Reepham is an historic market town 12 miles north-west of Norwich. I have been an occasional visitor to Reepham for more years than I can remember. In my youth I lived on the other side of the city, but I first went there before I was ten years old. Recently I have lived much nearer and have consequently gone there more frequently. Its narrow and twisty roads make it a difficult place for cars, especially as there is little space to park except on the Market Place and many of those who live there have to leave their cars on the roads. If it is hard to drive in your own motor, imagine what it like for buses. For some reason Molly and I once took our son through this town when he was learning to drive. What an unsuitable place! How we emerged safely on the other side without hitting anything is a mystery. He however drove gaily through Reepham with a care in the world!
The most extraordinary thing about Reepham is the fact that the churchyard once contained not one but three churches. Today only two of the churches remain, and only Reepham church is in regular use as a place of worship. The other one is Whitwell church, which is used as a community meeting place. As you can tell from the proximity of the churches, the town was formerly divided into three parishes. Apart from Reepham and Whitwell the parish of Hackford was to the west of the town; this included Reepham Market Place. Hackford church burnt down in the 16th century, soon after the Reformation, and now only vestiges can be seen.
The town still appears very much as it did during its Georgian heyday. One the most impressive buildings in that style – Dial House- comes from the pre-George I period. It dates from 1700, when the monarch on the throne was William of Orange. It has long been in use by the , but has recently opened as an antique centre, coffee shop and restaurant. I was initially very taken with the restaurant but have now revised my opinion slightly. Other places in the town include “V’s” tea rooms, which is a less expensive place to have a bite to eat, and is currently run by a friend of Molly’s. I can remember when the shop housed a clockmaker. Melon Cauli Rose is a greengrocer’s and flower shop in the Market Square. Another shop we frequent is the ironmonger’s just across the road from ‘V’s’. This has a wide range of merchandise, of the kind that is typically required in a country town.
In the 1950s there were two railway stations serving this busy little town. The former GER line through Reepham lost its passenger traffic in 1952, but the other one that served the town (Whitwell Station), retained its passenger trains until 1959 when the M&GN closed. (The M&GN was the railway line that ran through Whitwell.) The line beyond Reepham Station that ran west to a junction with the Wells line at County School had been lifted by 1959, and the track bed sold off. It had to be re-purchased and the track reinstated in 1960, to allow a connection to the former M&GN via the short stretch of track called the Themelthorpe curve. This enabled freight trains to run from Norwich Thorpe to City Station, also in Norwich, without going round a 20 mile detour through North Norfolk. Until 1960 there had been no rail connection between the two Reepham stations. Although both stations retained a track running through them until 1985, it was only Reepham station that handled any goods traffic after 1959, which it retained into the 1970s. It had all gone thirty years ago, but now there is again a short length of track that runs through Whitwell Station, as part of a flourishing mini Heritage Line.
I used to go regularly to the town to buy secondhand books of which they had a good stock. The trouble with my book selling career was that the most saleable ones that I acquired were also the ones which I most wanted to keep for myself. This was true of several books I bought at Reepham.