Thorney Abbey

Thorney Abbey

Thorney Abbey was located on the island of Thorney in The Fens of Cambridgeshire, England.


The earliest documentary sources refer to a mid-7th century hermitage that was destroyed by a Viking incursion in the late 9th century. A Benedictine monastery was founded in the 970s, and a huge rebuilding programme that followed the Norman Conquest of 1066.

The focus of the settlement shifted away from the fen edge in the late 12th or early 13th century, the earlier site becoming a rubbish dump, perhaps because of encroaching water. It was later reoccupied in the 13th and 14th centuries, when clay layers were laid down to provide firm foundation for the timber buildings. More substantial buildings were erected in the 16th century and these are thought to have been part of an expanding abbey complex, perhaps for use as guesthouses, stables, or craft workshops.

Much of Thorney Abbey disappeared without trace after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. It was surrendered in 1539 and its buildings were later demolished and the stone reused, except for part of the nave, which is now the Parish Church of St Mary and St Botolph.


Excavation was undertaken in 2002 prior to redevelopment by University of Leicester Archaeological Services. This focused on the northern edge of a former island where the abbey had once stood surrounded by fen wetland. As well as pottery, animal bone and roofing material, a large deposit of 13th and 14th century painted glass was found in and around the buildings. The intricate designs were of very high quality.


* Thomas, J. (2006). Thorney Abbey discovered? "Current Archaeology" 204: 619

External links

* [ Thorney Abbey - Genuki]
* [ Abbey of Thorney from VCH]
* [ Thorney Abbey - Catholic Encyclopedia]
* [ Thorney Abbey Church]

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