A-Z of Norfolk nostalgia: A history of Dereham in pictures
Take a trip down memory lane with our A-Z of Norfolk and Suffolk’s towns and villages. Continuing with D, we take a brief look at the history of Dereham.
Right in the heart of Norfolk, Dereham is Breckland District’s second largest town with origins dating back to the Saxon era.
It is thought that the name Dereham, (formerly known as Deerham), derived from a deer park that once existed in area.
The town was likely founded in the seventh century when its own Saxon Saint, St Withburga, established a monastery. She is commemorated visibly on the town sign above the Market Place entrance to the high street as well as at her original grave, now marked by a spring, in the Churchyard.
Withburga was the youngest daughter of Anna, King of East Angles, who was killed in battle in 654. After his death she became a nun and settled with other holy women in Dereham, which they had picked as a site for a holy religious foundation.
Large quantities of the town’s ancient buildings were destroyed in two fires, in 1581 and 1679, which burnt down over 500 timber framed and thatched buildings. Some evidence of the medieval town still remains with excavations on the High Street revealing that by the medieval period the town had expanded.
Within the last century Dereham has materially improved by widening and levelling the streets, rendering it one of the handsomest market-towns in Norfolk.