A new exhibition chronicles the occupation of Thetford by the Vikings

15:06 July 11, 2022

Artifacts from the period when Thetford was under Viking occupation return to the town for a major new exhibition highlighting this little-known chapter in its history.

The artifacts – including a Thor’s hammer pendant, coin hoard and pottery lamp – date back to the 9th century, when the area was a winter camp for a huge Viking invasion force.

They are on display in the town’s Old House Museum for a new show telling the story of the occupation, seen as a vital period for Thetford, acting as a major stimulus to its growth.

One of Thor’s hammer pendants, which is on display as part of the exhibition
– Credit: Norfolk Museum Service

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the invading force – known as the Great Viking Army or Great Heathen Army – landed in the region in 865 AD.

He led a series of campaigns against the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, until he was defeated by Alfred the Great at the Battle of Edington.

During the three years the force wintered in Thetford, which became the sixth largest city in the country at the time.

A viking jewel

A viking jewel
– Credit: Norfolk Museum Service

Gareth Williams, Curator of the British Museum, said: “Norfolk is well known as a major area of ​​Viking activity, and Thetford itself is important both as a Viking camp during the period of raiding and conquest in the end of the ninth century, and as one of the towns which became centers of production and commerce after the settlement of the Vikings.”

A number of occupation-related artefacts have been discovered over the years, but many have left the county, with some ending up in the British Museum.

Some have now been brought to town for the new exhibit.

Early medieval tombstone

Early medieval tombstone
– Credit: Norfolk Museum Service

The show – ‘Vikings, history on your doorstep’ – features three Thor’s hammer pendants, found in Attleborough, Thetford and South Lopham.

Oliver Bone, curator at the Ancient House Museum, said: “Norfolk is kind of unusual, I think it has a higher concentration of these pendants than other parts of the country.

gold plate

Gold plate of Saint John the Evangelist
– Credit: Trustees of the British Museum

“We don’t know exactly what the reason is, but they are very much associated with the Viking people who arrived in the mid to late ninth century.

“Thetford is a fairly well researched town.

“It has been a fascinating process to learn a bit more about the period,” he added.


Other finds, on loan from the British Museum, include a hoard of coins, a Viking sword, two worked copper alloy brooches and a ‘very rare’ early medieval carved stone tombstone found at Thetford during construction work in 2019

There is also a gold plate dating from the time of the first Viking attacks, discovered in the 1970s and featuring an engraving of Saint John the Evangelist.

cresset lamp

cresset lamp
– Credit: Norfolk Museum Service

The exhibit, which opens July 16, is part of the Brecks Fen Edge and Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme’s ‘Celebrating River Heritage’ project.

This comes as the new Marvel Thor movie hits theaters across the country.

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