With its roots in the dark ages Dereham is more than just a town bypassed by the A47

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Where is Dereham?
Dereham is claimed to be the dead centre of Norfolk - well at least the town's Tesco car park is. It is 15 miles west of Norwich off the A47, and has good links with other towns in the county. The Mid-Norfolk Railway runs trains between the town and Wymondham.

About Dereham

Dereham has been through a massive expansion over the past 20 years which has seen it grow from a traditional Norfolk market town to the fifth largest town in the county.

Many large housing areas - particularly in Toftwood, Scarning and the Sandy Lane area - have sprouted up and many people who work in Norwich have chosen Dereham to live in.

The main A47 road gives Dereham good links and that has encouraged many firms to have their base in the town.

Dereham's traditional business base was built around manufacturing and agricultural sectors - but the changes in industry have seen a shift to many more smaller companies and a greater emphasis on retail and technology.

Georgian buildings welcome visitors to the High Street, and are also dotted around the market place. Market day shoppers can snap up a bargain on a Tuesday or Friday.

St Nicholas Church, with its separate bell tower, dominates the town centre.

History of Dereham

Dereham is thought to have derived its name from the deer that roamed in earlier times and at one point it was known as Deerham.

It dates back to Saxon times and was probably founded in the seventh century when St Withburga founded a monastery. She was the youngest daughter of Anna, King of East Angles who was killed in battle in 654.

After his death Withburga became a nun and settled with other holy women in Dereham, which they had picked as a site for a holy religious foundation. When she died she was buried in Dereham Churchyard, but her body was stolen by monks sent by the Abbot of Ely. It was re-interred near those of her royal sisters St Ethelreda and St Saxburga.

In the place where Withburga's body was wrenched from the earth a spring started to flow with healing properties. Withburga is still remembered in Dereham.

By Norman times Dereham had become a thriving village and continued to prosper in the centuries which followed.

The 500-year-old Bishop Bonners Cottage, which also houses the town's museum, is popular with townsfolk and visitors.

Among the major events in Dereham's history were the great fires in 1581 and 1659 and the escape and then shooting of a French prisoner of war called De Narde during the Napoleonic wars.

Several well known people were associated with the town including poet William Cowper, who settled in the town in the late 18th century, author George Borrow, who was born at Dumpling Green and antiquary John Fenn, who discovered and transcribed the Paston Letters and lived at Hill House.

Dereham directory

Bond House, High Street, Dereham NR19 1DZ. Tel: 01362 854701. Fax: 01362 854709.
Chief reporter: Ian Clarke

Dereham CE VA Infant School and Nursery, (01362) 692727
Fred Nicholson Special School, (01362) 693915
Grove House Nursery and Infant Community School, (01362) 694379
Kings Park Infant School, (01362) 694077
St Nicholas Junior School, (01362) 693876
Toftwood Community Middle School, (01362) 694919
Neatherd Community High School, (01362) 697981 or 696884
Northgate High School, (01362) 697033
St Nicholas Church, Church Street, (01362) 693143
Dereham Baptist Church, Norwich Street, (01362) 695221
Church of the Sacred Heart (Roman Catholic), London Road, 01362 694066
Wellspring Family Church, Neatherd Church, (01362) 854581 / 694635
Cowper Memorial Evangelical Congregational Church, (01362) 820306
Dereham Trinity Methodist Church, Theatre Street, (01362) 695582
The Salvation Army, St Nicholas Street, (01362) 851724
Breckland District Council, (01362) 695333
Town Council, Assembly Rooms, Market Place, 01362 693821
Open from Easter to the end of September, 01362 698992
Cherry Tree car park, off the Market Place
Cowper car park, behind Somerfield and Iceland
Market Place (20 parking spaces)
Dencora car park on Commercial Road

Places to visit near Dereham
Roots of Norfolk Rural Life museum, Gressenhall: three miles north-west of Dereham. Follow the brown signs from the A47, the B1146 and from Dereham centre. Working farm, displays, etc.