Thorney Abbey Cambridgeshire is now the Church of St Mary and St Botolph


Thorney Abbey Place, Thorney, Peterborough PE6 0QA in the Cambridgeshire Fens Back to Cambridgeshire churches HERE
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Proud to supply images for the research into Thomas Becket for the Friends of Canterbury cathedral.

The most unusual building in Fenland. Thorney Abbey, now the church of St Mary and St Botolph stands tall within the village of Thirney and can be seen from a few miles away. From a distance, you could be fooled in thinkings its a castle of some kind.

Thorney village was once on the main front from Wisbech to Peterborough, with the A47 main road running through, I remember being stuck along that road on a Saturday trying to get to Peterborough for a day out with the family. It would take ages to cover just three miles. For the people living there it much of been hell. Eventually, the bypass was finsihed in 2005, giving everyone a much easier time.



A Perfect Arboretum Churchyard


Thorney churchyard covered in spring snowdrop flowers

England's new arboretums are our churches; they show all kinds of trees and flowers that once flourished around the local countryside, but due to humanmade issues they are mostly no longer seen.

You get a sense with this churchyard when driving to it, that is is small, looking from an artistic point of view it is one hard church to photograph, but when walking into the grounds, you soon get a feeling that there's a lot of nature here. I visited in the, and it was awash with snowdrops, but when you walk around to the east grounds, it opens into what could be called a full-on nature reserve. It will be one of the most significant untouched places in the area, and you can see that by the number of plants and flowers, I would say a perfect home for nature and one that may never be built on we hope.


West portal dated 1638, old English church architecture photography.

Long ago Fenland had great monasteries, in the very early days in Anglo Saxon Britain, the five that stood out were Peterborough, Ely, Ramsey, Crowland and Thorney. All that changed overnight thanks to Henry the VIII who dissolved the monasteries. It is stated that the Fens became a wasteland where food was grown to feed the rest of the UK and sadly nothing has changed but maybe for the worse.

There's been some form of settlement here since the mid-7th-century hermitage but destroyed by Viking invaders in the late 9th century. A Benedictine monastery was founded on these grounds in the 970s where a rebuilding programme followed the Norman Conquest of 1066.

Much more substantial buildings were erected in the 16th century, but most of those buildings have long been lost with no trace remaining. The nave was restored as the Parish Church of St Mary and St Botolph in 1638.

One of the key features is the beautiful porthole doorway, with beautifully carved stonework and the blind arcades with crusped arches and ogee heads. Above the massive half blocked five light west windows are the neck breaking carved figures all within niches with ogee arches and cusped heads.


Varved west front figures of saints in niches

Something that is a must-see is the beautiful arched tomb chest that can be found to the right of the path to the east churchyard, it is simply stunning. Its a 5 arches with a vaulted ceiling so if you take a look, don't forget to look inside it!

Highly carved stone tomb chest with Gothic arches, Fenland churchyards architecture.

Inside you get that immediate sense is substantial Norman architecture with rounded arched windows and feels, unlike any other build locally. What stands out is the vast east window where each window sections has a depiction of some kind.

When doing my research, I found there weren't that many photographs, so had guessed it is one of those tricky places for photos and I was right, trees and houses surround both sides.

Thorney Abbey Cambridgeshire is now the Church of St Mary and St Botolph