Cat no. 691

An A-Z of East Anglian Villages: Thorney

Running time5:29 Colour Sound 1975 Thorney, Cambridgeshire

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Thorney village and Thorney Wildlife Park.


Portrait of a PlaceTelevision

The film opens with shots of Thorney, named after the 'Isle of Thorns' in the Fenland. There are shots of the village and of Thorney Abbey. During the first century AD, monks built a House of Prayer in Thorney on what was known as Hermit's Isle. The Abbey was built in later years. Thorney was an estate village of the Duke of Bedford until 1910, when the Duke moved to Woburn. There are shots of the estate houses, offered to estate workers at £80 each. People were afraid to make this investment because they feared local unemployment. Elijah Fenn is filmed leaving his cottage and walking through the village. He has rented his home since c. 1914. He bought it during the 1960s for £450. There is a shot of his great grandchildren through the window of the home in which they live next door.

There is a shot of the Almshouses, now the village store, and of the former estate school, now a library and community centre. The former gas works and water tower are now the offices of the Parish council. There is a shot of Hugh Cave, Chairman of the Parish Council.The former Ducal home is now the home of Thorney Wildlife Park. Fred Chapman takes Jean Goodman on a tour. We see the lions, tigers, black bears and polar bears as Fred Chapman describes the animals. He explains that the lions and tigers seem happier in cold weather. (This is odd, considering their natural climate).

Thorney was found on a map in Nazi possession after the war. Willow Hall, a 17th century building, was a possible site for Nazi headquarters after the proposed invasion of Britain. There is a shot of the owner, Mrs. Stephenson. There are shots of Medicine Pond, so called because a local doctor passed its green water off as medicine. Farmer Wallace Law is filmed with an old agricultural implement by the pond. Jean Goodman relates another story about how a coach and horses was driven into the pond on a foggy night - and it's still there. The film ends with further shots of the village.

Featured People:

Hugh Cave, Chairman of the Parish Council; Fred Chapman, proprietor Thorney Wildlife Park ; Elijah Fenn, resident; Jean Goodman, reporter; Wallace Law, farmer; Mrs. Stephenson, owner, Willow Hall

Featured Organisations:

Thorney Wildlife Park

Featured Buildings:

The former Almshouses; The former home of the Duke of Bedford, now the headquarters of Thorney Wildlife Park ; The library and community centre; The offices of the Parish Council; Thorney Abbey; Willow Hall

BBC East

Jean Goodman

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