This ancient town grew up on the banks of the rivers Thet and Little Ouse. 

And as the Industrial Revolution gathered pace, so did Thetford

During this dramatic time, the area grew and was transformed into a leading centre for industry in the area.

Now the town’s long-forgotten past as a working waterway is under the spotlight again as part of a new exhibition. 

Eastern Daily Press: Thetford Beer Bottles, beer mug and Havest Barrell

Eastern Daily Press: Prince of Wales in Thetford Pulpware Hard Hat

Made by the River, at the Ancient House Museum of Thetford Life, tells the engaging story of the town’s old riverside industries from the 1800s to the 1980s. 

Nick Dickson, scheme manager of the Brecks Fen Edge and Rivers (BFER), which is delivering the exhibition, said: “All of our landscape has been impacted by people and industry for thousands of years.

“The story of our industrious rivers continues to shed light on elements of local history that are rapidly fading from memory.” 

Eastern Daily Press: Fisons foundry patterns, sack marker and sack heaver

A number of Thetford’s old industries were located near the rivers, including the manufacture of Thetford pulp ware, the grinding of coffee beans, beer brewing, leather tanning, fruit and vegetable canning and the making of malt.

The exhibition’s displays feature evocative names such as Fison’s fertilizers, Burrell’s steam engines and Bidwells brewery in a bid to conjure up the sights, sounds and smells of the town’s rich heritage. 

It also explores and celebrates these industries with a variety of products on display, alongside tools used by workers and the stories of some of the people who were employed in the factories and workshops.   

Eastern Daily Press: Thetford Pulp Ware 'Fancy Goods'

Those attending learn about how the rivers were used for moving raw materials and finished products and providing power for mills, while its water was used for processing and waste disposal.  

Margaret Dewsbury, cabinet member for communities at Norfolk County Council, added: “This fascinating exhibition is bound to bring back memories for many Thetford residents, while for children and young people it’s a vivid connection to the different industries which helped shape the town.” 

  • The exhibition is being delivered as part of the BRER landscape partnership scheme with National Lottery Heritage funding. It opened on Saturday, July 22.

Eastern Daily Press: Pair of maltster’s shoes, malt fork and shovel with malt tester

Eastern Daily Press: Thetford Pulpware hat

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