Thetford Grammar School is, as the plaque notes, one of the oldest schools in the country. It has been educating children for over 1,400 years, which is quite a claim for any educational establishment to have.
The actual date of the school’s foundation is rather unclear, which is inevitable given the sort of periods of history that are being referred to. There are some who claim it was founded in 631AD as it’s known that Sigebert, the King of the Angles, wanted a school creating in his court.
Some date the school to the late eleventh century and relate the school to being run by Herbert de Losinga. He is an important figure in Norfolk as he was the first Bishop of Norwich, but he had previously been the Bishop of Thetford. The Cathedral of Thetford, which is a strange concept to write, existed from 1072 to 1094 and Thetford Grammar School was built on the site of the building.
The school had some turbulent times around the period of Reformation, but it continued in operation in its one room until the late eighteenth century. The facilities were improved at that point, in conjunction with the Victorian Girls’ Grammar School which was opposite, with the two schools later merging.
Perhaps one of the most well-known of the school’s former students, and I’m sure many would disagree, is Thomas Paine. A controversial figure who went from a quiet upbringing in Thetford to being one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, before he upset lots of Americans with his religious views.