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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.





The First Farmers of the Neolithic (New Stone Age)

4000 - 2500 BC

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Farming arrived in the Peterborough area around 4000 BC. The first farmers were a mix of in-comers from Europe and local people who had acquired the new skills of agriculture and animal husbandry. They grew wheat, barley and oats and kept cattle, sheep and pigs. Their farms – and several are known - were mostly confined to the east of Peterborough, around Fengate, Whittlesey and Eye. They consisted of small oval houses, within garden-like plots where crops were grown. Animals were kept in larger open areas away from the crops. Pigs would have roamed the woodlands around the farms. They buried their dead beneath mounds, known as barrows, or in open graves. The first farmers introduced pottery-making to Britain and also produced fine flint tools with long, knife-like blades. By 3000 BC they had felled most of the trees that grew in the area and the landscape was dominated by large, open pastures.





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A ‘Titanic’ Loss of Life

1912

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In April 1912 the eleven members of the Sage family set off to start a new life in Florida as pecan farmers. Unfortunately, the boat they sailed on was the Titanic.

The Peterborough Connection

John and Annie Sage were originally from Hackney in London. They moved to Norfolk where they ran a pub, the Bentinck Arms in West Lynn. In 1902 they moved to Peterborough, and lived at 237 Gladstone Street, where they kept a small bakery and shop. In 1910 John decided on another change; he and his eldest son George went off to Canada to scout out the possibility of the family emigrating there. They worked as waiters in the dining cars of the Canadian Pacific Railway, but also found time to visit Florida. So impressed was he, that John bought a fruit farm in Jacksonville, Florida.

Preparing to Leave

On his return to Peterborough in the  autumn of 1911, the family prepared to leave England. However, not all family members were enthusiastic about the move. The Sage's eldest daughter, Stella, was loathed to leave her many friends behind, and John's wife, Annie, didn't welcome the move as she felt settled in Peterborough. She was also concerned that her daughter Dolly had narrowly escaped drowning a couple of years before and she superstitiously feared that meant she was doomed to eventually meet her end in water. John insisted on the move however, and the family finally agreed.

The Ship

The Sage family originally planned to sail on the Philadelphia, an American Line ship operating out of Liverpool. These plans had to change as the ship was laid up in dock due to a coal strike. They booked onto the RMS Titanic out of Southampton on her maiden voyage instead, as third class passengers on a family ticket, number 2343.

Disaster

On the night of 14/15 April 1912 the ship struck an iceberg, and the entire family died in the sinking. Some witnesses reported that one daughter was offered a place in the life boats but refused to go without the rest of the family. Only one body was recovered, that of Anthony William Sage. This was the single biggest loss of life from one family in the disaster. Family members: John George Sage, Annie Elizabeth Sage, Stella (born 1891), George John (born 1892), Douglas (born 1894), Frederick (born 1895), Dorothy Florence (born 1897), Anthony William (born 1899), Elizabeth Ada (born 1901), Constance Gladys (born 1904) and Thomas Henry (born 1911)      





The First Neolithic Lowland Hut Built

3000BC

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The first people to discover the benefits of Fengate were Neolithic farmers in around 3,000BC or 5,000 years ago. Fengate is to the east of modern Peterborough, now mainly industrial land, but perfect farmland in the past. The neolithic people farmed the area and built a small rectangular lowland hut. The hut was wooden and around seven metres square, so large enough to be a home, although there is no evidence to prove this. However, a few years after the hut was discovered, archaeologists found a family of Neolithic skeletons in a grave nearby. It is likely that they were the people who lived in the hut, or at least used it. The adult male in the group of skeletons appears to have been murdered: was he killed defending his wooden hut? The hut is the only Neolithic example found in the Fens, but similar huts have been discovered in other parts of England, primarily in the south and east.