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Watton is a market town in the district of Breckland within the English county of Norfolk. It is situated on the crossroads of the A1075 Dereham-Thetford road and the B1108 Brandon-Norwich Road, about 25 miles (40 km) west of Norwich. The civil parish covers an area of 7.2 km2 (2.8 sq mi) with about 6,800 inhabitants in 3,000 households. The Domesday Book records that Watton (or Wadetuna) featured a church, manor house and Anglo-Saxon settlement.

In 1984 Watton was twinned with the Lower Rhine (Niederrhein) town of Weeze, Germany, with the subsequent twinning charter being formally signed in 1987.

A market is currently held every Wednesday, between 0900 and 1300 although stalls are often seen on the high street well after this time. Like many Norfolk markets Watton market always has a wide variety of fresh sea produce available usually caught the previous day, and often has available such regional delicacies as samphire and fresh water crayfish. The Lord of Watton Hall, John de Vaux, obtained a charter for a market to be held on Fridays. However the people of nearby Saham Toney complained to the King that the market was harming their own held on the same day. Their complaints were upheld and the charter was withdrawn. John de Vaux conveyed the manor to his brother Oliver, who was evidently on better terms with the King since he immediately obtained a new charter for a Wednesday market. The market centred on Market Square in front of Wayland Hall, and as it grew it spread westwards along High Street. A market cross stood in the square supported by eight oak pillars. This cross was demolished in 1820 and replaced by a milestone showing the distances to neighbouring towns.

The nearby Wayland Wood is the setting of the old English ballad The Babes in the Wood. First published in 1595, it tells the tale of two Norfolk children abandoned and left to die in the woods by their uncle. The legend is depicted on the town sign, which occupies a prominent position in High Street in front of the clock tower.

Wayland wood is a popular dog walking and relaxation spot (although dogs are banned this rule is unenforced). The wood is now a nature reserve, owned by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

The clock tower of Watton was built in 1679 by Christopher Hey, a wealthy mercer. The tower was built to hold a fire warning bell following the ‘Great Fire of Watton’ that destroyed more than sixty properties in 1674. This early warning bell, known as ‘Ting-Tang’ sits in an ornate cupola on top of the tower. The brick tower was rendered with cement and a new clock, donated by a local citizen, was installed in 1827. To commemorate the silver jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary in 1935, a new clock face was installed. The clock is still working today and the building is now home to a tourist and local information centre.

Watton hosted a large RAF station for many years namely RAF Watton, and this had a major effect on the town. The RAF station ended its days as a Transport Command airfield and as a radar station, as well as providing housing for many RAF personnel and their families. It is now only used for gliders and part of the old military land became the location for Wayland Prison.

It is also used by the USAF from the nearby RAF Mildenhall for training, using C130s for refuelling exercises and parachute training. It is also part of the Stanford Training Area (STANTA) and used for army training purposes.

The annual Wayland Show is one of Norfolk’s oldest agricultural events having been held for over 130 years. Held in August the show attracts crowds of more than 5,000 people to see displays of livestock, fur and feathers. The event also features displays of classic cars, vintage tractors, gun dogs, falconry and horse and carriage rides amongst others and is held at the western side of Watton, with the show ground being accessed off Brandon Road.

As part of the Sustrans Connect2 project, proposals are in place to create a cycling and walking route between Watton and the village of Griston. The new route would follow the eastern boundary of Watton airfield and provide a shorter, traffic free alternative to the A1075. Norfolk County Council have allocated a £40,000 contribution towards funding of the scheme. A schematic map of the scheme has been published online.

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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