West Dereham Heritage Group

Aims and Objectives
• To learn more about the local area
• To research and record the past of our village
• To co-operate with other local heritage groups for mutual benefit and to share information
• To assist in the preservation of our local street scene.
November of this year will be the 15th Anniversary of our Heritage Group. The idea arose from a general meeting that was held in the old school in 2005 to see what people would like to take place in their village. Along with suggestions to improve the village hall, quite a few people thought there should be a group that would look into the history of our village. The following are examples of our famous historic links:-
• West Dereham has the remains of a Premonstratensian Abbey built by the former Chief Justiciar of England and Archbishop of Canterbury, Hubert Walter, c1160-1205. Hubert Walter is generally acknowledged to have been born in West Dereham. The Abbey was granted a weekly Wednesday market and the right to hold an annual four day fair, starting on St Matthew’s Day, 21st September, by King John in 1199.
• Elias of Dereham also born in the village; c1165-1245 with links during his lifetime to Hubert Walter. Elias was a canon at Salisbury Cathedral from its foundation in 1220 for 25 years at the same time acting as project manager/fund raiser; this was only part of his life’s great achievements.
• Also there are the links to the Dereham family itself; most infamously Francis Dereham who was executed at Tyburn on 8th December 1541 owing to his alleged affair with Henry VIII’s wife, Catherine Howard.
So a few people decided to take the idea further and set up the first meeting. The inaugural meeting was held on 30th November 2005. Early meetings included a speaker from Gressenhall talking about the village’s archaeological past, local slide show and a visit to the Denver Sluice complex. With the refurbishment of the Village Hall we were fortunate to obtain space for a dedicated Heritage Room; this is open to all by prior arrangement (under normal circumstances). Some members successfully applied for a £12,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund which enabled the equipping of the room. Further to our Lottery bid the group held an Open Day, when the Heritage Room was officially opened by Dr Paul Richards on 7th July 2012, and two successful junior training days.
Every year since we have managed to organise a full and varied programme of speakers and events that always include a summer and Christmas social event. We have had coach outings to Sutton Hoo, the ‘Lost Villages’, Bletchley Park and the last working shoe factory in Norwich, Van-Dal. At members’ requests we incorporate ‘round the table’ sessions where local history memories and ideas are exchanged. We have participated in local heritage events and made links with other local history groups as well as printing several of our own booklets and our magazine ‘Both Ends’. We have our own recording equipment and our always keen to record local people’s memories. The work still goes on to glean what information we can about our local history. Members obtained permission to visit the Keyser Workroom in the Archaeological Museum, Cambridge to view a figure, believed to be that of one of the Abbots of West Dereham Abbey, which had once been in The Church of the Holy Trinity, Cambridge.
Our recent launched Facebook page is proving to be not only a link with past memories but a means of people keeping in touch and reminiscing during these difficult days.
We hope to get back to our normal routine as soon as the government allows, and would like to take this opportunity to wish all our Heritage Group members, Facebook followers, supporters and Pump readers the best of health.
Pam Bullas
Secretary, West Dereham Heritage Group

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