The town of Thetford is often seen as little more than a small market town in a somewhat uneventful county. With just over twenty-two thousand residents, a newcomer to the town can be excused for thinking that there isn't much to this quaint burg, other than a nice amount of scenic beauty. The town lies very near the Thetford Forest and the forest in fact kind of dwarves the town. With only a twelve square mile span, the town is very easy to overlook in the grand scheme of things. This, however, would be a mistake. Thetford, as small as it is, has nonetheless played an inexplicably large role in English history simply because of the vast plethora of people who have inhabited it at different stages in history.
Most English towns have a somewhat similar pattern of inhabitation. Many of the older ones found their roots in the Roman Empire when the country began to build roads and forts in what would become English cities some day. After this stage, countless English towns went on to become ruled by Saxons and have more, newer castles added to the list. Much of this is par for the course but Thetford is most definitely an exception to the rule. Chief among the unique residents that have populated Thetford is the famed Iceni. The Iceni were an ancient Celtic tribe and it is believed that Thetford was in fact the home of Boudica, one of the most beloved Celtic queens in history.
Even more interestingly, Thetford later became occupied by monarchs from East Anglica. This is during the days of Norman prominence and the Normans in fact built an enormous castle within the town atop one of the highest hills in the surrounding region. Castle Hill can still be seen to this day and it most definitely evokes a feeling of awe and power. Unfortunately, the Castle that was once atop the hill has long since succumbed to the ravages of time so we won't be looking in any dungeons any time soon. Around the 1100s Thetford was the home of a Cluniac Priory. These odd church members are even said to still haunt the area so it seems as if this group truly enjoyed their stay in Thetford.
Thetford has definitely been home to an eclectic group of tribes and races and this more than anything helps to sum up the town and what it stands for. Thomas Paine was born here and he went on to become one of the earliest and most successful proponents of the rights of man. As a matter of fact, there is a statue in town of Paine holding up one of his many freedom-oriented manifestos, the "Rights of Man". Thetford itself is even derived from the Anglo-Saxon tongue where it meant "Man's Ford". Thetford, then, is the perfect example of a town dedicated to mankind in every way. Perhaps now it will stick out a little more on the roadmaps for the truly significant and beautiful town that it is.
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