2000 Years in one amazing visit
© Ancient House Museum, Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service

Mercantile Age

In the C16th the town was a successful mercantile centre, reflected in the surviving merchant houses and associations with major figures such as John of Gaunt


During this period, Thetford, like many towns in East Anglia, had a prominent market and a large number of wealthy merchants and burgesses. The best surviving example of a merchant’s house from this period is the Ancient House on White Hart Street, now a museum. Little is known of how Thetford was governed in the late medieval period, although the town must have been granted a royal charter in the early medieval times, as the town enjoyed legal privileges which could only be granted by such a charter, such as an exemption from tolls and customs. Thetford was also the location of the Assize Court, along with Norwich, which gave it an important role in the jurisdiction of the county.


The manor of Thetford was held by the Duchy of Lancaster, and administered by a provost or bailiff. In the fourteenth century the manor was therefore held by John of Gaunt, whose son became Henry IV. Thetford therefore became a royal manor until the mid sixteenth century. The manor house was on the site of the King's House, and its ground probably extended up to Earls Lane. John of Gaunt and the subsequent royal holders of the manor were not normally in residence in Thetford, and the manor house was probably lived in by the manorial steward who administered the property in their absence.
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Thetford’s trades

The Mayor and burgesses of Thetford had the right to hold markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and four religious fairs throughout the year. The medieval market place was located between..
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© Ancient House Museum, Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service
Key dates
  • 1373
  • 1499
  • 1536
  • 1540
  • 1549
  • 1555
  • 1574