Historic Peterborough ‘time capsule’ given Grade II listed status

Canary Cottage, Knarr Farm, Thorney
Canary Cottage, Knarr Farm, Thorney

A Fenland cottage which is a familiar sight for those travelling around the north-east of Peterborough along the A47 near Thorney has been given listed status.

On the advice of Historic England, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport have announced that the local landmark at Knarr Farm, known as Canary Cottage, is to receive Grade II listed status. Historic England have labelled it “a time capsule, showing what Fenland agricultural life was like.”

Canary Cottage, Knarr Farm, Thorney

Canary Cottage, Knarr Farm, Thorney

The rare mid-18th century relic gained the local name ‘Canary Cottage’ in the early 20th century, when the owners at the time, the Dixon-Spain family, colour-coded buildings across their estate with the same shade to mark their property. Since then, the worker’s cottage has displayed the canary yellow tone on its doors and window frames. Such colour coding can still be seen across the famous turquoise-painted Rothschild estate in Ashton, near Oundle.

The L-shaped Canary Cottage housed farm workers for over 250 years, offering basic living conditions, compete with an outside toilet, open fire, mains water and a gas powered water heater. It is believed to have been built shortly after the drainage of the Fens.

Renovated in around 1960, the cottage was home to Ken and Thelma Wright, who met as workers on the farm in the late 1950s and spent their first five years of marriage there. However upon their departure in 1965 it became uninhabited, and has remained so ever since.

Tony Calladine, Regional Director for Historic England in the East of England said: “I am pleased that the Secretary of State has agreed with our recommendation to list Canary Cottage. By protecting it we are helping to ensure it can be enjoyed by future generations, helping them to understand life in the Fens in times gone by.”

Councillor Steve Allen, Peterborough City Council’s cabinet member for housing and a ward councillor for Thorney, said: “I am sure many residents in Thorney will be delighted to hear that Canary Cottage now has listed status and will be preserved for years to come. It is a unique and historic landmark, treasured by the local community and a distinctive symbol of our agricultural heritage.”