The sixties boom town facing another new chapter

Thetford aerial view during the 1960s building boom in 1969

The changing face of Thetford during the building boom of the 1960s. Dated: April 30, 1969. - Credit: Archant Library

From one of the largest settlements in Saxon England to the fastest growing town in the land between 1961 and 1971.

Thetford - a place with an extraordinary story to tell. So many chapters, so many twists and turns, and more could be on the horizon now.

Bridge Street in Therford in 1916

Back in time – the way it was on Bridge Street, Thetford in 1916. - Credit: Archant Library

Designer Wayne Hemingway MBE has been commissioned by Breckland Council to come up with a plan to put Thetford back in the spotlight as a top destination for families, businesses and tourists.

In recent times the residents have been taking part in a major survey to discover what they want to see in the future, giving them a voice.

Wayne, one of the UK’s leading urban regeneration experts, said that in Thetford it was about making sure decisions were made with an understanding of what Thetford is as a place and who the people are as a community.

Thetford girl guides camp out in 1971

Thetford girl guides camp out. Dated: August 25, 1971. - Credit: Archant Library

Raleigh school trip in Thetford in 1977

Raleigh school trip in Thetford. Dated: February 16, 1977. - Credit: Archant Library

And Roy Brame, vice-chairman of Breckland, said: “Mr Hemingway did a marvellous job in other market towns. If they get it right this could be the start of Thetford being the place to live. Norfolk’s Jewel.”

Well, Thetford has come in for unfair criticism over the years. Often from those who don’t live there.

We spent ten years living and working in Thetford in the 1970s and 80s and loved it.

There are the locals - an umbrella including those from Norfolk and London - living alongside others from across this country and the world. Not forgetting the GI’s from Lakenheath and Mildenhall who often make Thetford their home.

An aerial view of Thetford in 1969.

The changing face of Thetford during the building boom of the 1960s. Dated: May 2, 1969 - Credit: Archant Library

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A glorious mixture of folk getting on with their lives in such a wonderful and beautiful part of the country.

And what a history this former 11th century cathedral city has.

At the time of the Norman Conquest it was the sixth largest town of England - a big, bustling, place of national importance.

As time moved on Thetford became an industrial town with the rise of Burrell’s to become the biggest traction engine manufacturers in the world.

Thetford 2nd Scout group sale in 1968

Thetford 2nd Scout group sale. Dated: November 16, 1968. - Credit: Archant Library

Only 36 new houses were built between 1925 and 1938/9. The town was almost on its knees.

But, in 1957, Thetford Borough Council and the London County Council signed the agreement to build 1,500 houses, to accommodate 5,000 Londoners and the first overspill tenants moved in during April of 1959.

Life in Thetford would never be the same again. New estates, housing and industrial, schools, community centres and the rest… it was all change.

Thetford Secondary Modern School choir in 1965

Thetford Secondary Modern School choir. Dated: May 11, 1965. - Credit: Archant Library

Yes, there have been difficulties in more recent times. But that is all part of the Thetford story and now Breckland Council is looking to the future again through the eyes of Wayne Hemingway.

There is a never a dull moment in this town.