“Canary Cottage”, named for its bright yellow exterior woodwork, is a tiny thatched cottage that is now dwarfed by a large grain dryer. The yellow cottage is a not in Leicester but may be seen by holidaymakers travelling towards the Norfolk coast along the A47.
The cottage is located at Knarr Farm in Thorney Tool, around 10 miles East of Peterborough. This farm was named after Knarr Fen, the name of the area before it was drained to be worked.
A tall grain dryer and associated stores now overshadow the picturesque cottage. The cottage can be seen from the A47.
It is understood that the cottage was built before 1750. Shortly after the local fens (marshland) were drained.
It would have served as a shepherds cottage that would have been sited next to grazing fields as the land was no good for growing.
The local landowners would have owned the cottage. It would have been offered by the farmer as a means to keep a worker and his family housed. Because of this, the cottage has seen many tenants.
It is likely that the cottage has no formal name, and as mentioned before, it is simply called Canary Cottage due to the bright yellow front door and window frames.
The landowners (Dixon-Spain) owned many farms in the area and would colour code plant and machinery for identification. Knarr farm was allocated yellow, hence the painting of the exterior woodwork. It was initially christened “The Canary Cage” but late became “Canary Cottage”
It is possibly the oldest remaining building between Guyhirn and Thorney.
The last tenants.
The last people to live in this cottage were Ken and Thelma Wright who moved in in 1960 and left in 1965. It was their first marital home.
Ken and Thelma both met whilst working at Knarr Farm.
Before moving in, the couple insisted on a few home improvements, which were duly carried out.
After the Wrights vacated the property, it has remained unoccupied for the last 50 years.
The layout of the cottage.
Downstairs, the cottage has a kitchen at the rear and a living room at the front. The front room as the luxury of a fireplace.
A very narrow, twisting stairs lead up to the bedrooms upstairs.
The one storey extension outside is split into two. One side is the toilet and the other a utility/washroom.
The Cottage has never had an electricity supply and lighting was provided by bottled gas.
Living in the cottage.
Canary Cottage offered the most basic of comforts with no electricity. It was lit only by gaslighting. The cottage included a fireplace and an outdoor toilet.
The cottage did have mains water but in 1963, when one of the worse winters hit Britain, the mains were frozen. Ken Wright had to walk from the main farmhouse every day with a bucket of water.
From 1960 a basic gas-powered Ascot water heater was installed in the kitchen to one sole tap.
The cottage today.
Today, the cottage stands empty. There is significant damage inside the property but is overall solid.
The current owner of the cottage Peter Fox, MD of Dalton Seeds, does keep on top of maintaining it. “We paint it and try to keep it looking okay from time to time. As far as the future of the cottage, although it isn’t Listed, I would like to have it restored one day and keep its history and all the memories going”.
In recent decades, Canary Cottage has been used on many book covers and postcards
It was even used to model “Pussy Willow Cottage” in the collectable 1992 series of Lilliput Lane miniatures (see below).
The yellow cottage today looks beautiful from the A47 and has peaked the interest of many people passing by.
Other images of the cottage are below.
Please note that Canary Cottage is privately owned and access is via private land so please don’t visit without appropriate permission.
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