Most villages would still be clearly recognisable if you stepped back 100 years. But turn the clock back in Santon Downham and you would find a very unfamiliar scene. The area revolved around Downham Hall and its estate, but the hall was demolished in the late 1920s. Much of what has been built since – including many of the houses – was for the emerging forestry business based in the village.
One of the village’s other claims to fame is that it was almost overwhelmed by sand in the 17th century. Dr Steve Godby And Dr Mark Bateman of Anglia Polytechnic University have been carrying out research into the movement of sand in the region, and they have written a paper on the subject which was published in the journal The Holocene in 2004. We have a copy of their paper.
Few photos survive of the Hall. We were thrilled to meet Marg Kenny Murby a few years ago, whose father Colonel Kenny was the officer in charge at the Hall during the First World War. Mrs Kenny Murby came to visit with her daughter and son-in-law, Willo and Tom Heesom. She saw the area for the first time in some 85 years, and gave us copies of wonderful photographs of both herself and her father in the long-vanished grounds of the Hall.
We also have a much better understanding of the layout of the area, thanks to the discovery la a marvellous hand drawn map. This map is now available for inspection at the Bury Records Office.
Explore the other pages and view the galleries to find out more about many other aspects of the village’s past. Flint workings abound in the area – we are very close to Grime’s Graves, and people have made archaeological finds in their gardens. Read about the period of the Domesday book and of the Vikings, and of 20th century war time. And check out the timeline to get a flavour of Santon Downham’s history.