Record Details

NHER Number:5753
Type of record:Building
Name:Ancient House Museum, White Hart Street


The earliest part of the Ancient House Museum was constructed around 1490 and consisted of a hall with a partition wall which separates off a southern area which has a full-width frieze window. This arrangement strongly suggests that the southern part of the building was used as a shop. A rear wing was added to the building, probably in the 16th century, and a new rear staircase was added in the 17th century. In the late 19th century further alterations included the replacement of the shop window with a bay window and the division of the building into two separate units. The building was purchased by Prince Frederick Duleep Singh and given to the Corporation of Thetford in 1921 to be used as a museum. The museum opened in 1924 following some renovation work, and the building remains in use as a museum today. Extensive renovation work was carried out between 2002 and 2006 and several building surveys were conducted while this work took place. Today Thetford Ancient House Museum is open to the public and is part of Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TL 8691 8323
Map Sheet:TL88SE

Full description

Half timbered on west side, watchman's box. Tudor windows, screens passage, hall construction. Probably early 16th century. Windows on street front probably 18th early 19th century. Restored around 1925.
See (S1).
R. R. Clarke (NCM).

See the very detailed (S2) for a full account of the building, which is here dated to 1490 as a screen passage plan but hall only one storey. Listed Grade I for its lavish decoration of beams.
E. Rose (NAU), 18 June 1990.

June 1990. Descheduled.
Has been descheduled but still remains protected as a Listed Building.
Information from (S18).
H. Mellor (HES), 9 July 2018.

Former schedule (S3) and press cuttings (S4) and (S5) in file.

August 2001. Building Survey.
This survey identified a former external stair turret associated with the first phase, and revealed that the building was initially longer to the south. The rear range was formed in three phases.
See repot (S6) for further details. This survey is also noted in (S17).
D. Gurney (NLA), 11 February 2002.

November 2002.
See notes in file examining the differences between the last mentioned report and the listed building description.
E. Rose (NLA) 25 November 2002.

August 2002. Cellar survey.
The cellars of the Ancient House Museum and 19 White Hart Street were examined and it was confirmed that the Ancient House building and/or its plot continued further to the south.
See report (S7) for further details.
A. Cattermole (NLA), 27 August 2008.

August-September 2002. Building Survey.
Polychrome survey of White Hart Street frontage.
No early polychrome was revealed. However, a significant finding was that there was no evidence for limewash or lime plaster on the timbers.
See report (S8) and supplementary report (S9) for further details.
A. Cattermole (NLA), 27 August 2008.

Well discovered, probably 19th century.
See copies of photographs in file.
E. Rose (NLA), 21 April 2005.

April 2005. Building Survey.
Renovation/repair work undertaken throughout the entire building. Several features previously obscured by display cabinets or covered by plaster were revealed.
See report (S10), which alters earlier conclusions slightly.
E. Rose (NLA), 12 September 2005.

March 2006. Building Survey.
17th-century doorway discovered and removed following recording.
Its details suggests the building was not high status at this date.
See report (S12) for further details.
E. Rose (NLA), 29 March 2006.

See also press cuttings (S13), (S14) and (S15) in file.

Historic building report.
15th century timber-framed merchant's house and shop extended to the rear in the 17th century and now used as a museum. The interior of the house has extensive high quality carved decoration and the close-studded timber frame is exposed on the exterior which is unusual in Norfolk. The building has two storeys and is parallel to the street with a hall to the right divided from a fromer shop by a screens passage. There is a surviving plank and muntin screen with two arched doorways leading into the hall and two intersecting bridging beams with lavish decoration of roll mouldings, brattishing and embattling.The present staircase is c. AD 1600 and leads from the screens passage. The upper floor is herringbone brick nogging and moulded bridging joists. Only the tie beams of the original roof remains with the rest having been rebuilt in the 20th century.
See (S16) for further information.
S. Howard (NLA), 15 June 2010.

Monument Types

  • CELLAR (15th Century to 21st Century - 1490 AD to 2100 AD)
  • HOUSE (15th Century to Early 20th Century - 1490 AD to 1924 AD)
  • MERCHANTS HOUSE (15th Century to 16th Century - 1490 AD to 1539 AD)
  • SHOP (15th Century to 16th Century - 1490 AD to 1539 AD)
  • MUSEUM (Early 20th Century to 21st Century - 1924 AD to 2100 AD)

Associated Finds - none

Protected Status

  • Listed Building

Sources and further reading

---Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TL 88 SE 99.
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Monograph: Pevsner, N and Wilson, W. 1999. Norfolk 2: North-West and South. The Buildings of England. 2nd Edition. pp 718-719.
---Monograph: Pevsner, N. 1962. North-West and South Norfolk. The Buildings of England. 1st Edition. p 347; Pl 51a.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Medieval. Thetford.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Collection: Norfolk Historic Environment Record Staff. 1975-[2000]. HER Record Notes. Norfolk Historic Environment Service.
<S1>Publication: Clarke, W.G.. [unknown].
<S2>Designation: English Heritage. National Heritage List for England. List Entry 1297789.
<S3>Designation: [unknown]. Ancient Monuments Form. SAM Record. DNF495.
<S4>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1977. Ancient information. 8 December.
<S5>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1985. Museum marks link with Indian princes. 2 January.
<S6>Unpublished Contractor Report: Smith, R. 2001. The Ancient House, White Hart Street, Thetford, Norfolk. Robert Smith.
<S7>Unpublished Report: Smith, R. 2002. The Cellars beneath Number 19 White Hart Street and the Ancient House Museum.
<S8>Unpublished Contractor Report: Kirkham, A. 2002. Polychrome survey of the White Hart Street frontage, The Ancient House Museum, Thetford. Andrea Kirkham.
<S9>Unpublished Contractor Report: Kirkham, A. 2002. Ancient House Museum, Thetford, Norfolk. Polychrome Survey of the White Hart Street Frontage: Additional Information. Andrea Kirkham.
<S10>Unpublished Contractor Report: Smith, R. 2005. The Ancient House Museum, Thetford - Addendum. Robert Smith.
<S12>Unpublished Contractor Report: Smith, R. 2006. The Ancient House Museum, Thetford. Robert Smith.
<S13>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2002. Opening up the Ancient House. 25 January.
<S14>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2002. Museum wants to banish black look. 20 September.
<S15>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2003. £949,000 grant is vote of confidence. 30 September.
<S16>Unpublished Document: Heywood, S. Historic building report for the Ancient House Museum, 21, White Hart Street, Thetford, Norfolk.. Building Report.
<S17>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. and Penn, K. (eds). 2002. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk, 2001. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLIV Pt I pp 162-177. p 176.
<S18>Designation: English Heritage. 1990-2013. English Heritage Scheduling Notification. Notification. DNF495.

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