Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The Riddle of Trinity Bridge, Crowland

Once a handsome young Historian was on his way to Crowland Abbey. (For Some Ragged Rambler's pics of the Abbey Click Here...) Travelling there to see the sites of the monastery founded long ago by Saint Guthlac. His journey had been long and arduous but now the Abbey was in sight and he had but to cross the Trinity Bridge, an unusual if not unique structure for it has three entrances and exits and all set over one great arch. It was built in the fourteenth century to span the rivers, which met on the West side of the settlement that had it grown up to serve the Abbey. Its other unique feature being that the bridge was now landlocked, left high and dry by fenland drainage, long, long ago.

The Trinity Bridge, Crowland

Well, as the young Historian climbed the bridges incredibly steep path he fancied he could hear the conversations of the locals who loitered there long, long ago. Talking about fishing for eels, a staple in their medieval diet. Or perhaps they were grumbling about the harsh dues and tithes they owed to the Benedictine monks of the Abbey. Or maybe they stood upon the bridge eyeing with suspicion all the traders and other travellers who came to do business in the towns market and shops, or even the pilgrims who sought to know more of Guthlac’s struggles with many a bog dwelling demon.

The "Incredibly steep path" of Trinity Bridge

Such was the young historians fancy that he did not see the two Antiquarians of note each blocking one of the other two paths leading to and from the bridge. One was tall and thin; the other broad of shoulder and both had big brains. So big that the young historian felt certain that he could hear their skulls creaking and groaning as they worked hard to keep all their accumulated wisdom within. He could tell straight way that they were of the legendary race of Ragged Ramblers said to haunt old ruins, They were mere shadows to most, camouflaged as they were by their earthy tweed colouring as they scrabbled amongst Romanesque arches and grave stones. He remembered the stories of those who had seen them or more correctly hints of them; strange lights that some said were the last rays of the setting sun reflecting off their stainless steel flasks or the flash of their well aimed cameras. Stories of course yet still the historian was uneasy for he had heard tell that so great was their intellect any man unfortunate enough to meet with a Ragged Rambler would feel inferior for the rest of his days. But these were stories and the young Historian checked his foolishness and stepped forward. “Beware”, said the one of the tweed clad giants, "for one path from this bridge leads to Crowland Abbey. But the other" says the other “leads to dark places, to marshy bogs", which to use the words of Guthlac’s chronicler in the ‘Guthlac Roll’, an illustrated history of the Saint's life and deeds, “Were haunted day and night but mostly by night by legions of devils with blubbery lips, fiery mouths, scaly faces, beetle heads, sharp long teeth, long chins, hoarse throats, black skins, humped shoulders, big bellies, burning loins, bandy legs, cloven hooves and long tails.” Terrible demons who persecuted all men as they did Guthlac and his first monks, “forever gibing and mewing at them, biting them with sharp teeth, switching them with their filthy tails, putting dirt in their meat and drink, nipping them by their nose, giving them cramp and rheums, shivering agues and burning fevers.”

Roundel depicting Guthlac's struggle with the Crowland demons

As Guthlac’s chronicler wrote, these boggarts and bogles as we might call them today were best avoided by anyone who valued his life, and so it was clear to the handsome young historian that he must choose his exit from the bridge with care. But which to take, for as anyone familiar with ancient riddles knows, the young historian standing at the fork in the bridge did not know which path led to Crowland and the other to his doom. And the Ragged Ramblers would be of little help, for although they knew which path to take, one of them always told the truth and the other always lied and he did not know which was which. And as anyone familiar with ancients riddles also knows, he could only ask them one question and one question only before he must choose his route. The question is: What one question asked of just one of the Tweed clad Ramblers guaranteed that the young historian was led onto the path to Crowland Abbey, regardless of which Rambler he asked?

Answers maybe given in the comments section of this post or sent directly to the Contributions Secretary, RSAR via his email or on a postcard to the 'Contributions Secretary C/O Norwich Antiquarians'. All entries to be marked ‘Trinity Bridge Riddle'

+Many Coats+


  1. I believe that the Contributions Secretary might be inclined to ask, "Where's the map?"

  2. In truth a map might be the order of the day on this one Esotericus, although the honorable Secretary would need one that guided him through both the ins and outs of both early British folklore and ancient middle eastern riddles!

  3. Sapiens Qui Prospicit: the one who is wise looks ahead.

  4. Indeed sir and just remember this:
    You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must be Lead!
    J R Unstead (Desceased)

  5. The Answer...
    All the young historian need do is ask either Rambler
    which path the other Rambler would say led to Crowland Abbey and regardless of whom he asked, he must take the opposite path to the one they say. That's because if he asks the truthful Rambler he will simply repeat the other's lie and if he asks the liar he will say the opposite to what the truthful Rambler would have said. Which ever Rambler he asks, they will always point to the wrong path!

    But what of the handsome young historian? I do not know if he answered correctly or no, but he did disappear that day and was never heard of again. And there are some as say that he must of chosen the wrong path from the bridge, that he was taken but the blubbery-lipped demons. But there are others perhaps better informed who say the meeting upon Trinity bridge was a test and that the boy passed and that now he too is a Ragged Rambler. That he to delves into the interesting and unusual, the tragic and comic from long, ago. That he too is destined forever more to tramp the boundaries between then and now

    +Many Coats+