Dereham museum finally reopens after two-year closure

Bishop Bonner's Cottage Museum, in Dereham, has finally reopened after two years of closure

Bishop Bonner's Cottage Museum, in Dereham, has finally reopened after two years of closure - Credit: Ken Hawkins

A jewel in Dereham's crown has finally reopened after being shut for more than two years. 

Bishop Bonner's Cottage Museum began welcoming visitors again on Friday, April 29, following a special ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Bishop Bonner's trustee Peter Wade-Martins (left) with Dereham deputy mayor Hugh King (centre) and mayor Stuart Green

Bishop Bonner's trustee Peter Wade-Martins (left) with Dereham deputy mayor Hugh King (centre) and mayor Stuart Green - Credit: Ken Hawkins

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 the museum, in Saint Withburga Lane, is now open again for the summer season. 

Peter Wade-Martins, a retired archaeologist and trustee of Bishop Bonner's, said: "This reopening is a celebration of everything that has been done to improve the place over the last two years. 

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/Archant2021

"We [Dereham Heritage Trust] certainly hope people will begin visiting again. We believe this could be the oldest surviving house in Dereham, which is something to be proud of."

Bishop Bonner's - which is actually a trio of cottages - is named after Edward Bonner, who first came to prominence as chaplain to Cardinal Wolsey from 1529.

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It was first converted into a museum in 1963. 

Improvements in recent months have included restoration of the exterior plasterwork, which had been in poor condition. 

Bishop Bonner's Cottage Museum in Dereham has reopened

Bishop Bonner's Cottage Museum in Dereham has reopened - Credit: Ken Hawkins

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

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 famous Paston letters - has been added. 

Mr Wade-Martins also revealed plans for an exciting new study - which could prove once and for all that Bishop Bonner's is the oldest building in Dereham. 

The dendrochronology analysis would use tree rings in the timberwork to pinpoint the original construction date. 

Dereham deputy mayor Hugh King speaks at the reopening of Bishop Bonner's Cottage Museum

Dereham deputy mayor Hugh King speaks at the reopening of Bishop Bonner's Cottage Museum - Credit: Ken Hawkins

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

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.