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Cambridgeshire - Thorney

Kelly's Directory for Cambridgeshire, Norfolk & Suffolk, 1883, pp.117-118.

[Complete entry. Transcription Copyright © E.C."Paddy" Apling]

THORNEY is a parish, railway station and village, remarkable for its neatness, forming a liberty in itself, in the north part of the hundred of Witchford, Isle of Ely, on the north-west border of the county adjoining Northamptonshire, close to the Catwater, and surrounded by long drains leading to the port of Wisbech in the hundred of Wisbech, union & county court of Peterborough, rural deanery of Wisbech and in the peculiar archdiaconal jurisdiction of the Bishop of Ely; it is 86 miles from London by road, 14 west from Wisbech and 7 from Peterborough. The Midland branch railwayfrom Peterborough toLynn passes through the parish, and there are stations at Thorney and at Wryde, about 2½ eastward. The fens in the neighourhood were formerly relieved of their superfluous water by the very uncertain help of windmills; these have given way to a complete system of drainage, the cost of which exceeded £400,000. His Grace the Duke of Bedford, who is the sole proprietor, has erected extensive sanitary works, comprising gas, water and sewage works: the village has been partially rebuilt, and gas and water introduced to every house. The farmhouses and buildings are gradually being rebuilt of substantial materials, large improvements in this direction being carried out by the Duke, some of the chief roads, in several parts of the parish, are adorned with avenues of fine trees; the Causeway, Willow Hall and Whittlesey roads are most noticeable. The village is built on a snall eminence, eye, or island, and was anciently called Ankeridge, from a monastery for hermits or anchorites founded hereb by Saxulf, who became first abbot. This place took the name of Thorney fromm the number of thorns growing around; and in 870 the abbey had a prior and several monks: it was then wasted by the Danes, and in 972 restored by St. Ethelwold, Bishop of Winchester, as a house for Benedictine monks: the members of this house exerted themselves much, like most of their brethren, for bettering the neighbourhood; and William of Malmesbury. in the time of Henry II. speaks in glowing terms of the beauty of the place, and the productiveness of its fields, orchards and vineyards: the abbots attained to great power, were mitred, and sat in Parliament and at the Dissolution the income was stated to be £411 12s. 11d. yearly. That the abbey was a building of vast extent is manifest from the remains of foundations laid bare at sundry times at great distahces from the still remaining portion, which in 1638 was fitted up as the parish church, and is naned in honour of St. Mary the Virgin: the style of architecture is mixed Norman and Gothic, and the west front has considerable beauty: it has a nave, north and south transepts, with square tower containg a clock and 1 bell: in 1840 and 1841 considerable additions were made to the church, under the direction fo Mr. Blore: the east window is stained, in twenty-one compartments, representing the reputed miracles of of Thomas à Becket, and is a fac-simile of a window in Canterbury Cathedral; the altar-screen is of delicate and elaborate workmanship, and there are richly-illuminated tablets of The Commandments: the whole cost of these improvements was paid by the Duke of Bedford; and the tenantry, to mark their thankfulness for an act of such considerable munificence, bought by substription a fine organ, worth £320; the organ is now divided, and stands on either side of the west window; it contains several beautiful and very rich solo stops, amongst which are the Keraulophon clarionet and Rhor flute: the full combination of the whole organ, which containbs 24 stops, is exceedingly effective: the whole work was planned by Mr. Arthur Charles Thacker, the organist. Here is a register, commencing in the French language, and dated 1650, which establishes the fact as to a number of Protestants having settled here after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The living is a donative, yearly value £230, in the gift of the Duke of Bedford and held since 1853 by the Rev. Joshua Cantley B.A. of Jesus College, Cambridge. Formerly there was a hospital for poor persons, attached to the abbey. Here there is a small Primitive Methodist chapel. Here is a Literary Society, with news-room and library, also a public room. There is a right of market on Thursdays, which has fallen into disuse: and fairs for horses, chiefly of the heavy kind, are held on July 1st and September 21st, and are well attended by dealers and others from all parts of the kingdom. The whole of the parish is the property of the Duke of Bedford K.G. by grant of the Crown, formerly held by Francis, Earl of Bedford, who, by enterprising and energetic measures, drained a vast tract of low lands, called the "Bedford Level," at that time a mere waste. but which now ranks amongst the most fertile districts in the kingdom. The mansion here, formerly occpied by the then Earl of Bedford, is a fine country residence; the gardens afre tastefully laid out, and the neighbourhood affords some pretty views. The soil is a black vegetable loam; subsoil rich clay, sea deposit. The chief crops are wheat and oats, with due proportion of rich grazing land. The acreage of the parish is 17,500, rateable value, £28,720; the population in 1881 was 2,055.

WRYDE is 2½ miles east, with a station on the Midland railway, WILLOW HALL, 3 miles south-west; FRENCH DROVE, 2½ to 5 miles north; ENGLISH DROVE, a half to 2½ miles north; STONE BRIDGE, 2½ miles south; and THORNEY DYKE, 3 to 5 miles south-east

At WRYDECROFT is a Church of England school which is also used as a chapel; the Rev. Charles Robert Stebbing Elvin M.A. of Sidney Sussex Collage, Cambridge, is the curate.


Transcription Copyright ©E.C."Paddy" Apling, August, 2014


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