Thomas Paine Statue

Historical Thetford

Thetford’s Great History

Many people are unaware of what Thetford has to offer in terms of historical interest. There is a rich and amazing history and heritage which really sets Thetford apart from the rest and the pictures above taken by local photographers highlight some of  Thetford’s gems.

The most amazing people have been to Thetford over the last 2,000 years and left their mark; Normans, Vikings, monks, great thinkers, female warriors, Britain’s first black mayor, Kings and Queens, revolutionary engineers, Dad’s Army and today’s multicultural communities.

Enjoy exploring this website… mingle with influential historical characters, dig in to the significant thirteen eras and then come and visit Thetford in person to soak up the rich and varied history that makes Thetford’s heritage truly great.

Take a look and enjoy the 2,000 year journey – we think you’ll be surprised…

We offer a selection of themed Thetford trails at our King Street shop that will guide you around the Town and allow you to discover for yourself what makes Thetford Great.

Contact us on 01842 751 975 to find out more.

Historical Thetford

Most people’s experience of Thetford involves driving along the A11 past the forest. But if you venture into the town you will find it is a fascinating place to visit.

Thetford was home to the Iceni titian-haired warrior Queen Boudicca. This is where she put together her battle plan to try to overthrow the Romans – killing 70,000 in the process.

In Saxon times, Thetford was the capital of East Anglia and it was a prosperous place to live, which led to it having its own mint in the 10th century.

By 1086, the Domesday Survey estimated Thetford’s population had grown to between 4,000 and 4,500 people, making it the country’s sixth biggest town.

Shortly after this time, Thetford became an important religious centre. The foundation stone of the Cluniac Priory was laid in the 12th century and 22 churches were dotted about the town.

However, in the 1500s King Henry VIII decided to seize the wealthy monasteries to boost the royal coffers. The dissolution of the monasteries meant the Cluniac Priory was left to fall to ruin, along with the rest of the town’s religious houses.

The priory site soon became a source of cheap building material and stones from many fallen religious buildings can be found today around the town including King’s House, the town council’s offices.

Afterwards the town’s population and fortune dwindled until Thetford became a manufacturing centre for Charles Burrell’s steam traction engines in the 1800s.

The foundry turned out machinery widely regarded as the Rolls Royces of the steam industry. The works attracted engineers from London, the Midlands and Yorkshire until it closed in 1928.

With no major employer, the number of people living in Thetford fell to around 5,000 until the 1950s when the borough council approached London County Council to bring businesses to the town.

A plan was drawn up for 5,000 Londoners to settle here and their county council built homes in Norfolk, after a number of city firms relocated.

Today around 22,000 people live in Thetford, many of them descendants of those who moved from London and those who relocated to work at Charles Burrell.

Take a tour and discover how Thetford got its name, find out about its royal residents and visit the Ancient House Museum, Castle Hill, Cluniac Priory, the Charles Burrell engineering works’ site, the Grammar School, King’s House, the Little Ouse river, the Town Bridge and old theatre. Call us on 01842 751975 or pop in and see us to find out more.

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