Outdated signs spark debate over Dereham’s confused identity

The East Dereham sign next to the A47. Picture: Ian Burt

The East Dereham sign next to the A47. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Next month will mark 27 years since the fall of the Berlin wall, bringing an end to the Cold War and enabling East and West Germany to unite as one nation.

Brigitte Morton wants to get the 'East' taken off the Dereham signs. Picture: Ian Burt

Brigitte Morton wants to get the 'East' taken off the Dereham signs. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

But visitors to Dereham, more than 500 miles away from the German capital, might wonder why the town appears to be refusing to acknowledge that major historical event.

The sign on the A47 welcoming them to the central Norfolk market town proudly announces that it is twinned with the town of Rüthen, West Germany.

True enough the links between the two towns were made in 1983 when the division between East and West Germany was still in place.

But many feel that the sign, which is on Swaffham side of the town, should long have been replaced, saying it makes it look like a 'town of hicks', and say it should also recognise its 2004 twinning with the French town of Caudebec-lès-Elbeuf.

Dereham's town sign. Picture: Ian Burt

Dereham's town sign - Credit: Ian Burt

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Not only that but it also refers to East Dereham, which has not been the town's name since the early 1990s.

Brigitte Morton, a member of the Dereham & Caudebec twinning association, said the sign raised a number of concerns.

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'This sign is actually inaccurate as West Germany no longer exists and neither does East Dereham,' she said.

'Norfolk has a bad educational record and if our councils cannot post correct geographical information, it is not the best example to give to our young people.

'There is also the question of pride in our town. We need to signpost it, we need to show that positive initiatives take place in Dereham and that we are outward looking by being twinned with two countries.'

She said the lack of consistency in the town's signage makes it confusing - at one end of the town you are welcomed to Dereham and at the other it is East Dereham.

'I work in the library service and some people come in not knowing where they are,' she said.

'They want to go to Dereham but can only find West Dereham and East Dereham.

'It is shameful really because we don't want to look like a backward town of hicks.'

* What do you think? Email kathryn.cross@archant.co.uk

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