An ancient capital, Thetford is one of those rare locations with numerous famous links. Thomas Paine, radical author of ‘The Rights of Man’ was born in Thetford in 1737 and in more recent times the town became a focal point for the filming of celebrated tv series ‘Dad’s Army’, much of which was filmed in surrounding Thetford Forest. Find out more in the Dad’s Army Museum and for details on Thetford’s ancient history stretching back even to the Bronze and Iron Ages, head to the central Museum of Thetford Life where you’ll discover fascinating facts such as Thetford’s status as the sixth largest town and a strategic river crossing point at the time of the Norman invasion.
In the town centre you’ll also find a premier arts centre, a spectacular selection of medieval churches and architecture and a choice of inns, cafes and shops. Thetford sits on the south eastern edge of Thetford Forest Park, Britain’s largest low lying pine forest offering a superb mix of heritage sites and outdoor activities.
Take a trip down one of the UK’s oldest mines at Neolithic Flint Mine Grimes Graves or head off on one of the forest’s many cycling and walking trails. Look out for sights and monuments linked to the Desert Rats like the Desert Rats Memorial & Trail commencing from High Ash on the A1065. One of the most famous divisions in Britain’s army, the Dessert Rats trained and were based here in Thetford Forest for a short period during 1944.
Thetford accommodation caters for all, from families and couples to groups. Stay in a heritage cottage, holiday barn or cosy log cabin near Thetford Forest or book a traditional B&B. Quality chain hotels like Premier Inn are on the park’s outskirts, perfect for business or leisure and within easy reach of the central visitor centre, home to the Go Ape family activity centre, bike hire, a cafe and information as well as thrilling paintballing! Find a place to stay in Thetford and book online.
Dads Army Museum
Despite being 50 miles from the coast, Thetford was chosen as the fictional Walmington-on-Sea in one of Britain’s most popular comedy TV series Dad’s Army. Eighty episodes of Dads Army were filmed between 1968 and 1977, with much of the filming done in Thetford and around the Thetford Forest area. Thetford attracts huge numbers of fans of the series from across the world. A Dad’s Army trail features around Thetford centre, taking in buildings which appeared in the TV series like the famous Anchor Hotel.
Captain Mainwaring’s Statue sits adjacent to the river and bridge and the popular Dad’s Army Museum is housed in the old fire station in Cage Lane. Dad’s Army guided tours are available, led by Thetford’s own Captain Mainwaring in full Home Guard uniform!
Museum of Thetford Life
The Museum of Thetford Life sits in the town’s Ancient House, a spectacular timber framed Grade I listed Tudor merchant’s house. The museum within explores in-depth the history of Thetford town and the surrounding Brecks. Learn about the many famous people heralding from Thetford at the Museum of Thetford Life. Radical thinker Thomas Paine (1737-1809) was born in Thetford and educated at Thetford Grammer School. As well as exhibits on Thomas Paine in the museum, a statue also stands in Thetford centre. Other famous people in Thetford’s past include the Sikh hero Maharajah Duleep Singh who was close to Queen Victoria and lived just outside the town. Precious Sikh artefacts are on display at the museum.
Ancient Capital Thetford
Fascinating facts about ancient capital Thetford are revealed in both the museum and town trails. At the time of the Norman invasion in 1066, Thetford was ranked the sixth largest English town. Thetford has long been a strategic crossing point centrally situated in East Anglia and has been a major settlement from the Bronze and Iron Ages through the Roman, Anglo Saxon and Viking, Norman and Medieval periods. With such a rich history, the Ancient House collections are wide ranging, featuring artefacts, photography and oral histories on the many industries in the town’s past from brewing and malting to ancient Bronze Age flint mining tools and weapons.
Thetford’s Castle Hill is one of East Anglia’s most dramatic earthwork sites dating from the Iron Age. The Thetford area was also a settlement centre of the Iceni tribe, resident before the Roman occupation. Through the medieval period Thetford was an important religious centre. Medieval churches like St Cuthbert’s survive in the town alongside priory and monastic building remains including Thetford Cluniac Priory founded by Roger Bigod in 1103.
Banham Zoo near Thetford
Offering a fun-packed family day out, Banham Zoo east of Thetford is home to the largest ‘Bird of Prey’ displays in the UK and animals here range from penguins, cheetahs and tigers to meerkats, zebra, red kangaroo and endangered species like the snow leopard. Banham Zoo also has a Farm Barn and Farm Stables on-site where you’ll find domestic farm animals and the shire horses, donkeys and the rare breed of the pure Suffolk horse also known as the Suffolk Punch.
Michelle is an experienced travel writer with iknow and has travelled extensively across the UK, Spain, Portugal and the USA. When she’s not busy writing for iknow she enjoys spending time touring museums and art galleries and seeking out the best independent shops in Manchester and Leeds.