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Downham Market

Downham Market sits on the banks of the River Great Ouse on the western edge of Norfolk - close to the Fens. Eleven miles downstream lies King's Lynn. Downham is notable for its Gothic clock tower (1878) by William Cunliffe - which stands in the market place - and for its carrstone church which has a large churchyard.

Downham Market Sign

Downham Market Town Sign

In the last chapter of Waterland by Graham Swift - Tom Crick and his father travel by train to Downham Market - then cycle to the Great Ouse where Dick (Tom's brother) works on a dredger called the Rosa II. However, before they can reach him, he commits suicide by diving into the river.
 

'He clambers onto the rail; stands, shoeless, upon it, disdaining the hand-hold of the adjacent derrick stanchions. Stretches to full height. For a moment he perches, poises, teeters on the rail, the dull glow of the western sky behind him. And then he plunges. In a long, reaching, powerful arc. Sufficiently long and reaching to quite discount the later theory that he must have become entangled in the anchor-chain or the sling-lines; sufficiently reaching and powerful for us to observe his body, in its flight through the air, form a single, taut and seemingly limbless continuum, so that an expert on diving might have judged that here indeed was a natural, here indeed was a fish of a man.'

In his A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain Daniel Defoe had this to say about the town and the surrounding area:
 
'From Lynn, I bent my course to Downham, where is an ugly wooden bridge over the Ouse, from whence we passed the fen country to Wisbech, but saw nothing that way to tempt our curiosity but deep roads, innumerable drains and dykes of water, all navigable, and a rich soil, the land bearing a vast quantity of good hemp; but a base unwholesome air.'

There is also an interesting old rhyme about the town:
 
Rising was, Lynn is, and Downham shall be,
The greatest seaport of the three.
 
 

 

 

 

 

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