Dereham’s Victorian history revealed in newly published book

St Nicholas Church, Dereham. Picture: Ian Burt

St Nicholas Church, Dereham. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

The history of Dereham during the Victorian times is featured in a newly published book which looks at the life of a former vicar of the town.

The new biography of the famous Norfolk clergyman and diarist, Reverend Benjamin Armstrong, has been written by Dr Susanna Wade Martins, an honorary research fellow at the University of East Anglia.

Reverend Benjamin Armstrong is famous for one of England's greatest clerical diaries, eleven volumes spanning his entire adult life. The new book, titled 'A Vicar in Victorian Norfolk, The Life and Times of Benjamin Armstrong (1817-1890)', provides a further in depth look at his life and the town's history.

It presents the major upheavals in rural society in the town at that time, such as the arrival of railways, the birth of factories, the extension of the vote for working class men and the controversy stirred up in the church by Charles Darwin's theories of creation, all looked at through the eyes of this prominent figure in Victorian society.

Ms Martins said: 'Reverend Armstrong was an important member of the local rural and urban society who saw major changes in Dereham during his lifetime.

'He was a fine example of the then new style Church of England clergy who showed a genuine concern for his parishioners. Through his regular visiting of the poor he probably knew more than most of the professional class about the slum conditions.'

To prepare for the book, she enlisted the help of Benjamin Armstrong's great-grandsons, Christopher and David Armstrong, while Reverend Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, provides a foreword.

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Some of Reverend Armstrong's diary entries have previously been published, which provided a fresh insight into what was happening in Britain during the Victorian times.

The new biography, which has been published by Boydell & Brewer, is available to buy now in hardback for £25.00.

Do you have a story about a book or film featuring Dereham, Fakenham, Wells or Swaffham or another town around those areas? Get in touch by contacting our reporter Dan Bennett by emailing or by phoning 01362 854702.