May 24 2013 Latest news:
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Bustling Swaffham is one of Norfolk's most attractive market towns
Feted for its heritage and fine architecture, Swaffham is also the home of the region's leading environmental education complex.
The EcoTech Centre has a multi-faceted role as a centre for learning, conferences and seminars, research and development, a visitor attraction and the focus for an innovation and business park. Britain's tallest wind turbine stands in the grounds.
Swaffham's shopping centre still boasts many small, privately-run businesses. Early closing day is officially Wednesday but most stores now stay open throughout the week.
The independently-run Swaffham Museum opens from spring to the end of October (call 01760 721230 for opening times). Tourist information can also be obtained here.
History of Swaffham
The Market Place, framed by many fine buildings and donimated by the graceful outline of the parish church, has been the focal point of life in Swaffham for centuries.
The Saturday market, held by permission of a Royal Charter granted prior to the 13th century, attracts bargain-hunters from miles around. Stalls sell local produce, clothes, bric a brac and other wares, and there is a weekly auction.
The greater part of the church of St Peter and St Paul dates from the 15th century and is inextricably linked with the legendary Peddler of Swaffham, John Chapman.
Chapman is said to have found two pots of gold buried under a tree in his garden after receiving a message in a dream.
History confirms that a John Chapman did exist and was a churchwarden in 1462.
The tower and north aisle of the church are believed to have been made possible largely through his generosity.
The other well-known features of the Market Place are the Butter Cross and the Assembly Rooms - an important public meeting place for the town.
The Butter Cross was built in 1783 by the Earl of Orford and comprises eight stone columns supporting a dome, which is topped by a figure of the goddess, Ceres.
The Assembly Rooms (right), which were re-built in 1817, have undergone an extensive programme of repairs and refurbishment.
Although railway transport through Swaffham ceased in 1968, when the Norwich-King's Lynn fell victim to the Beeching axe, the town continues to serve as an important crossroads in Norfolk's road network.
It is already bypassed by the A47 travelling east-west but increased traffic volumes in recent years have prompted calls for a north-south relief road.