Facts about Dereham
Dereham, also known as East Dereham, is a town and civil parish in the Breckland District and English county of Norfolk. It is situated on the A47 road, about 15 miles (25 km) west of the city of Norwich and 25 miles (40 km) east of King’s Lynn. The civil parish has an area of 21.51 km2 (8.31 sq mi) and in the 2001 census had a population of 15,659 in 6,941 households, the population at the 2011 Census increasing to 18,609.
It is believed that Dereham’s name derives from a deer park that existed in the area is perhaps the 7th Century since a rough translation of the name is “enclosure for deer”. That is quite recent, however, since it is known that the town pre-dates the Saxon era. According to local tradition, Saint Wihtburh (aka Withburga), the youngest daughter of Anna, King of the East Angles, founded a monastery and a convent there in the seventh century after seeing a vision of the Virgin Mary, although the Venerable Bede does not mention her in his writings.
An archaeological report by Norfolk County Council indicates that the first “documentary evidence” of a settlement in this area was not until AD 798. In the late 1700s Dereham church’s bell tower was used as a prison for French prisoners of war being transferred from Great Yarmouth to Norman Cross under the charge of the East Norfolk Militia. On 6 October 1799 a French officer, Jean de Narde, managed to escape from the tower and, being unable to escape from the churchyard due to guards being present, hid in a tree.