The Hidden Heritage of High Lodge

The Downham Estate

Until the 1700s, High Lodge was part of Downham Warren, an area designated for the farming of rabbits for their meat and their fur. Probably owned by Ixworth Priory, the warren was in existence by 1440 when poaching gangs are recorded as operating there (WSROB 651/31/4).

Four families dominate the estate's history post-Dissolution of the Monasteries, starting with the Wrights who lived there for more than 150 years in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was Thomas Wright who brought Santon Downham to public notice in 1668 with his dramatic account of a sand flood and how his house became 'almost buryed in the Sand'. A substantial house of 12 hearths was recorded on the site 1674 in Thomas Wright's day.

The Cadogan family was the next to own the hall -; it was bought by the 1st Earl of Cadogan, in the 1780s primarily as a shooting estate. The property was described in the Ipswich Journal at the time of the sale as a 'Mansion sashed, fronting South, with all conveniences, gardens, meadows … [with] rights of fishing and swanning'.

Lord William Paulett, later the 3rd Duke of Cleveland, took over ownership in 1830. He brought in the architect Lewis Vulliamy in 1836 to carry out alterations, probably as a result of a fire. The beautiful avenues of limes which still lead to the village are believed to have been established by the Duchess.

Edward Mackenzie bought the hall in 1871. By 1879, it was described as a 'noble mansion built of white Suffolk brick, situated in a well-timbered park'. It was said to be 'the heart of an extensive game preserve, and the gardens are laid out in the Italian style'.

No more families lived there after the Mackenzies. The estate was sold for £75,310 in 1918 and owned by a succession of land speculators and companies before its acquisition by the Forestry Commission, now Forestry England. Demolition soon followed. Of the hall, little now remains. The billiard room and listed ice house still stand to the south, the coach house on the west and the tack room to the north as private dwellings. Elements of the surrounding park and gardens still survive and High Lodge was one of the tenanted farms.

Many of the changes to the ownership and use of the estate were reported in the contemporary local papers.

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Archival Records
Date Details Reference
1250-1538 manor of Downham Ixworth or Downham Priory from 1250-1536 WSROB 651/31/4
1538 Richard Codington ownership  
12 June 1567 Will of Richard Codington of Ixworth PROB 11/49/190
1618-1778 Wright Family Ownership WSROB FL536/11/9/1
16th Sept 1700 Grant by John Wright, for the term of … eleven years in Edmund Caps warren in Downham Deed of arrangement
NRO MS 4038,4E3
1723 Clement Thompson, warrener. interesting insight into family problems WSRO500/1/178(66)
1773 Notice of Sale of The Bull, Brandon-Ferry now occupied by Mr John Gore who is going to retire to his farm and warren in Santon Downham. Bury and Norwich Post 23 Feb 1793
1778 Will of William Currey, warrener. I give and bequeath to my beloved son William all and every my Traps. Netts and all my ingines for taking and catching of rabbits and also my rabbit cart and black horse WSRO500/1/234/30
4th April 1778 Sale The Manor of Downham and a mansion … property of Thos. Wright deceased. Also 3134 acres of land in two farms, chiefly warrens, well stocked with rabbits, let tythe free at a rent of £501.10s (or could be £301) a year on leases which expire 5 April 1781, when the rents may be greatly advanced Ipswich Journal
1783 Hodskinson Map shows 'Downham Lodge' at crossroads and with line of trees adjacent to it. WSROB HD3165
1791 Map of Cadogan Estate shows the lodge site and the 'Lodge Field' as well as the perimeter banks of the warren; sheepwalks; plantations and trackways. WSROB M550/3
1800 Rough sketch plan of 3 mile highway diversion shows Downham Lodge in elevation NRO NRS 21391
1812 Map shows 'The Warren Lodge Downham High Warren in the tenure of John Turner' (shown in profile as tower like structure with central door and window above next to one-storey building, labelled) NRO NRS 21391
1817 Ordnance Survey Surveyor's drawing of 1817, sheet 198 British Library
1818 Will of William Wharff, warrener. WSRO500/1/272(62
1836 Tithe plan WSROB T125/1
1860 Poem published describing the Downham Hall Estate titled 'A Ramble over the Downham Estate' by George West. Santon Downham Village Website
April 1871 Draft leases and agreements to various properties in Thetford, Croxton and SantonDownham between William Dalziel Mackenzie and tenants NRO MC 114/2/1, 583x4
1882 Highlodge Farm, with range of farm buildings to north on Ordnance Survey Map WSROB FL546/3/22
1850 - 1911 Diary of Frank Norgate, Naturalist who specialised in ornithology and lepidoptera. The diary is a detailed field record and personal journal including the time he lived at SantonDownham1883-1887 NRO MC 175/12, 13, 638 x 2
1905 Ordnance Survey Map showing High Lodge WSROB FL546/3/23a,b
1914 - 1922 Board of Trade: Timber Committee of the Office of Works the Home Grown Timber Committee of the Board of Agriculture and the Controller of Timber Supplies of the War Office National Archives Kew BT 15; BT 71 and F36.
1924 Acquisition File Forestry Commission Archives, SantonDownham.
1945 National Monuments Record: Air Photographs RAF/106G/UK/LA/227: 2148-2151 17 April 1945
  Abstract of Title of British Farm Lands Limited to the Freehold property known as the Downham Hall Estate WSROB Ref: HA 536/CD 24 1937