Dereham landmark set to reopen after lengthy closure

A exhibition called Dereham in Peace and War 1914 opened at Bishop Bonner's Cottage Museum during a

Bishop Bonner's Cottage Museum, in Dereham, is set to reopen - Credit: Archant

One of Dereham's best-known landmarks is set to reopen after a lengthy period of closure.

Bishop Bonner's Cottage Museum will welcome visitors for the first time in two years from April 29 after a special ribbon-cutting ceremony has taken place.

Bishop Bonner's Cottage in DerehamByline: Sonya Duncan

Bishop Bonner's Cottage Museum in Saint Withburga Lane, Dereham, has been shut for renovation work - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Thought to be the oldest domestic property in Dereham, the building was initially shut in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Its owner, Dereham Town Council - in conjunction with Dereham Heritage Trust - saw the closure as a perfect opportunity to ensure much-needed renovation work was carried out.

The project has taken longer than anticipated but, in a few weeks' time, the museum, in Saint Withburga Lane, will finally reopen for the summer season. 

Dr Peter Wade-Martins, Dereham Heritage Trustee, as work is carried out to restore the decorative pa

Peter Wade-Martins, a retired archaeologist and trustee of Bishop Bonner's Cottage Museum in Dereham - Credit: Denise Bradley

Peter Wade-Martins, a retired archaeologist and trustee of the Bishop Bonner's, said: "It will be wonderful to see the museum open again following a fairly major restoration.

"Really, it is about time it reopened, but during the closure we have had great success in recruiting new volunteers which, of course, is a big help."

Improvements at Bishop Bonner's Cottage have included restoration of the exterior plasterwork, which had been in poor condition. 

Pargeter Anna Kettle at work removing old paint as she restores the decorative pargeting on the 500-

Anna Kettle hard at work during the restoration of Bishop Bonner's Cottage in Dereham ld Bishop Bonner's Cottage in Dereham - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Decorative pargeting has been reinstated to its original white state, having been painted in increasingly "garish colours" over the years. 

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Inside, various repairs and cleaning tasks have been completed, while a major new exhibition on John and Ellenor Fenn - known for their roles in translating the world-famous Paston letters - has been added. 

Dereham's deputy major Hugh King, who is due to cut the ribbon later this month, said: "Bishop Bonner's reopening is certainly good news as it is one of the most historic parts of the town.

Eric Head doing some restoration work on Bishop Bonner s Cottage in Dereham many years ago.

Restoration work being carried out decades ago at Bishop Bonner's Cottage in Dereham - Credit: Archant Library

"The restoration work has obviously taken quite a long time and it has not been easygoing, but we hope it has been improved for the community and for visitors.

"I am sure it will be a real asset to Dereham once again."

Bishop Bonner's Cottage Museum is due to stay open from April 29 until the end of September. 

Work being carried out to restore the decorative pargeting on the 500-year-old Bishop Bonner's Cotta

Bishop Bonner's Cottage Museum, in Dereham, has been shut for renovation

Days of opening are Friday (10am to 1pm) and Saturday (10am to 4pm), although dates and times are subject to change depending on volunteer availability.  

History of Bishop Bonner's Cottage 

The museum - which is actually a trio of cottages - is named after Edward Bonner, who first came to prominence as chaplain to Cardinal Wolsey from 1529 - when Henry VIII was king. 

He was sent to Rome to try and negotiate with the pope over the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon, but failure led to the fall of Wolsey and the rise to power of Thomas Cromwell as chief adviser.

Bishop Bonner's Cottage in DerehamByline: Sonya Duncan

Bishop Bonner's Cottage Museum, in Dereham - Credit: Archant

There followed various diplomatic missions for Bonner, after which he was rewarded by being appointed the Rector of East Dereham and several other parishes. 

With his other duties, it is unlikely he actually spent much time in Dereham and, in 1540, he resigned after being made Bishop of London. 

Bonner's association with the cottages is tenuous, but one theory is that the pargeting was added to commemorate what was believed to have been his birth date and possibly even his birthplace.

It was first converted into a museum in 1963.