Thetford shown within Norfolk
|Area||29.55 km2 (11.41 sq mi)|
|Population||21,588 (2001 Census)|
|– density||731/km2 (1,890/sq mi)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||IP24 - 26|
|Ambulance||East of England|
|EU Parliament||East of England|
|UK Parliament||South West Norfolk|
Thetford is a market town and civil parish in the Breckland district of Norfolk, England. It is on the A11 road between Norwich and London, just south of Thetford Forest. The civil parish, covering an area of 29.55 km2 (11.41 sq mi), has a population of 21,588. Thetford is noted as the birthplace of Thomas Paine; a statue of him stands on King Street.
Thetford is traditionally thought of as the royal residence of Boudica, Queen of the Iceni. The Iceni were a Celtic tribe living in Norfolk and parts of Cambridgeshire. Archaeological evidence suggests that Thetford was an important tribal centre during the late Iron Age and early Roman period. A ceremonial 'grove' was uncovered there during excavations. In 1979, a hoard of Romano-British metalwork, known as the Thetford treasure was located just outside of Thetford. Dating from the mid-4th century AD, this hoard is a collection of thirty three inscribed spoons, twenty gold finger rings, four pendants, several necklaces and a 2" gold buckle depicting a dancing satyr. They are currently on display and under curation at the British Museum.
In Anglo-Saxon England, Thetford was the home of the monarchs of East Anglia and was seat of a bishopric. On 20 November 869, Edmund the Martyr – the last native King of the East Angles – was killed in East Anglia by Vikings. For a time Edmund was England’s patron saint.
Castle Hill, to the south-east of the town centre, is the highest Norman motte in England though no trace remains of the castle which once surmounted it. The mound (motte) is open to the public, and provides excellent views of the town from its summit and extensive earthworks. It is in a public park, near the Three Nuns Bridges and close to the town centre overlooking the rivers. It is said that a network of chalk tunnels is buried deep within Castle Hill.
Thetford also contains the ruins of a 12th-century Cluniac priory. Thetford Priory, open to the public, was closed during the Reformation. Both the Priory and the Bell Inn, also in Thetford, were featured for their alleged hauntings on the television series Ghosthunters.
The British Trust for Ornithology moved its headquarters into the former Nunnery, south of the town centre, in 1991.
Thetford was the birthplace of Thomas Paine and his statue stands on King Street, holding a quill and his book Rights of Man, upside down. Paine attended Thetford Grammar School. Born in Thetford on 9 February 1737, Paine emigrated to the British American colonies in 1774 where he was to participate in the American Revolution. His principal contributions were the powerful, widely read pamphlet Common Sense  (1776), advocating colonial America's independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and The American Crisis  (1776–1783), a pro-revolutionary pamphlet series.
Dr Allan Glaisyer Minns, born in Inagua, the Bahamas, Mayor of Thetford in 1904, was the first black man to become a mayor in Britain. His son Allan Noel Minns, also a doctor, was awarded the DSO and MC in the First World War.
The Ancient House Museum, situated on White Hart Street, is an oak-framed Tudor merchant's house. The museum holds replicas of the Thetford Treasure and has displays about flint knapping, rabbit warreners and wildlife in the brecks. You can also find out more about Thomas Paine and the Maharajah Duleep Singh. The Ancient House was gifted to the town by Prince Frederick Duleep Singh.
In the 1960s the town grew considerably as one of the 'expanded towns' of the Government policy known as London overspill, which moved residents out of Greater London.
The surrounding Breckland has been largely replaced by the Thetford Forest, though Thetford Chase remains.
Events and sports
East Harling near Thetford hosts an annual Autumn Equinox Festival for astronomy. The town is also the site for the UK's Star Party, as it is centrally located in a rural area with dark night skies. An annual concert, STORM open air festival used to take place at the Castle Green.
The local football club, Thetford Town F.C., plays in the Eastern Counties Football League. The Breckland & District Sunday Football League, encompasses teams from within a 20-mile (30 km) radius of Thetford. Thetford Cricket Club play their home games next to the football club on Mundford Road. They currently have 3 men's teams, 2 that play on Saturdays and 1 on Sundays, and a growing youth training scheme. The club are represented in the Norfolk Cricket Alliance Division 3 and Division 6 and the Mid-Norfolk Sunday Cricket League Division 3. In summer, Castle Park is the Sunday meeting place of the non-professional and informal Castle Park Football Green.
Thetford Rugby Union Football Club is based at two mile bottom on the Mundford road just outside Thetford. The club has two teams, the first team plays in the Greene King IPA Eastern Counties 2 and the second team plays in the Woodlands Norfolk Merit League 3, with both teams playing on Saturdays.
A swimming team called the Thetford Dolphins is based at Breckland Leisure Centre's Waterworld swimming pools. World champion triathlete Chrissie Wellington is a former member of this swimming club.
High Lodge Forest Centre in Thetford Forest attracts thousands of visitors every year. Events are held throughout the year including summer concerts and the Hallowe'en 'terror trail'.
It is served by Thetford railway station, with Abellio Greater Anglia running services between Norwich and Cambridge, and East Midlands Trains from Norwich to Liverpool Lime Street (via Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester Piccadilly). From Cambridge, regular services run to London King's Cross.
Thetford stands on River Little Ouse which flows westward and is a tributary of the River Great Ouse, The Great Ouse finds its way to the sea via King's Lynn and The Wash. In its time, the Little Ouse has been navigable as far as here, though nowadays the head of navigation is Santon Downham bridge, 6 miles downstream.
Thetford was home to Tulip International, large-scale manufacturers of bacon, beef and pork. The factory opened its doors in 1966 and was one of the biggest bacon production factories in the UK. In 2007 the factory ceased production of fresh bacon, beef and pork with the loss of 350 jobs, although cooked bacon and fried products continued to be made until all production ceased in February 2009. In February 2012 an application was submitted to Breckland District Council for the redevelopment of the former Tulip factory to provide a new 56,000 sq ft foodstore.
According to the 2001 UK Census, almost 22,000 people were residing in Thetford, with a 2004 study showing an unusually high percentage (almost 30%) of people of Portuguese descent in the town, although according to the 2011 census, no more than 3,000 people in Thetford were born in Portugal.
Thetford has a temperate marine climate, like much of the British Isles, with generally light precipitation throughout the year. The surrounding Breckland area is differentiated from much of Eastern England due to the presence of sandy soils. This results in average minimum temperatures typically being around 1 degree lower on average than surrounding areas, and on cold clear nights up to 5 to 10 Celsius lower.
|Climate data for Santon Downham 1981-2010 (Weather station 4 miles (6 km) to the NW of Thetford)|
|Average high °C (°F)||7.5
|Average low °C (°F)||0.4
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||56.5
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||51.9||74.5||101.7||154.9||192.0||182.4||197.6||191.4||129.0||109.2||63.7||37.6||1,485.9|
|Source: Met Office|
The external scenes for the BBC1 TV series Dad's Army were filmed in and around the town with Thetford's flint buildings doubling for Walmington-on-Sea. In December 2007 it was announced that a statue of Arthur Lowe who played the leading character Captain George Mainwaring would be erected in the town. The statue, depicting Captain Mainwaring sitting on a park bench, was unveiled next to the Little Ouse river in the town at 12:00pm. This was preceded by a stage show re-enacting several Dad's Army episodes which was shown over the course of several nights, including The Godiva Affair.
Thetford is twinned with the towns of:
- Hürth, near Cologne, Germany
- Skawina, near Kraków, Poland
- Spijkenisse, near Rotterdam, Netherlands
- Les Ulis, near Paris, France
- Office for National Statistics & Norfolk County Council (2001). Census population and household counts for unparished urban areas and all parishes. Retrieved 2 December 2005.
- The Domesday Book Online - Landowners A-C
- Common Sense
- The American Crisis
- Norfolk Black History Month
- "Wellington strides to top title". Watton & Swaffham Times. 17 October 2007. Retrieved 2009-10-12.
- "Tulip moves fresh lines from Thetford". Grocer. March 2007.[dead link]
- "Santon Downham 1981-2010 averages". Met Office. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
- The Complete A-Z of Dad's Army Webber,R London, Orion, 2000 ISBN 0-7528-1838-4
- Article by Jan Moir in The Daily Telegraph issue 47,433 dated 5 December 2007
- "Dad's Army tribute statue planned". BBC News. 2007-12-01. Retrieved 2010-05-25.
- About the Association, Thetford Twinning Association, retrieved 14 July 2010
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