[Transcribed from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland 1868]
by Colin Hinson ©2013

"THORNEY, (or Thorney Abbey)a parish and liberty in itself, but locally in the hundred of Wisbech, Isle of Ely, county Cambridge, 9 miles north-east of Peterborough, and 86 north of London. It is a station on the Peterborough and Lynn branch of the Midland Counties railway. This place, which is situated close to the Catwater, on the road from Wisbech to Peterborough, was formerly called Ankeridge, from a monastery for hermits or anchorites founded here in 662 by Saxulf, first abbot of Peterborough; having been wasted by the Danes, it was refounded in 972 by Ethelwold, bishop of Winchester, as a Benedictine abbey, the abbots of which attained to great power, were mitred, and sat in parliament. At the Dissolution the revenue was stated to be £411 12s. lid. The only remains of this edifice are portions of the parish church, a gateway, and some ruined walls.

The village, which had formerly a market, has recently been much improved. It stands on an eminence, and in 1861 had a population of 2,219. Extensive sanitary works have recently been effected by the Duke of Bedford, who has expended £400,000 on the drainage of the surrounding fen lands, which were until recently relieved of their superfluous waters by the uncertain help of windmills. The town is now well drained, and supplied with gas and water. There is a literary society with a good library. Petty sessions are held here. Upwards of 3,000 sheep are sent annually from this district to the London market. The living is a donative curacy in the diocese of Peterborough, value £250. The church, dedicated to St. Botolph, was originally the nave of the conventual church built about 1128, and was considerably enlarged in 1841, when the interior was refitted. The east window is in 21 compartments. In the churchyard are several tombs of French refugees, who were invited to settle here in the 16th century by the Duke of Bedford, who employed them in the drainage of the fens. The register, which commences in 1650, is partly in French. There are schools and almshouses supported by the Duke of Bedford. Fairs are held annually on 1st July and 21st September for horses and cattle, and on Whit-Monday for pleasure.

[Transcribed and edited information from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868]


  • The Monumental Inscriptions for the churchyard of the French Church are recorded for the years 1676-1743 and these records can be found in the Cambridgeshire Archives and Huntingdon Record Offices.


  • The Census Records from 1841-1891 can be found in the Cambridgeshire Archives, Huntingdon Record Office and Wisbech Library. In addition the 1851 Census for Thorney is available in full transcript form, on microfiche, from the Cambridgeshire Family History Society Publications list (search)



Church History

  • "The church of St. Mary and St. Botolph, originally that of the abbey and 290 feet in length, but now only 117, was rebuilt in 1089-1108, and in 1638 fitted up as a parish church; it is in mixed styles of Norman and Perpendicular, and consists of nave of five bays with triforiam, transepts, north and south porches and two western turrets, one of which contains a clock and one bell: the transepts were added in 1840 and 1841, under the direction of Mr. Blore: the stained east window represents, in 21 compartments, copied from windows in Canterbury Cathedral, the reputed miracles of Thomas a Becket: the organ, erected at a cost of £320, was enlarged in 1858; at a further cost of £220, defrayed by Francis, 7th Duke of Bedford K.G.: the west front, of massive Norman work, has square flanking towers, surmounted by panelled turrets of Perpendicular date, reaching a height of 82 feet: above the west window are niches with images and elaborate panelling: in 1888 the interior was restored and reseated with open oak benches, the galleries removed, the outlay, amounting to £2,910, being defrayed at the sole cost of the late duke: there are 370 sittings, 84 being free. The earliest register dates from 1653. There is also a register of baptisms in the French language, which, together with a monumental tablet in the church to the memory of its first French minister, records the fact that there was here a congregation of French Protestants, who had fled from the persecutions in their native country."
  • "Here is a Primitive Methodist chapel, seating 130 persons. The Abbey rooms, opposite the church, used for meetings and entertainments, will hold 200 persons."
    [Kelly's Directory - 1900]

Church Records

  • Church of England
    • Thorney, St. Mary and St. Botolph: Records of baptisms 1653-1940, marriages 1654-1951, burials 1654-1963 and banns for 1754-1908 reside in the Cambridgeshire Archives, indexed transcripts exist for baptisms 1653-1940, marriages 1654-1837 and burials 1654-1837, transcripts also exist for baptisms and burials 1846-61. The indexed transcripts of the registers are available in full transcript form, on microfiche, from the Cambridgeshire Family History Society Publications list (search). Bishop's Transcripts for the years 1868-71 can be found in the Cambridge University Library.
  • French Church
    • Records exist in the Cambridge and Huntingdon Record Offices for baptisms 1655-1727 these exist as indexed transcripts as well.
  • Methodist
    • Methodist Church: Indexed transcripts exist for Thorney Methodist baptisms 1872-1991 at both Cambridge and Huntingdon Record Offices.
    • Primitive Methodist Church: Records also exist for the Peterborough Primitive Circuit of which Thorney is part.
    • Wesleyan Methodist Church: Records also exist for the Peterborough Wesleyan Circuit of which Thorney is part.






You can see maps centred on OS grid reference TF280044 (Lat/Lon: 52.622284, -0.110554), Thorney which are provided by:


Military History


Probate Records

  • Two courts cover Thorney as follows:
    • Peculiar Court of Thorney: Its jurisdiction only covered the parish of Thorney. Records are at the Cambridgeshire Archives for wills 1774-1857, administrations 1774-1857, inventories 1754-1857. There is no published index to these records. After 1649 some wills and administrations are to be found in the records of the Archdeaconry Court of Huntingdon, see entry below.
    • Commisary Court of the Bishop of Lincoln and of the Archdeacon in the Archdeaconry of Huntingdon: Although this court mainly covers Huntingdonshire areas some wills and adminstrations of the Cambridgeshire peculiars of Isleham and Thorney are found among its records
      • Records are held at the Huntingdon County Record Office. These cover wills, 1479-1858, administrations, 1560-1614, 1662-1857, inventories, 1508-1831. An index of wills in the Bishop's registers, 1320-1547 and in probate records, 1506-1652, 1660-1700 have been published and can be found in the Index Library of the British Records Society, volumes 28, 41 & 101, miscellaneous wills, 1549-1730 can be found in volume 57 and administrations, 1540-1659, in volume 52.


  • Land Tax: records were compiled afresh each year and contain the names of owners and occupiers in each parish, but usually there is no address or place name. These records reside in the Cambridgeshire Archives for the years 1798-99, these cover the Duke of Bedford only.