Thorney was an island thickly covered with vegetation, standing just a few metres above sea level, when a few early Christians settled here for a life of prayer. Eventually, a huge Abbey was built, of an amazing size and power. Thorney monks became famous for illustrated medieval manuscripts.
Power passed to the King during the Dissolution, then by the King’s gift to the Earls and Dukes of Bedford.
In the seventeenth century drainage of the Fens became important. Settlers came from overseas to settle the drained land in the time of Francis, the 4th Earl of Bedford, and then during Cromwell’s Protectorate. The story of the village continues through Victorian times, when new cottages were built by the 7th Duke for his agricultural labourers: he has been called one of the first benevolent landlords.
Thorney has been affected by wars, though not necessarily in the same way as other villages in England. Food was not scarce here and farming life continued, although Land Girls and prisoners of war replaced many of the farm labourers.
Thorney is still a distinctive village community, surrounded by productive farmland.
Come and see the history of the Fens at Thorney Museum……