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 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 the Anglo-Saxon period, 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 the Danish Vikings. By tradition Hingwar and his brother Hubba slew King Edmund, martyring him, most likely around his 30th birthday. However the stories of Edmund’s death are numerous and the details vary. Some have him dying in battle, but the majority have him captured by the brutal Ubbe Ragnarsson and Ivar the Boneless. Refusing to renounce his religion, Edmund is said to have undergone horrific treatment, either used for target practice by Danish bowmen, or even more horribly made a ‘blood eagle’ sacrifice, his ribs separated from his spine and his lungs pulled from his living body. Yet still he refused to renounce Christ, and was decapitated by the Danes in exasperation. Edmund’s head was said to have been guarded by a wolf for weeks before his followers recovered it, a story that led to his being the patron saint of wolves. After his death, he quickly became accepted as a saint and a martyr. His body, when seen years after his death, was intact and without signs of decay, and even more miraculously was healed of its wounds, only a thin red line around his neck showing the brutality of his end. Miracles were attributed to him, including one where his spirit appeared to the last heathen Danish king in England, Sweyn Forkbeard, causing the latter to fall from his horse and die in convulsions. His shrine at Beadoriceworth became an important point of pilgrimage in early medieval England, the town changing its name to Bury St Edmunds (town of St Edmund). For a time St. Edmund was England’s patron saint, until St. George replaced him, and there is a campaign afoot today to reinstate the martyr king to that position. One story has King Edmund born in Nuremberg, but the most credible stories have him as descended from a dynasty of Anglo-Saxon kings, his father being Aethelweard[disambiguation needed] - who died in 854 when Edmund was age 14. Edmund was said to have been crowned by St. Humbert on 12/25/854, possibly in Bures St. Mary in Suffolk. His piety is well recorded, seen in his just treatment of his subjects, and in the story that he went into retreat at Hunstanton for a year, during which time he memorized the Psalter, a feat that in its day would have been deemed a considerable display of learning. But it is Edmund’s death which is the most remarkable element of his life. In 869 the Danes marched south from York through Mercia and into East Anglia, where they took Thetford and used it as a base. According to one version of the tale, Edmund refused to fight them, giving himself up to his enemies in accordance with Christ’s turning the other cheek. In another he engages the Danes in a bloody battle.
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, which once acted as an escape route for monks during a time of civil strife. One of the entrances to the tunnels is rumoured to be found in the basement of a house on Old Market Street.
Thetford also contains the ruins of a 12th-century Cluniac priory. The 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, after stories of one of the Bell Inn's staff members being curiously locked into one of the bedrooms she was cleaning.
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 in time 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.
The surrounding Breckland has been largely replaced by the Thetford Forest, though Thetford Chase remains. The town has become known for its Portuguese and East European shops and cafes.
Events and sports
East Harling near Thetford hosts an annual Autumn Equinox Festival for astronomy. The festival has featured Patrick Moore of The Sky at Night. Thetford 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 in thetford it had been stopped due to a lot of anti-social behaviour in the town.
The local football club, Thetford Town, plays in the Eastern Counties League. The Thetford & District Sunday Football League, now known as 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 an ever 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 Club.
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 Greater Anglia running services between Norwich and Cambridge, and East Midlands Trains from Norwich to Liverpool (via Sheffield and Manchester). From Cambridge, regular services run to London King's Cross.
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 3000 people in Thetford were of Portuguese origin.
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
|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 was unveiled next to the Little Ouse river in the town at 12:00pm. The statue depicts Captain Mainwaring sitting on a park bench. 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.
- "Gaspace analyser saves the bacon". Packaging Technology. January 2003.[dead link]
- "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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