the manor of Worthorp and lands in Elmington, Edinton, Wellingborough, and Badby; in Huntingdonshire (fn. 20) of the manor of Morborne, and also a hide and a half in Thurning; in Cambridgeshire (fn. 21) of the manors of Hokington, Cottenham and lands in Drayton; and of three fisheries in Wisbech. The property was valued in money at £57 1s. 4d., and had increased by £3 2s. 4d. since the time of Edward the Confessor.

In response to the entreaties of Ingulf, William allowed Ulfcytel to leave Glastonbury for Peterborough, (fn. 22) from which he had come to be abbot of Crowland in 1051. Ingulf translated the body of Waltheof to the church; and it is recorded by Orderic Vitalis that miracles were often worked at the tomb. (fn. 23) In 1091 a serious fire destroyed part of the church, its vestments and books, and some of the monastic buildings. (fn. 24) A new church 'of most beautiful work' was begun by Ingulfs successor, Geoffrey, prior of St. Evroul, who was appointed by Henry I in 1110. (fn. 25) In the opinion of Orderic Vitalis, himself a monk of St. Evroul, he was a man of great learning and a zealous ruler of the monastery. The miracles which are again said by Orderic to have occurred at the tomb of St. Waltheof doubtless brought in much money for the building fund. In 1124 Geoffrey was succeeded by Waltheof, an English monk of Crowland, (fn. 26) and brother of Gospatric, formerly earl of Northumbria. The body of St. Guthlac was translated in 1136. (fn. 27) Accusations were brought against Abbot Waltheof by the monks, and in 1138 he was deposed at the synod of London by the papal legate, Alberic. (fn. 28) Godfrey, prior of St. Albans, was chosen as his successor, and is said to have introduced into the monastery the customs of St. Albans. (fn. 29) During his abbacy, in or about 1141, the cell of Freiston was founded and endowed by Alan de Croun. (fn. 30)

Edward, prior of Ramsey, was appointed abbot in 1142 and ruled for thirty years. (fn. 31) He obtained from Stephen in 1142 an important charter Iconfirming the lands and possessions of Crowland, and defining the bounds of the surrounding marsh, which was again confirmed by Henry II early in 1155. (fn. 32)

In 1142 Stephen also granted the right of holding a fair at Crowland. (fn. 33) In 1147 the abbot obtained from Eugenius III a bull confirming all the possessions of the monastery, and taking it under his special protection. (fn. 34) He was an able and vigorous ruler, and increased the possessions, ornaments, and books of the monastery. The church and monastic buildings were again in great part destroyed by fire, but the re-building was well advanced before his death. (fn. 35) Under his successor, Robert of Reading, prior of Leominster, the whole of the nave was finished. (fn. 36) His abbacy was marked by the beginning of the first of those great lawsuits which are so special a feature in the history of Crowland. The lords and men of neighbouring manors looked with covetous eyes on the marshes of the monastery. Indeed, the fen-lands were so profitable in those days that Hugh the White, a monk of Peterborough, described the site of his house as a veritable paradise. 'The marsh,' he wrote, about 1150, 'is very necessary for men, for there are found wood and twigs for fires, hay for fodder of cattle, thatch for covering houses, and many other useful things. It is, moreover, productive of birds and fishes.' (fn. 37) Some of the marshes of Holland had already been drained, and converted into fertile arable land, and, accordingly, the men of Holland greatly desired rights of common in the marsh of Crowland that they might have sufficient pasturage for their cattle. (fn. 38) They attempted to secure them by violent occupation, and it was not until the end of the fifteenth century that these troublesome disputes ceased. Yet the oftrenewed struggle had its compensations in the succession of vigorous and able abbots, in the absence of dissension within the house, and in a keen interest in historical study.

Early in 1189 a false report of the death of Henry II reached England. A conspiracy was at once set on foot among the men of Holland. Gerard de Camville, Thomas of Moulton, and other enemies of Crowland united under the leadership of Nicholas, prior of Spalding, meeting sometimes in the prior's barn at Weston, sometimes in Holbeach church.

According to the usual custom at Rogationtide, a proclamation was made on Spalding bridge, by the abbot's command, that the men of Holland and others should keep their cattle off Crowland marsh because the hay was growing. As it was disregarded the abbot's servants impounded the cattle. On 12 May over 3,000 men came in arms to the marsh. At Asendike they were met by the abbot, who sued for peace, fearing an attack on the monastery itself. The invaders divided the marsh among the vills which they represented, and encamped for fifteen days. They dug the turf, cut down most of the woods and alderbeds of Crowland, and pastured their cattle in the meadows. The abbot and monks scarcely ventured forth from the gates of the monastery, but they managed to send a messenger to one of the justices, Geoffrey FitzPeter, who was then in Northamptonshire. He sent four knights to investigate the outrage, and each body of men replied that they were there by their lord's orders. The abbot secretly made his way to London with the charter of Henry II to show to the justices, who commanded Geoffrey FitzPeter to give the abbot full redress. A number of the trespassers were imprisoned, and both parties were bidden to appear at Westminster at Michaelmas. Meanwhile Henry II died on 3 September. The knights, in alarm, made their peace with the abbot, but the prior of Spalding persisted in his claim, stating that he had occupied his own marsh, which was of the fee of William de Romar. This time the abbot had left the charter at Crowland. Accordingly, an inquisition was ordered, and sixteen knights were chosen to make view of the marsh. The trial was twice postponed on account of the abbot's illness, and he died on the vigil of Easter, 1190. Richard I was then in Normandy, and his chancellor, William Longchamp, bishop of Ely, obtained leave from him to appoint as abbot his own brother Henry, then a monk of Evesham. (fn. 39) After the chancellor's disgrace and expulsion from England in 1191, the cause was resumed at the instigation of William de Romar, and Abbot Henry was summoned to Westminster to hear the verdict on the view made of the marsh. Fearful of the fate which had overtaken his brother, he had himself essoigned on the first day for illness on the road, and on the second for being confined to his bed. Four knights were sent to view him, but as they did not come on the appointed day, the abbot left Crowland and set out for London. After two or three postponements the verdict was at last pronounced. Because the abbot was not found in bed when the knights came to view him, judgement was given that he should for a time lose his seisin but not his right, and the seisin was given to the prior of Spalding, who speedily entered upon it. In the middle of the winter in 1193 the abbot set out to see King Richard, and arrived at Spires fifteen days before he was ransomed.

On 22 January Richard I granted a confirmation of the bounds of the monastery, (fn. 40) and wrote to the justiciar, Hubert Walter, archbishop of Canterbury, ordering that the abbot of Crowland should have seisin of his marshes. But in 1195 the abbot of St. Nicholas, at St. Angers, persuaded Richard I that his cell of Spalding had been wronged, and the question was reopened. Abbot Henry again crossed the seas, and followed Richard from place to pkce in Normandy praying for a settlement in his favour. A final judgement was given on 2 November, 1195. In 1202 the abbot of St. Nicholas, at Angers, again attempted to get seisin of the marsh, another vexatious trial followed, and the abbot of Crowland and a monk of Spalding pursued John from one place to another in Normandy, outbidding each other in presents. On their return to England an indecisive judgement was given. A monk of Crowland was sent to John in Normandy, and for 100 marks obtained, on 1 April, 1202, a confirmation of Richard's warranty for seisin of the marsh, and of the charter of Henry II setting forth the bounds of Crowland. (fn. 41)

Abbot Henry was soon involved in a costly suit with the abbot of Peterborough, who put forward a claim to the southern marsh, called Alderland, and in 1206 succeeded in securing rights therein to the detriment of Crowland. (fn. 42) The impounding of the abbot's cattle on his own marsh of Goggisland, by Hugh de Wake, lord of Deeping, forced him into another suit, which, however, was settled at Lincoln in his favour in 1234, and at the same time an agreement was made with Simon, prior of Spalding, about rights of common in their respective marshes. (fn. 43)

In 1216 Crowland suffered, like a number of other monasteries, in the civil strife. Savaric de Mauleon was sent by John to arrest certain knights and servants of the king, who were in hiding. They arrived at Crowland on 30 September, and broke into the monastery. Armed men rode into the cloisters, monastic buildings, and church, and while mass was being celebrated they dragged men away from before the altar and carried them off. (fn. 44) They also took away as their booty a great number of beasts and cattle.

Abbot Henry's rule of forty-six years was marked by progress in many directions. Much rebuilding went on in the monastery, and on the manors belonging to it. (fn. 45) A Wednesday market in the manor of Wellingborough was obtained from John in 1201. (fn. 46)

Costly ornaments, books, and vestments were provided for the church. In 1196 the body of St. Guthlac was again translated. (fn. 47) Learning and literature flourished. One of the monks, by name William of Ramsey, (fn. 48) dedicated to Abbot Henry a life of St. Guthlac in hexameters, a metrical life of St. Neot, (fn. 49) and an account in prose of the translation of St. Neot, which took place in 1213. When the bones of St. Waltheof were translated in 1219, William compiled a 'Vita Waltheofi.' In 1199 Edward, a monk of Evesham, compiled at Crowland a life of Thomas, archbishop of Canterbury, (fn. 50) and about 1213 Roger of Crowland added to this compilation by interspersing the archbishop's letters. (fn. 51) A copy of his work was sent by the abbot to Stephen Langton, archbishop of Canterbury, at the time of the translation of St. Thomas, in 1220. (fn. 52) Yet no continuous history of the monastery, or of national affairs, seems to have been written at Crowland, so that when the prior compiled his work in the middle of the fifteenth century he complained that only a few facts had been committed to writing, 'and not in any direct historical order, but only as anything new took place at intervening periods.' (fn. 53)

Abbot Henry was the last monk chosen from another house, and the right of free election, subject to the king's confirmation, was obtained either from Henry III or Edward I. As in other Benedictine houses, the congé d'élire was granted by the king on the news of an abbot's death. When the monks' choice was made, it was then notified to him for his assent, and he signified it to the bishop of Lincoln. (fn. 54) At the same time he sent a mandate to the escheators to restore the temporalities which fell into the king's hands during the vacancy. At the installation of the abbot, the chapter of Lincoln claimed his cope, and in the fifteenth century one not worth more than five marks was thought good enough for the occasion. (fn. 55) The archdeacon of Lincoln claimed a palfrey or five marks, but in 1248 the house secured an exemption from Innocent IV. (fn. 56) In the fifteenth century the earl marshal had established his right to a palfrey, and the king to a corrody of 40s. a year for a clerk, until a benefice was found for him. (fn. 57)

The house prospered greatly under the three abbots who ruled it from 1236 to 1280. Its property was developed, Aswyk and Dowdike were enclosed and reclaimed from the marsh, the manors were well stocked and profitable. (fn. 58) The right of holding a market and fair in the manor of Whaplode was obtained in 1255, (fn. 59) a market and fair in Baston, (fn. 60) and a market at Crowland in 1257. (fn. 61) In 1253 rights of free warren were granted in ten manors. (fn. 62) A manor in Gedney was first leased and then purchased from Walter of Thurkelby in 1262, (fn. 63) and in spite of the efforts of his widow and heirs and of the chief lord to oust the abbot, after two costly lawsuits he was left in peaceful possession in 1268. (fn. 64) Another manor in Gedney was leased for thirteen years for 320 marks down, and then granted to the monastery by Henry of Stanhow in 1270. (fn. 65) In 1267 the church of Whaplode was appropriated, (fn. 66) and, in consideration of the help given by Richard, bishop of Lincoln, the abbot and convent granted him their patronage in the church of Sutton. (fn. 67) In 1276 Simon de Lindone granted the advowson of the church of Eston, (fn. 68) which his father had successfully disputed with the monastery in 1249. (fn. 69) The house was involved in several important lawsuits in defence of its rights. The abbey of Peterborough was worsted in 1247, (fn. 70) and again in 1268. (fn. 71) In 1278 the prior of Spalding failed to prove his claim to 100 acres of wood and 1,760 of marsh in Weston, Moulton, and Spalding, (fn. 72) and Thomas of Moulton to 20 acres of wood, 190 acres of marsh in Weston, and 90 in Moulton. (fn. 73) Yet, in spite of the immense cost of so much litigation, and the heavy exactions of both crown and papacy in the reign of Henry III, the abbots seem to have kept the house clear of debt. Abbot Thomas Welles journeyed to the papal curia, (fn. 74) and found Innocent IV at Lyons. From him he obtained, doubtless at great cost, several bulls, one of protection and general confirmation of the possessions of Crowland, (fn. 75) two others securing the house against the exactions of archdeacons on their visitation of the churches appropriated to it, (fn. 76) others protecting the house from the obligation of appointing nominees to benefices. (fn. 77) There is no record in the chronicles or elsewhere of financial difficulties, such as occurred in many other monasteries in the thirteenth century. Building went on. The farmery was the work of Richard Bardney, (fn. 78) the central tower and the chapel of St. Martin were built under Ralph de Mersh, and the serious damage done to the west front and nave in a great gale was repaired. (fn. 79) Internal dissensions are not recorded. In the division of property between the abbot and convent, which, as in other Benedictine houses, probably took place soon after the Norman Conquest, (fn. 80) the abbots seem to have received a very large share. In the thirteenth century they were generous in their dealings with the convent, the revenues of the obedientiaries were increased by Richard Bardney, (fn. 81) and again by Thomas Welles, (fn. 82) the manor of Dowdike was assigned by Thomas to the pittancer to provide milk for supper in the summer and tunics every year. (fn. 83)

They were revered by their monks as men of holy life, who cared no less for the spiritual welfare of the house than for its temporal interests. Abbot Thomas was a stern ascetic and a great preacher who was heard by the people on feast days as well as by the monks in chapter. (fn. 84) Such was his reputation that miracles were said to have been worked at his tomb. (fn. 85) Ralph de Mersh was called the good: 'He was duteous to God and scrupulously careful in the observance of religion, bountiful and generous to the world, faithful and cheerful to all, and blameless in his life.' (fn. 86)

Richard of Crowland was elected in 1280. At a vast outlay and expense he began the new work of the quire, and built the manor house of Dowdike, and the halls of Langtoft, Wellingborough, and Morborne. (fn. 87) In the Quo Warranto trials in 1281, he successfully defended those claims and rights of the monastery which were in question. (fn. 88) In 1294 he was called upon to defend the rights of Crowland to the advowson of Whaplode, (fn. 89) and he gave 40 marks to Robert de Hakebeth for his quitclaim. (fn. 90) Only four years earlier the revenues from the church had been recovered on the death of a papal nominee who drew 80 marks a year from it. (fn. 91) The abbot and convent had apparently seized the occasion to diminish the vicar's portion from 60 marks at which it was fixed in 1268 (fn. 92) to £20, (fn. 93) thus increasing the revenues of the rectory which accrued to them to £73 6s. 8d. (fn. 94) In 1291 the temporalities were assessed at £423 7s., (fn. 95) and the house drew over £250 from its spiritualities, (fn. 96) and at the beginning of the fourteenth century was selling on an average as much as 30 sacks of wool each year at the rate of 12 marks a sack. (fn. 97) In 1299 (fn. 98) and again in 1300, (fn. 99) for fines paid to the exchequer, licence was granted to the abbot and convent to acquire more property in mortmain. The abbot was summoned to attend the great Parliament of 1295, and although it was shown in 1322, (fn. 100) and again in 1341, (fn. 101) that the abbots of Crowland did not hold their lands by barony, their successors continued to receive regular summons. (fn. 102)

Early in November, 1303, the abbot resigned, (fn. 103) and on the 13th for a fine of 40 marks Edward I granted the custody of the abbey during the vacancy to the prior and convent, (fn. 104) thus protecting it from the escheators. However, it was a grant limited to a particular case, and at the next vacancy the crown again entered into possession.

For twenty years the monastery was under the rule of Simon of Luffenham. In 1307 for a fine of £20 he obtained from Edward I a very important confirmation of a number of charters affecting the rights and property of the monastery. (fn. 105) He attended the general council at Vienne in 1311, (fn. 106) and was again abroad in 1314. (fn. 107) Before 1315 the house was visited by an epidemic disease of which thirteen monks died in fifteen days. (fn. 108) In 1324 Simon was deposed by Henry Burghersh, bishop of Lincoln, because he had favoured his kinsfolk at the expense of the house. (fn. 109) During the vacancy (fn. 110) there were in the monastery fortyone monks, of whom three were novices, fifteen persons who held corrodies, five of them being clerks, and only thirty-six servants, a comparatively small number in a great Benedictine house.

After the election of Henry of Casewick, a petition was sent to Edward II that an allowance might be made out of the profits drawn for the crown by the escheators for the maintenance of the monks, the holders of corrodies, and the servants, their clothes, shoes, linen, and necessaries, and for the lights in the church. (fn. 111) Accordingly the king directed the treasurer and barons of the exchequer to search the rolls and find out what allowance was usually made during a vacancy at Crowland. They reported that they had found two vacancies and none whatever was made. The king held that a charge for maintenance was reasonable, and ordered an inquisition to be made into the numbers in the house during the vacancy. As the result of an inquisition held at Stamford on 19 March, 1328, 6d. a day was allowed for the prior, 3d. for each monk and holder of a corrody, 2d. for each servant. The clear weekly profit to the crown was £8 1s. 6d., (fn. 112) over £7 being charged for maintenance.

Henry of Casewick was an able and vigorous ruler. In 1327, by an important act of the chapter, the master of the works was relieved of the charge of keeping the abbot's buildings in repair, his obligations were strictly defined, (fn. 113) and the endowment of his office was increased by the abbot. (fn. 114) In pursuit of a policy of further expansion, in 1327, for a fine of £20, a licence was obtained to acquire lands and rents not held in chief to the value of £20. (fn. 115) In 1334 licence was acquired to appropriate the church of Drayton, (fn. 116) but it was not acted upon.

The monastery was again involved in a number of lawsuits. In 1332 Abbot Henry sued the prior of Durham for £108, the arrears of a rent of 9 marks which in 1307 was guaranteed to the convent of Growland for giving up their rights in the town and church of Ederton. (fn. 117) The prior of Durham pleaded that, as the agreement was made at Stirling, it was illegal, but the abbot recovered the annuity, 27 marks of arrears, and £10 for damages. On several occasions he had to contend against the hereditary foes of the monastery. In 1329 (fn. 118) he complained to the crown that the prior of Spalding, with the men of Spalding and Moulton, cut to pieces beams which were placed to strengthen the dikes which prevented the abbey from being submerged and washed away. They destroyed the dikes and the arable land was flooded. They extorted tolls and customs from persons coming to Crowland fair, and assaulted the officers appointed by the abbot to collect tolls and profits in his manors of Spalding, Holbeach, Whaplode, and Suttpn. In 1332 (fn. 119) Thomas Wake of Liddell and the men of East and West Deeping and Barholm prevented the bailiffs from holding the fair, which at that time lasted for seventeen days, and from collecting tolls and other dues, and hindered merchants from attending; The abbot complained also that they had mowed the rushes on his meadows at Langtoft, Baston, Pinchbeck, and Spalding, and carried them away as well as his turves and hay. At Baston they had broken into his close and house, driven away 10 horses, chased 40 horses, 120 oxen, 300 cows, and 3,000 sheep from several of his manors to West Deeping. There they impounded them until he paid fines to the amount of £500 for their release. But in 1332 Thomas Wake had a countercharge against the abbot. (fn. 120) With seven of his monks and many other men he rescued some beasts which Thomas Wake had lawfully impounded, carried away his goods at East Deeping, seized six boats on the Welland at Crowland and assaulted his servants. At the Parliament which met at Westminster early in 1332, Edward III inhibited both parties from injuring each other. On 22 July he issued a commission of oyer and terminer, because there were at that time in the parts of Holland assemblies of armed men of the abbot of Crowland and the prior of Spalding, Ebulo Lestrange and Thomas Wake. (fn. 121)

The maintenance of causeways, bridges, and dikes in the marshes had long been a source of strife. In a petition to Parliament in 1335, the men of Holland and Kesteven stated that the ways between Crowland and Spalding were in a very dangerous state, and that this could be remedied if the abbot of Crowland would make a causeway on his soil between Crowland and a manor of his called the Brotherhouse, on the understanding that he and his successors should take tolls for its construction and maintenance. (fn. 122) Negotiations with the abbot followed, (fn. 123) but with no result. (fn. 124) As dikes to protect the lands of one owner hindered the flow of water into the fisheries of another, quarrels were inevitable. The abbot Of Crowland firmly maintained his rights. Thomas Wake again attempted to rob him of profit in his marshes by making a dike for the convenience of the men of Deeping. In 1342 it was destroyed by the abbot accompanied by four of his monks and a number of his men. (fn. 125) The people of Spalding were no more successful in 1349. They built a causeway on the abbot's land, so that the waters overflowed his marsh of Goggisland, and the abbey and town were 'in danger of drowning.' The abbot gave orders that the causeway should be broken down in several places, and was afterwards discharged by the jury before the sheriff of Lincoln on that count. (fn. 126) At the same inquisition he also proved that he was in no way bound to maintain a causeway between Crowland and Brotherhouse.

In 1344 the monastery was in serious financial difficulties. Owing to raids on the manors and granges by men who carried off goods and drove away animals and cattle to places unknown, it was so much impoverished that the abbot and convent could not pay their creditors or provide for their own maintenance. (fn. 127) Accordingly Edward III took the abbey and its possessions into his special protection, and committed the custody during his pleasure to John Stratford, archbishop of Canterbury, and William de Bohun, earl of Northampton, to apply the issues and profits, saving reasonable sustenance for the abbot and convent and their servants, in discharge of the debts and relief of the estate of the house, by view, aid, and counsel of the abbot and more experienced monks.

The abbot made a vigorous effort to prevent encroachments of the crown. In 1338 he bargained with Edward III, on condition of granting a corrody to his yeoman, John of Ashmeresbroke, that on his death the monastery should be in no way bound to receive another royal nominee. (fn. 128) He urged that the lands of the house were held in free alms, and were therefore exempt from any such service to the crown. His contention was true, and in 1346 he only owed service for two knights' fees in Langtoft, (fn. 129) and with others for one-third of a fee in Gedney besides one-tenth of a fee in Witham. In 1284-5 the abbot held the vill and site of Crowland in free alms, he also held with others the vill of Gedney, and 4 carucates of land in Holbeach and Whaplode, 1 carucate in Pinchbeck, and 2 carucates in Spalding. In 1303 he held three fees in Langtoft, and onethird with others in Gedney. In 1428 he held three-quarters of a fee in Bucknall.

There is no record of the visitation of the Black Death at Crowland, and the effects do not appear to have been particularly serious either on the temporal prosperity of the house or in permanently diminishing the numbers of the monks. It is true that the numbers had fallen from fortyone (fn. 130) in 1324 to about twenty-seven under Abbot Ashby, (fn. 131) but in 1445 there were again about forty-one. (fn. 132)

When Henry of Casewick died in 1358 the prior and convent made a fine of 100 marks to have the custody of the monastery during that vacancy. (fn. 133) Little is known of the welfare of the convent during the twenty years of Thomas of Barnack's rule, but he is said to have triumphed over his enemies. (fn. 134)

Although there were serious disturbances in several of the eastern counties in 1381 and the following years, discontent among the bondsmen of Crowland is only recorded in the manor of Wellingborough in Northamptonshire. In 1383 they besieged the abbot and his servants in the manor house and threatened to burn it. (fn. 135)

Under the three abbots who ruled from 1378 to 1427, Crowland was engaged in another succession of lawsuits about its possessions in the marshes. In 1389 the commons of Holland and Kesteven again petitioned for a division between their marshes. (fn. 136) Accordingly a commission was appointed to make inquiry that stone crosses or posts might be set up to mark the boundaries. The result was that new crosses were erected at Kenulfston, Wode-lode-Graynes, and other places. Nevertheless the king's half-brother, Thomas Holland, earl of Kent, and his servants, committed a number of outrages. They drove away cattle from the manor of Langtofc, fished in the Welland from Kenulfston to Brotherhouse, destroyed the fishing-nets of the monastery, beat the abbot's servants at Deeping Market and threw them from their boats into the water. In 1390 and again in 1391 the abbot presented complaints in Parliament against the earl, and the earl made countercharges; but John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, took up the abbot's cause very warmly. The abbot and the earl were several times cited before the council, but though the abbot always appeared, the earl failed to present himself on every occasion. He chose a steward of Deeping who was guilty of further outrages in 1392. In the autumn the abbot again complained in Parliament. John of Gaunt exerted all his influence, and peace at length prevailed for a short time. At Whitsuntide, 1394, the men of Deeping invaded the marsh in arms, and destroyed the cross at Kenulfston. (fn. 137) Abbot Thomas of Overton hastened to London to lay his grievance before the king, and, largely owing to the support of John of Gaunt, a grand assize was held to investigate the matter. Many of the men of Deeping were seized and taken in chains to Lincoln Castle, where they remained till their friends and neighbours had set up another cross at Kenulfston.

In 1413 Abbot Thomas was stricken with blindness, and the monks had no longer a powerful protector like John of Gaunt. The men of Holland saw a chance of trespassing with impunity. (fn. 138) Armed men from the vills of Moulton and Weston occupied an island called 'Le Purceynt' within the bounds of the abbey for nearly a year. They fished, fowled, plundered the nets and everything they could find, and burnt the fishing-house at Sandistowe to the ground. Men from Spalding fished in the Welland as far as Crowland, dug turves in the marsh of Goggisland, cut sedges and bulrushes, and prevented the entry of the tenants of Crowland. The abbot had wished to resign on account of his blindness, but the monks prevailed on him to continue in office. With the consent of Repingdon, bishop of Lincoln, the management of the affairs of the house was deputed to the prior, Richard Upton. He was a man of considerable experience, and had formerly been prior of the cell of Freiston for ten years. (fn. 139) He also bore a reputation for learning, and had taken the degree of bachelor of divinity at Cambridge. He firmly determined to end the disputes about the marsh, and gained his purpose by the production of the forged charters and other documents, which were used for the first time as evidence in a lawsuit. (fn. 140) His first step was to excommunicate all persons who infringed the liberties of the church of St. Guthlac, plundered its property, or invaded its possessions. (fn. 141) The sentence was pronounced with the leave of the bishop of Lincoln, in virtue of a privilege which was then said to have been granted by Dunstan, archbishop of Canterbury, but which had never been mentioned or used on any previous occasion. Afterwards, in the words of the chronicler, 'he manfully girded up his loins as though about to fight against beasts,' and hastened to London to prosecute the men of Spalding, of Moulton, and Weston, taking with him the charters of Ethelbald, Edred, and Edgar. The charters of Ethelbald and Edred were inspected and confirmed in 1393, (fn. 142) and again in 1399, (fn. 143) but they had not been officially recognized by any previous kings. It must be concluded that these and other Saxon charters were forged soon after the middle of the fourteenth century. (fn. 144) The writers showed ignorance of the language of an old English diploma and of the history of the rights which were claimed, (fn. 145) but their ignorance was shared by all who afterwards accepted them. About the same time, before 1360, the history of Crowland was compiled and ascribed, with a stroke of genius, to Ingulf, the first Norman abbot. (fn. 146) The object of the writer seems to have been to provide a setting for the Saxon charters, and a defence of the rights of the monastery. With vivid imagination and keen insight he wrote a delightful story, weaving into it traditions which at that time may well have gained acceptance as history among the monks of Crowland. (fn. 147) Another monk about the same time compiled a continuation of the history to 1135, which purported to be written by Peter of Blois at the request of Abbot Henry Longchamp. (fn. 148) It is only extant to 1117. It may well have been based on materials then at Crowland, which have now disappeared, but it contains a full share of amusing fiction.

The suits dragged on for nearly two years, and the expenses exceeded £500. The prior fell sick in London from vexation and despair. (fn. 149) His counsel was a skilled lawyer named William Ludington. According to the story current at Crowland St. Guthlac appeared one night to Ludington with cheering promises of success. The next day he succeeded in agreeing with the counsel for the other parties to submit the question to arbitration. Two arbitrators were chosen on behalf of the abbot and convent of Crowland, and two for the men of Moulton and Weston, and William Ludington and John Cockayne; both justices of the common pleas, acted with them. After an examination of the evidence and muniments at Crowland, they gave their award early in September, 1415. The island called 'Le Purceynt' was adjudged to be within the bounds of Crowland, and the men of Moulton and Weston were excluded from common of pasture, piscary, or turbary therein. They were condemned to rebuild the fishing-house at Sandistowe before 1 November, to pay 40 marks to the abbot and convent for damages, and to enter into recognizances to pay £200 before 25 December. The award of the arbitrators in the suit against the men of Spalding and Pinchbeck on 30 October, 1415, was equally favourable, and the rights of the abbot and convent in the marsh of Goggisland were strictly safeguarded.

In spite of serious damages to property and the heavy cost of the lawsuits, there was much activity in other directions. Abbot Thomas bought the fee of Shelton in the manor of Gedney about 1398, (fn. 150) and also part of a knight's fee in Baston called the fee of Beaumont, (fn. 151) and thus added 36 marks to the rental of the house. He obtained from Henry IV a charter granting the custody of the monastery to the prior and convent in each successive vacancy on condition of a payment of £20, and thus excluded the escheators, who, in the words of the chronicler, 'raged like lions, committed waste in the manors, and made heavy exactions.' (fn. 152)

Abbot John had the great bells of the church recast, and provided vestments, thuribles, and other ornaments. (fn. 153) Abbot Thomas repaired the bells in the central tower and built a new brewhouse and bakehouse. (fn. 154) The finances of the monastery were so flourishing that several of the obedientiaries were able to expend their surplus revenues and gifts from their friends on further benefactions. (fn. 155) Laurence Chateres, the kitchener, found £40 for the building of the west side of the cloister, £20 towards building a farmhouse on the manor of Dowdike, £26 for a set of black vestments, and £40 to provide milk of almonds on the days when only fish was eaten. Ten marks were therefore assigned to the master of the works, almoner, pittancer, sacrist, chamberlain, and cellarer. Each in turn was bound to supply three pounds of almonds and good bread and honey, a pound of almonds sufficing for each eight or nine monks. William Crowland, master of the works, built the western cloister, the north and south transepts, which he vaulted and glazed, the reredos of St. Guthlac's altar, the Lady chapel, and the frater, and he rebuilt the western part of the nave. Towards his work he received £270 from benefactors outside the monastery. Simon Eresby gave the reredos of the altar of St. John the Evangelist, and two silver-gilt thuribles which cost 40 marks. Abbot Upton (fn. 156) rebuilt the abbot's hall and the west side of the court leading to the water-gate. He added many valuable books to the library. To the vestiary he gave a reliquary worth 100 marks and some most costly vestments. When John of Freiston was sacrist he hired workmen to embroider a 'Jesse' vestment valued at 300 marks, a blue cope embroidered with eagles in gold, and some beautiful albs.

Abbot John Litlington was elected in 1427, and ruled the monastery for forty-three years. The question of the liability to repair embankments again became very prominent. There was already friction with the people of Moulton when a priest of that vill met the receiver of Crowland going along an embankment belonging to Moulton. (fn. 157) After violently abusing him he threw him into the marsh, and as the monk was an old man he with difficulty escaped alive. The abbot appealed to William Gray, bishop of Lincoln, who cited the priest and compelled him to do public penance on a great festival before the high altar at Crowland. The people of Moulton next complained to William Bondvill, lord of that manor, of the overflow of water from the precinct of Crowland because the embankments were out of repair; in consequence their meadows and pastures were so swamped that they could not pay their rents. (fn. 158) Bondvill impleaded the abbot for the damage to himself and his tenants. Abbot John hastened to London to defend himself, and after a great outlay of money on both sides the matter was referred to Crowland for a final settlement in 1433. The award was that the abbot should rebuild the embankment between Brotherhouse and Whaplodesdike and keep it in repair for forty years, but if the rainfall was very excessive he was not to be held responsible for any overflow. (fn. 159) In 1439 there were heavy storms, and the water overflowed the embankment on the south side of the precinct, which happened to be out of repair, and inundated the common lands of Whaplode. Accordingly the abbot was presented for default before the commissioners of sewers, who pronounced that he was bound to repair the embankments. (fn. 160) With great efforts the abbot succeeded in getting the judgement reversed. At an inquisition held at Bolingbroke, before the sheriff of Lincoln, the jurors swore that the abbots of Crowland, their men and tenants, had never repaired the embankments, 'either for the safety of the lands adjoining, or for the purpose of keeping out the water running between the embankment or for the easement of the people . . . or any one of them, nor ought of right to repair the same . . . but only for their own easement, advantage, and profit, at their own will and pleasure.' (fn. 161)

In 1433, too, in spite of the award of 1415, the people of Spalding again trespassed in the marsh of Goggisland. (fn. 162) With some difficulty the abbot brought them to justice, and recovered £90 for damages and £10 for costs. A few years later there were serious quarrels with the lord of Deeping, John earl of Somerset. (fn. 163) Another very expensive suit was against Thomas Dacre, lord of Holbeach, who encroached on the abbot's manorial rights in Whaplode. (fn. 164) By consent of both parties the question was transferred from the grand assize at Lincoln to the arbitration of the bishop, William Alnwick, and on 2 September, 1448, Dacre's rights were restricted to the punishment of his own few tenants in Whaplode, (fn. 165)

In the lapse of years the boundaries of the marsh of Alderland had disappeared, and the abbot of Crowland, anxious to avoid strife with the abbot of Peterborough, proposed an arbitration. (fn. 166) However, the arbitrators met several times without coming to any conclusion, and the abbots failed to agree. After the payment of large fees and further heavy expenses the matter was left unsettled in 1448.

In 1446 Litlington won a suit in the Court of Arches against the vicar of Whaplode, who had tried to make the abbot liable for the repair of desks and stalls in the chancel. (fn. 167) About 1451 he successfully defended his rights as lord of the manor of Baston. (fn. 168)

Crowland escaped injury during the Wars of the Roses. Henry VI visited the monastery in Lent, 1460, and granted a charter confirming the liberties of the vill of Crowland. (fn. 169) In 1461 the approach of the Lancastrian army, which had marched from the north pillaging churches and committing sacrilege, filled the country with terror. (fn. 170) Many refugees came with their valuables to Crowland. Vestments, jewels, treasures, charters, and muniments of the monastery, were hidden away. There were daily processions and prayers for protection. The approaches were guarded by stakes and palisades. Hearing of Edward's march northwards, the army turned back when within six miles of Growland.

In the Parliament of 1461 all charters of privilege granted by the Lancastrian kings were cancelled. Accordingly, Abbot John obtained in 1466 for 40 marks a confirmation of the right of custody during a vacancy, and also a further confirmation of charters of the monastery. (fn. 171)

The prior, writing soon after his death, judged that 'in his time the observance of the monastic rule flourished to such a degree that it might not unworthily have been called a very castle of the Gospel, and one worthy to be entered by our Lord Jesus, and where mystically the sisters Mary and Martha had together taken up their abode. For while one part of the officers was diligently intent upon the careful performance of their respective duties, the others, bestowing all due attention upon the service of God, were occupying themselves in the quiet pursuits of contemplation amid the mystic embraces of Rachel.' (fn. 172) Visitations of the bishops of Lincoln on the whole suggest a high standard of life. In 1431 Bishop Gray (fn. 173) enjoined that the rule of silence should be kept, and those who indulged in taunts and reproaches were to be punished. The prior and other officers were bidden to be affable, modest, discreet, and intelligent in administering correction, and officers who made themselves hateful were to be removed. The sacrist was ordered to repair the buildings of his office, 'lately very ruinous,' especially the house provided as a dwelling for the parish chaplain. The kitchener was to supply the monks with healthy and sufficient food in such quantities that there might be plenty for them and for alms afterwards. The almoner was to distribute the fragments among the poor, not to his own servants. The pittancer was to provide a servant to cater for the monks who were at Dovedale to be bled. The master of the works and the sacrist were to provide horses for monks who went to visit their kinsfolk or to receive holy orders from the bishop, and the abbot was to find servants for them. The barber was to be provided at the common expense. The monks were to get their allowance for clothes and spices at the right time. Their friends and relations were to be lodged, according to their rank, at the common expense. Freiston Cell was to be better served and administered. The abbot was bidden to make to the chapter a clear annual financial statement of the position of the house between 29 September and 11 November. He was warned against granting corrodies, pensions, and annuities, and against cutting down the woods of the monastery, without the consent of the convent and the bishop of Lincoln, except for necessary repairs, and then only with the advice of three monks. Nine years later, when Alnwick (fn. 174) visited the monastery, there were thirtysix monks who made depositions. The abbot stated that all his monks were professed except three novices, and that there were two scholars at Cambridge. The prior and most of the monks replied that all was well. The complaints were that the almoner and master of the works did not each provide two horses for the monks, that sick and aged relations of the monks and the servants of the convent used to be received and supported at the 'Sisterhouse' in the office of the almonry, but the custom had fallen into disuse, and lastly that the prior of Freiston was away from his cell.

An important step was taken in 1428 when a licence was granted to the abbot and convent of Crowland to appropriate in mortmain two messuages in the parish of St. Giles, Cambridge. (fn. 175) It was represented to Henry VI that some of the monks were continuously sent to the university of Cambridge to study canon law and theology, but as there was no hostel for the Benedictine order, they were compelled to lodge with seculars. A condition of the grant was that other Benedictine houses should be able to build rooms for their monks. The site embraced the principal portion of the present Magdalene College, and until the Dissolution was known as Buckingham College. (fn. 176)

Litlington was a great benefactor to the monastery. (fn. 177) The nave was vaulted and gilded at his expense, the windows were glazed, and a gilded reredos and screen were provided for the high altar. The large organ and the small one in the choir were his gifts. He gave to the vestiary nine embroidered copes of cloth of gold valued at £240, a set of red vestments, a processional cross, chalice, water-bottles, and candelabra of. silver gilt; he erected new buildings in the court of the monastery, and a number of tenements in Crowland which he gave to the convent, and repaired all his manor-houses and tenements. Shortly before he died he built a fair hostel for distinguished guests, and had five new bells cast in London and brought by water to Crowland at a total cost of £160. There was much activity too among the obedientiaries, who expended their revenues on building and gifts to the sacristy. (fn. 178)

The interest shown at Crowland in the writing of history at a time when it languished utterly in other monasteries is very conspicuous. A monk who at the death of Litlington had held the office of prior for many years devoted his moments of leisure to compiling a history of the monastery from the accession of Stephen until the abbot's death in 1470. (fn. 179) His sources, as he explained in the very charming and modest conclusion of his work, were the scattered annals of the house, and the charters and deeds, some even then 'aged and worm-eaten,' which he found among the muniments. The events of his own time he read 'more truthfully still in the book of experience.' He was painfully conscious that his style was very inferior to that of the authors of the earlier history of the house whom he believed to be Ingulf and Peter of Blois, and he has suffered from the advantage which the picturesque writer has always had over the student whose pen is fettered by his scrupulous regard for accuracy. He confessed that he had wished to leave a memorial of his name that his readers might pray for his soul, but he forbore of his own accord, for he would not appear to covet an undue meed of praise. (fn. 180)

A more ambitious monk began to write after the death of Litlington. His outlook was wider than the prior's, and he wrote a general history of his times from 1459 to 1486, (fn. 181) digressing occasionally to relate what was happening at Crowland. His work is a valuable authority for the reign of, Edward IV. Another monk continued his history with the avowed object of setting an example to those who should come after him, but unfortunately the manuscript ends abruptly, and part of his work is lost. (fn. 182)

The abbacy of John of Wisbech passed without one lawsuit, and the historian commented 'that he enjoyed the singular and especial privilege and piece of good fortune which never fell to the lot of any of his predecessors.' (fn. 183) Like Litlington he was a great builder within the abbey and without. (fn. 184) At Buckingham College he built chambers for the scholars of Crowland. He abolished the old custom, 'or rather corruption,' of giving away knives on St. Bartholomew's Day to all who asked for them. As there was a vast concourse of people at the fair, it had become a very expensive matter. A fire in the vill of Crowland diminished the rental of the monastery by twenty marks, but in compassion for the poor tenants the abbot gave divers sums of money towards the rebuilding.

Perhaps an unwarranted sense of security, coupled with an enthusiasm for learning, led the monks to elect Richard Crowland. (fn. 185) He was a student and a writer of books, and gave to the library several manuscripts written at his expense and by his own hand. (fn. 186) In 1478 he obtained two bulls from Sixtus IV. In virtue of the first the convent was able to farm manors, churches, and other possessions for ten years without the leave of the ordinary. (fn. 187) On account of a lack of monks of the age to take the order of priest, the other bull allowed them to be ordained as soon as they had reached their twentysecond year. (fn. 188)

In the opinion of the historian, advantage was taken 'of the simple innocence and innocent simplicity' of the abbot. (fn. 189) Three hundred men of Deeping trespassed in the marsh of Goggisland, seized the reeds that had been collected by the men and tenants, and either beat or threw into the water all the people they met. Emboldened by success, they assaulted the vill of Crowland, and the abbot in turn met them in the nave of the church to answer their importunate demands. Presumptuous officials of the manor of Deeping fined the abbot heavily for cutting the embankments to avoid an inundation of the parts of Holland, and distrained upon his grain from Langtoft and Baston. At Whaplode the tenants and parishioners cut the trees which grew in the churchyard and attacked Lambert Fossdyke, the steward of the monastery, who was compelled to bar himself into the sacristy of the church. (fn. 190)

With the prospect of three serious lawsuits, in January, 1484, the monks elected Lambert Fossdyke as successor to Richard Crowland. He was a bachelor of law, and would have rendered useful service to the monastery, but within two years he died of the sweating sickness. (fn. 191) During his rule the turbulent men of Moulton and Weston again claimed rights within the precinct of Crowland, and laid a complaint against the monastery. (fn. 192) The judges who were sent to try the case found that they had never possessed the rights of common to which they laid claim. However, provision was made against the overflow of water from the precinct into Holland. Fossdyke was succeeded by the prior, Edmund Thorpe, a bachelor of divinity. He sought to secure and maintain his rights by tact and conciliatory conduct. (fn. 193) At Moulton he obtained the support of the family of the Welbys, and their influence over the inhabitants kept the peace. He showed much patience in his dealings with the men of Deeping, who were also restrained by the Lady Margaret Beaufort, to whom the manor belonged. The fresh dispute with the monks of Peterborough about the marsh of Alderland was settled between 1480 and 1484 by the arbitration of Rotherham, archbishop of York, greatly to the detriment of Crowland. The abbot and convent were bound to pay £10 a year to Peterborough until they had purchased lands of that value for the said monastery, or procured the appropriation of the church of Brinkhurst. (fn. 194) Accordingly Abbot Edmund exerted all his influence to obtain the appropriation, which was finally concluded at the expense of Crowland in 1486. (fn. 195)

With this settlement the last instalment of the history of Crowland ends abruptly, and there is but little to record until the dissolution.

The last abbot, John Wells, or Bridges, ruled the house from 1512 until 1538. The visitation of Atwater, (fn. 196) bishop of Lincoln, in 1519, shows that he was very arbitrary and unpopular. He then kept in his own hands the emoluments of the cellarer and receiver, so that they were officers only in name. In consequence the monks got neither soup nor pudding. Sick monks who were away with leave could not get the customary allowance of food and drink. One very old monk was denied the privileges which were his due. The bishop ordered the abbot to make full amends, and also to remove the janitor who spent much of his time in the town of Crowland, and sent pilgrims to Walsingham astray.

An anxious desire to appease Cromwell and Henry VIII appears in the abbot's correspondence in 1534, 1538, and 1539. (fn. 197) Demands were made on him for leases and grants which were beyond his power to satisfy. There is no record of any discussions among the monks about the progress of affairs, and they certainly swallowed any scruples which they may have had. In June, 1534, the abbot and thirty-two monks subscribed to the royal supremacy. (fn. 198) On 25 March, 1537, the abbot sent a present of fen fish to Cromwell, begging him 'to be good and favourable lord' unto him and his poor house. (fn. 199) Between 1535 and 1539 he granted over thirty small annuities, (fn. 200) some of them possibly for sums of ready money with the object of providing for the future.

On 4 December, 1539, (fn. 201) Cromwell's commissioners arrived at Crowland, and the surrender was signed by the abbot and twenty-eight monks. Probably for his compliance John Bridges was awarded the large pension of £133 6s. 8d., and the rest of the monks received sums varying from £10 to £5 a year. (fn. 202)

The clear value of the possessions of Crowland, including the cell of Freiston, in 1535 amounted to £1,093 15s 10½d. (fn. 203) Of this sum about £160 was drawn from spiritualities. In the hands of the crown-bailiffs four years later the property brought in £1,434 11s. 4½d. (fn. 204) The rectories belonging to the monastery were Crowland, Whaplode, Sutterton, Langtoft, Tetford, and Baston, in Lincolnshire; Wellingborough in Northamptonshire; Hokington in Cambridgeshire; and to the cell of Freiston, Freiston, Butterwick, Burton Pedwardine, and Claxby in Lincolnshire; Stonesby in Leicestershire; and South Warnborough in Hampshire. There were charges on a number of other churches. The manors were Cottenham, Hokington, Dry Drayton in Cambridgeshire; Crowland, Gedney, Whaplode, Aswyke, Holbeach, Spalding, Dowdike, Langtoft, Baston, Manthorpe, Bucknall, Freiston, and Claxby in Lincolnshire; Wellingborough in Northamptonshire; Morborne in Huntingdonshire.

Abbots Of Crowland (fn. 205)

Ulfcytel, 1051

Ingulf, 1085-6 (fn. 206)

Geoffrey, 1110 (fn. 207)

Waltheof, 1124

Godfrey, 1138

Edward, 1142

Robert of Reading, 1175

Henry de Longchamp, 1191

Richard Bardney, 1236

Thomas Welles, 1247

Ralph de Mersh, 1254

Richard Crowland, 1281

Simon of Luffenham, 1303

Henry of Casewick, 1324

Thomas of Barnack, 1358

John of Ashby, 1378 (fn. 208)

Thomas of Overton, 1392

Richard Upton, 1417

John Litlington, 1427

John of Wisbech, 1470

Richard Crowland, 1476

Lambert Fossdyke, 1484

Edmund Thorpe, 1485

Philip Everard, 1497

William Gedding, 1504

Richard Bardney, 1507

John Wells alias Bridges, 1512

A seal of the date 1392 (fn. 209) is in shape a pointed oval and represents St. Bartholomew on the right, holding a book, and giving to St. Guthlac on the left a triple-thonged whip. Between the two figures there is a bird, one of the emblems of St. Guthlac, to the right on a bush. Overhead is a carved canopy; below the feet of the figures an arched footboard. (fn. 210) The legend is—


A seal of Abbot Edmund Thorpe is attached to a deed dated 1487. (fn. 211) It represents the Virgin and Child in a canopied niche, with a smaller niche on each side, now broken away. In base, under a carved arch, is a half-length figure of the abbot with pastoral staff. (fn. 212) The legend is imperfect.


  • 1. Historia Croylandensis (Rerum Anglicarum Scriptores), ed. W. Fulman, i, 1-107.
  • 2. Quarterly Rev. xxxiv, 289-98; Arch. Journ. six, 32-49, 114-133. The most complete exposition of the forgery is to be found in Liebermann's article in 'Gesellschaft für ältere Deutsche Geschichtskunde,' Neues Archiv. xviii, 225-67.
  • 3. Vita S. Guthlaci auctore Felice, ed. W. de Gray Birch.
  • 4. Ordericus Vitalis, Hist. Ecclesiastica (ed. A. Le Prevost), ii, 285; cf. also Vitae Abbatum Croylandiae, printed in Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica (ed. John Nichols), iii, 138. Had the dependence not been a fact, it would not thus have been admitted at Crowland; cf. Ang. Sax. Chron. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 170, where it is stated that Edward the Confessor gave Crowland to Leofric, abbot of Peterborough.
  • 5. Ordericus Vitalis, Hist. Ecclesiaitica (ed. A. Le Prevost), ii, 268-90.
  • 6. Neues Archiv. xviii, 250.
  • 7. N. and Q. 1st series, vi, 281, 350.
  • 8. The compiler of Chronicon Angliae Petriburgense (ed. J. A. Giles, Caxton Soc.), to which the editors of the Mon. iii, 206 refer, borrowed from Ingulf, cf. Neues Archiv. xviii, 236, 237. In the chartulary of Crowland, written about the middle of the 14th century (Wrest Park MS. 6), a note of the foundation of the cell at Spalding is scribbled in on fol. 254v. in a later hand, doubtless after it had become accepted in the monastery. The Sheriff Thorold undoubtedly gave Bucknall to Crowland, cf. Dom. Bk. fol. 346b.
  • 9. Mon. iii, 208.
  • 10. Dom. Bk. fol. 346b.
  • 11. Neues Archiv. xviii, 225-267.
  • 12. Ord. Vital. Hist. Eccles. (ed. A. Le Prevost), ii, 285. Waltheof was so great a benefactor that in a list of monasteries drawn up at Southwark Priory about 1208 he was accredited as the founder. Cf. W. de Gray Birch, Fasti Monastici Ævi Saxonici, 13.
  • 13. Ibid. ii, 285.
  • 14. Ibid.
  • 15. Ibid. Freeman, Norman Conquest, iv, 600.
  • 16. Ibid. 286.
  • 17. Dom. Bk. fol. 346b.
  • 18. Ibid. 231.
  • 19. Ibid. 222b.
  • 20. Ibid. 204.
  • 21. Ibid. 192b.
  • 22. Ord. Vitalis, Hist. Eccles. ii, 285.
  • 23. Ibid. 286, 287.
  • 24. Ibid. 286. Ann. Mon. (Rolls Sen), ii, 37.
  • 25. Ibid. 287.
  • 26. Bibliotheca Topog. Brit. (ed. John Nichols), iii, 139.
  • 27. Acta Sanctorum, April, ii, 54.
  • 28. Bibl. Topog. iii, 139. Simeoni. Monachi Opera Omnia (Rolls Ser.), ii, 299.
  • 29. Ibid.
  • 30. Mon. iv, 124. For the date cf. Wrest Park MS. 6, fol. 28; 'post liberacionem regis Stephani presente Gaufrido abbate.'
  • 31. 'Historie Croylandensis Continuatio (ed. W. Fulman, Rerum Anglicarum Scriptores), 451, 452.
  • 32. This is the earliest genuine charter of Crowland, cf. Neues Archiv. xviii, 253. It is the first document in the chartulary, compiled about 1366 (Wrest Park MS. 6, fol. 23v. 24). The bounds were 'de Croylande usque ad Asendyke, et sic usque ad Aswyktofte, et sic per Shepee usque Tydwarthare, et inde usque ad Normanneslonde, et sic per aquam de Neen usque ad Fynset, et sic usque ad Greynes, et ita ad Folwardstakynge, et inde sicut Southlake cadit in aquam de Welande, et sic ex altera parte aquae usque ad Aspathe, et inde usque Warwarlake, et sic usque ad Harenholte, et sic sursum per aquam de Meugerlake et inde sicut Apynholte cadit in Welonde.' The charter, granted at Stamford, is undated, but from the witnesses and the place, it must be assigned to the early part of 1142; cf. J. H. Round, Geoffrey de Mandeville, 159. The charter of Henry II, also undated, is said to have been granted to Abbot Robert, but was probably granted early in 1155. For the date cf. J. H. Round, Geoffrey de Mandeville, 160.
  • 33. Wrest Park MS. 6, fol. 25, on the feast of St. Bartholomew, the three preceding and three following days. St. Bartholomew was the patron saint of St. Guthlac, and the monastery was dedicated to St. Mary, St. Guthlac, and St. Bartholomew.
  • 34. Wrest Park MS. 6, fol. 49.
  • 35. Hist. Croyl. Cant. 452.
  • 36. Ibid.
  • 37. Historiae Anglicanae Scriptores (ed. Joseph Sparke), pt. iii, 2.
  • 38. Hist. Croyl. Cont. 453-6. The first few lines occur also in Wrest Park MS. 6, with this reference, 'sicut scribitur in libro armarioli Croilande qui dicetur Ysidorus Ethimologiarum circa finem.'
  • 39. Hist. Croyl. Cont. 457-71.
  • 40. Wrest Park MS. 6, fol. 24v.
  • 41. Ibid. fol. 24v.
  • 42. Ibid. fol. 39; Hist. Croyl. Cont. 471-2.
  • 43. Hist. Croyl. Cont. 475-6; Wrest Park MS. 6, 38v.
  • 44. Memoriale fratris Walteri de Coventria (Rolls Ser.), ii, 232.
  • 45. Hist. Croyl. Cont. 477.
  • 46. Chart R. 35 Edw. I, m. 4.
  • 47. Hist. Croyl. Cont. 463.
  • 48. Neues Archiv. xviii, 251; T. D. Hardy, Descriptive Catalogue of Materials (Rolls Ser.), i, No. 926.
  • 49. Neues Archiv. xviii, 252; Hardy, i, No. 523.
  • 50. T. D. Hardy, Descriptive Catalogue of Materials (Rolls Ser.), ii, 342.
  • 51. Ibid. 344.
  • 52. Hist. Croyl. Cont. 474.
  • 53. Ibid. 545.
  • 54. e.g. Cal. Pat. 8 Edw. I, m. 5, m. 3; 5 Hen. VI, pt. ii, m. 16, 19.
  • 55. Hist. Croyl. Cont. 513.
  • 56. Wrest Park MS. 6, fol. 52.
  • 57. Hist. Croyl. Cont. 513.
  • 58. Ibid. 479.
  • 59. A market on Saturday, a fair for eight days, beginning on the vigil of the Assumption of the Virgin. Chart. R. 39 Hen. III, m. 3.
  • 60. A market on Thursday, a fair for five days, beginning on the vigil of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. Chart. R. 41 Hen. III, m 1.
  • 61. A market on Wednesday. Chart. R. 41 Hen. III, m. 1.
  • 62. Crowland, Langtoft, Tetford, Baston, Burthorp, Whaplode, Holbeach, Dowdike, Bucknall, and Halington, co. Linc. Chart. R. 35 Edw. I, m. 4.
  • 63. Hist. Croyl. Cont. 480. Wrest Park, M.S. 6, fol. 116 v. 117.
  • 64. Wrest Park MS. 6, fol. 117 v. 118.
  • 65. Ibid 119v, 120.
  • 66. Ibid. 80, 80 v.
  • 67. Ibid. 194 v.
  • 68. Wrest Park MS. 6, fol. 208.
  • 69. Ibid. 208, 208 v.
  • 70. Hist. Croyl. Cont. 477.
  • 71. Wrest Park MS. 6, fol. 40.
  • 72. Ibid. 37.
  • 73. Ibid. 38.
  • 74. Hist. Croyl. Cont. 479. He is said to have been taken prisoner in Italy, but there is apparently some confusion in the mind of the writer, as Innocent IV was at Lyons from 2 Dec. 1244 until 1253. In the lives of the abbots, Bibl. Topog. iii, 140, he is only said to have been taken prisoner on his way to the papal curia.
  • 75. Wrest Park MS. 6, fol. 51.
  • 76. Ibid. 52 v.
  • 77. Ibid. 53.
  • 78. Bibl. Topog. iii, 140.
  • 79. Ibid.
  • 80. e.g. the church of Wellingborough was appropriated to the office of the sacrist between 1123 and 1148. Wrest Park MS. 6, fol. 222.
  • 81. Hist. Croyl. Cont. 479.
  • 82. Ibid.
  • 83. Ibid.
  • 84. Hist. Croyl. Cont. 479.
  • 85. Ibid. 480.
  • 86. Ibid.
  • 87. Ibid. 481.
  • 88. Placita de Quo Warranto (Rec. Com.), 103.
  • 89. Wrest Park MS. 6, fol. 78.
  • 90. Ibid. 79.
  • 91. Cal. Papal Letters, i, 515.
  • 92. Wrest Park MS. 6, fol. 80 v.
  • 93. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 62b.
  • 94. Ibid.
  • 95. Ibid. 66a, &c.
  • 96. Ibid. 62b, &c.; Wrest Park MS. 6, fol. 54.
  • 97. W. Cunningham, Growth of English Industry and Commerce, ed. 1905, 640.
  • 98. For a fine of 10 marks, 3 roods of land in Wigtoft and the advowson of the church there. Cal. Pat. 28 Edw. I, m. 23.
  • 99. By Reginald de Celer of 2 messuages, 23 acres of land and 10 acres of meadow in Crowland, Langtoft and Baston; by John Wygan of 5 acres in Langtoft; by Robert Foulman of 6 acres in Holbeach; by John and Alice Milys of 3½ acres in Whaplode; by Stephen Walren of 2 acres of land in Whaplode. Cal. Pat. 20 Edw. I, m. 26.
  • 100. Madox, Hist. of the Exch. i, 531.
  • 101. Cal Pat. 15 Edw. III, iii, m. 12.
  • 102. Mon. viii, app. 1635.
  • 103. Cal. Pat. 32 Edw. I, m. 29.
  • 104. Ibid. 31 Edw. I, m. 7.
  • 105. Chart. R. 35 Edw. I, m. 4.
  • 106. Cal. Pat. 5 Edw. II, i, m. 18.
  • 107. Ibid. 8 Edw. II, i, m. 22.
  • 108. Chronicon Abbatiae Rameseiensis (Rolls Ser.), app. 397. 'Litera a domino Simone abbate Crulondiae pro morte confratrum suorum Ramesiae directa.' He wrote when the plague was raging, asking for prayers, so the mortality may have been still greater.
  • 109. Bibl. Topog. iii, 141.
  • 110. Mon. ii, 121.
  • 111. Hist. Croyl. Cont. 482.
  • 112. Ibid.
  • 113. Bibl. Topog. iii, 73.
  • 114. Ibid. 74.
  • 115. Cal. Pat. 1 Edw. III, iii, m. 15.
  • 116. Ibid. 8 Edw. III, i, m. 7.
  • 117. Eibl. Topog. iii, 78.
  • 118. Cal. Pat. 3 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 3 d.
  • 119. Ibid. 6 Edw. III, ii, m. 34 d.
  • 120. Ibid. pt. i, m. 7 d.
  • 121. Cal. Pat. 6 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 23 d.
  • 122. Ibid. 10 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 8.
  • 123. Ibid. 11 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 8 d.
  • 124. Dugdale, Hist. of Imbanking and Draining (ed. 1772), p. 214.
  • 125. Cal. Pat. 16 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 34 d.
  • 126. Dugdale, Hist. of Imbanking and Draining (ed. 1772), p. 214.
  • 127. Cal. Pat. 18 Edw. III, pt. it, m. 26.
  • 128. Cal. Pat. 12 Edw. III, ii, m. 33. Abbot Ralph had a similar struggle with Henry III in 1268, and John Delebuche was then admitted on condition that another corrody should not be demanded by the crown on his death. Wrest Park MS. 6, fol. 30v. Nevertheless Edward II had sent Peter le Saucer to the monastery.
  • 129. Feudal Aids, iii, 213.
  • 130. Mon. ii, 121. The numbers may have been greater before the epidemic which visited the house between 1304 and 1315. cf. p. 110.
  • 131. Hist. Croyl. Cont. 498.
  • 132. Linc. Alnwick's Visitations of Monasteries, 64 d.
  • 133. MS. Cole xliv (B.M.), 45.
  • 134. Bibl. Topog. iii, 141.
  • 135. Cal. Pat. 7 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 8 d.
  • 136. Hist. Croyl. Con. 483-91.
  • 137. Ibid. 492-3.
  • 138. Ibid. 501.
  • 139. Ibid.
  • 140. Neues Archiv. xviii, 255-7.
  • 141. Hist. Croyl. Cont. 502-12.
  • 142. Cal. Pat. 17 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 21.
  • 143. Ibid. 1 Hen. IV, ii, m. 7, 8.
  • 144. It is noteworthy that they do not occur in the chartulary (Wrest Park MS. 6), which from an entry on fol. 23 v. seems to have been compiled c. 1366. However, on fol. 21 v. a list of the Saxon kings, to whom the forged charters contained in Ingulf's History were attributed, has been added in a later hand.
  • 145. Neues Archiv. xviii, 255-7.
  • 146. Ibid. xviii, 257-62.
  • 147. Rerum Anglicarum Scriptores (ed. W. Fulman), i, 1-107.
  • 148. Ibid. i, 108-32.
  • 149. Rerum Anglicarum Scriptores (ed. W. Fulman), i, 502-12.
  • 150. Ibid. 496; Wrest Park MS. 6, fol. 121.
  • 151. Ibid. 496.
  • 152. Ibid.
  • 153. Ibid. 492.
  • 154. Ibid. 496.
  • 155. Ibid. 497-8.
  • 156. Rerum Anglicarum Scriptores (ed. W. Fulman), i, 514-15.
  • 157. Ibid. 516.
  • 158. Ibid. 516-17.
  • 159. Ibid. 517.
  • 160. Rerum Anglicarum Scriptores (ed. W. Fulman), i, 519.
  • 161. Ibid. 520.
  • 162. Ibid. 517.
  • 163. Ibid. 518-19.
  • 164. Ibid. 521.
  • 165. Mon. ii, 122.
  • 166. Hist. Croyl. Cont. 525-6.
  • 167. Ibid. 521.
  • 168. Ibid.
  • 169. Ibid. 530; Mon. ii, 123.
  • 170. Hist. Croyl. Cont. 531.
  • 171. Hist. Croyl. Cont. 534; Cal. Pat. 5 Edw. IV, pt. i, m. 20.
  • 172. Ibid.
  • 173. Linc. Epis. Reg. Memo. Gray, fol. 128.
  • 174. Linc. Alnwick's Visitation of Monasteries, 64 d.
  • 175. Bibl. Topog. in, 88.
  • 176. R. Willis, Arch. Hist, of Cambridge, ii, 351.
  • 177. Hist. Croyl. Cont. 535.
  • 178. Ibid. 536.
  • 179. His work is the Hist. Croyl. Cont. 451-546. It was evidently a complete work, but unfortunately there are several gaps in the text, (a) from about 1254 to 1281, (b) from 1281 to 1327, (c) from 1328 to 1388.
  • 180. Hist. Croyl. Cont. 545-6.
  • 181. Ibid. 549-81.
  • 182. Ibid. 581-93.
  • 183. Ibid. 553.
  • 184. Ibid. 560.
  • 185. Ibid. 560.
  • 186. Ibid. 569.
  • 187. Wrest Park MS. 6, fol. 56.
  • 188. Ibid.
  • 189. Hist. Croyl. Cont. 569.
  • 190. Ibid. cf. also Bibl. Topog. iii, 95.
  • 191. Ibid. 569.
  • 192. Ibid. 576.
  • 193. Ibid. 576.
  • 194. Hist. Croyl. Cont. 576.
  • 195. Ibid.
  • 196. Linc. Atwater's Monastic Visit. 47 d. 48.
  • 197. L. and P. Hen. VIII, vii, Nos. 272, 338; xiv (1), 54.
  • 198. Ibid. vii, 769.
  • 199. Ibid. xii (1), 729.
  • 200. Bibl. Topog. iii, 120.
  • 201. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiv (2), 631.
  • 202. Ibid.
  • 203. Valor Eccles. (Rec. Com.), iv, 85-7.
  • 204. Mon. ii, 124-6.
  • 205. The list of abbots compiled by the editors of the Monasticon, ii, 96-104, has been checked. References are only given when a correction is needed.
  • 206. Freeman, Norman Conquest, iv, 600; Ordericus Vitalis, Hist. Eccles. (ed. A. le Prevost), ii, 286-7.
  • 207. Ordericus Vitalis, Hist. Eccles. (ed. A. le Prevost), ii, 287.
  • 208. Cal. Pat. 1 Ric. II, pt. v, m. 26.
  • 209. B.M. Cast, lxvi, 93.
  • 210. W. de Gray Birch, Cat. of Seals, i, 526.
  • 211. Harl. Chart. 44c, 63.
  • 212. W. de Gray Birch, Cat. of Seals, i, 527.