Downham(known as Santon Downham ,from it a being opposite Santon, in the County of Norfolk) is a parish on the south bank of the Little Ouse navigable river, two and a half miles north-east from Brandon station on the Ely and Thetford section of the Great Eastern railway, and 5 west from Thetford in the North Western division of the county, hundred and petty sessional division of Lackford, union and county court of district of Thetford. Rural Deanery of Mildenhall, archdeacon of Suffolk and diocese of Ely. The church of St. Mary is a small building of flint in the Norman, Transition and Early English styles, consisting of chancel, nave, north porch and an embattled western tower containing one bell. Round the tower is an inscription, as well as monograms of our Saviour and St. Mary the Virgin, a merchant's mark and initials and names of six persons. Above the South doorway, now closed, is a stone panel bearing a figure apparently of the Holy Lamb, surrounded by foliage in low relief.
A handsome carved Oak screen in the Decorated style separates the nave from the chancel. There are 100 sittings, 70 being free. The register dates from the year 1579. The living is a vicarage, net yearly value £21 including glebe £36 in the gift of William Danziel Mackenzie esq. and held since 1887 by Rev.Michael Augustus Gathercole M.A. of Sydney Sussex College Cambridge. He is also rector of Santon Downham Hall, the seat of Col. Edward Phillipe Mackenzie D.L., J.P. The hall is a noble mansion of white Suffolk brick, standing in a well- timbered park on the southern bank of the Little Ouse. It is approached from the Brandon and Thetford high roads by the carriage drives; each a mile in length, with entrance lodges. Attached to the hall are extensive game preserves and gardens laid out in the Italian style. The estate was purchased in 1870 by the late Edward Mackenzie esq. of Fowley Court Buckingshire, and is now the property of his eldest son , Danziel Makenzie esq. Within a quarter of a mile of the Hall is a mill, driven by steam, for grinding corn for the birds and cattle of the estate.
The soil is light sand, and in 1688 in consequence of the sand being blown by continuous high winds from the hills of Lakenheath (distant 5 miles south-west), several houses were buried and destroyed. The river was choked up. One farmer of the period; named Wright, had all the approaches to his residence so blocked up that in order to reach it he had to pass over a wall eight feet high. The sand at one time filled his yard and reached to the edges of his roof. For several years he built furze hedges set upon one another. As fast as they were covered by the sands, and by these expedient raised banks nearly 20 yards high, bringing the sand into a compass of 8 or 10 acres. After this by laying upon it great quantities of earth and manure, the whole was converted into a firm and solid mass through which he cut a passage to his house. The parish contains 3,905 acres of land, the greater part of which was an open rabbit warren. Most of it has now been brought into cultivation. There are16 acres of water. Rateable value, £1,227. The population in 1881 was 101, and in 1891 it was 68. Parish Clerk, Robert Wilson. Letterbox cleared at 9.30 a.m. & 7.20 p.m. weekdays & 7 p.m. Sundays. Letters through Brandon arrive at 8 a.m. & 6 p.m. weekdays; no deliveries after 8.30. Brandon, 2 miles distant, is the nearest money order & telegraph office. Church School (mixed) built for 30 children; average attendance 20; supported by Col. E.P Mackenzie D. L., J.P.; Mary Alexander, mistress.
Mackenzie Colonel Edward Philippe D.L, J.P. Downham Hall. Gathercole Rev. Michael Augustus M.A (vicar), Bridge House. Claxton Hubbard (exors. of) farmers. Little Lodge farm.