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On the island of Thorney

Sunday, 30 October 2022 at 20:33

Great west front on Dr John Dunn. You Tube video to be published next week.

A near final draft of the commentary that I will use in support of my next video. (Please allow for the fact that the text is penned very much with the spoken word in mind.)

On the island of Thorney

Welcome to the ride.

I’m motorcycling today in the north Cambridgeshire fens.

Before the fens were drained a number of islands stood isolated above the marshland waters, on outcrops of clay.

Thorney was built on one such island of clay east of Peterborough. And it’s to Thorney that I’m heading now.

The rivers were once the main channels of communication around here. They were far more reliable than the fen paths and causeways.

The fens have long since been drained and reclaimed as farmland, and now the islands are served by a network of roads, often undulating up and down because of peat shrinkage, which make for a fascinating way to explore this uniquely flat and former watery landscape.

There you have the fens of today, a vast expanse of arable farmland, dominated by great billowing clouds… a cloudscape more so than a landscape.

I am now motorcycling, across what four to five hundred years ago would have been marsh, reed beds and open water, traversed only by those with a deep understanding of the complex ways through.

There has been a Christian site on the island of Thorney since 662 AD. It was originally a place of hermits and later the site of a great abbey.

For me it is the trees that mark Thorney out from the fenland round about, more so than any discernible rise in the land, which, to be frank, I can barely notice.

There is a saintly air about the dappled approach to the village, amidst the shaded meadows and cloisters of ageing trees.

…And there’s the West Front of the vast abbey that once stood here; but this was before Henry VIII granted the abbey to the Earls of Bedford at the time of the dissolution. It’s now a tiny fraction of its former self.

The West Front of the great Abbey Church still stands, a massive slab of carved grey stone whose flanking towers are capped by pannelled turrets of a later age.

Across its face, high in their niches above the window arch, is a row of figures - nine hefty life-size saints, more buccaneer than saintly, who must have proved temptation sore to Cromwell’s musketeers as they passed this way. But not one has been disfigured. They’re way too high for even the best marksmen with a musket.

Look at the weird carved faces, figments of the stonemasons’ imagination.

1638, the date the old abbey church became Thorney’s parish church.

Let’s take a look inside.

The nave of the Abbey Church survived the robbing for stone after the dissolution, and was reconstructed as Thorney’s Parish Church of St Mary and St Botolph in 1638.

At this date the side aisles were cleared away and the openings between the pillars walled up.

Think of its former size. Where there is now side wall and windows, monks could once walk through, between roof-supporting pillars and under high stone arches into vast side aisles.

There’s a plan of the full extent of the abbey church in its heyday.

The areas shaded black are the walls of what remains of the church today.

I entered through the door on the left.

Above and below the black shaded walls you can see what were side aisles. The monks passed between the pillars, that is where walls and windows are today, to enter these side aisles.

Let’s look outside.

There you can see where the former open spaces between the pillars, that would have been inside the building, have been walled up to create external walls.

Here I am at the east end of the church, the opposite side to the great facade we saw at first, where there is a Victorian modification to the church done in the 1840s.

A little ancient stonework shows in some of the buildings of what would have been the Abbey precincts, although these have largely been built to the fashions of later times, no doubt using the stone from the abbey.

Now let’s see where the people of Thorney live today.

This is Wisbech Road in Thorney, around the corner from the great parish church.

I thought that I would ride along here to see an interesting housing development.

In the eighteen-thirties to fifties, The Duke of Bedford set up regiments of yellow-brick and purple-tiled cottages, each with two pairs of windows, a front door, a monstrous high gable (duly monogrammed and dated) and a set of tall chimneys apiece.

It is surely unique as a village street.

I would think these workers’ were outstanding by the standards of their time, and they have mellowed into homes with a special charm nearly two hundred years later.

When the fens were drained around this former island, the Duke needed people to work the agricultural estates that became viable. There were no villages for the workers in what were once inhabitable wetlands, so he had to create a village, the model village I’m riding through now.

So there you are. Thorney doesn’t extend much further ahead, so I’ll turn down here, back past the great abbey facade and off the island.

Out through the shaded meadows and cloisters of ageing trees…

and into the flat expanse of the fens and the cloudscape beyond…

And whilst I’m riding along, let me just thank you for sharing the ride with me, and also say that YouTube is my store of motorcycling memories.

So if you’d like to join me on another ride, just like and subscribe, perhaps even share, and you’ll then know when I’m next out and about.

For now, I’m done.


© John Dunn.

Ananke assaulted

Thursday, 27 October 2022 at 21:38

Eros on Dr John Dunn. Ananke assaulted
















     To a child Heaven-sent
           everything’s Amazing.
                Wild-eyed child,
before the cosmic Pharisee stamps his foot
of clay upon the eyes seen through not with.

      “Truth” is loveless,
the cold, dry, barren, shrivelled-up womb of the
proud unloved and never ever loved.

      “Truth” the reality,
the self-sustaining object and the deep
dark waters undisturbed and silent.

      Encounter.
           Everything’s Amazing.
                Wild-eyed lover.
Reality crumbles, clay splits open and
light shines over the eternal present.

      Born as Eros,
           “I” resurrected
                Love incarnated,
the ever-present anti-Love fended
away… as Ananke lays assaulted.



From 'Everything amazing'

Urizen’s world is untouched by Love, and a stranger to living thought; it is the cold, dry, barren, shrivelled-up womb of the unloved and never-loved.

Living thought is the means by which the “I” is resurrected. Born as Eros, the light of the Logos enters the world, and Love is incarnated.

Living thought is where the stand is first made against the anti-Love; and Ananke is violated.


© John Dunn.

Saintly air

Wednesday, 26 October 2022 at 21:38

Noble building on Dr John Dunn. Below are a few more words that might serve as the basis for an introductory commentary to my next motorcycling video on YouTube, which covers an excursion of mine to the northern fens of Cambridgeshire and, more particularly, to the Island of Thorney. Please look through recent blogs if you wish to see other preparatory notes for the commentary.

Saintly air

Within the fenlands of yore were a number of islands that stood isolated above the marshland waters.

These were outlying exposures of Jurassic clays that formed the main surface geology in the former forest to the west of the fens. The Isle of Ely is the most famous example.

Thorney was built on one such island of clay in the northern fens east of Peterborough.

The rivers were the former channels of communication. They were far more reliable than the fen paths and causeways.

The fens have long since been drained and reclaimed as farmland, and now the islands are served by a network of roads, that undulate up and down because of peat shrinkage, which make for a fascinating way to explore this unique flat and former watery landscape.

The story of these outposts of the forest clays is bound up with the fortunes of great Christian foundations of the seventh to ninth centuries: with Peterborough in the north, Ely in the south, and Ramsey between them both. From these centres, Christianity spread to include the fen islands, including Thorney, which was firstly a retreat for hermits, and later the site if a great abbey.

It is to the Island of Thorney that I am now motorcycling, across what four to five hundred years ago would have been marsh, reed beds and open water, traversed only by those with a deep understanding of the complex ways through.

For me it is the trees that mark Thorney out from the fenland round about, more so than any discernible rise in the land. There is a saintly air about the dappled approach to the village, amidst the shaded meadows and cloisters of ageing trees.


© John Dunn.

Taste of the fens

Tuesday, 25 October 2022 at 22:02

Thorney buildings on Dr John Dunn. Taste of the fens

The following words arise out of my preparations for a supporting commentary to my next YouTube video, which covers a motorcycle ride to Thorney in the Cambridgeshire Fens. Publication of the piece will be announced here on my website as soon as a date is known. In the meantime, the notes keep the homepage on the move for Google.

The nave of the Abbey Church survived the robbing for stone after the dissolution, and was reconstructed as Thorney’s Parish Church of St Mary and St Botolph in 1638. At this date the ruined side aisles were cleared away and the arcade openings between the pillars walled up. Some stained glass here came from the Steelyard, the Hanseatic League’s London trading headquarters in London. The east end is Victorian, built in the Romanesque style to a design by Edward Blore, and dates from 1840to 1841. The two towers on the west facade share a resemblance with turrets on another Blore building, the Government House in Sydney. Were these Sydney embellishments inspired by Thorney?


© John Dunn.

I’ll leave Eric Ennion to describe the other buildings of Thorney.

A little ancient stonework shows in some of the buildings of the Abbey precincts, although these have largely been built “to taste” at other dates. The rest of the people of Thorney live in what was deemed good for them. There is none of that happy-go-lucky charm of a village that has built itself. The mantle of monastic discipline fell heavily upon the Duke of Bedford who, in the eighteen-thirties to fifties, set up regiments of yellow-brick and purple-tiled cottages, each with two pairs of windows, a front door, a monstrous high gable (duly monogrammed and dated) and a set of tall chimneys apiece. It is surely unique as a village street.
(Eric Ennion, Cambridgeshire, 1951.)

Vast Abbey

Monday, 24 October 2022 at 21:39

Thorney west front on Dr John Dunn. Vast Abbey

The next YouTube video that I plan to publish records a motorcycling excursion that I made to the fenland island village of Thorney in North Cambridgeshire. The following short note is part of my preparation of a commentary to support the video. For now, it will serve to keep my home page fresh.

…And there’s the West Front of the vast abbey that once stood here; but this was the the Thorney of William of Malmsbury’s days, before Henry VIII granted the abbey to the Earls of Bedford at the time of the dissolution.


© John Dunn.

Here is Eric Ennion’s description from his 1951 book, Cambridgeshire:

The West Front of the great Abbey Church still stands, a massive square of carved grey stone whose flanking towers are capped by pannelled turrets of a later age. Across its face, high in their niches above the window arch, is a row of figures - nine hefty life-size saints, more buccaneer than saintly, who must have proved temptation sore to Cromwell’s musketeers. Not one has been disfigured. But by then the Abbott and his monkish train had gone.

Lover's eye

Sunday, 23 October 2022 at 18:17

All eyes on Dr John Dunn. Lover's eye
















There’s something before the Beginning, and that something is death.

In the Beginning is the Word, Logos, Love and Love is God.


Evil’s the dross from the ante-Word, the realm of Ananake,

a realm without Love, all sameness and oneness, no mind to confirm

the status of being. For what’s to be? The salvific glance

of the lover’s eye confers ‘that is’ where there was void before.

And yet, take heed, the dross remains, the anti-Word, and would return

it all to sameness, all to oneness, nought and blackness and death,

and crucify Love, each day, each hour to its last dying breath

                                                               …should her eyes look away.


And the children of Urizen inherited this self-hatred, which in turn festered their vengeful hatred of Logos, God, the Word, the Cosmic Jesus,living thought, creativity and Love,

And after murdering Love, they sought to drag mankind down into the innocence of Beulah, a place of dumb idiocy, where all is commodity, everything has its price, and all have equal rights. (A Vision of Beulah)


© John Dunn.

Picture:SARAISHERMAN (1922-2013), AMERICAN I Am The Rose of Sharon and the Lilyof The Valley, Plate I from the series The Song of Solomon, 1966
Meyer P. and Vivian O. Potamkin Collection at Dickinson College.

Before, now and always

Saturday, 22 October 2022 at 21:56

Cosmic Love on Dr John Dunn. Before, now and always



















Ante-Beginning,
bogus ‘truth’,

mirages fantastical,
gnostic and mystical.
Beginning now
Orphic myth,
the violator is Love,
as below, so also above.
Beginning always,
cosmic Christ,
individual and free,
dependent on me.
“I am not in space and time, but space and time are in me.” (From Influenced by Giovanni Gentile, Space and time are in me. [Thought Pieces])
“…truth is something that we create. Truth never confronts us as external, other than as a bogus ‘truth’.” (From Truth: the one and the many [Archive])
“I know that without me no God can live; were I brought to naught, he would of necessity have to give up the ghost.” (Angelus Silesius)


© John Dunn.
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