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Downham Market facts for kids

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Downham Market
UK DownhamMarket (ClockTower).jpg
Clock Tower in Downham Market
Downham Market is located in Norfolk
Downham Market
Downham Market
Area 5.20 km2 (2.01 sq mi)
Population 9,994 (2011 Census)
• Density 1,922/km2 (4,980/sq mi)
OS grid reference TF611032
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district PE38
Dialling code 01366
Police Norfolk
Fire Norfolk
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament
  • South West Norfolk
List of places
52°36′N 0°23′E / 52.60°N 0.39°E / 52.60; 0.39

Downham Market, sometimes simply referred to as Downham, is a market town and civil parish in Norfolk, England. It lies on the edge of the Fens, on the River Great Ouse, approximately 11 miles south of King's Lynn, 39 miles west of Norwich and 30 miles north of Cambridge.

The civil parish has an area of 5.2 km² and in the 2011 census had a population of 9,994 in 4,637 households.

Fire Station, Downham Market. - - 170876
Fire Station in 2006, now a heritage centre

It was an agricultural centre, developing as a market for the produce of the Fens with a bridge across the Ouse. During the Middle Ages, it was famed for its butter market and also hosted a notable horse fair. The market is now held Fridays and Saturdays.

Notable buildings in the town include its medieval parish church, dedicated to St Edmund, and the Victorian clock tower, constructed in 1878. The town is also known as the place where Charles I hid after the Battle of Naseby. In 2004 the town completed a regeneration project on the Market Place, moving the market to the town hall car park. The decorative town sign depicts the crown and arrows of St Edmund with horses to show the importance of the horse fairs in the town's history.

A heritage centre, Discover Downham, opened in a former fire station in 2016. The town is twinned with Civray, Vienne, France.


Downham Market railway station


Downham Market railway station, which serves the town, is on the Fen Line from London to King's Lynn. It opened in 1846. The station has hourly services to London Kings Cross and King's Lynn operated by Great Northern with additional Abellio Greater Anglia services to London Liverpool Street at peak times.

The town signal box is one of five rare examples across the region to have been granted Grade II listed status in 2013. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport listed 26 signal boxes across the country as part of a joint project between Network Rail and English Heritage to secure the nation's railway signalling heritage. Downham's signal box was built in 1881 for the Great Eastern Railway.

In 2017, the station was renovated to commemorate former British Rail division Network SouthEast.


The town is served on Mondays - Saturdays by Lynx route 37 to Southery and King's Lynn. and by less regular "Go to town" services 47, 60 and 61 to Fincham, Three Holes, Swaffham and King's Lynn. There are no buses serving the town on Sundays.


Downham Market is on the north–south A10 road from London to King's Lynn. The east-west A1122 from Outwell to Swaffham runs south of the town.


The River Great Ouse and Great Ouse Relief Channel flows through the Western boundary of the town.

The Great Ouse Relief Channel was made navigable in 2001, when the Environment Agency constructed a lock at Denver to provide access. Moorings are located next to the Station Road bridge. The river is a popular spot for boating and swimming.

Sport and leisure

War Memorial Playing Fields holds a children’s playground, tennis courts and a multi-purpose sports court. A non-league football club, Downham Town F.C., plays at the Memorial Field.

The Willows nature reserve was once one of the town's brickfields.

The Jubilee Community Centre, located on Howdale Road, hosts local Workshops, classes, child-care and community events. The Community Centre has a large field adjacent.

The Downham Market Heritage Centre includes interactive displays focused on local history. The centre includes free wifi, an internet café and research facilities with small library.


Historically, Downham Market was an important market centre for the surrounding agricultural area. It incorporated a famous horse fair and weekly livestock and butter markets. There were several maltings in the town supplying the brewing trade in the town at a time when beer was often safer to drink than well water.

Before the arrival of the railway in 1846, the riverside was largely agricultural with warehousing for river transport centred on the Great Ouse at Downham West. With the coming of the railway, there was a rapid industrial and residential development into Downham Market.

Jacob Mason Bird built his steam mill by the railway. The mill, now run by Heygates, is still known as Bird’s Mill. Other industries grew too as the railway became the focus for warehousing, the loading of cattle and products, and the building of railway housing.

Today, Downham Market has seen rapid residential development and has become a popular commuter town for Cambridge. The town still hosts a market on Fridays and Saturdays. She would shop there during her visits to the Sandringham Estate.


There are two primary schools in Downham Market: Hillcrest Primary School and Nelson Academy.

Nelson Academy, situated on Nursery Road, was originally named Clackclose Community Primary School after Clackclose Hundred. The school opened in 1873 on Snape Lane. It was the first primary education academy sponsored by the CWA Academy Trust, founded by the College of West Anglia, in 2014. It is named after Lord Nelson who, according to local folklore, attended his first school in Downham Market.

Hillcrest Primary School is on Bexwell Road, and was opened in 1980 as Hillcrest First and Middle School. It is named after Hillcrest, the road connecting Bexwell Road and Civray Avenue. In 2018, the school began work on a new £4.5m nine classroom building.

Downham Market Academy, formerly Downham Market GM High School, is a secondary school and sixth form with academy status, The academy was launched on 1 July 2013, sponsored by the CWA Academy Trust founded by the College of West Anglia. Teaching is shared between two sites, with the main Bexwell campus housing pupils years 7–11 (ages 11–16) and the Downham Market Academy Sixth Form (formerly Downham Market College) campus offering A-levels to sixth form pupils years 12–13 (ages 16–18).

Downham Preparatory School and Montessori Nursery is a non selective Independent Preparatory School for girls and boys aged 3 months to 13 years. The school was founded by its present (2021) owner, Elizabeth Laffeaty-Sharpe, in 1984 for children aged 2 to 5 years.

The Priory Centre holds the Downham Market Library.

Notable residents

  • George William Manby (1765–1854), inventor of the Manby mortar and the first modern form of fire extinguisher, was educated in the town.
  • George Henry Dashwood (1801–1869), antiquary, was born in the town.
  • Golding Bird (1814–1854), Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London, became an authority on kidney diseases.
  • Oswald Baker (1915–2004), controversial Catholic priest, originally at St Dominic, Downham Market and later had his own chapel.
  • Jim Russell (1920–2019), former racing driver.
  • Patrick Holman (1945–), cricketer, was born in the town.
  • Richard Murphy (1958–), political economist.
  • Liz Truss (1975–), Conservative MP for South West Norfolk and government minister.

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See also

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