The Traitor of St Benet’s Abbey.
Our next port of call was a mere 30 minutes away from Ludham Bridge where we had stopped to take on water and groceries. We carried on travelling down the river Ant until we reached the mouth of the river where it joins the river Bure, here we bore left and soon reached a mooring spot in front of St Benet’s Abbey.
Built on meadow land close to the river Bure and covering a large area at one time, St Benet’s abbey must have been an impressive sight. It has existed in one form or another since 690 AD and although a religious building it was constructed as a fortress, and the Benedictine monks who lived here were expected to take up arms to protect the place should the situation arise.
That situation arose in 1016 AD when King Canute arrived from Denmark with his army and laid siege to the abbey. The Abbot of the abbey had thought ahead and brought cattle inside the walls of the abbey so there was no shortage of food, this caused a stalemate as the siege went on for two months, in the end King Canute set fire to the abbey and although badly damaged he rebuilt it afterwards and allowed the monks and also the same abbot to continue on here.
Peace reigned once more for many years until William the conqueror laid siege to the abbey. The abbey was so well fortified and the resistance from the monks and the local population was so strong that William was on the verge of giving up as the siege had gone on for more than four months. However William sent one of his soldiers with a white flag of truce to try to bring the siege to an end, while no one was looking the soldier slipped a note to the janitor monk asking for his presence in front of the besieging General with the promise of his safety.
The monk whose name was Brother Veritas took the abbots response to the Generals demands which was a refusal to surrender the following day.
On hearing this the General threatened to put everyone under the sword when and if he eventually took the monastry. Brother Veritas was told that as an act of submission if the monks were to leave a door open that night allowing the troops to take the monastry everyone would be spared. However Brother Veritas went one better and said if he was to leave a door open himself would the General agree to make him Abbot after the monastry was taken, the General readily agreed to this. And so the monastry was taken the following day due to Brother Veritas’s treachery, the soldiers filled the great chapel while the Friars lined the gallery and Brother Veritas was then brought in and a sergeant placed a cope around his shoulders, then an Abbot’s mitre was placed on his head and a crozier was put in his hand. Then to everyone’s suprise the newly crowned Abbot was dragged away by the soldiers to a gibbet. However before the monk was gibbeted a noose was placed around his neck and he was hung from the lowest window of the bell tower.
Dr Sampson was moored at this site on the 25th of May in 1928 when he witnessed along with other members of his crew the monastry rematerialise and the events of the hanging play themselves out. Although locals are aware of what takes place on this date each year they are reluctant to speak about it, however it was witnessed by the crew of the Puffin I in 1906 and the owner was a close neighbour of Dr Sampson so they were able to compare notes as to what they had seen. Along with the crew of the Puffin I at least three other parties have witnessed these terrible events unfolding.