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Little Downham

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[Transcribed from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland 1868]
by Colin Hinson ©2013

"LITTLE DOWNHAM, (or Downham) a parish in the hundred of Ely, in the county of Cambridge, 3 miles north of Ely, its post town. It is a station on the Great-Eastern railway. The village, which is considerable, is situated on the road to Wisbech. The living is a rectory* in the diocese of Ely, value £1,108, in the patronage of the bishop. The church, dedicated to St. Leonard, is an ancient stone and brick structure, with turret and four small spires, having a vane on each. The register commences in 1720. The Baptists and Wesleyans have each a chapel, and there is a free school. Downham was formerly the principal diocesan residence, but since the arrest of Bishop Wren, by order of parliament, in 1642, it has fallen into decay. The remains of the palace built by Bishop Cox are now used as barns and granaries.

[Transcribed and edited information from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868]




Church History

  • "The church of St. Leonard is a structure of rubble in the Transition Norman and Early English styles, consisting of chancel, clerestoried nave of five bays, aisles, south porch and an embattled western tower, with pinnacles, containing 4 bells, two of which are dated 1659 : the clerestory windows are very small and are deeply splayed internally : the inner porch doorway is a good example of Transition Norman : in the chancel is an arcaded double piscina with cinquefoil-headed arch, but portions of the arch and one basin have been cut away to admit the insertion of a window : the rood screen is of carved oak : the chancel was restored and a vestry and organ chamber erected in 1890, at a cost of £1,144 : in 1897 and 1899 extensive restorations were carried out at a cost of £800 : the church had been previously reseated, and now affords 300 sittings : the north aisle was restored in 1912. The register dates from the year 1558, but is not continuous."
    [Kelly's Directory - 1929]

Church Records

  • Church of England
    • Downham, St Leonard: The registers are still in the church from 1558. Microfilm copies of these records for baptisms 1558-1791, 1813-75, marriages 1558-1875 and burials 1558-1790, 1813-75, reside in the Cambridgeshire Archives and there are also photocopies of baptisms 1791-1838 and burials 1791-1812. The Bishop's Transcripts 1599-1693, 1705-99 and 1813-62 can be found in the Cambridge University Library. Indexed transcripts exist for marriages 1558-1754.
  • Methodist Church
    • Pymoor Methodist Church: A copy of marriages 1961-63 at Pymoor Methodist Church exists in the Cambridge Record Office.
    • Primitive Methodist Church: Records also exist for the Ely Primitive Circuit of which Downham is part.
    • Wesleyan Methodist Church: Records also exist for the Ely Wesleyan Circuit of which Downham is part.

Description and Travel

  • "PYMORE is a small hamlet, about two miles and a half from Downham, containing a few scattered houses.
  • OXLODE is another small hamlet on the banks of the Hundred-feet river, about three miles from Downham, containing a few good farm houses, from forty to fifty cottages, and a neat Wesleyan chapel. [A Church school has lately been erected here.]"
    [A BRIEF HISTORY OF ELY and neighbouring villages in the Isle by J.H. Clements 1868]



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Military History

  • The War Memorial has been transcribed and the men researched.


  • Land Tax: records were compiled afresh each year and contain the names of owners and occupiers in each parish, but usually there is no address or place name. These records reside in the Cambridgeshire Archives for the years 1750-1948.