The Town of East Dereham in Norfolk
A visitors guide to the Market Town of East
Dereham in Norfolk, or Dereham as the locals call the town. The town
sits in the middle region of Norfolk some fifteen miles from Norwich in
rolling agricultural land. Dereham is one of Norfolks most ancient
towns, able to trace its history accurately all the way back to 654AD.
Todays Dereham is a flourishing busy market
town with a lot to offer the visitor. It has a good range of shops, a golf
course, swimming pool restaurants and cafes as well as a Tourist
There is a great deal of history associated
with this town including: a saint, a famous poet, an enthusiastic burner
of Protestants, the man responsible for publishing the historic Paston
Letters and a 19th century linguist and traveller.
In the centre of the town near the Guildhall
is the Queen Mothers Walled Garden where you can sit and while away the
hours. Close to the church of St. Nicholas is Bishop Bonner's Cottage, a
delightful thatched 16th century cottage now a museum of local artefacts
The Norfolk Rural Life Museum and Union
Farm at Gressenhall provides another great experience for families. Its a
museum, in a former workhouse illustrating how Norfolk people lived and
worked over the past 150 years. The farm has rare breeds of livestock, and
horses pull the plough and do other jobs around the farm.
The original church of St. Nicholas was destroyed in 870 by the Danes. It
was rebuilt and extended by the Normans in the 13th and 14th centuries. In
the 16th century a bell tower was constructed which was used as a prison
during the Napoleonic wars. One of these prisoners, a French Soldier was
shot as he tried to escape and his grave can be found in the graveyard.
The volunteers in the church will be most happy to point out some of the
interesting details of the church both inside and out.
Bishop Bonner – Was an
of Protestant heretics during the reign of Mary Tudor. Edward Bonner was
the rector of Dereham from 1534 to 1538 before being appointed Bishop of
London. When Mary Tudor came to the throne in 1553 everyone knew that she
would try to restore the Roman Church to the English Nation. To this end
Bishop Bonner was responsible for sending many a person to the fires and
stake at Smithfield. His house In E.D. was constructed in 1502, a timber
framed building with walls of brick, flint, wattle and daub. There is a
delightful pargetting - a frieze of flowers and fruit design on the
John Fenn –
(1739-1794) – Who was responsible
for publishing the ‘Paston Letters’. Correspondence by a well known
Norfolk Family about family life at the time of the War of the Roses.
Fenn’s house can be found in the market place called Hill House, which is
still a private residence.
Saint Withburga died
in 743AD and was buried in
the churchyard. Unfortunately in the 10th century the Abbot of Ely decided
that he wanted her bones in his own cathedral at Ely. So he and some monks
raided St. Withburga’s tomb and removed her bones. However, from her grave
a spring of purest water sprang, which was gifted with the art of healing.
You can still see this spring in the churchyard, shaded by flowers and
(1731-1800 ) described by George
Borrow as ‘Englands sweetest and most pious bard’ spent the last four
years of his life in Dereham with his housekeeper and companion Mary
Unwin. He lived in a house in the market place where now stands a
congregational church. There is a lovely stained glass window to Cowper in
the church of St. Nicholas.
(1803-1881) – the famous linguist and
traveller was born at Dumpling Green just outside Dereham. Hhe remembered
his home town in his works ‘Lavengro’ - “pretty quiet Dereham with thy
venerable church in which moulder the mortal remains of 'Englands sweetest
and most pious bard’. Of course he was referring to William Cowper.
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