This small hilltop town is one of the oldest market towns in Norfolk, standing on the very edge of the Fens alongside the river Great Ouse. The town dates back to the Saxon times and its ancient medieval street layout still survives. Many of the old houses are built in the distinctive yellow brick and carrstone style, which has given Downham the nickname "Gingerbread Town".
The town centre is an interesting place to walk around with many historic buildings and a wealth of interesting architecture. St Edmund's Norman Parish Church is the oldest building, situated at the highest point in the town. Priory House, at the southern end of the High Street, dates back to the 17th-c. The house was originally built as a private residence and takes its name from a Benedictine Monastery that once existed in this area. Stone used in its construction was most likely recycled from the original priory buildings, now long gone.
Downham central market square is lined with a number fine buildings that host an diverse mix of independent shops, cafes and friendly pubs serving traditional local cuisine.
Downham Market Square © Travel About Britain
A magnificent 19th-c black and white clock tower dominates the square. Constructed of cast iron, it was built and paid for by local benefactor James Scott in 1878. The town hall (visible behind the clock) was built to celebrate Queen Victoria's jubilee in 1887. The square holds a bustling street market on Fridays and Saturdays. The Town Hall also hosts a craft and collectables market, selling a good selection of locally produced handmade items from pottery to jewellery. Incorporated into the rear of the hall is a local cinema showing a variety of films.
A number of regular events and annual festivals hare held in and around the town, particularly the St Winnold's Day Parade and St George's Day celebrations.
Downham is an ideal base for exploring the Fenland river system and several long distance walking trails, cycle paths and bridleways nearby. This local area is good for bird watching, fishing sailing and golf. Fishing is a very popular pastime in this area especially along the river Great Ouse and it's tributaries. Anglers will need a permit obtained from the King's Lynn Angling Association to fish here.
The Denver Sluice complex and Ouse Washes, located just outside of the town, are instrumental in the management of the water levels in the Fens. A popular place to dwell and watch the pleasure boats.
Situated in the old fire station in Priory Road. The centre has fascinating displays and exhibits that retell the story of Downham Market and the surrounding Fens. Including the history of local farming and wildlife through the ages.
Opening times: Thursday,
Friday and Saturday 10 am to 4 pm - Free Entry
Location: The Old Fire Station, Priory Road, Downham Market, PE38 9JS
Tel: 01366 384428