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"Any cottager without a pig..."

There is plenty of documentary evidence about rebuilding Thorney in the Victorian era, not least the fourteen foot long Town Plan of 1848. This was made by the office of Samuel Sanders Teulon, who had been given the commission to upgrade the village in terms of both the enlarged range of buildings and the quality and appearance of them. The cottages have usually been the most obvious architecture to visitors to Thorney on the main road. In the Museum we have some comments on how new residents found them, and we also have a book "The story of a great agricultural estate" published in 1897 by Herbrand, 11th Duke of Bedford, who owned the Thorney estate at the time.

In this book, the Duke looks back at his predecessors' work, from draining the Fens in the 1650s till the late Victorian era. He is very cross about the taxes he has to pay, and also about new housing and sanitation rules. He gives lots of details about the cottages though - such as how the girls' bedrooms should have fireplaces, but the boys' bedrooms should only have airbricks. He also says that any cottager not keeping a family pig is not taking full advantage of his opportunities.

The Duke's book includes a lot of data about population and about finances, and documents part of the growing pressure on landowners which would lead, in less than two decades, to the sale of many estates as the aristocracy were squeezed financially, even before World War I shook the foundations of the social order. Thorney was offered for sale in 1910 as the Russell family retrenched and held onto Woburn Abbey, Covent Garden, Bloomsbury and Tavistock in Devon. However, there is still apparently a guest bedroom at Woburn Abbey labelled "Thorney"!

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