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Leap into Thetford

What have Dad’s Army, America’s “greatest political thinker” and the Punjab’s last royal family got in common?

Thetford, of course. The most amazing people have been to Thetford over the past 2,000 years and left their mark: Normans, Vikings, monks, female warriors, Britain’s first black mayor, kings and queens, revolutionary engineers, Captain Mainwearing and today’s multicultural communities.

Once the ancient capital of East Anglia, Thetford is a historic market town situated at the heart of the unique Brecks natural area.

Here we celebrate Thetford’s rich and amazing history and heritage – Thetford is a model of the history of England and you can discover it all here, across 11 spectacular periods of history. Each section is linked to key places in Thetford and relevant historical characters, to help tell the story and make sense of the fascinating history.

Enjoy exploring and discovering more about the influential historical characters that have populated Thetford’s past. Then come and visit Thetford in person to soak up our town’s rich and varied history.

With thanks to Thetford Tourism & Heritage Partnership, Ancient House Museum, Karen-Emma White, the many works of David Osborne, Alan Crosby History of Thetford.

Thetford's History at a glance

Boudica Thetford

The Iceni’s warrior queen uses Thetford as her base in her campaign to defeat the Roman Empire as recorded by Roman historians Tacitus and Cassio Dio.

Viking Thetford

At this time Thetford is considered to be the capital of East Anglia, and thrives on textiles and pottery

Norman Thetford

Thetford builds a great cathedral, yet the town’s economic fortunes wane

Medieval Thetford

Roger Bigod founds the priory of St Mary, which becomes one of the wealthiest religious houses in England

Tudor Thetford

Life in Thetford changes radically following the Reformation. Wool, leather and tanning boost the fortunes of traders and merchants and the town becomes a royal favourite

17th Century Thetford

From Parliamentarianism to political division

Georgian Thetford

Revolutionary, philosopher and one of the greatest radical thinkers of his age Thomas Paine is born and educated in Thetford and first uses the phrase ’United States of America’.

Victorian Thetford

From brewing to steam engines to fertiliser, Thetford-based works employ hundreds and Duleep Singh, the last Maharajah of the Punjab and favourite of Queen Victoria, makes his home at Elveden.

Developing Thetford

Gas lighting, piped water, electricity and slum clearance, and the country’s first black mayor

Military Thetford

Thetford becomes a vital military centre, later recalled during the filming of Dad’s Army

Modern Thetford

Thetford has undergone radical transformation and expansion since WW2. Today the town flourishes with new high tech industry and a diverse community