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Thetford Ancient House

Thetford Ancient House

There are many magnificent stately homes in Norfolk but the charming Ancient House Museum in Thetford gives a unique glimpse into the history of middle class life. The early Tudor town house is one of the best examples in East Anglia. Its origins are uncertain but when the house was given as a gift to the town by Prince Frederick Duleep Singh in 1921, a conveyance mentions it was erected in the reign of Edward IV (1461-83). Probably commissioned by a wealthy merchant, it’s likely the house was originally detached, albeit constrained by the modest size of the plot.

Unlike in dramas like ‘Downton Abbey’, it was common for this kind of household, including servants, to sit down and eat together. The comfortable interior, with beautifully carved timbers, immediately captures the imagination. The Museum examines the lives of various people who lived in this building; an innkeeper, a plumber, a watchmaker and a museum caretaker. The 1901 population census tells us Thomas Newton, a rabbit warrener, was living here with his wife Emily, their family and four lodgers. If you love The Museum of the Home in London’s Shoreditch, Thetford’s Ancient House is a must-see.

Nearby there’s more history to discover. In 1737 political philosopher Thomas Paine was born 100 metres away. A passionate supporter of American and European revolutionary causes, he wrote hugely influential pamphlets including Common Sense, Age of Reason and the Rights of Man, a rebel in the great tradition of Norfolk’s radical thinkers!


Ancient House Museum of Thetford Life, White Hart Street, Thetford, IP24 1AA


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