Milestone restored to original Thetford site 70 years after Second World War burial

An old Milestone discovered buried in Thetford during building work has been restored by Nigel Ford

An old Milestone discovered buried in Thetford during building work has been restored by Nigel Ford of the Milestone Society (kneeling down)and put back in place along Norwich Road in the town. With Nigel are members of the MIlestone Society, Breckland COuncil, Thetford Town COuncil and Thetford Society. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016

In an age before A-Z maps, electronic road signs and GPS, they were a traveller's lifeline - the stone Sat Nav of its time.

Wayfarers, whether on foot, horseback or drawn carriage, were kept on track by their regular updates.

But when the Second World War arrived, the power of the milestone - signposting the distances to major locations and landmarks - became its weakness.

As fear of German invasion spread, the British government were keen to avoid giving the enemy any assistance.

It issued instructions to local councils to remove anything that would give a marooned invader directions - including railway station signs, finger-posts and milestones.

While signage could be removed, the instructions for milestones was simple - bury them.

Since the war, the Milestone Society has been recovering these lost relics, with members scouring historic maps to uncover their locations.

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Once found, they are lovingly restored, with many returning to their original locations.

The latest to be restored was unveiled yesterday in Norwich Road, Thetford.

The milestone, believed to date from the early 1800s, was dug up in the 1990s while excavation work took place for a new housing estate.

It then sat in Thetford's Cemetery, broken in two, until October last year, when Nigel Ford, Milestone Society member, took delivery of it.

He patched up the broken monolith, and invited children from Norwich Road Primary Academy to paint it.

The Thetford Society - which spearheaded the refurbishment - invited Robert Kybird, Thetford mayor, and Gordon Bambridge, chairman of Breckland Council, to unveil the milestone.

Carol Haines, the Norfolk representative for the Milestone Society, said the milestones were an important part of our heritage.

'We can learn a lot by looking at them, with the different kinds of writing and numerals used, and the designs.

'They were used to calculate the cost of mail delivery originally, and had their own styles depending on the turnpike they were placed upon.

'This one was quite unusual because it's not like any of the others on the Norwich to Thetford road, and it's wonderful to see it restored,' she said.

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