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Eye, Newborough and Thorney parish churches

History

Scaffolding on Thorney AbbeyIn 972, a Benedictine Abbey was founded at Thorney by St Aethelwold. Large stone buildings were constructed, similar to those at the nearby abbeys at Peterborough, Crowland, Ely and Ramsey.

The large Norman church, built from 1080, contained the relics of important saints such as St Botolph (brought from Boston) and these attracted visitors and their donations. Further buildings were added, particularly from 1305 to 1323. The Black Death of 1349 killed 13 of the monks and 100 people in their household.

At the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII, Thorney still had an abbot and twenty monks, and an annual value of £411 12s 11d. The monks were given pensions and the Abbot retired to Whittlesey. The Abbey was rapidly stripped of many building materials, some of which went to Cambridge to build college chapels, and the Abbey's church was reduced to a ruin. By 1550, the island of Thorney and its surrounding fens were granted to John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford.

The nave of the Abbey church survived, and was restored as the Parish Church of St Mary and St Botolph in 1638. The aisles were demolished and the arcade openings walled up. The present east end, in the Norman style, is by Edward Blore, and dates from 1840-1.

With thanks to the Thorney Parish Council website www.thorney.org