Situated on the A47 road, Dereham is around 15 miles west of the city of Norwich and 25 miles east of King's Lynn. Steeped in history, Dereham was originally established as a religious community by Withburga, daughter of a Saxon king. The churchyard is where St Withburga’s well can be found. It is said that Withburga’s body was laid to rest here and that a well sprang from her tomb when her remains were stolen by the Abbott of Ely.
Dereham has been twinned with the town of Rüthen in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany since 1983 and is also twinned with Caudebec-lès-Elbeuf, in France. The market place and High Street are full of Georgian buildings and there is still a sense of days gone by behind the modern facades of the shop windows. Every Friday there is a large market offering a good variety of merchandise; a smaller market is held on Tuesdays and a monthly farmers’ market is held at the railway station.
Dereham has a wide choice of restaurants, pubs and tea-rooms and a good selection of shops. There are sports facilities for tennis, golf, swimming and bowls and an abundance of picturesque spots to take a walk like the Neatherd Moor or the Vicarage Meadow. Other places of interest are Dereham’s 19th century windmill which was extensively renovated in 2013 and also Bishop Bonner’s Cottage, built in 1502, which is the home of the town museum.
The Church of St Nicholas was built by the Normans in the 13th century and, during the 16th century, a separate bell tower was added. This was used as a prison during the Napoleonic wars.
Interesting facts about Dereham
- Dereham considers itself "The Heart of Norfolk" due to its central location in the county of Norfolk - the Tesco car park being cited as the exact centre
- The railway between Dereham and Wymondham is now operated as a tourist line by the Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust
- Comedian and Actor Stephen Fry married his partner Elliot Spencer in Dereham in January 2015
- Novelist Brian Wilson Aldiss, OBE (18th August 1925 – 19th August 2017) was an English writer and anthologies editor, best known for science fiction novels and short stories, was born in Dereham
- Author George Henry Borrow (5th July 1803 – 26th July 1881) was a writer of novels and travel books, his best-known books are The Bible in Spain, the autobiographical Lavengro, and The Romany Rye, and was born in Dereham
- Footballer Henry Richard "Harry" Cripps (29th April 1941 – 29th December 1995) was an English professional footballer who was born in Dereham. He played for Millwall for the majority of his career but was initially on the books of Millwall’s bitter rivals West Ham. He was a member of the FA Youth Cup Final team of 1958-59 alongside Bobby Moore, Eddie Bovington and Jack Burkett
- Antiquarian Sir John Fenn, (1739-1794) lived in Dereham and is best remembered for collecting, editing, and publishing the Paston Letters, describing the life and political scheming of the gentry in Medieval England. He was also a justice of the peace who served as High Sheriff of Norfolk for 1791/2
- Architect George John Skipper (1856 – 1948) was a leading Norwich based architect of the late Victorian and Edwardian period and was born in Dereham. The famous writer and poet, John Betjeman said of Skipper, "he is altogether remarkable and original. He was to Norwich what Gaudi was to Barcelona"
- Singer-songwriter Beth Orton was born in Dereham in December 1970. She was initially recognised for her collaborations with William Orbit, Andrew Weatherall, Red Snapper and the Chemical Brothers in the mid-1990s and her UK/US debut solo album, Trailer Park in 1996 garnered much critical acclaim as did her albums Central Reservation (1999) and the 2002 UK top 10 album, Daybreaker
- William Hyde Wollaston (6th August 1766 – 22 December 1828) was an English chemist and physicist born in Dereham. He is famous for discovering the chemical elements rhodium and palladium and developed a way to process platinum ore into malleable ingots
- Poet William Cowper (1731 – 1800) was one of the most popular poets of his time and considered one of the forerunners of Romantic poetry. He died in Dereham and is buried in St Nicholas’ Church. There is a commemorative stained-glass window in his honour
Owned and operated by the volunteers of the Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust, the Mid-Norfolk Railway runs from Dereham to the market town of Wymondham, along an 11-mile line. Dereham station has been sympathetically restored and today looks how it would have in the late 1950s. There is a period ticket office, souvenir shop, tearoom and interesting displays of local railway memorabilia.
Norfolk Herbs is situated 2 miles north west of Dereham in the heart of the beautiful Norfolk countryside, within the hamlet of Dillington. Growers of naturally raised culinary, medicinal and aromatic herb plants as well as bay trees, scented geraniums and salvias, they offer wholesale, retail and mail order supply.