Canary Cottage


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Knarr Farm, Thorney, Peterborough, PE6 OTS


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Statutory Address:
Knarr Farm, Thorney, Peterborough, PE6 OTS

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

City of Peterborough (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Farm cottage, built around 1750.

Reasons for Designation

Canary Cottage, a farm cottage built around 1750, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest: * as a modest but well-preserved vernacular cottage, constructed in the mid-C18;

Historic interest: * as a rare surviving example of this building type, which importantly provides a narrative of the historic farming and tenurial practices of the Fen landscape.


Canary Cottage was most likely built around 1750 shortly after the drainage of the local fens. The L-plan cottage is shown on the 1888 Ordnance Survey map, standing at Little Knarr Fen (now Knarr Farm), north of Boarden House Drove (now the Wisbech Road or A47). Little Knarr Fen forms part of the North Level of the fens, which now includes all of the fens in Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire between the River Nene and River Welland, but originally included only a small part of these lands, including the ancient parishes of Thorney and Crowland. Thorney was developed as an estate village by the Dukes of Bedford, from which reclamation proceeded outwards, resulting in an oblong area some 6 miles (east to west) by 4 miles (north to south).

In the early C20 the cottage formed part of a group of farms owned by the Dixon-Spains, who employed a colour coding scheme to identify the location of their buildings and machinery. The windows and doors of the cottage at Knarr Farm were painted yellow, earning the cottage the moniker ‘Canary Cottage’. The cottage may have also been known at other times as ‘Eel Catcher’s Cottage’ or ‘Knarr Cottage’. Canary Cottage was renovated and re-thatched around 1960, however it has stood empty since 1965. The cottage is believed to have been the inspiration for ‘Pussy Willow Cottage’ in the collectible 1992 series of Lilliput Lane miniatures.


Farm cottage, built around 1750.

MATERIALS: red brick walls, thatch roof covering.

PLAN: L-shaped in plan, comprising a rectangular-plan farmhouse, and attached square-plan outbuilding to the east.

EXTERIOR: Canary Cottage is a two-bay one-and-half storey farm cottage, with an attached single-storey outbuilding, and hipped thatched roofs. The roof of the cottage is gabled to the west, where the chimneystack was rebuilt in the late C19 or early C20. The walls are constructed of painted red brick laid in English bond, with a dentilled eaves course. The front (south) elevation has a dormer to the first floor, two-light side-hung casement windows to the ground and first floors, and a timber batten-and-plank door, each within a gauged flat-arched opening. The west elevation has a small window to the north first floor bedroom, and the east elevation has a small window to the under-stair cupboard. The rear (north) elevation has a single top-hung casement window and timber batten-and-plank door. The attached single-storey outbuilding to the east has evidence of a previous door opening on its front elevation (now blocked) and two timber batten-and-plank doors to the rear elevation (the west door being larger than the east). The doors and windows are painted canary yellow throughout, lending the cottage the name ‘Canary Cottage’. The cottage stands approximately 190m north of the Wisbech Road (A47). INTERIOR: The cottage has two rooms on the ground floor: a sitting room to the front, and a kitchen to the rear. The sitting room has a timber cupboard, mid-C20 tiled fire surround, and timber shelving on the west wall, and a floor of exposed machine-made bricks. The kitchen has a Belfast sink under the window on the north wall, and two timber battened doors to a stair and an under-stair cupboard on the east wall. The winder stair has timber treads and appears to have been renewed in the mid-C20. The first floor has two bedrooms with exposed timber floorboards: the north room being the smallest, and leading to the larger bedroom to the south, which has a dormer window on its south wall. Over the dormer window, a hole in the ceiling provides a view into the thatched dormer, which shows evidence of replacement of timbers and thatch in the mid-C20. The roof structure was not visible. The outbuilding has painted red brick walls, and contains a store room in the west part and a privy in the east part.


Geograph, ‘Thatched cottage at Knarr Farm, Thorney Toll', accessed 05 September 2018 from
ITV News, ‘Uncertain future for roadside landmark’, accessed 05 September 2018 from
Peterborough City Council, Local List of Heritage Assets in Peterborough, (December 2016), 136, accessed 05 September 2018 from
Peterborough Images Archive, ‘Canary Cottage, Thorney’, accessed 05 September 2018 from
T D Atkinson, Ethel M Hampson, E T Long, C A F Meekings, Edward Miller, H B Wells and G M G Woodgate, 'Wisbech Hundred: Thorney', in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 4, City of Ely; Ely, N. and S. Witchford and Wisbech Hundreds, ed. R B Pugh (London, 2002), pp. 219-224. British History Online , accessed 6 September 2018 from
Natural England, National Character Area Profile, 46, ‘The Fens’, (2015)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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