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Thetford's history of revolution
Statue of Boudicca
It was from Thetford that Boudicca led her revolt against the Romans

Most people's experiences of Thetford involve driving along the A11 past the forest but if you delve deeper, it has a rich and compelling history.

From Boudicca to Charles Burrell, the town has played an important part in the country's development.

At the time of the Domesday survey, Thetford was even ranked as one of the biggest towns in the country.

Today, 22,000 people live in Thetford and it has a varied ethnic make-up including a large Portuguese community.

As a town lining the A11, Thetford in south Norfolk is easy enough to pass by, but it's been home to several important historical figures, with Queen Boudicca its first and most notable resident.

Thetford was the base of the Iceni Titian-haired warrior and is where she put together her battle plan to try and overthrow the Romans - killing 70,000 people in the process.


In Saxon times, Thetford was the capital of East Anglia and a prosperous place to live, which led to it having its own mint in the 10th Century.

By 1086, the Domesday Survey estimated Thetford's population had grown to between 4,000 and 4,500 people, making it the country's sixth biggest town.

Shortly after this time, Thetford became an important religious centre. The foundation stone of the Cluniac Priory was laid in the 12th Century and 22 churches were dotted about the town.

However, in the 1500s King Henry VIII decided to seize the wealthy monasteries to boost the royal coffers.

The dissolution of the monasteries meant the Cluniac Priory was left to fall to ruin, along with the rest of the town's religious houses.

Thetford was once ranked as the sixth largest town in the country

The priory site soon became a source of cheap building material and stones from many fallen religious buildings can be found today around the town, including King's House - the town council's offices.

Charles Burrell

Afterwards the town's population and fortune dwindled until Thetford became a manufacturing centre for Charles Burrell's steam traction engines in the 1800s.

The foundry turned out machinery widely regarded as the Rolls Royces of the steam industry. The works attracted engineers from London, the Midlands and Yorkshire, until it closed in 1928.

With no major employer, the number of people living in Thetford fell to around 5,000 until the 1950s when the borough council approached London County Council to bring businesses to the town.

A plan was drawn up for 5,000 Londoners to settle here and their county council built homes in Norfolk, after a number of city firms relocated.

Today around 22,000 people live in Thetford, some of them descendants of those who moved from London and those who relocated to work at Charles Burrell.

The town also has a large proportion of people of Portuguese descent with a 2004 survey placing the percentage at almost a third.


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