The Hidden Heritage of High Lodge

High Lodge in World War One (WW1)

Six men from Santon Downham were called up. Albert Carter who was a warrener; Fredrick Crowther a gamekeeper and the Reverend Ambrose Williams returned but Sidney Claxton, Hector Lockwood and John Wells did not.

There was an unprecedented demand for timber during the First World War. It was estimated that every soldier needed the equivalent of five trees:

  • one for living quarters and recreation;
  • one for crates to ship food, ammunition, tanks, and other equipment;
  • three for explosives, gun stocks, ships and factories.

The Home Grown Timber Committee was set up in the Board of Agriculture on 24 November 1915 to increase the supply for military needs and in April 1916 it was given the power to compulsorily purchase standing timber.

The Canadian Forestry Corps, a military unit of the Canadian Army, was set up in 1915 and arrived in Britain in 1916. In England, Scotland and Wales, there were seventy forestry operations run by the Canadian Forestry Corps and it supplied 70% of the Allied Timber until 1919.

No. 126 Company, Canadian Forestry Corps organised in August 1917 under the command of Captain A.B.R. Kenny came to the Santon Downham Estate in September 1918.

The men were billeted in Downham Hall and erected the sawmill and constructed a 3ft gauge logging line from High Lodge for two and a half miles to the sawmill near the railway crossing at Santon Downham with a second 1.5 mile branch to Little Lodge Farm. The timber felled was from the plantations established in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Women's Forestry Service also helped with the timber extraction. It was set up in 1916 under the control of the Timber Supply Department of the Board of Trade. The Women's Land Army and the Women's Forestry Service worked in close co-operation.

When the Forestry Commission, now Forestry England, bought the Downham Estate in 1923, the Purchase Report noted: In consequence of the timber operations, the park as such has ceased to exist. An avenue of limes and a few quasi-ornamental trees of little commercial value are all that are left, except in some of the wild belts where a few ragged conifers remain, the best timber having been cut out.