The Hidden Heritage of High Lodge

The Downham Syndicate at High Lodge

Most, and perhaps all, CFC units in England were demobilized by the end of March 1919. A number of senior officers formed Timber Operators and Contractors Ltd. The officers acted as directors and employed former CFC men as overseers for local labourers. One of their subsidiary companies, The Downham Syndicate, took on the timber operations at Downham Hall and High Lodge.

When Major Kenny, the officer commanding 126 Company was demobilized from the Canadian Army on 26th July 1919, he gave his proposed address as Downham Hall

The Bury Free Press of 29 November 1919 advertised a sale on 10th December 1919, on instructions from Major Kenny Director of Timber Operations, of a quantity of surplus machinery, sectional huts, timber and effects. This included a Bagnall locomotive for light railway, one mile of light railway metals, boiler, hoist, 1 ton lorry, 30 tons barbed wire. Oak, Ash, Beech, Elm and larch in planks, boards and cord-wood, 12 Armstrong huts, 2 cart mares, electrical stores and other fittings.

The Bury Free Press 6 November 1920 included the following advertisement: Sale 12th November 1920, on instruction from Major Kenny, Director of Timber Operations and General Manager The Downham Syndicate a large quantity of sawn timber including oak boards and posts, boards and scantlings in ash, beech, elm, fir, poplar, chestnut and sycamore. 40,000 tons slabs, cordwood and billets in oak, fir and beech. Also Canadian bungalow with garage (16ft by 24ft), seven rooms: living room, dining room, three bedroom, kitchen, large bathroom and WC, kitchen pantry, two large kitchen cupboards, hot and cold water fittings in three rooms, kitchen range with hot water apparatus, 6ft bath, water laid on from Brandon, acetylene lighting, commodious basement. Hen house and house for acetylene tank, one acre of ground Also semi-detached skeleton framework, erected as a sample.

Messrs John D Wood & Co advertised the sale of Downham Hall Estate in 1922.

Downham Syndicate Ltd had ceased trading and was struck of the register of companies in February 1929

It appears that the relationship with the local authoritites was at time strained, as these extracts from the minutes of the Brandon Rural District Council indicate.

10th September 1920

Santon Downham Road

Met at Santon Downham In attendance Mr. A. G. Read, secretary to Major Kenny.
The question of repair of road leading from river bridge to the Thetford-Brandon Roads was discussed. It was found that the road was in a very bad state of repair and that a light railway had been placed on the road, near to and over the bridge. The cost of placing the road in a proper condition was estimated by the Surveyor at £400.

Mr. Read stated that he was authorised to make an offer to provide all materials necessary to make up the roads and to cart the same onto or near to the road, but he was not authorised to to say that Major Kenny would pay for the raising.

The committee considered that as the road had been damaged by Extraordinary Estate Traffic all materials should be raised and carted at the expense of the Estate and that the Council should provide labour to repair the road.

The Clerk directed to communicate with Major Kenny and ascertain if he would pay for the raising of materials and to inform him that the Council were prepared to allow the railway to remain on the road as at present for a few months longer on condition that he accepted liability in respect of all damage caused by such construction.

Your committee recommends that if Major Kenny accepted their request the Surveyor should be instructed to forthwith take in hand the repair of the road.

The Clerk also read a letter dated 8th instant from Major Kenny as follows:

Santon Downham Road

I am in receipt of your letter of the 7th instant referring to the interview between the committee of your Council and my Mr A. G. Read, yesterday.

I understand from Mr Read that the road in question is one leading from the Thetford Road going North past the Lime Avenue and pass all by St Mary's Church down the hill past the Rectory and on to the bridge across the Ouse River.

In your letter you state that the road has been broken up by my extraordinary traffic by which I presume you refer to the timber carting which has been done on the road. I wish to point out however that the only timber hauling which has been done on the public road has been that part of it from the Church to the bridge which I agree is in somewhat bad condition.

No hauling at all has been done on the part of the road leading from the Thetford Road to the Lime Avenue. This I noted was in a very bad condition when I first came to the estate in June 1918. Apparently no repairs had been made on that road for a long time previous to that date.

However as Mr Read explained to you I am quite willing to co-operate with your Council and to assist them as far as I reasonably can in the repair of this road.

My original offer was that I would provide the material for the repair of the road providing this can be found on part of the estate accessible to the Petrol Lorry and that I would cart the material and provide the necessary labour to put the material on to the road. I note now that your Council wish me to go further than that and wish me to raise the material in addition. I am not prepared to do this but I will meet the Council half way and provide half the necessary cost or alternatively half the necessary labour to raise the material in addition to carting the material necessary to place the road in a proper state of repair.

I trust this will be satisfactory to your Council and once again assure you that I am willing to co-operate with you and help your Surveyor to the best of my abilities.

I have noted your remarks with reference to the light railway and am giving this my consideration.

Yours faithfully

A. B. Kenny Major

Director of Timber Operations

Resolved that offer be accepted.

3rd December 1920

Resolved to recommend that the Downham Syndicate Limited to at once contribute towards the cost of repair of the Santon Downham Parish Roads and failing a satisfactory reply to inform them that proceedings would be taken in respect of extraordinary traffic on such roads.