Main Births etc
Coordinates: 52°25′N 0°44′E / 52.41, 0.74
UK Thetford (Norfolk).jpg
Signpost in Thetford

Thetford is located in Norfolk

 Thetford shown within Norfolk
Population 21,588 (2001 Census)
    - Density 
OS grid reference TL8783
District Breckland
Shire county Norfolk
Region East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town THETFORD
Postcode district IP24 - 26
Dialling code 01842
Police Norfolk
Fire Norfolk
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament South West Norfolk
List of places: UK • England • 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.[1]


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.

Thetford, an important crossing of the Little Ouse River, draws its name from the Anglo-Saxon Theodford or peoples ford. The nearby River Thet was later named after the town.

In the Anglo-Saxon period, Thetford was the home of the monarchs of East Anglia and was seat of a bishopric. The Domesday Book lists William of Bello Fargo as the Bishop of Thetford[2] in 1085.


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 situated 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. Rumour has it that one of the entrances to these tunnels can be found in the basement of a house along 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 a statue of Paine stands on King Street, holding a quill and his book Rights of Man, upside down. Paine attended Thetford Grammar School. Born in Thetford on February 9, 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 [3] (1776), advocating colonial America's independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and The American Crisis [4] (1776–1783), a pro-revolutionary pamphlet series.

Statue of Thomas Paine

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.[5]

Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk and other early Tudor dynasty officials were once buried in Thetford before removal to Framlingham.

Priory ruins

Today, 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, also calls Thetford home.

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.

Every summer, Castle Park plays host to a distinct group of individuals known as the 'Castle Park Football Club'. The members are non-professional football players that all know each other from local public houses such as 'The Rose & Crown', 'Thetford Snooker Club' and 'The Green Dragon', and they gather together every Sunday throughout summer to enjoy the weather, engage in conversation about the previous night's mischief and play some good old fashioned football.

There is also a swimming team called Thetford Dolphins based in Breckland Leisure Centre at the Waterworld swimming pools. The world champion triathlete Chrissie Wellington is a former member of this swimming club.[6]

Additionnally, Thetford's baseball team called the BlueSox was once a powerhouse in the LBSEQ, winning championships in 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1971.

High Lodge Forest Center, located in Thetford Forest attracts thousands of visitors every year. Events are held throughout the year including summer concerts and the halloween 'terror trail'.


Thetford Station

Thetford is just off the A11 road between Norwich (28 miles (45 km)) and London (86 miles (138 km)). The A11 previously ran through the town but a bypass was constructed in the 1990s.

It is served by Thetford railway station, with National Express East 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.

A branch line to Bury St Edmunds was closed in the 1960s under the Beeching Axe. The remnants of Thetford Bridge railway station on the southern side of the town can still be seen.

The National Cycle Route 13 links Thetford to Gately, near Fakenham.


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.[7] 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.[8]


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% in fact) of people of Portuguese descent in the town. Around 6,000 people in the area have Portuguese as a mother tongue.[9]

Dad's Army[]

Statue of Captain Mainwaring, Arthur Lowe's Dad’s Army character in Thetford.

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.[10] 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.[11][12]. 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".


After years of meetings with both Thetford and Breckland council, the Thetford Skate Committee has finally acquired a plot of land from Breckland council for a concrete skatepark. An estimated quarter of a million pounds has been raised to build the skatepark, which will be situated next to Thetford Town. Building is suggested to commence in 2011.

Twin towns[]

Thetford is twinned with the towns of:[13]

  • Hürth, near Cologne, Germany
  • Skawina, near Kraków, Poland
  • Spijkenisse, near Rotterdam, Netherlands
  • Les Ulis, near Paris, France


  1. ^ Office for National Statistics & Norfolk County Council (2001). Census population and household counts for unparished urban areas and all parishes. Retrieved December 2, 2005.
  2. ^ The Domesday Book Online - Landowners A-C
  3. ^ Common Sense
  4. ^ The American Crisis
  5. ^ Norfolk Black History Month
  6. ^ "Wellington strides to top title". Watton & Swaffham Times. 17 October 2007. Retrieved 2009-10-12. 
  7. ^ "Gaspace analyser saves the bacon". Packaging Technology. January 2003. 
  8. ^ "Tulip moves fresh lines from Thetford". Grocer. March 2007. 
  9. ^ Portuguese community in Thetford
  10. ^ The Complete A-Z of Dad's Army Webber,R London, Orion, 2000 ISBN 0752818384
  11. ^ Article by Jan Moir in The Daily Telegraph issue 47,433 dated 5th December 2007
  12. ^ "Dad's Army tribute statue planned". BBC News. 2007-12-01. Retrieved 2010-05-25. 
  13. ^ About the Association, Thetford Twinning Association,, retrieved 14 July 2010 

External links[]

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Template:Civil Parishes of Breckland

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