The ancient market town of Thetford is situated 30 miles from Norwich and about the same distance from King’s Lynn.
Thetford and the surrounding area is the earliest settlement in Norfolk. Grimes Graves is north of the town and there is evidence that there was much activity in the area during the Neolithic period. Gallows Hill is where a huge find of gold and silver was uncovered, as well as a temple.
Thetford was a main stopping point on the coaching road from London. Many of the coaching hotels in the town can be seen today with their wide archways enabling the coaches to make their entrance.
After the Second World War the main London road stopped running through the town centre, when the first by-pass was created. After World War II Thetford became an overspill town, taking people from London and the town’s population increased substantially.
Thetford Castle Hill is England’s tallest medieval earthwork and is an excellent spot to view the places of interest. The ruins of a Cluniac priory and Benedictine nunnery can be seen, as well as a timber framed building that houses the local history museum and, in contrast, a very modern sports centre.
The Market Place may appear familiar to ‘Dad’s Army’ enthusiasts as the Guildhall was once Warrington-on-Sea’s town hall in the popular television series. This is where Thetford Market is located, in front of the Guildhall in the centre of Thetford, on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Interesting facts about Thetford
- Thetford is the birthplace of the 18th century radical Thomas Paine. English-born American political activist, political theorist, philosopher and revolutionary, whose thinking encouraged American independence and the abolition of slavery
- Statues of Thomas Paine and Captain Mainwaring - a fictional character in the BBC television sitcom Dad's Army, portrayed by Arthur Lowe, can both be found in the town
- Thetford Forest is the UK's largest manmade lowland forest with 18,730 hectares to explore and is a patchwork of heathland, pines and broadleaves and home to a rich and diverse variety of animal and plant life
- The town has 3 museums - The Charles Burrell Museum, dedicated to steam power and transport it is housed in the former Charles Burrell factory where traction engines were made. The Ancient House Museum was once a Tudor home and was given to the town by Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, the last maharajah’s son. Find out about flint knapping, Thomas Paine, the Thetford treasure, and the Maharajah Duleep Singh. The Dad’s Army Museum celebrates the legendary TV series which was filmed around Thetford and can be found in the old fire station on Cage Lane
- Ancient treasure was unearthed at Gallows Hill, Thetford, in 1979. This included highly decorated silver spoons, gold rings, bracelets and necklaces. It is considered one of the most important Romano-British hoards ever found and can be seen in the British Museum in London
- The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is based in a beautifully converted Nunnery in Thetford
A day out in Thetford Forest
Thetford Forest is the UK’s largest man-made lowland forest with 18,730 hectares to explore on foot or on bike. Straddling the south of Norfolk and the north of Suffolk, this patchwork of heathland, pine trees and broad leaf trees makes the perfect destination on a dry day. High Lodge Visitor Centre, 4 miles from the Norfolk town of Thetford, offers excellent outdoor facilities, including Go Ape!, 4 walking trails, 3 cycling trails, forest Segway, picnic areas, bike hire, archery, play areas and BBQ hire. Dogs are welcome and there is a café serving hot and cold food and drink. There is a large, well signposted carpark and parking charges apply.
Grime’s Graves is situated 7 miles north-west of Thetford in Norfolk, off the A134 and is the only Neolithic flint mine open to visitors in Britain. The mysterious lunar-like landscape of Grime’s Graves is what is left after hundreds of years of activity by Neolithic flint miners. Around 4,500 years ago, about the time many of the stones at Stonehenge were first raised, miners dug more than 400 pits here to obtain the fine quality, jet-black flint to fashion tools, ceremonial objects and weapons and today Grime’s Graves is one of only ten known prehistoric flint mines in England.
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.
Breckland Leisure Centre and Waterworld
Located in the heart of Norfolk, Breckland Leisure Centre & Waterworld in Thetford has a 25m swimming pool, fun pool with slide and a learner pool. There is a 55 station gym with state of the art equipment, offering pay as you go or membership options with exclusive benefits.
Go Ape Thetford Forest
The tall trees and dense forest of Thetford Forest provide an ever-changing seasonal backdrop for this high rope adventure and during the summer months, the Rhododendrons are a beautiful sight. This stunning location has loads to offer, for both thrill seekers and those who just love being outdoors.
Thetford Town Council Website
Map of Thetford
Accommodation in Thetford
Broom Hall Country Hotel
Saham Toney Thetford Norfolk IP25 7EX