5 things you probably didn’t know about Thetford 

The Thomas Paine statue in Thetford.

The Thomas Paine statue in Thetford. - Credit: Sonya Duncan/Archant Norfolk

Thetford is perhaps best known for its magical forest but there is a lot more to be discovered if you decide to explore this market town.

Here are 5 facts that you may not know about: 

Filming location of Dad’s Army 

The cast of Dad's Army. (L-R) Clive Dunn, James Beck, John Le Mesurier, Arthur Lowe, John Laurie, Ia

The cast of Dad's Army. (L-R) Clive Dunn, James Beck, John Le Mesurier, Arthur Lowe, John Laurie, Ian Lavender and Arnold Ridley. The BBC sitcom was filmed in Thetford. - Credit: PA

Captain Mainwaring and his unlikely band of Home Guard volunteers may have patrolled the streets of the fictional town of Walmington-on-Sea but the much-loved BBC sitcom was actually mostly filmed in Thetford.

You can still recognise some of the streets and buildings today and a trip to the town is not complete without a visit to the Dad’s Army Museum.


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You can even sit for a moment or two with Captain Mainwaring himself, as a life-like bronze statue can be found on a park bench. 

The first black mayor in Britain 

Allan Glaisyer Minns became mayor of Thetford in 1903. The first black mayor to be elected in the history of Great Britain. 

Allan Glaisyer Minns became mayor of Thetford in 1903. The first black mayor to be elected in the history of Great Britain. - Credit: Archant Archive

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Allan Glaisyer Minns was a medical doctor from the Bahamas, who moved to Thetford in 1888 and set up a medical practice there.

He went on to become the first black man to be elected mayor in Britain in 1904, a position he held for two years. He continued to be an important figure in the town and served on the council for several years. 

Birthplace of a founding father of the United States 

The Thomas Paine statue in Thetford.

The Thomas Paine statue in Thetford. - Credit: Sonya Duncan/Archant Norfolk

Thomas Paine began his working life making ladies’ underwear in Thetford.

But despite these humble beginnings, Paine became a hugely influential philosopher and one of the key figures of the American Revolution after emigrating there in 1774.

He continued his political activism and writings that promoted transnational human rights until his death in 1809.  

Home of the last Maharajah  

The Duleep Singh statue in thetford

The Duleep Singh statue in thetford - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2013

Maharajah Duleep Singh was exiled to England aged 11 after the defeat of the Sikh Army in 1847. In 1863, he bought the estate of Elveden and made Thetford his home.

Duleep became a favourite acquaintance of Queen Victoria and was a generous benefactor to Thetford. A life-sized statue still stands on Thetford’s Button Island to commemorate his life and contribution to the town. 

A road sign embroiled in an ongoing feud 

The Thetford Ranges sign, which has been altered to say Thetford Oranges. Photo: Luke Powell

The Thetford Ranges sign, which has been altered to say Thetford Oranges. - Credit: Archant

For several years, a road sign in Thetford has become the focus of a bizarre war between the nation’s highway authority and mystery pranksters (https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/local-council/revealed-full-extent-of-thetford-oranges-sign-battle-1413050).

The sign directing drivers to Thetford Ranges has been regularly defaced by unknown individuals, who periodically draw an ‘O’ on the sign so it reads ‘Thetford Oranges.’

The feud has supposedly gone on for a while and has likely amused many motorists driving past on the A11.  

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