Village Timeline – 500,000BC to today!!!

2023 - Oct - New Village Hall website

The Santon Downham Centre has reinvented itself and is back to being the Village Hall. It has a new website

2022 - Oct - New village sign

A new Village sign was unveiled to celebrate the Queens Platinum jubilee

2020 - Aug - Bridge closed for emergency repairs

The Bridge was closed at short notice for emergency repairs as it was decoming dangerous for pedestrians

2019 - Dec - Bridge repaired

The Bridge near St Helen’s picnic site has been repaired. Sections of the rotten woodwork were replaced.

2019 - Nov - Village Shop closes for last time

Sadly the Village Shop closed on the 1st of November.

2018 - Nov - War memorial installed

A memorial to the end of WW1 was errected. More photos can be found on the WW1/WW2 page.

2018 - Jan - St Mary's featured on Radio 4

St Mary’s Church featured on Radio 4

2017 - Dec - New Years eve at the Breckland Club
2017 - Dec - Horse parade

The “annual” Christmas horse parade took place

2017 - Dec - Rare Parrot Crossbills visit Santon Downham

A flock of rare Parrot Crossbills visited Santon Downham. Alas we didn’t get to see them so no pictures.

Their arrival and the large flock of bird watchers were widely reported in the press

2017 - Aug - Defibrillator installed

The village’s defibrillator was installed in the old “phone box

2017 - Jun - Elbow play Santon Downham

Well only technically as High Lodge’s full address is Santon Downham

2017 - Jun - Wettest Day on record

Jun 27th/28th saw Santon Downham break a number of records for the amount of rain which fell.

2017 - Apr - F35As arrive in the UK

F35#2F-35As arrive in the skies over Santon Downham

2017 - Apr - Corral built

2017 - Feb - Storm Doris brings down trees


Storm Doris brought down a number of large trees

2016 - Nov - Waxwings sighted

dsc02251_waxwingsA sighting of waxwings by the railway line brought birdwatchers to the village

2016 - Oct - Phonebox Decomissioned

DSC01886Following a brief consultation period BT decomissioned the village phonebox. The village has taken it over and it is hoped it will become a book-exchange and home to a defibrilator

2016 - March- Newspaper Deliveries End

IMG_6205Sadly Saturday the 20th was the last day that newspapers were delivered to Santon Dowham.

Breckland News (Mace) in Brandon said that the numbers were down to just 19 houses and that it was no longer viable.

This came as a bit of a shock to those of us who have greatly enjoyed the excellent service from the staff at Breckland News and Neill our paperboy.

2016 - March - New Website Launched

12mar16_website_launchedMarch 2016 saw the launch of the new Santon Downham website.

2016 – Giant Leylandi Cut Down

2013 - Santon Downham featured in the BFP

Life in the heart of the forestSanton Downham featured in the BFP – Life in the heart of the forest

2013 - Santon Downham: the 15th best place for the outdoors

best placesThe ‘Best for outdoors’ list, published in The Sunday Times on 24 March 2013, was part of a series ‘Best places to live in Britain’. The article began: “Whether you want white-knuckle adventure or a Sunday stroll, here are the finest country escapes”. Santon Downham came 15th.

2013 - In memorium daffodils planted

sayer_daffodilsThe daffodils in the photograph first flowered in 2013 and were planted around the church wall by the Sayer family in memory of Vera’s mother Annie Royal.

2012 - Jubilee Tree Planted

IMG_3719A Cedar of Lebanon Tree was planted on the village green for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. It is located near another tree planted for the Silver Jubilee Jubilee Trees

2011 - Village has 236 inhabitants

While the number of inhabitants has fallen slightly since 2001 (245) the number of housing units has risen to 104 (96).

2010 - Lost Country Houses of Suffolk features Downham Hall

41rQUg4FWtL._SL500_AA240_The Lost Country Houses of Suffolk, well-researched and written and copiously illustrated, will help the reader to imagine the county’s landscape refurnished with the many elegant mansions which are now sadly lost Lost Country Houses of Suffolk. This includes Downham Hall.

Available to buy from Amazon

2009 - 1st Santon Downham Beer festival

beerfest1The first Santon Downham beer & wine festival was held on the 16th and 16th of May. A joint venture between the Brecklands Club and Brandon Rotary it is hoped to become an annual event. 12 Beers from Adnams and the local Brandon brewery were available as well as Aspall Suffolk Cider. The event was timed to coincide with the EDP’s annual ride for life and many could be seen partaking of a welcome drink having completed the event. Commemorative glasses were on sale as souvenirs of the event.

2009 - Santon Downham Car Boots Resume

car_boot2After and absence of several years Santon Downham car boot sales resumed on the 3rd of May 2009. The 1st sale was deemed a great success and all proceeds are to go to the village hall. Car boot sales will be held on the 1st Sunday in each month.

2007 - Guy Fawkes bonfire cancelled.

The annual Guy Fawkes celebrations, of Bonfire and Firework display were cancelled in 2007. Increased insurance costs were blamed. It is hoped that displays may again be possible in the future.[Update 2017 – alas this has not happened]

2004 – Old Village Hall Demolished – to make way for the new one.

2002 - Freak Hail batters village

** Add Photo **.and link

2000 - Post Office Closed

** Add Photo **.

Sadly the Post Office closed, in 2000 but the Village Shop remains open to offer a service to the village for some time to come.

1999 – Old water tower demolished
1999 - 22 Villages project

Santon Downham takes part in the Forest Heath sponsored 22 Villages Project.

1999 - Removal of sand bank from the 'sandflood' in Hall Lane

sand_floodIn preparation for the construction of a new bungalow 100s of tons of sand were removed from the embankment at Hall Drive. This is believed to have been deposited there as part of the great 17th Century Sand Flood.

Spoiler title
1998 - Anglian Water take over responsibility for water supply piped from Brandon.

After much debate as to who's water tasted better Santon Downham stopped using it's own borehole (provided by the Forrestry Commission) and was connected to mains water. Many villagers still maintain the old water was better.

2001 - Village has 245 inhabitants

Census information from 2001 records 245 inhabitants and 96 housing units (a statistical reference to a house or a flat!!).

See how the Population of Santon Downham has changed over the years since the Doomsday Book.

1998 - Peddars Way Housing Assoc take over rented Forestry Houses
1994  - New Breckland Club Opened

1991 - Village has 249 inhabitants
1982 - Sale of Forestry houses to tenants

1981 237 inhabitants
1978 - Village Hall extended to create space for Brecklands Club

1977 - Village plants a tree for the Queens Silver Jubilee

IMG_3715The tree is still going strong

1975 - Felling and replanting of the Lime Avenue
1975 - Village Green registered as common land

1972 - Dad's Army episode featuring Santon Downham is broadcast

Doing_a_jigOn Friday the 8th of December in 1972 programme 50 of the fifth series of the television drama Dad’s Army was screened. It might have been with some surprise that the villagers of Santon Downham saw their bridge over the Little Ouse and the pretty depot corner prominently featured

1971 - Village Has - 282 inhabitants

1970 - Parish Council say goodbye to the Lingwoods

Members of the Parish Council presented gifst to their chairman Mr. Ernie Lingwood and his wife Gladys, prior to their departure to Rhodesia.


From the left

Ralph Cole, Roley Cotes, Herbert Largent, Don Cator, Fred Sayer, Ernie Longwood and Michale Brighouse. The lady in the front is Gladys Lingwood

1969 - Fishing rights retained by villagers
1967 - New Forestry Commission HQ built

1964 - Post Office changes hands

Village_ShopRene and Dennis Abigail took over the Post Office in September 1964.

1962 - Santon Downham shares coldest temperature record for June

IMG_0728Santon Downham is well known for its extremes of weather. We hold the dubious record of the all-time coldest June temperature of -5.6C, shared by Dalwhinnie in Scotland in 1956 and Santon Downham in Suffolk in 1962.

1960 - Building land leased to outsiders

1955 - Christmas Party
Xmas_Party_1955We have a gallery of the Christmas Party held by the Forestry Commission at the Village Hall in 1955

1954  - Village Hall opened
1952  - Queen Elizabeth II Coronation

1951 - Village has 348 inhabitants

1950 - Houses built for forestry workers

Forestry HousingThe village features in an article published in The ARCHITECT and building news August 19th 1949

1939 ~ 1945 - Army Camp and ammunition depot established at Santon Downham

Santon Downham played a small part during WWII

1937 - King George 6th Coronation tree planted
KING GEORGE 6th. CORONATION TREE PLANTINGAs large crowd of villages turned out to commemorate the even with the planting of a tree.

The little girl on the right is Brenda Largent and next to her,. her brother Michael.

The Bury Free Press – 16 December 1933 - Memorial to Col. Mackenzie

In December 1933 the Bury Free Press reported on the unveiling of a memorial tablet to the late Col. Mackenzie.

1931 - Village has 353 inhabitants
1925 ~ 1927 - Downham Hall demolished
1924 - Estate acquired by Forestry Commission.Start made on planting Thetford Forest.

1922 - Downham Hall Estate offered for Sale

In 1922 Messrs John D. Wood & Co of Grosvenor Square offered the estate on the Noroflk & Suffolk Borders for sale.

A plan of the estate was provided for prospective purchasers.

1918 - Estate sold for £75,310 to land speculators

1918 - Aircraft lands at Santon Downham

Crowds gather to see what must have been an usual sight at the time.

Cambridge Daily News - 16 August 1917 - Two Days’ Sale Downham Hall

The Cambridge Daily News advertised a Two Day Sale at Downham Hall featuring contents of the mansion.

1917 - Colonel Mackenzie gave up his occupancy of Downham Hall to his brother

1917 ~ 1922 - Downham Hall Timber Railway in operation

timber_railway1The Downham Hall Timber Railway was operated by the Canadian Army for the Home Grown Timber Board, a part of the Ministry of Supply during the First world war.

[expand title ="1914 ~ 1918 - WWI Downham Hall used by military"]

marg1During the First World War the men who were stationed in Santon Downham consisted of the British Pioneer Corp and Canadian troops who were lumberjacks responsible for timber production.

1914 - Bridge erected

Santon BridgeThe bridge was erected sectionally early in World War I by the Canadian Army for the Home Grown Timber Board

1909 Santon Downham hoard published

Details of the Santon Downham hoard were published in the proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian society

1901 93 inhabitants

1900 Helen MacKenzie paints watercolours of Downham Hall gardens

Helen MacKenzie paints two watercolours of Downham Hall gardens

1897 Santon Downham hoard found

Details of the hoard were published in 1909 in the proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian society

1896 - African explorer died and buried in graveyard

P1100146smallSanton Downham has an African explorer George Arthur Phillips buried in it’s graveyard.

In 1862, at the age of 19, he went to South Central Africa, and explored in Natal.

1894 The Downham Market Gazette - Amatuer Dramatic

The Downham Market Gazette reported on an evenning of Amateur Dramtic entertainment organised in aid of the church fundraising.

1893 - Many photos taken at Downham Hall

1893 was obvisously a busy year for photography at Downham Hall as we have an album of photographs dated that year.

1893 - The Bury Free Press - Church re-opens

Following extensive renovations the The Bury Free Press reported the re-opening of the church in it’s  30 December 1893 issue

1890 - Bury and Norwich Post - Bizaar and Fete

The Bury and Norwich Post on the 26th August 1890 had details of a Bizaar and in aid of the Church resoration fund.

1882 - The Lynn News County Press – Sheriffs

In March 1882 the unusually named Lynn News County Press reported on the Sheriffs being appointed for the area.

1881 Census

The 1881 Census of Santon Downham, Suffolk recorded details of the Cooper family:-

George Cooper Head of Household Married 47 yrs. Engine Driver Nfk,Caston
Maria Cooper Wife Married 40 yrs. Nfk,Hockham
Harriet M[aria] Dau. Unm. 10 yrs. Scholar Nfk, Caston
Emma? [Ellen M] Dau. Unm. 9 yrs. Scholar Nfk, Wretham
Herbert Son Unm. 8 yrs. Scholar Nfk. Thetford
Rose Dau. Unm. 5 yrs. Scholar Nfk. Thetford
George Son Unm. 4 yrs. Scholar Nfk. Thetford
Edward Son Unm. 2 yrs. Sfk. S. Downham

georgemariacooperSadly, little is really known about the Cooper family and their lives in Santon Downham except a few glimpses that can be gleaned from parochial and national records. George died in March 1898 at the age of 65 years and was buried in the village churchyard. Maria lived in the village until her death at the grand age of 89 years in 1929. Maria was interred alongside her husband.

What of the children? Harriet and Ellen both became domestic servants as most girls did before marriage. They were both married in Santon Downham. Harriet married Fred Winter of Nottinghamshire in 1906 and Ellen married Benjamin Rushbrooke a soldier of Hilborough in the 1917. The first to be married in Santon Downham, however, was George. He married Ellen Green of Santon Downham in June 1898 but sadly his wife died just eight years later. By then they were living in Thetford with their two young sons, Sydney and Victor. Herbert, a gardener, married Jane Shinn in Brandon where they settled. Rose never married and lived in the village for much of her life, spending many years as house keeper to the Reverend Tyrrell-Green. Rose died in 1960 and was buried alongside her parents. Edward Cooper remained a bachelor and also lived out his life in Santon Downham where he was interred. His resting place is marked by a wooden cross inscribed Edward Cooper for 38 years Clerk of this Parish Died 8 June 1948 Aged 69..

See how the Population of Santon Downham has changed over the yeasr since the Doomsday Book.

The Norfolk Chronicle – 16 October 1880 - Home Farm Sale

In 1880 livestock and agricultural machinery was sold off at auction.

1877 - Queen's Jubilee

Douglas Firs planted – Downham Hall now occupied by William’s in Santon Downham younger son Colonel Edward Philippe Mackenzie

Lynn Advertiser - 27 June 1874 - Summer exhibition

In the summer of 1874 the Lynn Advertiser reported on the Theford Horticultural Society summer exhibition held a Downham Hall.

The weather was of note even then.

1871 84 inhabitants

1865 - hand axe found

hand_axesHenry Prigg found the first hand-axe from the Palaeolithic period in 1865

1861 - Hannah Ashley becomes gatekeeper

Railway_Gatehouse“In 1861 my widowed great great great grandmother, Hannah Ashley nee Harrison, was living in the Railway Gate House and was the gate keeper”.

1860 - A Ramble over the Downham Estate published

poemGeorge West published a poem describing the Downham Hall Estate.

1851 70 inhabitants

1848 - Lord William Powlett granted the right to stop trains

Lord William Powlett had been granted the right of stopping trains at Sexton Gate in August 1848

1836  - Alterations made to Downham Hall by the architect Lewis Vulliamy (1791-1871) of London

1831 66 inhabitants
1804  - Manors consolidated

1801 -  Santon Downham - 57 inhabitants

1688 - Sand Flood
sand_flood1688 saw Santon Downham inundated by a great Sand Flood

1676 - Santon Downham - 44 adults

Census information from 1676 records 44 adults

See how the Population of Santon Downham has changed over the years since the Doomsday Book.

1674 - Santon Downham - 13 households

Census information from 1674 records 13 households

See how the Population of Santon Downham has changed over the years since the Doomsday Book.

1603 - Santon Downham - 70 adults

Census information from 1603 records 70 adults

See how the Population of Santon Downham has changed over the years since the Doomsday Book.

1524 - Santon Downham - 20 tax payers

Census information from records 20 tax payers paid £1. 19s. 2p.

See how the Population of Santon Downham has changed over the years since the Doomsday Book.

1446 ~ 1447 - Newhall Manor granted to Thomas Heigham of Higham Hall, Gazeley
1433 - Newhall Manor sold to Countess of Stafford

1327 - Santon Downham - 11 Tax Payers

Census information from 1327 records 11 tax payers paid £1. 17s. 9p.

See how the Population of Santon Downham has changed over the yeasr since the Doomsday Book.

1276 - Newhall Manor held by John De Lovetot
1250 ~ 1251 - Downham Ixworth Manor granted to Ixworth Priory by Christiana deWalsham
1249 ~ 1618 - Estate subdivided into several Manors

1249 ~ Mersey Manor acquired by Adam De Mereshaye (moved from 1249BC where the entry had resided without note since AD2000)

1086 - Little Domesday Book

domesday_book_latinDuring the first seven months of 1086 a painstaking survey of England was carried out on William’s orders. It was written in abbreviated Latin and Roman numerals. The entry for Santon Downham in the Domesday Book would look something like this:-

Little Domesday Book-Translation Into English.

From page 1- heading

Lands of St. Edmund’s. St. Edmund’s held Downham as a manor; 3 carucates of land..Now Fredo [his manor in Santon Downham] holds (it). Always one smallholder. Then 5 slaves, now 3. Always 3 ploughs in lordship. Meadows, 5 acres; 1 fishery. 1 ox, 21 pigs; 900 sheep. 9 free men with 2 ½ carucates of land and 60 acres. 3 smallholders. Then 8 ploughs, now 4 ½ between them all. Meadows, 4 acres. These (free men) could grant and sell but the full jurisdiction, patronage and every customary due still belonged to St. (Edmund’s). Value then 35 s; now the same. A church with 20 acres of land. Value of this manor, except for the free (men), then £8; now (£) 11.

It has one league in length and 8 furlongs in width;20d in tax. Others hold there.
From Part 2- heading

“Suffolk lands of St. Etheldreda. In Santon (Downham) a half freeman of Etheldreda’s with jurisdiction; ½ carucate of land. 3 smallholders’ Meadow 1 acre Always ½ plough. Value 5 s.

Ronnie Moran ©2000

Domesday Book- The Population Of Santon Downham.

It is important to note that the Domesday figures refer to heads of households rather than to individuals; so that the total population of Santon Downham would have been at least four times larger than the 20 individuals recorded.(approximately 80 people including women and children) A freeman held his land by money rent and owed no labour service to his lord. Smallholders or ‘borders were cottagers possibly freed slaves who held a few acres of land. They had to work as labourers for a more substantial tenant. Serfs or slaves would have done most of the manual work in Santon Downham. They did not normally have land of their own and had to be fed and housed at the lord’s expense.
Population of Santon Downham from Domesday to the present day.

1086 20 recorded
1327 11 tax payers paid £1. 17s. 9p.
1524 20 tax payers paid £1. 19s. 2p.
1603 70 adults
1674 13 households
1676 44 adults
1801 57 inhabitants
1831 66 inhabitants
1851 70 inhabitants
1871 84 inhabitants
1901 93 inhabitants
1931 353 inhabitants
1951 348 inhabitants
1971 282 inhabitants
1981 237inhabitants
1991 249 inhabitants

Ronnie Moran ©2000

1066 - Norman invasion
866 - Vikings invade

Viking Broach – watercolour by Veronica Moran

The Vikings first came to East Anglia in 866AD. The Anglo Saxon Chronicles; the account of English history written by the monks in the reign of King Alfred(877-899AD) recorded this event-

“And the same year a great heathen army came to East Anglia; and there they were supplied with horses and the East Anglians made peace with them.

Once they had established a base in East Anglia and stocked up with horses,  the Vikings made successful attacks on York. Three years later, led by Ingvar and Ubbe, they returned to East Anglia but this time met with opposition from Edmund, king of East Anglia. After a battle they killed the king and conquered all the land.

Viking man and woman - watercolour by Veronica Moran

Viking man and woman – watercolour by Veronica Moran

Of the first settlers themselves, the only evidence is their burial. Pagan burials can be identified because people were buried with all their possessions for use in the afterlife. Only the first generation of settlers were pagan- they were converted rapidly to Christianity. Christians were not buried with their belongings, because they believed in a spiritual, not physical, afterlife. Probably in the late 9th. century a Viking man and woman were buried according to pagan custom in a double grave at Santon Downham. The burial was discovered in 1867. Nothing survives in the grave except the metalwork, but this can give us a clue about what the couple might have worn, and their most favoured possessions. The woman was buried with a pair of oval brooches, the man with a sword. Oval brooches were used to fasten the shoulder of an over dress and were a common part of women’s dress from the 9th.to the mid10th centuries. The brooch shown here is an elaborate double-shelled one with openwork outer shell, further decorated with silver wire.

By Sue Margeson

630AD ~ 679AD - St Etheldreda, daughter of King of) (Domesday Book)
440AD - Saxon, dress fitting, broach,pottery, grave stone found
43AD ~ 425AD  - Roman site, scatter finds, pottery
700BC - Iron Age occupation site, coins, iron hoard

2,700BC  - Bronze Age pottery beaker found
6,000BC ~ 4,500BC - Neolithic Axe, knife, flints

7,000BC ~ 5,000BC Mesolithic flints found

500,000BC ~ 8,000BC