East Dereham in 1839
East Dereham is in Mitford hundred, 100 miles from London. Here was anciently a nunnery, founded in the eighth century, by St. Withburga, daughter of Anna, one of the kings of East Anglia. This nunnery was destroyed by the Danes, and the conventual church became parochial.
The parish of East Dereham contains 5,090 acres; the population, in 1831, was 3,913, one-third agricultural. The town is pleasantly situated, and has been much improved ; it consists for the most part of well-built houses ; the streets are of good width, and are paved with pebbles. The market-place, which is convenient, contains a good assembly-room.
The church is a large cruciform building of considerable antiquity ; it has a nave with side aisles, two transepts and a choir, with a tower rising from the intersection of the nave and transepts. This tower not being considered strong enough to bear the bells, a large tower was erected in the reign of Henry VII in the churchyard called the New Clocker. There is also in the churchyard a plain but curious Norman arch covering a spring, to which medicinal virtues were formerly ascribed. The church has a rich and handsome font put up in the fifteenth century ; and in the north transept is a monument to the poet Cowper, who was buried in this church, A.D. 1800.
There is a good weekly market on Friday for corn, cattle, and provisions ; and there are two yearly fairs for cattle, sheep, and toys. Petty sessions are held here every fortnight. The benefices are, a sinecure rectory, of the clear yearly value of £704, and a vicarage united with the chapelry of Hoo, of the clear yearly value of £478, with a glebe-house. There were, in 1833, nine day-schools, with 183 children, and four Sunday-schools, with 375 scholars.