Published date: June 2020
Ancient House is a Grade I listed Tudor merchant’s house situated in Thetford’s historic town centre, 30 miles south west of Norwich. This quirky and crooked house tells the remarkable story of Thetford and the Brecks and contains a rich collection of objects, audio guides, films and animations to keep visitors captivated. Meet local people from Thetford’s past, from the Sikh hero Maharajah Duleep Singh to the revolutionary philosopher Thomas Paine, rabbit warreners, innkeepers and watchmakers. Take a wander around the garden and then maybe a visit to the museum’s shop.
One of the town’s principal attractions, the Ancient House in Thetford is a charming black and white building and is probably one of the best examples of an early Tudor town house in East Anglia. In 1921, the Mayor of Thetford consulted the local antiquary Prince Frederick Duleep Singh regarding setting up a museum in the town and the Prince responded by buying the Ancient House. He presented it to the Mayor and Corporation of Thetford for this purpose and the house was carefully restored. In December 1924, the museum was opened by the Duchess of Grafton. The museum became part of Norfolk Museums Service in 1974, having previously been administered by Thetford Borough Council.
A fascinating place to spend a couple of hours, visitors can learn about Duleep Singh, the last Maharajah of the Punjab who lived at Elveden Hall and his son Prince Frederick, founder of Ancient House. There is also much information about Thomas Paine, a controversial political writer and revolutionary who was born in Thetford in 1737, just 100 metres from the Ancient House.
Discover the Tudor Hall, the main room of the house that would have been used for dining and entertaining. Marvel at the intricate carved ceiling timbers and decorated fireplace and see clues as to how the house was built, such as builders’ marks on the beams. The room is set out how it might have looked around 1595, with a red and yellow wall hanging that is typical Tudor style. There are portraits on the walls that date from the 16th and 17th centuries and there is a table laid out for a feast.
The Collectors’ Room contains a wealth of objects, treasures and collectables, from taxidermy to stone coffins, and objects with a local connection. The 1901 Kitchen gives visitors a glimpse into the lives of the occupants of the Ancient House at the time of the 1901 census. Thomas Newton, a rabbit warrener lived here with his wife Emily, their family and four lodgers. The kitchen is typical of that period, with a working coal-fired range, a copper with a wooden lid for heating water and a mangle for wringing out the washing.
The Ancient Householders’ Room gives visitors an insight into the lives of some of those who once lived in the Ancient House: an innkeeper, museum caretaker, a plumber and a watchmaker. Discover the animal occupants of the house too, from the black rat and house mouse to body lice and bed bugs!
Ancient House in Thetford is available for private hire and can host meetings, group visits and weddings. Throughout the year it hosts exhibitions and event days, details of which can be found on their website.
If you would like to find out more about Ancient House in Thetford, including opening times, admission costs, venue hire, exhibitions, events, facilities and access, please go to their website.