Plea to save popular Thetford building

A campaign has begun to save a much-loved local landmark from demolition with the hope it could be incorporated into regeneration plans.

The former Anchor Hotel in Thetford was once a thriving and lively destination but plans to transform the riverside site on which it sits mean it will be knocked down to make way for new buildings.

Jane Varanand, whose parents used to own the hotel which is now derelict, has pleaded to keep the shell of the building intact.

The 61-year-old, who runs her own cleaning business, off Abbey Green, Thetford, has begun a Facebook page to encourage people to get behind the campaign.

She said: “The reason I set up this page was because I really want to encourage William Nunn [Breckland council leader and Moving Thetford Forward board member] to recognise the Anchor Hotel. It’s not a listed building but Bridge Street without the Anchor Hotel is like toast without butter – it goes hand in hand.

“It’s not an iconic building, because of the way it looks now, but it could be protected into the next century. I’m imploring William Nunn to look at this with his heart, not his head.”

Ms Varanand’s parents, entertainers Jean and Neville Bishop, bought the then 12-bedroom hotel in 1957. Although her father died on New Year’s Eve 1967, her mother stayed at the hotel until 1973 when she left to run the Thomas Paine Hotel, also on Bridge Street.

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“When we moved to the hotel it really was the beginning of our lives,” she said. “It was frenetic and exciting and because my mother could never turn anybody away, my brother and I never knew where we were sleeping. It had never been developed and when we first moved there, there was a snug and a bar and a lounge area. Then in the early 1960s the arch was put over the hotel and more bedrooms added. I can’t stress enough how much of an amazing place it was and I’m not just saying that because it was my home.”

But Mr Nunn said a decision to proceed with the regeneration of the Bridge Street site was confirmed unanimously by all partners in September and would “not be reconsidered”.

He added: “We are aware that there is some concern about the Anchor Hotel and we have consulted with specialists in the field and have been advised that there is no historic merit in the building that would warrant it being saved. It’s time now to begin a new chapter and move forward.”