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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. The civil parish, covering an area of 29.55 km2 (11.41 sq mi), has a population of 21,588.

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 Angliaand was seat of a bishopric.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 the highest Norman motte in Englandthough 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  (1776), advocating colonial America’s independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and The American Crisis  (1776–1783), a pro-revolutionary pamphlet series.

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.

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

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.

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.

High Lodge Forest Centre in Thetford Forest attracts thousands of visitors every year. Events are held throughout the year including summer concerts and the Hallowe’en ‘terror trail’.

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 Greater 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 Gateley, 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. 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. In February 2012 an application was submitted to Breckland District Council for the redevelopment of the former Tulip factory to provide a new 56,000 sq ft foodstore.

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.

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. 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. 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.

Thetford is twinned with: Hürth, Germany;Skawina, Poland;Spijkenisse, Netherlands;Les Ulis, France.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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