Parish History

A Brief History

The Church

The present church of St Andrew’s was first recorded in the tax roll of 1246.  Prior to this, there was a much smaller Saxon church of St Peter which was located to the west of the present churchyard.  The two parishes were united in 1401 when the parishioners of St Peter’s were unable to maintain a priest.  The church was abandoned and the parishioners joined St Andrew’s.  Today the village church is united in one benefice with Ryston, Bexwell and Denver.

The Railway

A railway, ‘Abbey Station’, opened in 1882, carrying both passengers and produce to markets.  It ran through to Stoke Ferry and joined the main Hunstanton to London line just outside Denver. In 1925 the Wissington sugar factory was opened and the line was used for transporting goods.  The factory lies to the south of the village and now is part of the British Sugar Corporation with responsibility for a quarter of their sugar production.  It is the largest animal feed plant in the Britain and also opened a bio-ethanol plant in 2007.  The railway was closed on 21st December 1981.

Hubert Walter

West Dereham is generally acknowledged as the birthplace of Hubert Walter (circa 1160-1205) who in his ecclesiastical career became successively Dean of York, Bishop of Salisbury and finally Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Richard I.  He held the highest government post in the land as Chief Justiciar (1193-1198).  During the reign of King John, Hubert was Lord Chancellor (1199-1205).  Hubert also founded an Abbey here in West Dereham in 1188. On 7 September 1199, King John granted to the Abbey a weekly Wednesday market and an annual fair of four days, namely on the festival of St Matthew (21st September) and the three following days. Hubert Walter is buried in Canterbury Cathedral, and in 2005, West Dereham celebrated the octocentennial of his death with four days of events, including a market and culminating in a medieval feast.