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