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Little Downham Parish History

The parish of Downham in the Isle or Little Downham is situated at the northern end of the Isle proper and consists of the Village of Little Downham, the hamlets of Pymoor and Oxlode and the outlying areas of Steam Engine and The Droves. Little Downham appears in the Domesday book as Duneham.

Steam Engine is named after the drainage engine that was built there in 1830 and is inscribed with the following verse written by William Harrison, the Fen Poet.

These Fens have oft times been by Water drown'd. Science a remedy in Water found. The powers of Steam, she said, shall be employ'd And the Destroyer by Itself destroy'd.

This is part of the history of the drainage of the fens.

The Village Hall is grade 2 listed. The original building was constructed in 1779 on the site of the former guildhall as both a boy's school and the village workhouse. In 1886 the workhouse was altered to become a girl's school and the building remained in use as a school until 1960. The infants school was on a separate site in what is now the allotments and the site is marked with a plaque. A new school was built nearby on land donated by the feoffees and this building has since been replaced on the same site. The current village hall was opened in 1974 and has undergone major refurbishment in that time.

The railway station was opened in 1847 and later changed its name to Black Bank to avoid confusion with Downham Market. The station closed in 1963. See the article "The history of Black Bank Station".

The war memorial in Little Downham church yard lists thirty two men who lost their lives in the first war and eight from the second war. See the Little Downham Roll of Honour.

A full history of the parish can be found at British History Online.


Little Downham
Reminiscences with
Alan Martin
Reminiscences with
Graham Lark


Local history articles are printed regularly in the Parish Magazine.
Previously published artices are available here.

Little Downham's
Avenue of Trees
The history of
Black Bank Station
Jane Green and
the Thames Disaster
John Gee - From
Oxlode to Rochdale
Mole catching
in the Fens
Plane crash - 1956
Train crash
on Second Drove
St Leonard's tower The last Lord Downham The lost pubs of
Little Downham
HMS Vanguard
The Little Downham Connection
Little Downham
Village Traditions


1851 Census Summary

The population was 2,299, approximately 50% male:50% female.

Occupations in 1851

Assistant in shop2Cordwainer4Needlewoman0
Beer Retailer9Dressmaker14Provision Dealer0
Boot/Shoe maker4General Dealer1Seamsterss0
Brickmaker2Harness Maker/Saddler1Tailer(ess)7
Butcher3Inn Keeper1Thatcher2
Carpenter7Licensed Victualler0Watch and clock repairer1

1891 Census Summary

The population was 1,873, approximately 52% male:48% female.

Occupations in 1891

Assistant in shop4Cordwainer0Needlewoman1
Beer Retailer1Dressmaker14Provision Dealer1
Boot/Shoe maker4General Dealer0Seamsterss4
Brickmaker3Harness Maker/Saddler2Tailer(ess)2
Butcher5Inn Keeper1Thatcher2
Carpenter6Licensed Victualler1Watch and clock repairer1


It is intended that this page will be updated as articles are printed in the parish magazine and new material is received.

For pictures and other documents related to the parish see the Cambridgeshire Community Archive Network
Little Downham

If you have some pictures or simple documents that you would to like to share you can send them to the Cambridgeshire Community Archive Network. If you have other material such as written family histories or memories of the parish that you would like to contribute to this page then you can contact the editor: