We visit Thursford, near Fakenham, to find out about its woodland, church, steam engines and castle - as well as that famous Christmas show


The Thursford Christmas Spectacular is a phenomenon.

All the joy of Christmas is here – from angelic voices piercing snowy, starlit nights to laughter, glitz, and nostalgia.

Lights sparkle from trees, inside and out, as a huge, and hugely talented, cast bring the fabulously festive show, to many tens of thousands of people from across the country

Singers, dancers and star-turns segue from chorus line to carol to comedy on the longest stage in Europe, celebrating all that is wonderful about the season, accompanied by a live orchestra and joined by the astonishing Wurlitzer organist.

Thursford also hosts an illuminated winter wonderland - The Enchanted Journey of Light (or Santa’s Magical Journey including a gift from Father Christmas for children). See penguins, polar bears, and elves wrapping gifts for Santa’s sleigh, before wandering outdoors through luminous sculptures ranging from a fantasy underwater world to the wilds of the North Pole.


Thursford is not just for Christmas – it is a thriving and historic village north east of Fakenham. The home of the Thursford Spectacular is not just for Christmas either. From April 7 to September 4 the Thursford Collection shows off its museum of Victorian steam engines and fairground organs and rides - the world’s largest collection of its kind. It was put together by George Cushing, the son of a farm labourer who was fascinated by the old steam engines once built to help harvest crops. His hobby grew into one of the world's most important steam and fairground museums and the simple carol service he arranged who also launched the Thursford Spectacular

Hear its mighty Wurlitzer cinema organ, plus historic fairground organs, enjoy Victorian fairground rides and see the steam engines built to help harvest crops.

The collection was put together by George Cushing and his hobby grew into one of the world's most important steam museums - just like the simple carol service he held in his barn grew spectacularly...


Thursford Wood is a Norfolk Wildlife Trust nature reserve. Its oak trees are some of the oldest in the county. Some of its oaks are thought to be more than 500 years old, so could have been saplings when King Henry VIII was on the throne.

In spring there are beautiful displays of bluebells, with ferns in the summer and fungi in autumn. At this time of year enjoy the holly, and watch for buzzards too.

A tiny piece of consecrated ground holds the graves of the couple who gave the wood to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.


Despite the name, Thursford Castle never was a castle, but the site of an octagonal workhouse, built in the 1830s for 250 inmates. After it closed in the 1930s it was used as a hospital and by the military before an owner changed the name to Thursford Castle.

By the 21st century just the ruins of the Victorian gothic chapel and fortified perimeter walls remained but a pair of passers-by fell in love with the site. They bought it and built a new house within the old walls, entered through the remains of the chapel, with a garden room holiday let in the grounds.

As they cleared scrub and undergrowth from within the walls they uncovered the foundations of the workhouse and laid footpaths over them to retain the memory of the historic building.

Thursford Castle was last year named one of the most spectacular holiday homes in the country.


The medieval church of St Andrew is a community hub.

Dating back to the 13th century, its Victorian stained glass is particularly celebrated with architectural historian Nikolaus Pervsner pronouncing its east window ‘one of the most beautiful of its time in England.’

Its regular coffee and cakes event on the first Saturday of each month will include a ‘new but not needed’ stall and Christmas wreaths on December 2, and

Christmas services include a carol service on December 20 and Midnight Mass from 11.15pm on Christmas Eve.