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Swaffham facts for kids

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Rotunda Swaffham.jpg
The Buttercross Swaffham market place
Swaffham is located in Norfolk
Area 29.6 km2 (11.4 sq mi)
Population 7,258 (2011)
• Density 245/km2 (630/sq mi)
OS grid reference TF815095
Civil parish
  • Swaffham
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town SWAFFHAM
Postcode district PE37
Dialling code 01760
Police Norfolk
Fire Norfolk
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament
  • South West Norfolk
Website Town council
List of places
52°39′10″N 0°41′03″E / 52.652893°N 0.684285°E / 52.652893; 0.684285

Swaffham is a market town and civil parish in the Breckland District and English county of Norfolk. It is situated 12 miles (19 kilometres) east of King's Lynn and 31 miles (50 kilometres) west of Norwich.

The civil parish has an area of 11.42 sq mi (29.6 km2) and in the 2001 census had a population of 6,935 in 3,130 households, which increased to 7,258, in 3,258 households, at the 2011 census. For the purposes of local government, the parish falls within the district of Breckland.


Rotunda Swaffham
The Buttercross Swaffham market place.

Its name came from Old English Swǣfa hām = "the homestead of the Swabians"; some of them presumably came with the Angles and Saxons.

By the 14th and 15th centuries Swaffham had a flourishing sheep and wool industry As a result of this prosperity, the town has a large market place. The market cross here was built by George Walpole, 3rd Earl of Orford and presented to the town in 1783. On the top is the statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of the harvest.

About 8 km to the north of Swaffham can be found the ruins of the formerly important Castle Acre Priory and Castle Acre Castle.

On the west side of Swaffham Market Place are several old buildings which for many years housed the historic Hamond's Grammar School, as a plaque on the wall of the main building explains. The Hamond's Grammar School building latterly came to serve as the sixth form for the Hamond's High School, but that use has since ceased. Harry Carter, the grammar school's art teacher of the 1960s, was responsible for a great number of the carved village signs that are now found in many of Norfolk's towns and villages, most notably perhaps Swaffham's own sign commemorating the legendary Pedlar of Swaffham, which is in the corner of the market place just opposite the old school's gates. Carter was a distant cousin of the archaeologist and egyptologist Howard Carter who spent much of his childhood in the town.

Swaffham 6 63548 1 copy
Swaffham under the Eastern Region of British Rail.

Until 1968 it was served by Swaffham railway station on the Great Eastern Railway line from King's Lynn. Just after Swaffham, the line split into two, one branch heading south to Thetford, and the other east towards Dereham. The railways were closed as part of the Beeching Axe, though the possibility of rebuilding a direct rail link from Norwich to King's Lynn via Swaffham is occasionally raised.

The Swaffham Museum contains an exhibition on local history and local geology as well as an Egyptology room charting the life of Howard Carter.

Green Britain Centre

The Green Britain Centre

Today the town is known for the presence of two large Enercon E-66 wind turbines, and the associated Green Britain Centre, formerly known as the Ecotech Centre. The Green Britain Centre's displays focus on green energy (including solar and wind power), transportation options without oil, and organic gardening.

The turbines are owned and operated by Ecotricity, and together generate more than three megawatts. One wind turbine, an Enercon E66/1500 with 1.5 MW generation capacity, 67 metres nacelle height and 66 metres rotor diameter, which was built in 1999, has an observation deck just below the nacelle - it remains the only wind turbine in the world that is open for the public to climb. These have now been joined by a further eight turbines at North Pickenham, though not owned by Ecotricity.

The Green Britain Centre hosted the 2008 British BASE jumping championships; contestants jumped from the roof of the observation deck.

Parish church

The church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul is one of only a few churches that have angels carved in wood instead of stone around the top of the walls. The current building, dating from 1454, is built on the foundation of the original church. A wood carving of the “Pedlar of Swaffham” is also in the church.

Sport and leisure

Swaffham has a Non-League football club Swaffham Town F.C. which plays at Shoemakers Lane.

Swaffham Raceway, a former greyhound track, hosts stock car racing.


As with the rest of the British Isles and East Anglia, Swaffham experiences a maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters. The nearest Met Office weather station to provide local climate data is RAF Marham, about 5½ miles west of the town centre. Temperature extremes in the Swaffham-Marham area range from 34.8 °C (94.6 °F) in August 1990, down to −16.7 °C (1.9 °F) during February 1956. The highest and lowest temperatures reported in the past decade are 34.6 °C (94.3 °F) during August 2003, and −10.3 °C (13.5 °F) during January 2010.

Climate data for Marham 21m asl, 1971–2000 (Weather station 5 miles west of Swaffham)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 6.6
Average low °C (°F) 0.5
Precipitation mm (inches) 54.7
Sunshine hours 53.6 73.2 101.7 150.6 204.3 191.1 202.7 192.8 139.8 109.7 69.0 48.1 1,536.6
Source: Met Office

Kingdom (TV series)

In the summer of 2006, location filming was done in the town for the ITV1 series Kingdom, starring Stephen Fry. In Kingdom the town is called Market Shipborough. The pub the Startled Duck in the TV series is better known as the Greyhound Inn in which the Earl of Orford created the first coursing club open to the public in 1776. Kingdom's office is filmed in Oakleigh House, near the town square (formerly the house of the Head Master of Hamond's Grammar School), with the coastal scenes filmed at Wells-next-the-Sea on the north Norfolk coast.


Swaffham is one of the many locations for The Man Who Became Rich through a Dream folk tale (Aarne-Thompson type 1645). The tale tells of a pedlar from Swaffham who dreamed for several consecutive nights that if he waited on London Bridge he would eventually hear good news. He travelled to London, and waited for several days on the bridge. Eventually a shopkeeper asked him why he was waiting, and the man told of his dream. The shopkeeper laughed, and replied that he often dreamed that if he went to a certain orchard in Swaffham and started digging, he would find buried treasure. The pedlar returned to Swaffham, and found the treasure.


Swaffham 6 63548 1 copy
Swaffham railway station when part of the Eastern Region of British Rail

Until 1968 the town was served by Swaffham railway station on the Great Eastern Railway line from King's Lynn. Just after Swaffham, the line split into two, one branch heading south to Thetford, and the other east towards Dereham. The railways were all closed as part of the Beeching Axe, though the possibility of rebuilding a direct rail link from Norwich to King's Lynn via Swaffham is occasionally raised.

The east–west A47 Birmingham to Great Yarmouth road now avoids the town, using a northerly bypass opened in 1981. The A1065 Mildenhall to Fakenham road still passes through the centre of the town on its north–south route, intersecting with the A47 at a grade separated junction north of the town.

Notable people

  • Dominic Byrne, newsreader on The Chris Moyles Show
  • Michael Carroll, lottery winner
  • Howard Carter, archaeologist who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun
  • Christopher Dawes, author of Rat Scabies and The Holy Grail
  • Stephen Fry, actor and writer
  • W. E. Johns, author of the "Biggles" books
  • William Methwold (1590–1653), born South Pickenham, East India Company merchant
  • Hilda Plowright (1890-1973), actress
  • Sir Arthur Knyvet Wilson, (1842–1921), First Sea Lord

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