Team unearth evidence to support swordfight legend

A SWORDFIGHT between two men on a bridge in Mablethorpe ended in tragedy with both being killed.

This is not a modern day brawl, but rather a historical incident which supposedly occurred five hundred years ago.

Evidence of this local legend has been uncovered by Mablethorpe film group Visions who have searched library archives, checked online records and followed a trail of clues which have taken them from Mablethorpe library to a disused medieval church.

John Gregory chairman of Visions said: "We have been looking into the legend of a duel on a bridge in which two earls were fatally wounded and then buried in the town."

Dramatically, he added: "We have found the bridge it took place on and located the earls tombs."

The bridge, referred to as Earl's Bridge, is on Alford Road in Mablethorpe. Centuries ago the bridge was a dirt track over a dyke separating the boundaries of Mablethorpe and Maltby le Marsh.

John said: "I believe the knight Sir Thomas FitzWilliam was one of those involved. It is not known why he fought with the other earl but we believe it was over land."

"It is also said that Stain Lane, which runs parallel with Alford Road, got its name because one of the earls was found dead there in a pool of blood. It seems he had tried to get home but died on the way."

Their investigations took in a report written by Thomas Allen in 1843 entitled The History of the County of Lincoln.

In it Allen recounted how All Saints church at Maltby contained: "The stone effigy of a knight clad in armour, traditionally reported to be one of the earls killed in a combat on the bridge between this parish and Mablethorpe."

John explained how the team then visited St Mary's church in Mablethorpe where they located a tomb with a metal helmet above it.

He referred to a sign on the wall there which reads: 'The Memorial is probably that of Thomas Fitzwilliam who died in 1494. Legend says that two Saxon earls fought until both were killed at Earls Bridge on the Mablethorpe-Maltby boundary and that one is here and the other in Maltby church.'

On a visit to the disused church at Maltby, believed to have been first built around 700 years ago, the team could not enter as they were confronted with 'keep out' signs warning of the church's unsafe structure.

John said: "We believe the tomb and statue of the second earl are still there, and that his skeleton may even still reside within. But until we can get inside nobody really knows for sure."

He added: "But it all adds to the mystery of what happened."

* Do you have evidence relating to this local legend? Email gemma.gadd@jpress.co.uk