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Bishop Bonner’s Cottage Museum

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Virtually untouched by the 21st century, this beautiful timber-framed, thatched building is particularly noted for its unusual coloured pargetting.  Originally three cottages, it is the oldest surviving domestic building in Dereham, and with its sloping ceilings, tiny rooms, twisting staircases and wooden beams, it is easy to imagine how the many previous inhabitants lived here in the past. Dating back to 1502, it is the only house in Dereham to have survived the fires of 1581 and 1679. It is now the town’s Museum of local history. The Cottage itself has an interesting past and not all of it pleasant. It takes its name from Bishop Bonner. In 1529 he was Cardinal Thomas Wolsey’s chaplain, which brought him to the notice of the king and Thomas Cromwell.

During the 1530s he was the Rector of the close by church of St Nicholas. In his role as Bishop of London during the reign of Queen Mary, he was responsible for the death of many Protestants burned at the stake. He was known as ‘Bloody Bonner’ for good reason. He was later detained during the reign of Elizabeth I and died in Marshalsea Prison on 5 September 1569. More than 400 years later, war veteran ‘One-armed Jack’ was the last resident of the Cottage, and is something of a local legend, remembered by some of the town’s older community.

In 1963, Dereham Town Council became responsible for the upkeep of this Grade II listed building, and under the care of Dereham Antiquarian Society, the town Museum was established. Visit the Museum to learn more about Dereham’s past. There are permanent displays of local artefacts and photographs and special exhibitions from the local archive collection showing how life in Dereham has changed over the centuries.


The connection with ‘Bloody Bonner’ who was responsible for the death of many Protestants burned at the stake is an enduring one. There has been the odd report that the ghost of Edmund Bonner has been seen riding about in a black carriage drawn by horses so dark that they become almost invisible at night – exactly where this takes place is a bit of a mystery. His ghost was also featured in a poem by Hannah More (1745-1833) in which he rises from a haunted chair and bemoans his state of affairs.


The twisty stairs and little rooms are good fun to explore and we have a lovely dolls house on display.


The building its self is the star, but there are new exhibitions every year so there is always something new to see.


thetford-forest-campsiteThetford Forest

Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Puddledock Lane, Great Hockham, Thetford
Norfolk, England, IP24 1PA
+44 (0)1953 498 455

Contact Details

  • Address: St Withburga Lane, Dereham, Norfolk, England, United Kingdom, NR19 1ED
  • GPS: 52.68065,0.938492
  • Phone: 0044 (0)1953 498 455
  • Part of UK: England
  • Sat Nav Postcode: NR19 1ED
  • Entrance Fees: Yes
  • Visibility from Road: Excellent
  • Image Credits: Header Images: (C) Bishop Bonner's Cottage Museum

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