History of Saint Guthlac
St. Guthlac, to whom Fishtoft Church is dedicated, was the founder of Crowland Abbey and is regarded as the "Patron Saint of the Fens". He was born in A.D.673 to parents of the Mercian nobility, and was distantly related to Ethelbald who was to become king of Mercia. He became a soldier at 15 and served for nine years leading a band of followers against the king's enemies. After receiving a divine call he decided to abandon his wealth and military career and devote himself to religion.
For about two years he was at Repton Abbey in Derbyshire as a novice and was ordained priest later, by Hedda, Bishop of Lichfield & Leicester.
When Guthlac was about 26 he decided to live a life of greater solitude and austerity, and, setting off in a boat down the River Trent, he came eventually to the island of Crowland in the marshes. Here he built himself a hut and a little chapel, and for the rest of his life lived on simple and meagre fare, clad in the skins of animals, but happy amid the dreary wet wastes as a follower of God and a student of nature. His life in the Fens was marked by a sensitivity to nature with a respect for all God's creatures.
Here at Crowland, Guthlac was sought by men in need of spiritual counsel amongst whom was Ethelbald who was assured by Guthlac that he would gain the crown of Mercia without bloodshed. Guthlac died in A.D.714, and was buried in his own chapel, which soon became a place of pilgrimage. Two years later Ethelbald was crowned King of Mercia, and, true to a promise made to Guthlac if his prophecy would be fulfilled, built the first Abbey and a shrine in rememberance of his friend and counsellor.
The Lancet window in the chancel of the church at Fishtoft shows St. Guthlac with his foot on the devil and a whip in his hand. A small statue of St. Guthlac rests in the niche in the west face of the tower. It is of much eariler workmanship than the tower itself, and was probably removed from some other part of the old church. According to tradition so long as the whip remained in his hand the parish of Fishtoft would not be infested with rats or mise. The whip has long since disappeared but no record has ever been found of any major infestation of rodents.