Thetford Borough Council; 1574-1974; Thetford, Norfolk

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Thetford Borough Council; 1574-1974; Thetford, Norfolk

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  • Thetford Corporation

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Thetford was important in Iron Age times, and we know that an extensive early Saxon settlement was established on the Suffolk side of the River Ouse by the 6th C. The northern side of the river was probably colonised as a burgh in the 10th C. and swiftly grew in size and importance until, by 1086, it was the 6th largest town in England.

Although a thriving borough with several hundred burgesses, it was governed by a reeve, directly appointed by the Crown. Thetford had to wait until 1574 before being awarded a royal charter of incorporation. This was later withdrawn and replaced with a new charter in 1682.
Unfortunately, there are almost no records of the borough surviving from before 1574.
The charter of 1574, established a mayor, 24 aldermen, 20 common councilmen, a recorder, a sword-bearer and 2 serjeants at arms, the mayor, aldermen and councillors being elected by the burgesses or freemen of the borough. However, over the course of the 18th century, the establishment became increasingly unrepresentative of its population, and by the early 19th century, was infamous for being a ‘rotten borough’. The Municipal Reform Act of 1835 reformed and changed the structure of the borough to that of a borough and town council with a mayor, 4 aldermen and 12 councillors. Later, under the 1858 Local Government Act, Thetford Borough Council assumed the function of the Local Board of Health and held quarterly and special meetings in this capacity. The 1872 Public Health Act abolished Local Boards of Health and replaced with Urban Sanitary Authorities (which were often still known as Local Boards) so Thetford Borough Council automatically took on the function of an Urban Sanitary Authority. These were in turn abolished by legislation in 1894 and Urban District Councils established in their place. Thetford was then designated a Municipal Borough but seems for some reason to have decided to act as an Urban District Council. It remained, however, a Municipal Borough until abolition of almost all municipal boroughs in 1974. Thereafter, Thetford was represented by a 'town council', really an urban version of a parish council, and fell under the area administered by Breckland District Council.
Since 1918, the Thetford Borough has been solely in the administrative county of Norfolk, though previous to that date, the part south of the Little Ouse River was in Suffolk. In 1924, Thetford's three ecclesiastical parishes (St Peter's, St Cuthbert's and St Mary's) were united for civil purposes into one civil parish.

In 1935, the principal committees were the Finance and General Purposes Committee (responsible for reviewing expenditure, examining presented bills and recommending to Council to levy rates), the Public Health and Highways Committee (which reviewed reports from the Medical Officer of Health and from the Sanitary Inspector, and which was also responsible for the management of the Council's housing estates), Waterworks Committee (responsible for the water supply to the town), Rating Committee (responsible for collecting rates and water rents and considered appeals for reduction in payments), Valuation Committee (decided the gross value for rating purposes of every rateable property in Thetford), Guildhall Committee (responsible for the administration, maintenance, repair and hire of the building and its contents), Fire Brigade Committee (the administration and costs of the fire-fighting service, its men and equipment), Museum and Art Gallery Committee (responsible for the Ancient House Museum and the portrait gallery at the Guildhall, for accepting or rejecting gifts towards the collections), Recreation and Bath Committees (responsible respectively for the management of the recreation ground and the Common and overseeing sports clubs using the town's facilities, and for the schools using the open-air swimming bath at Nun's Common), and the Navigation Committee (by 1935, almost moribund, reflecting the reduced use of the River Ouse).

In 1902, the principal rates were the District Rate, levied by the Town Council acting as a sanitary authority, and from which monies the roads and waterworks were maintained, and the Poor Rate, which was actually a combination of the Poor Rates levied by the Guardians along with the School Board Rate, the Borough Rate and the County Rate. The Rating and Valuation Act of 1925 brought about the unification of the funds and accounts of many boroughs, including those of Thetford. Since 1 Apr 1929 Thetford's Borough Fund ceased to exist and thereafter its principal account before 1973 was the General Rate Fund Account.

Thetford's waterworks were established in 1876. Thetford's first council housing estate, initially called the, 'Corporation Dwellings Estate' comprised 50 houses erected in c 1912 onwards on the Bury Road. This was followed a few years later by the laying-out of a larger estate of 72 houses, called the 'Newtown Estate' on the London Road.
Planning for an expansion of the town, in partnership with London County Council, began in 1956, and in Feb 1957, the Borough agreed to accept 5000 Londoners, to build new housing estates and industrial parks to accommodate them, and in May, the London County Council approved the town development plan. By June 1959, the first Londoners arrived, and in 1960, the Borough agreed to take up to 10,000 incomers from London. By November 1962, over 31 new firms had relocated to Thetford and by January 1966, the town's population had reached 10,000 with almost 50 new firms then working in the town.


Thetford, Norfolk

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Created on: 26/11/2004 by Droip and modified 16/08/2023 by Drott.




See Alan Crosby, 'A History of Thetford' (1986).

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