Dereham town in Norfolk, England, UK

Dereham town in Norfolk, England, UK.

Dereham is a bustling market town with a proven history starting in the 7th century when Saint Withburga founded a monastery. The town is a centre for the thriving agricultural community on the main A47 road between Norwich and Kings Lynn. It is possible that Dereham gets its name from the deer that roamed in earlier times and was probably known as Deerham. Until recent times the town was known as East Dereham, but most of the locals have dropped the use of East and now refer to it either as Dereham or Market Dereham.

Over the last few years Dereham has improved its appeal as a tourist destination with its ease of access North Norfolk’s attractive coastal resorts and numerous other attractions, including the broads and many National Trust properties which are within easy driving distance.

Today there is a vast diversity of businesses in the town with modern shops and offices, which retain the charm of the history of the town but show the progress of modern industry, indeed it is a bustling town. There are a variety of leisure and sports facilities in the town, and on the edge of the town is the restored Dereham Windmill with a picnic area or you can sit in the seclusion of the Queen Mothers Garden in the centre of the town.

Saint Withburga founded a monastery and she is commemorated most visibly in the town sign, which straddles the market place entrance to the high street, it shows St. Withburga confronting a huntsman and his dog who are pursuing two deer. She was the youngest daughter of Ann, King of the East Angles who was killed at the battle of Blythburgh.

dereham wellWithburga died and was buried in Dereham churchyard, however, the manor of Dereham was presided over by the Abbot of Ely, and Withburga’s sister Ethelreda had founded Ely. In 970AD the Abbot sent his monks to remove Withburga’s body, which they did and re-interred it near those of her royal sisters, St. Ethelreda and St. Saxburga. In the place where Withburga’s body was removed, a spring with healing properties stared to flow, which can still be found in the churchyard.

The well at St Nicholas Church has become an important place of pilgrimage, and legends of the waters ability to heal sores and eye ailments have been handed down over the centuries.

dereham tombMany famous people of note have been associated with the town.

William Cowper the poet settled in the town in the late 18th century and George Borrow the author was born at Dumpling green.

The house still stands and he mentions Dereham in his most famous work ‘Lavengro’

dereham churchThe parish church of St. Nicholas is one of the biggest and most fascinating in the county, it has a centre tower, nave, chancel, north and south aisles, transepts and chapels. It has a separate bell tower, which is an uncommon feature. There are a number of fine stained glass windows including a Te Deum window in the Lady Chapel, the William Cowper window, and the Withburga window. It is a magnificent building in the centre of town.

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