Thorney Dukes and Earls
During the seventeenth century, the Dukes of Bedford were closely involved in the venture of draining the Fens, using the continental expertise of Cornelius Vermuyden and many others from France and the Low Countries. The village of Thorney became a settlement where French and other languages were spoken, and the oldest monument in the Abbey is dedicated to Exekiel Danois, who ministered to the newcomers for twenty-one years.
Twenty thousand acres of excellent agricultural land were reclaimed and farmed by tenant farmers, some of whom had experience of using similar reclaimed land abroad. Abbey House was built and rebuilt as a residence for the Dukes' stewards, including major work finished in 1660 which very much resembles Thorpe Hall in Peterborough.
In 1780 John Byng of Torrington wrote of his visit to Thorney that it was "a little, melancholy out of the way place with one mean inn ... I now took my walk of survey to the Abbey of Thorney. This curious old clump of gothic solemnity must surely be only a small part of what was ... The figures over the West Window are much to be admired."
The village had a fair on 1st July (which Byng just missed) and 21st September each year, and a market was held until 1830