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Could Crowland Abbey be the final resting place of Bourne's Hereward the Wake?



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The lost resting place of a rebel leader and the remains of an abbot who was murdered by marauding Danes are just some of the myths connected with Crowland Abbey.

The current abbey and its three predecessors have been a focal point in the Fens for more than a thousand years – having endured invasions, earthquakes and fires.

Having been founded in 716, a number of myths, legends and stories have been built up around the abbey which have now been compiled by guide Lynne Seymour.

Lynne Seymour at Crowland Abbey with St Theodore's Skull and possibly Hereward the Wake's final resting place (58036074)
Lynne Seymour at Crowland Abbey with St Theodore's Skull and possibly Hereward the Wake's final resting place (58036074)

Lynne has created a chronicle worthy of a much earlier Crowland resident, Ingulf, who died 1109. He started to write up a history which his predecessors continued until the start of Henry VII’s reign and these chronicles contain one of the few remaining copies of the Titulus Regius – which confirmed Richard III as King of England after he declared Edward V, Richard Duke of York (the Princes in the Tower) and their sisters illegitimate.

With Lynne’s chronicle, she has noted down some of the myths, legends and other stories associated with the Abbey, which we will be sharing in a series of features in the coming weeks.

She said: “When I started here people would tell me stories about Crowland and I started to write them down and anything interesting I add into it.

Rebel leader Hereward the Wake could be buried in this area
Rebel leader Hereward the Wake could be buried in this area

“There is very little we can prove for sure.”

Anglo Saxon rebel Hereward the Wake is believed to buried within the Abbey.

The resistance leader fought against the Normans following the 1066 invasion but was an outlaw in the fens until his lands were returned.

This skull is believed to be Abbott Theodore who had been killed by the Danes
This skull is believed to be Abbott Theodore who had been killed by the Danes

Lynne says that Hereward was documented in the Doomsday Book as a tenant of Crowland Abbey at one time. She said: “The chronicle says that when he died Hereward wanted to be buried with wife Torfrida and his daughter.

“Torfrida left him and

became a nun at the Abbey so it is logical that she was buried here.”

Unfortunately the grave has been lost, possibly due to earthquakes or fire, but noble families sold off many abbey treasures in the 17th and 18 century, including the sarcophagi.

Another local legend William Stukeley, an early

archaeologist, has left tantalising details about Hereward’s grave.

Lynne said: “According to a plan drawn by Stukeley, he was buried “near the shrine of St Neotus (St Neot) in the Chapel of St Mary” in the north transept.

“We don’t know if Hereward and Torfida were buried together. We don’t have any of the older graves which were destroyed by the lords of the manor in the 18th century as all they wanted to do was make money.”

While Hereward’s sarcophagus has been lost forever, another relic which has been disappeared twice is now back in its rightful home. A skull with a deep gash is kept within a case in a chapel in the abbey.

The skull is believed to have belonged to Abbot Theodore, who was killed during an attack on the Abbey by the Danes in 870.

He is said to have been killed during a mass while praying for his enemies.

Lynne said: “It was once taken down and removed from the Abbey but was

recovered from the grounds.

“The case was then moved to a higher position to make it more difficult to remove but in 1982 it was stolen again and this time was not recovered. However, 17 years later it re-appeared in the Lady Chapel with a crude note of apology. It has been examined by someone from the British Musuem who said that it was a man of 40 from that period and that the wound was consistent with being attacked with a sword while kneeling.”

Theodore was also later canonized by the Catholic Church along with other monks who were killed in the attack. These included St

Agamund, St Askega, St

Egdred, St Elfgete, St Gremkeld, St Sabinus and St Swethin.

l Crowland Abbey will be holding an art exhibition and sale between July 23 and 26.

The Abbey’s flower festival will be held between August 26 and 29.

This will be followed by an open day on September 10 featuring myth and legend stories.

The Abbey is also looking for volunteers.



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