The Old Post Office, Thorney
Thorney is a village in the very north of Cambridgeshire, about 8 miles east of Peterborough, though it has as yet escaped being swallowed into the swollen townscape of that city. Thorney is on the A47 out of the city, just to the east of the Cat's Water which marks the boundary between the Isle of Ely in Cambridgeshire, and the Soke of Peterborough in Northamptonshire. Just to the west, within the Soke, is the village of Eye.
The parish church is the old abbey church, known as The Abbey Church of St Mary the Virgin and St Botolph. Thorney Abbey was an early Anglo-Saxon foundation, and was later regularised into a Benedictine monastery. The monastery was dissolved at the Reformation but the church has been retained as the village's parish church.
Tracing its roots back to around 500 AD when it started out as a Saxon settlement, the existence of Thorney Abbey made the settlement an important ecclesiastical centre for a long period of time, and the village is still the most northerly point of the Diocese of Ely.
Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries the estate became crown property and it was granted to John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford in 1550. At this time only a few hundred acres of the land was cultivatable. In the 1630s Francis Russell, 4th Earl of Bedford spent a reputed £100,000 draining the fens, bringing almost all of the estate and parish of nearly 18,000 acres into agricultural use. A community of Walloon refugees, originally from areas of Flanders that are now northern France, was settled here in 17th century with their own church and minister, employing the ruins of the abbey for services in their own language. The Walloons had expertise in fenland drainage. The Russell family's rents from the Thorney estate increased from £300 in 1629 to £10,000 by the early 19th century. The family, whose main seat was at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire, occasionally resided at the manor house in Thorney village, which was known as Abbey House. The estate was sold to the tenants in 1910.
Much of the village was built at the command of the Dukes of Bedford, who wished to have a healthy place in which their estate workers could live. In the mid 19th century many buildings were added to the designs of the architect Samuel Teulon, himself a descendant of Huguenots. This explains the uniformity of the housing in the original centre of Thorney.
The windmill on the outskirts dates from 1787 and contains six floors. It originally had six sails. During the war 4 German prisoners of war used it as a base during the day whilst working the land.
The village had a railway station on the old Peterborough to Wisbech line. The station and the line were closed in the early 1960s. Little evidence to suggest a rail link now remains, apart from level crossing gates at the side of Station Road. These gates are apparently not the original ones, the original being much larger.
The Thorney bypass opened in Winter 2005. The opening of the bypass has made the village much quieter.
Its only school is the Duke of Bedford Primary School which is located next to Wisbeach Road.
Wind energy in Thorney
In 2010, planning permission was given for two modern wind turbines on land at French Farm, near French Drove in Thorney parish.
In 2011 REG Windpower announced plans to install a further four wind turbines at the French Farm site. The plans are currently at consultation stage.
On 28 August 1976, A United States Air Force, Lockheed C-141 Starlifter :67-0006 on a flight from McGuire Air Force Base to RAF Mildenhall. The aircraft entered bad weather and the pilots lost control of the aircraft then crashed near the village. The accident killed all 18 passengers and crew on board.
A memorial is maintained on Thorney Dyke, for the lost aircrew.
| ("Wikimedia Commons" has material|
about Thorney, Cambridgeshire)
- Thorney Parish Council
- Thorney Museum
- Thorney Football Club
- Thorney Rugby Club
- Parish history (from the Victoria County History) at British History Online
- Thorney Abbey Fields Community dig
- Some of Thorney's Huguenots