The rich fertile lands around Peterborough have drawn people to the area for centuries. Similarly, the city and soke has offered a safe haven to migrants fleeing persecution, war or economic hardships. The Huguenots arrived in the Peterborough area, specifically around Thorney, during the seventeenth century. They were part of a group of people who had been subject to religious persecution in France for following Protestant Christianity in a country that was mainly Catholic.
They fled France and were welcomed in many countries in Europe thanks to high rates of literacy and their skilled craftsmen. In Thorney they worked under the leadership of Cornelius Vermuyden to assist in draining the flat but boggy lands of the fens and were rewarded with fertile farmland.
Records of the Huguenot population can be found in church records from Thorney. They were said to be the force behind the reuse of the Thorney Abbey church of St Andrew and St Botolph, with services beginning in 1652 and records in 1653. The Huguenots continued to speak in French for many years, so the church services and their records were also in French
Many French surnames are still common in and around the area, and include Fovargue and Lefevre References to the Huguenots can also be found in local place names including French Drove.
Thorney Museum is a good place to learn more about the Huguenots and view transcripts of their records.
Thorney Society, 17th
Century: The Earls of Bedford and early settlers, Thorney Museum <http://www.thorney-museum.org.uk/17th-century> [accessed 4 March 2021].
The Huguenot Society, Huguenot History <https://www.huguenotsociety.org.uk/history.html> [accessed 4 March 2021].
The rich fertile lands around Peterborough have drawn people to the area…