Buildings and Infrastructure
A parish room was built in 1887. The Three Horseshoes Inn at Thetford is an 18th century building of some interest built on a slight curve. The Round House, now two cottages, is even more remarkable in its plan. It also dates from the 18th century and is brick with a thatched roof of conical shape with a finial.
The Thetford Fields, measuring 693 acres, were enclosed in 1844. This was about half the total area. The fields were named Stone Bridge, Middle and Goldsmere Common and Hall, Holt and Reed Fens were also affected. The land was rather more evenly divided amongst the 42 allottees than in Stretham. The devisees of Mary Hammond (60 ½ acres) and William Yarrow (45 acres) received the largest shares, and 7 other proprietors received more than 20 acres apiece.

Little Thetford was described as a berewick of Ely in the Domesday Book. It was rated at 1 hide (measure of land, as much as would support one free family and dependent) held in demese; there was a villein (feudal serf, tenant holding by menial services) with 6 acres and 4 cottars. The Thetford fisheries yielded 500 eels and a 41/2d in tribute.

In the 13th century cartularies Thetford was treated as part of Stretham, but 'hayfen' of Thetford, a marsh lying between 'Bramemere' (Braham Farm) and 'Averingmere', is expressly mentioned in 1251. Moreover, one of the 1221 free tenants, and three of those in 1251, were described as 'de T(h)etford'. Thetford first emerges as a separate manor in 1539, when Edmund Khyvett and his wife Joan (Burghden) made settlement of it. Thomas Knyveet was dealing with the manor in 1572, and ten years later sold it to John and Oliver Thornton for £480. It then consisted of 20 messuages with tofts, gardens and orchard, a dovecote, land estimated at 300 acres of arable, 100 acres of meadow,100 acres of pasture, 200 acres of furze and heath and two of woodland, £16 in rents and foldage for 300 sheep.

Sir Roger Thornton died seised of the manor in 1913, and his son Samuel made a family settlement the following year. At this time Thetford manor was still reckoned to be a subsidiary of Stretham; orders were made for its common pasture of Goldsmere in the same manner as Stretham.

By 1676 John Childe was in possession of Thetford. In his will (1681) he directed the manor to be sold, the proceeds to go his son John (6 parts, his daughters Penelope and Mary (3 and 2 parts), and his relict Elizabeth (1 part). Between 1703 and 1707 John Childe the younger held it. Later in the 18th century it was held by Elizabeth Fisher. She mortgaged it to William Sharp for £100, and with her second husband William Aldred sold it to John Drage in 1768. Drage's representatives, Revd. Dr. Nasmith and James Merest, were lords in 1808. In 1851 Henry Piggot was recorded as the owner, and in 1861 Eliza Piggot, G.S. Hill, and his wife Hannah Mary held the lordship jointly.

In 1276 Thomas de Wymbych, rector, renounced all claims to tythes from the lands in the fields of Ely which were held by the men of Thetford. The chapel is not mentioned in the Taxatio, but the present building displays 14th century work. Its dedication (St.George) suggests that it may have been newly built at that time. An agreement between Richard Rysley, rector of Stretham, of the one part and Richard Riplingham and eighteen other householders of Thetford, of the other part, laid down that the stipendiary in charge of the Thetford chapel should have the tithes of the hamlet.

The inhabitants were, however, to attend the mother church at Stretham on St. James's Day (the dedication festival), and burial rights were to be reserved to Stretham. (The minor road and footpath leading south-west from Thetford village direct to Stretham is still known as the 'Burying Way').

Shortly before 1851 the Thetford tithes were commuted for a rent charge of £124. Lands intended for the provision of lights and anniversaries in the chapel were sold to Richard Hill and Robert Don, the Elizabethan speculators, in 1571.

Another chapel called Harrimere or Haveringmere stood on the bank of the river south-east of Thetford. A presentation to the chapel is recorded in 1381. It was included in the grant made in 1563 to Cecily Pickerall, widow, of Norwich, in satisfaction of a debt owed by here late husband by the Duke of Somerset. In 1571 the chapel came into the hands of Richard Hill and Robert Don. In is now commemorated in the names Chapel Hill and Harrimere Drain.

A guild of St. George in Thetford is mentioned in a will of 1489. Its hall was in 1571 sold to Richard Hill and Robert Don. It was subsequently acquired by John Townsend who at an unknown date gave it to the inhabitants of Thetford. Townsend desired that the chaplain of Thetford should have the use of a room on the building, but this wish was not realised. In 1837 the building was dilapidated and used as a workhouse and a school.

In 1870 the school was in a hired room lent by the Townsend Charity, which was in such a bad condition as to be 'disqualified for government inspection'. There was also a Dame School. With the aid of local subscription of about £1,000, a grant from the Diocesan Board, the gift of a site by the rector, the Rev. Hugh Piggot, and contributions from the charities, (for this reason the National Society did not eventually make its promised grant of £70) schools were built in both Stretham and Thetford. The building was designed by a well-known architect, J. P. St. Aubyn, opened in 1871, and provided places for 75 children.

The school remained non-provided. Under schemes made by the Charity Commissioners in 1871 and 1950 it was endowed with £25 annually from Townsend's charity. In 1895 the building was enlarged to take 90 children, and in 1950 the school was given Voluntary (Controlled) status.


In 1717 Martha Digby in her will gave 3 ¾ acres of copyhold land in Thetford, for the benefit of six poor widows. At an unknown date John Townsend gave the guildhall and three roods of land in Thetford Fields to the use of the inhabitants of the hamlet. In 1837 the common rights attached to the building brought £12 and the three roods £2 yearly. The income after deductions was given in clothes, coal and beer, and money to non-paupers. Since 1871 this charity has been devoted to educational purposes.

Extract from The Church Monthly 1901-3, page 47.

A Curious Cottage
A round house is not a common building in England. The one at Little Thetford consists of two tenements, inhabited by two separate families, and was probably, some centuries back, either a dove-cote or something similar. It will be noticed that the walls are far from upright, and seem to indicate that it might have been part of an old windmill, many of which are to be found in Cambridgeshire.

Extract from the Baptist Chapel Centenary Pamphlet 1967.

Baptist Chapel

There have been Baptist in the Parish for over 300 years but the first we here of a church in the village is from a report that a new meeting house was opened under sanction of the Cambridgeshire Association of Baptist Churches on the 30th July1939.

In 1841 eight persons were baptized at Landbeach, four were described as the first fruits of our labours in Thetford. In 1842 and 1859 we read of others being baptized in the river nearby.

We do not know what happened to this building, but there was need of a chapel, and the foundation stone of the present house of worship was laid on 21st June 1867.

Extract from Gordon Fowler's, Fenland Waterways past and Present. CAS Proceedings, vol.33 : 1933.

Between the junction of the Old West River and the Cam at Thetford the river originally went round or through an extinct mere, this mere was called Harrimere or Averingmere, these names appear in many old records and maps.


These notes were compiled 28 years ago and since then much more information has become accessible. None of this has been included in this reissue of the original pamphlet.

See my website for advice and guidance

Mike Petty, June 2009.