The Town of East Dereham in Norfolk

Holidays in East Dereham 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 Information Office.

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 and interest.

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.

Escape to Norfolk or Suffolk - Click the Location Link. Bishop Bonner – Was an enthusiastic burner 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 building.

Escape to Nonrfolk or Suffolk - Click the Location Link. 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. 

For Norfolk or Suffolk Restaurants - Click the Where to Eat Link.s 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 ferns.

Escape to Norfolk or Suffolk - Click the Location Link. William Cowper (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.

Escape to Norfolk or Suffolk - Click the Location Link. George Borrow (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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