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Thorney Monastery Granted to the Earl of Bedford

1550

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The site of the medieval Benedictine monastery of Thorney was granted by Henry VIII to John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford, beginning a connection with the Russell family which lasted until 1910, with the current primary school still called the “Duke of Bedford School”





Russell Family Sell Thorney

1910

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The Russell family, Earls and Dukes of Bedford, had control of the village and parish of Thorney from 1550 until 1910, when an ongoing agricultural depression made it a financial drain on their finances. The Crown offered to buy the land from the current Duke, but he felt they had severely undervalued the lot. The land, totalling approximately 20,000 acres with 220 holdings, was sold between 1909-1910, mostly to local tenant farmers. The Duke went on to sell much of his other lands and properties over the next few years.





A Snapshot of Thorney Wildlife Park

1975

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Thorney Wildlife Park existed in the 1970s and 80s. Run by the Roberts brothers, the park contained a wide mix of exotic animals. The animals ranged from lions and tigers to elephants, birds and kangaroos. Unlike modern zoos and parks, Thorney Wildlife Park closed during the winter season. It was during this closed season that video cameras visited the site. The park was situated in the grounds of Thorney Manor, originally home to the Dukes of Bedford. The house, featured in the film, was used as a cafe and as shelter during the winter. In 1971 a large fire in the house killed three monkeys valued at £150 each. Thankfully it was brought under control before the house or other animals were destroyed. The video attached is part of a 'Portrait of a Place' series, which was produced by Anglian Television and is now part of the East Anglian Film Archive. It shows several local people, some of the most note-worthy buildings and the wildlife park.