The Village of Thetford in Norfolk
A visitors guide to the Market Town of
Thetford located in the area known as Breckland in Norfolk. Surrounded by
the Little Ouse River, the town of Thetford is very much a mixture of the
old and the new, an ancient town with modern blood running through its
veins. Thetford is making great strides to re-discover its heritage and
enhance its image as a place of historical interest. The town is
surrounded by acre after acre of fields, forest and heath land, making it
ideal for walking, cycling, horse riding and outdoor pursuits.
Within the towns conservation area there are some interesting architecture
buildings, along with references to past legendary figures. Extensive
well maintained riverside walks extend out from the towns centre, dotted
with modern affluent properties. The Nunery Lakes Nature Reserve managed
by the British Trust for Ornithology extends along the valleys of the
rivers Thet and Little Ouse and consists of 200 acres of mixed habitats,
including heath land, woodland flood-meadow and open water. There are over
2.5 kilometres of paths, a boardwalk through a wet woodland and a hide
over looking flooded meadows with lots of places to sit and enjoy the
Visit High Lodge at Thetford Forest, the Forestry Commission's premier
recreation site in the East of England. You can walk, cycle, play, picnic,
barbecue or simply relax and enjoy Thetford Forest, Britainís largest
lowland pine forest.
In the main town large parts of the shopping area are pedestranised and
whilst not an extensive shopping place, there are certainly sufficient
outlets for the visitor as well as many places to eat and stay.
Thetford is one of Englands most ancient settlements and can trace its
history back to the Iron Age. At Gallows Hill large quantities of
Iceni coins were found, which imply that Thetford may well have been the
royal residence of King Prasutagus and his wife the famous Queen Boudicca.
Unfortunately as Boudiccas residence would have been made of wood it is
unsurprising that nothing remains of it.
After the death of her husband King Prasutagus in around AD43 the Romans
invaded Britain, Boudicca raised an army uniting the Iceni with the
Trinovantes tribes, she then marched on Camulodunum - which is now modern
day Colchester. Despite initial successes, as we all know Boudicca
and her army were eventually defeated by the Romans.
Castle Mound on the outskirts of the town measures around 27 metres high
and 333 metres round its base and is believed to have been built
after the Norman Conquest.
Just slightly outside the town are the remains of a Cluniac Priory once
the third largest in Norfolk, which was founded in the 12th century by Sir
Roger Bigod. Unfortunately after the dissolution of the monasteries by
King Henry 8th the building fell into ruin and much of the stones were
used elsewhere in the town. However the present day ruins are still very
Other historical figures from Thetfords past include Thomas Paine whose
statue can be found in front of Kings House, a favoured residence of James
I when he was in town. Thomas Paine was born in White Hart Street Thetford
in 1737 and was considered a radical and some say a traitor. He spoke
out against the injustices done to the poor of England by the government
and the rich of that day. In 1774 he crossed over the water to
America where he met Benjamin Franklin. Paine played a major part in the
American Revolution and many of his ideas were incorporated in the
American Declaration of Independence.
In the park is a lovely statue of an Indian gentleman astride a black
horse. This is the Maharaja Duleep Singh (1838-1893). He was the last
ruler of an independent Punjab until the British took over in 1843. The
British not only took his kingdom but also his treasure including the
famous Koh-i-Noor Diamond. In exchange for all this the British
agreed to give the Maharaja an English pension. Duleep Singh came
over here in 1863 and adopted the life of an English country gentleman
living on an estate in Elveden Hall near Thetford where he was befriended
by Queen Victoria. His pension was not sufficient for his needs and he
soon fell out with the government.
It came to
light not that long ago that Thetford also had another claim to fame, that
of being the birth place of Harry Bensley known as the man in the iron
mask. Bensley undertook a wager with American millionaire John Morgan. Who
bet Bensley US$100,000 that he could not travel around the world in an
iron mask pushing a pram. Unfortunately despite covering thirty thousand
miles Bensley did not win his bet as the First World War intruded.
In 1979 there was
a major find of Roman artefacts found in Gallows Hill which lies to the
north of the town. The treasure included rings, pendants, necklaces and
were found by a free-lance metal detectorist. The treasure is now in the
British Museum but there is a replica on display at the Ancient House
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