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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. After World War II Thetford became an ‘overspill town’ taking people from London, as a result of which its population increased substantially. The civil parish, covering an area of 29.55 km2 (11.41 sq mi), has a population of 24,340.
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 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 theBritish Museum.
Thetford, an important crossing of the River Little Ouse, draws its name from the Anglo-Saxon Theodford or peoples ford. The nearby River Thet was later named after the town.
On 20 November 869, Edmund the Martyr – the last native King of the East Angles – was killed in East Anglia by Vikings. For a time Edmund was England’s patron saint.
The Domesday Book lists William of Bello Fargo as the Bishop of Thetford in 1085.
Castle Hill, to the south-east of the town centre, is a Norman motte 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 in a public park, near the Three Nuns Bridges and close to the town centre overlooking the rivers.
Thetford also contains the ruins of a 12th-century Cluniac priory. Thetford 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. The Black Horse public house dates from the mid 18th century, and is grade II listed.
The Norfolk Lent Assizes were held at Thetford from 1264, originally because there was only one Assize for both Norfolk and Suffolk and Thetford, being close to the border between the two, was convenient for both. However, after much pressure, an Act of Parliament was passed in 1832 to transfer them to Norwich. There had been pressure to do so for many years previously. In 1825 an MP, Mr John Buxton, told the House of Commons that prisoners had to be carried the 30 miles from Norwich Gaol in an open waggon and, on arrival at Thetford, were placed in a prison, which, “if he were to describe it, would shock and offend the House”.
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