What is the Hereward Trail ? The Hereward Trail is not one but a series of heritage routes designed to explore the legend of the folk hero Hereward the Wake across Hereward Country. Hereward Country is the term we use to describe the region that encapsulates the places and sites in history and legend where Hereward's exploits are recorded. That region is mostly the Fenlands of Eastern England (see map) but it also represents other spots outside of the Fens where either his exploits are recorded or his legend is represented.
Hereward 'Roaming the Fens' - The Five Monasteries Tour
The Five Monasteries Tour
The first of the trails presented by the WakeHereward Project is The Five Monasteries Tour which will see Hereward 'Roaming the Fens' across the five monastery sites in the Hereward legend. Differing stories prevail from each former monastery site and can be heard at the locations as they exist today, during the month of June, through appearances by Hereward himself performed by the re-enactor Rory G, who will be 'Roaming the Fens' on the dates and times listed here:
Friday 2nd June: 'Hereward Rising!'
Peterborough Cathedral 10am to 11am
(sat-nav: pe1 1xs)
Ely Cathedral 1pm to 2pm
(sat-nav: cb7 4dl)
Saturday 17th June: 'Celebrate the Fens Day'
Ramsey Abbey Gatehouse 10am to 11am
Thorney Abbey 11:30am to 12 Noon
(pe6 0qa) &
Thorney Museum 12 to 12:30pm
Crowland Abbey 1pm to 2pm
Hereward Rising! Friday 2nd June
The first two former monastery sites featured on the Hereward Trail - Five Monasteries Tour are at Peterborough Cathedral and Ely Cathedral and the day you can meet Hereward there and hear about his exploits from the great warrior himself is on Friday 2nd June. This date has been selected because it is one of the few dates we know about with any kind of certainty as to where Hereward was and what he was up to, and it marks him as both hero and villain. We celebrate this date in the calender as Hereward Rising!
Hereward Rising! at Peterborough 2nd June 1070
The Hereward Rising! event commemorates the day that Hereward ransacked the monastery at Peterborough with a flotilla of Danish 'Viking' Housecarles on the 2nd June 1070. Hereward had heard that King William was replacing the deceased Abbot Brand with a Norman abbot, 'a harsh man' named Turold.
Abbot Turold had been the Abbot of Malmesbury and the monks under him had suffered terribly at his hands. Hearing that Turold had arrived at Stamford with 160 mounted knights, Hereward arranged a pre-emptive strike on the monastery.
In a dawn raid the ships fared into Peterborough from their base at Ely, but the monastery was completely fortified and the monks would not allow Hereward and the Danes entry and began hurling rocks and boiling water down onto the raiders. Incensed Hereward's forces burned down all the houses and buildings in Peterborough except for one and burned down the Bolhithe Gate and entered the monastery precincts. When they gained entry they stripped the monastery bare of almost all its gold and silver and valuables and even kidnapped all of the monks, except for one who was left laying in the infirmary, before faring back to Ely in their ships.
When Abbot Turold arrived the next morning with his knights the monastery known as the 'Golden Borough', because it was one of the wealthiest monasteries in all England, lay in ruins. Hereward claimed he was rescuing the monastery's valuables from the hands of the Normans, as earlier in the year King William had ordered the plundering of all of the monasteries in England. In the eyes of the church Hereward was viewed as the devil incarnate and he and his followers were excommunicated. To this day Hereward is viewed more as a villian at Peterborough, while at Ely, where he returned with his ill-gotten gains, he is viewed as a hero for his defence of the folk of the Fenlands against the oppressive rule of King William 'the Conqueror.
Hereward's Stand at Ely
Hereward with his Band of Rebels and the Danish Housecarles returned to Ely flush with gold and silver ornaments and crosses in what appears to be the last 'Viking' raid on an English monastery. According to the chronicler the Danes did not stay much longer at Ely and made off with much of the valuables back to Denmark, leaving Hereward's forces to defend the Isle of Ely themselves against the oncoming might of the Conqueror and his army of knights. The story goes that one of the Danish ships laden with gold valuables sunk on its way across the North Sea back to Denmark, though some of the hoard they stole from Peterborough made it to a church in Denmark.
Rory G as Hereward_ Hereward re-enactor Rory G will be outside Peterborough Cathedral from 10am to 11am on the morning of the 2nd June and in the early afternoon outside Ely Cathedral from 1pm to 2pm where he will regale tales of his exploits of when he became England's last man standing against William the Conqueror. As Hereward he can also be seen on 'Celebrate the Fens Day' at Ramsey Abbey Gatehouse, Thorney Abbey and Crowland Abbey on Saturday 17th June.
Read about those dates when Hereward will be 'Roaming the Fens' and how to win a cash prize of £100 for your school class by entering the 'Spot the Monastery Site' competition by scrolling further down this page.
The map here shows the close proximity of the Five Monasteries for you to come and Tour by car. There are train stations at Peterborough and Ely but not at Ramsey, Thorney or Crowland. Click here for the
'Hereward Trail - Five Monasteries Tour' Transport and Travel information.
'Celebrate the Fens Day' Saturday 17th June
Ramsey Abbey Gatehouse 10am
Thorney Abbey 11:30am (and then Thorney Museum 12 to 12:30pm)
Crowland Abbey 1pm
Legend has it that Hereward was buried at Crowland Abbey next to his wife Torfrida some four years after her death, but we cannot be sure of where or when. An 18th Century Antiquarian claims to have seen Hereward's tomb in the North Transept of the abbey, but the same man claimed to have identified the grave of Robin Hood. And while the Crowland Chronicle states Hereward was buried at Crowland that text is soundly discredited as a historical source, while Gaimar claims Hereward was killed in France fighting for the Conqueror. Nevertheless, Crowland does have its Hereward moments, one of which is that he held land from Crowland Abbey as stated in Domesday Book and it is offered that he was perhaps an officer holding responsibility for security of the monastery. We speculate the legend and draw on the known facts when Hereward returns to Crowland Abbey at 1pm on Saturday 17th June, which is the date of 'Celebrate the Fens Day'. And what better reason than to come out on the Hereward Trail - Five Monasteries Tour and in particular on a day when Hereward can be seen at these locations. Hereward's association with Ramsey Abbey and Thorney Abbey are even more obscure than his links with Crowland Abbey and to hear about those you will have to come along on the day and listen in person. So, come on out and enjoy the Fenland landscape and
'Take the Hereward Trail across Hereward Country in search of Hereward!'
See you there...!