EAST DEREHAM, Norfolk
East Anglia Map Ref: D2
Market Days: Tuesday & Friday
In the centre of Norfolk, Dereham is typical of the market towns in the area. The town centre gives the impression of a Georgian town, but it's origin goes back to Saxon times. Withburga, daughter of the Anglo-Saxon King Anna, founded a convent here in the 7th century. Legend has it that at a time of famine some does from the local herd of deer made their way to Withburga every day so they could be milked.
After her death, pilgrims journeyed to her tomb.
300 years later the Abbot of Ely seized her remains and took them back to his own cathedral. A spring which was claimed to have curative properties sprang from the empty tomb. Withburga was proclaimed a saint and even more pilgrims flocked to the town.
The spring can still be seen in the church graveyard.
In the 16th & 17th centuries two major fires swept through the town. One of the few buildings to survive was Bishop Bonner's Cottages. The cottages are unusual in having a frieze of pargeting, rarely seen in Norfolk. Today the building is used as the towns museum.
St Nicholas Church has a history going back to 654 AD when Withburga started the first Christian settlement here. The early church was destroyed in Danish raids about 870. The Normans rebuilt the church which was extended in the 13th & 14th centuries. The church has some beautiful painted Tudor ceilings & a font, screen and lectern from about 1480.
In the 16th century the separate Bell Tower was built. The bell tower was used as a prison during the Napoleonic wars. In the graveyard is a memorial to a French soldier shot while escaping.
The wide open area of the market place is in deep contrast to some of the narrow roads leading to it.
Almost hidden among the shops on these narrow streets are several yards which now contain shops.
Spanning the road high above High Street is probably the largest town sign in East Anglia.
Other points of interest:
Dereham Windmill on the edge of town.
Hobbies Museum of Fretwork is open during the summer months on the Swaffham Road.
Two miles north west of Dereham on the B1146 is the Norfolk Rural Life Museum at Gressenhall.
Dereham Web Links:
Hobbies (Dereham) Ltd.
Tourist Information Centre:
Church House, Church Street, East Dereham
Open: Mon to Sat - 13:00 to 16:00
Note: Not open Bank Holidays.
Phone: 01362 698992
Copyright © Ken Ward 2004
Photographs Copyright © Ken Ward 2004 (unless otherwise stated)
Last Updated: 11 November 2004
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