DOWNHAM (known as SANTON DOWNHAM, from its being opposite to Santon, in the county of Norfolk) is a parish 2½ miles south-east from Brandon railway station and 5 west from Thetford, situated on the south bank of the Little Ouse navigable river in the Western division of the county, hundred of Lackford, union and county court district of Thetford, rural deanery of Fordham, archdeaconry of Suffolk [Sudbury ? (ECA)] and diocese of Ely. The church of St. Mary is a small building of flint in the Early English style, with chancel, nave and square tower: on the water-table round the tower is an inscription, and also the monograms of Our Saviour and St. Mary the Virgin, merchant's mark and initial, and the names of two persons. The register dates from the year 1579. The living is a vicarage, in the gift of William Dalziel Mackenzie esq. yearly value £70, and held since 1857 by the Rev. William Weller-Poley M.A. of Queen's College, Cambridge. Downham Hall, the seat of Edward Phillippe Mackenzie esq. J.P. is a noble mansion built of white Suffolk brick, situated in a well-timbered park, on the southern bank of the Little Ouse, and is approached from Brandon and Thetford high roads by two carriage-drives, each 1 mile in length and each having an entrance lodge: it is in the heart of an extensive game preserve, and the gardens are laid out in the Italian style: the estate was purchased in 1870 by the late Edward Mackenzie esq. of Fawley Court, Henley-on-Thames, and is now the property of his eldest son, William Dalziel Mackenzie esq. The soil is a light sand, and this place was remarkable from an occurrence in 1688, when, in consequence of the sand being blown by continued high winds from the hills of Lakenheath (distant 5 miles south-west), several houses were buried and destroyed, and the river was choked up: a farmer named Wright had all the approaches to his residence so blocked up that he had to pass over a wall 8 feet high; at one time the sand filled his yard and was blown up to the edges of the roof; for several years he raised furze hedges set upon one another, as fast as they were covered by the sands; by this expedient he raised banks near 20 yards high, and brought the sand into compass of 8 or 10 acres, then, by laying upon it great quantities of earth and dung, it was reduced again to firm land; he then cleared all his walls and carted away 1,500 loads and cut a passage to his house through the body of sand thus compressed. The parish contains 3,920A. 1R, 11P. the greater part of which was an open rabbit warren, but most of it has now been brought into cultivation; rateable value, £1,124; the population in 1881 was 101.
Letters through Brandon, the nearest money order 7 telegraph office.
National School, built for 40 children; average attendance 27; Miss Harriet Watson, mistress
© Transcribed by E.C. ("Paddy") Apling, August 2000; links updated July 2014.
1891 Census Names Indes
Local village web-site
Thetford Forest [Forestry Commission]
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And see Santon (Norfolk)