The Tankyard Buildings, Thorney

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'The Tankyard Buildings, Thorney' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'The Tankyard Buildings, Thorney' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'The Tankyard Buildings, Thorney' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'The Tankyard Buildings, Thorney' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'The Tankyard Buildings, Thorney' page

Now the Bedford Hall

By Sean Riches

The Bedford Hall is the name by which many people know the magnificent “Jacobean” style building found in Thorney to the north of the traffic lights.  The use of most of the building as a village hall and social resource for the villagers is a relatively recent development, as the Bedford Hall was only named and opened in April 1981.


Design & Construction

It was erected by order of Francis, 7th Duke of Bedford, as part of his model village.  The architect was Samuel Sanders Teulon, who had been born in 1812 in Greenwich, London.  He Set up his own architectural practice in 1838 in London.  From 1840, after he won a major design competition, he was engaged to build churches and houses in many parts of England.


From 1848, Teulon planned the redevelopment of Thorney to make it the ideal rural Settlement which the Duke wished to see.  An 1851 plan in the Thorney Heritage Museum shows some of his original ideas for the services and buildings, though these were later changed.


The materials for the Tower are brick and dressed stone, which were brought by water at a cost of £206 11s 9d.  In the commemorative programme for the opening of the Bedford Hall in 1981, the approximate cost of the building is given as £22446 2s 8d.  £150 4s 9d was spent on sheet lead and £85 3s 9d on excavating the ground.


Much of this expenditure would have been on the aspects of the building which are not obvious to us now: the massive pyramidal brick foundations, for instance, arches in the cellar of the tower, and the steel reinforcing bands every five courses of the main tower walls which hold it firm.  Lime mortar, rather than cement, allows slight movements to be absorbed by the building.  There is also a voucher recording the fee of £15 paid to a surgeon, John Clapham, who attended to workers from the tower during its construction.


The Water Tower

The most obvious feature of the Tankyard is the great brick tower which provided water to the village.  A temporary raised tank was planned in 1850 while the current building was not built until 1855. A large Cast iron tank is still in situ on the sixth floor of the tower, though no longer provides water.  The tower reaches 96 feet and there are 116 steps to reach the top.


Water was pumped to Thorney via the ThorneyRiver from the Nene, and left to Settle and be purified before being pumped to the top of the tower to give a gravity-fed supply to the houses.  The Duke’s plan also included sewage management, as part of an integrated estate.  The two engines (built by Neilson & Co., Glasgow) which pumped the water and sewage were installed in the huge cellars of the building.   There were also two boilers and four more pumps.  The engines were removed for scrap.


Out Buildings

Other parts of the Tankyard complex included a blacksmith’s shop, other craftsmen’s workshops, a timber store and a sawmill.  The western end of the building was the engineer’s house, a typical Thorney two storey cottage with Cast iron windows which was converted and opened in 1987 to form the ThorneyHeritageMuseum.  The fire station (built in the early 1970s) and the North Level Drainage Board, along with Tiger Racing, still provide work and services for the village.


The clock was installed by Smith & Co. of Derby in 1854 ad is still serviced by the company’s successors twice a year.  The bell can be heard across the fields and allotments chiming the quarter hours. 


Recent Times

In the mid 1970s, the Peterborough City Council, which had responsibility for the building, wished to demolish it.  After it was listed Grade II for its architectural interest, it was made weatherproof and arrangements were made for Thorney Parish Council to lease it for a peppercorn rent of £1 per year.  Work to clean out and restore the building started at the end of the 1970s and it was opened on 4 April 1981.  An inaugural concert was also presented the next weekend.


The Hall is now available for hire (contact Beverley on 01733 270394).


Further details about the Victorian period redevelopment of Thorney are available in the ThorneyHeritageMuseum, and also in a book “Victorian Thorney” by Alan and Christine Teulon, available from the Museum.

This page was added on 16/12/2009.

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