Denver & Salter's Lode

An appreciation of Denver In the late 19th Century through the large scale OS map at the time can be found at for the northern half of the parish and, for the southern part, at

Denver’s parish boundary is not a little complicated and the bounds between Downham and Denver have been altered as recently as the 1990s when the new A1122 southern bypass was constructed. The boundary now follows the new road but previously it lay a little to the north of Crow Hall. Denver extends to the south west as far as Venney Farm and includes the land between the Old and New Bedford Rivers as far south as Welmore Sluice. The boundary here, following the courses of the Old and New Bedford rivers, has thus been redrawn since the work of Vermuyden. The area of land between the Ouse and the Relief Channel is also part of Denver but Salter’s Lode, formerly within the parish, now lies in the parish of Downham West created in 1896. However, the 1901 census still includes Salter’s Lode within Denver. Kelly’s Directory in 1925 contains instructions regarding the addresses of some Denver residents. For example, farmers and smallholders in Denver Fen should be addressed ‘Nordelph, Downham’ while George Watts, collector of navigational tolls, and farmer William Carter have a postal address of ‘Salter’s Lode, Downham’.

No prehistoric settlement sites have been identified in Denver but there have been many finds to indicate that the parish has been inhabited since the earliest times. Worked Mesolithic flints and Neolithic axeheads have been recovered by field-walking as have other prehistoric flint implements and pieces of pottery. Two Bronze Age palstaves have also been found.

In 1999-2000, in association with the development of a new housing estate, the Norfolk Archaeological Unit excavated an Iron Age, Roman and Middle Saxon settlement west of Crow Hall. This would have been a very favoured site at the edge of the fenland and fits in well with the Fen Causeway and a possible, but ill-defined, Roman roadway through to Cambridge (Durolipons). The Causeway, continuing east through Stradsett, from whence derives its name, encouraged economic development of the Fens and the sites of two Roman salt works are known. One was excavated by the Ministry of Works in the 1960s and produced large amounts of Roman pottery, coins and building materials. The other, lying between the Old and New Bedford Rivers was excavated by the Norfolk Archaeological Unit in 1993. The network of buildings, peat turbaries (areas where peat was dug for fuel) and field systems stand out well in aerial photographs. There are many other Roman finds, including the remains of a kiln near the southern end of Hogspond Lane, that all point to considerable development in the parish at the time. This is entirely consistent with the site being at the junction of the Fen Causeway and the higher land of the parish above flood level.

Odd, perhaps, that no Roman name for a settlement at Denver has survived as its name is believed to derive from the Old English for ‘passage or crossing used by the Danes’. As with elsewhere in the area, the remains of Saxon settlement are less in evidence. Domesday Book records several fisheries and a relatively large amount of meadow, the latter indicating a rise in the importance of animal husbandry in Saxon times with the animals being driven down to the summer pastures of the fen. No church is mentioned until later.

Some care is needed to understand the various halls of Denver. The moated site of the medieval manor of East Hall was located just west of the junction of the old and new A10 highway, in the grounds of the present Denver Hall. It was owned by William de Warenne in 1086. The site of West Hall, also moated, stands as an earthwork behind the houses on the north side of Sluice Road and is just east of Sandy Lane. Denver Hall itself, opposite the south side of the church, came later and is believed to have been built c1490-1520, incorporating the remains of East Hall. It was extended about 1570 which is the date assigned to the ruins of the gatehouse which are still in evidence. The weathered stone coat of arms is believed to be that of the Willoughbys (for notes on Hilgay, see References). Manor Farmhouse is also thought to be a medieval manorial site. The timber-framed house was originally a medieval open hall house with upper floors added in the 16th century.

Denver Hall, south of the church, from the north

The East Hall, standing on Sluice Road opposite Brady Close and commemorated as the birthplace of George Manby, is believed to date from the reign of Henry VII c1500. West Hall Farm is to be found by Sluice Common.

Two views of Manor Farmhouse, 63 Sluice Road, Denver. Based around a 15th century E-shaped medieval hall with later additions according to Norfolk County archaeologists. Although a single dwelling at the present time, it has, in the past, been divided into three terraced cottages. The middle section is thought to date from c1450. (Photos courtesy of Mrs Jane Mackender)

Just to the west of Manor Farm is a very old barn, sadly in a ruinous state.

Denver exhibits several good examples of ridge and furrow field patterns such as west of Hogspond Lane, for example, or on Sluice Road east of the railway at the intersection with the drive to Rookery Farm. Sluice Common and Whin Common were the two principal areas of common land in pre-enclosure times and are, thankfully, still preserved. There has been some encroachment – 51 Whincommon Road has 18th century origins. Further north on Whincommon Road is College Farm, dating to the 1600s, which was formerly a single dwelling but is now divided into two.

St Mary’s Church, about which surprisingly little is written, dates mainly from the 14th & 15th centuries but, although the base of the tower seems older, there is no mention in Domesday Book. The north aisle was added in 1877, at which time there was a very substantial restoration. A small spire was formerly mounted on the tower but this was blown down in a gale on 24 March 1895 and not replaced. A black marble slab covers the remains of Dr Brady, of whom more later. There was a peal of five bells, later increased to six.

St Mary’s with spire, pre 1895, from the south west (reproduced from a photograph in the north aisle)

Denver was originally two medieties (moieties) or rectories each with their own rector until they were united in 1660 (1) West Hall mediety (St Michael’s) and (2) East Hall mediety (St Peter’s). This, presumably, came about because, in the absence of a male heir, the original manor (and associated avowdson) was inherited around 1312 by two daughters (or, rather, their husbands) and divided into two.

St Michael’s

1316 Robert de Stradesete; 1321 Roger de Saham; 1322 Robert de Stokes; 1342 John de Bradenham; 1395 Thomas Atte Falgate; 1420 John Goddard; 1452 William Payn; 1474 John Spencer MA; 1501 William Derham; 1521 Ralph Steyke; 1537 William Blackey; 1554 John Willoughby MD; 1558 Richard Burnet MA; 1561 Robert Harris; 1566 Robert Elden; 1577 Roger Gunson; 1617 Samuel Cooper; 1637 Horace Woodhouse; 1642 John Carter; 1643 Cornelius Cushing (buried 28 July 1659)

St Peter’s

1312 Simon de Cayly; 1324 John de Wygenhale; 1333 Benedict de Neketon; 1349 John Fox; 1374 Henry de Redgrave; 1402 William Marshall; 1409 William Warboys; 1430 William Alby; 1463 John Lindesey; 1479 Hugh Serle; 1491 Robert Logge; 1497 Robert Edmunds; 1515 John Mason; 1518 William Carre; 1528 William Pycroft; 1543 Jeff Watts; 1558 John Willoughby MD; 1562 Richard Barnet, Edward Williamson; 1582 Roger Gunson; 1608 Samuel Gavey; 1617 Antonius Southouse; 1626 Robert Wallis; 1627 Henry Rose

Note that three rectors, assuming Burnet and Barnet were the same person, served in both medieties before unification.

1660 Nicholas Saunderson (whose family were connected to the Willoughbys and later held the avowdson of Hilgay)

1670 Francis Jenney. Buried 13 April 1715 ‘late Rector of this parish’

1715 Nicholas White. Buried 18 September 1728. His wife Margaret was buried 16 Jul 1720

1728 Daniel Greenaway. Buried 11 January 1735

1734 Daniel Munnings. Born in Norwich in 1699, buried 28 June 1738. His wife was Ann Hall daughter of the Revd Henry Hall of Elmdon, Essex, and Fowlmere where they married in 1735. She remarried the Revd Robert Norton, Vicar of Wendens Ambo, Essex, in 1743 and was buried there in 1803

1738 Samuel Stedman DD. Buried 13 May 1768

1768 James Hicks MA. Buried 05 May 1788

1788 Benjamin Young MA (1743-1801). Buried 04 Mar 1801, aged 58. Mary (1740-1811), his widow, was buried 15 July 1811, aged 71.

1801 Charles Robert Dade MA (1763-1820). Buried 23 August 1820, aged 57. His wife was Hester Powell; they married in Great Yarmouth on 25 June 1801

1820 Samuel Colby Smith MA (1775-1852). Buried 26 April 1852, aged 77. His wife Lucy Maria Collyer (1784-1843) predeceased him and was buried in November 1843, aged 59

(The Revd Charles Mann, appointed curate in West Dereham in 1818, was buried in Denver on 26 January 1848, aged 85. His first wife Lucia Frances McGuire was buried 13 April 1794, aged 38. His second wife was Susanna McDougal)

Denver rectory ( is thought to date from around 1770; there were substantial alterations in 1826, presumably at the instigation of the Rev Colby Smith.

1852 William Haughton (mother's maiden name) Stokes MA. Died 24 May 1884. Rector in Denver for 32 years. He was born in Skreen, Co Sligo, Ireland c1803 and was unmarried. He established Denver school on Ryston Road. A very able mathematician - placing as 16th wrangler in the tripos at Cambridge in 1828. His brother was Sir George Gabriel Stokes (1819-1903), eminent physicist - more at

1884 James Mourant Du Port MA. Born c1833 St Peter Port, Guernsey. Unmarried.

1899 St Vincent Beechey MA (1840-1905)

Son of St Vincent Beechey (1806-1899) and born in Hilgay in December 1840, christened by his father there on 7th March the following year. He was Rector of Newton Heath in Manchester 1876-1885, St John's, Cheetham to 1890, and Bolton-le-Sands before his arrival in Denver. He married Edith de Vere Grimke (1855-1943) in 1882 but there were no children. Edith, according to one census (1901), was born (on 23 October 1854) in St Petersburg but, in two others (1891 & 1911), her birth took place in Newton-le-Willows. She was certainly christened at the latter on 23 Nov 1854. Her father was an American MD. After her husband's death, Edith moved to Newent, Gloucestershire, where she lived until her death. St Vincent left £1568 5s 9d; his widow being the beneficiary. He set up the reading room which still stands and is buried in Denver churchyard. Edith was buried in the churchyard of St Peter's, Clifford Mesne, Gloucestershire.

1905 George Duncan Barry BD. Born Birkenhead 1864. He married for the second time in Bexley in 1904, appearing as a widower in the 1901 census at the Rectory in Stratton St Mary, Norfolk.

1915 George Hugh Lenox-Conyngham MA. Born 1859, died at Lavenham rectory in 1933. One of the thirteen children born to Colonel Sir William Fitzwilliam Lenox-Conyngham and Laura Calvert Arbuthnot whose family derive from Springhaill, Co Londonderry. They moved to Edinburgh in 1876. His youngest sister Harriet Alice was on the RMS Titanic but survived, dying in 1956. A brother Sir Gerald Ponsonby Lenox-Conyngham (1866-1956) was an eminent geologist.

1917 George Estlen Atkins MA. Born Leicester 1870. In 1911 he was ministering in Tibshelf, Notts. Initiated into St Winnold's Lodge, Downham Market Masons in 1919.

1932 Austin Standish Lester MA. Born 1875 at Kingsbridge, Devon; died 1949. Graduate of Caius, Cambridge.

1949 Ivor Gwyn Jones MA. Born c1913. Died Hardwick Road Hospital, King's Lynn in August 1965 leaving £1500 to his widow Mary Irene Jones.

1966 Edward F Yorke MA

1971 Leslie A D Woodland

1975 Llewellyn Frank Beadnell Cumings BA

1983 Robin Jeffree AKC

1994 John Kenneth Isaacs MA

2004 Judith Grundy B Ed (Oxon)

All the burials above refer to those taking place in Denver unless otherwise stated.

Of the many impressive memorials in the church, that to John Thurlow Dering (1763-1836) of Crow Hall, mentioned elsewhere in connection with the Downham Market riots in 1816, attests that ‘his virtues were a source of happiness and example to those around.... His whole life was one continued illustration of perfect goodness’. His father was rector of Hilgay for many years and is there interred.

Two memorials emphasise the close links between Denver and the Pratt family of Ryston Hall. In the floor of the chancel there is set a large marble slab over the interred remains of Thurlow Stafford, who died in December 1731, and his wife Elizabeth (née Pratt) who was born in the hall at Ryston in 1685, dying four years after her husband. On a nearby wall is a tribute to Samuel Colby Smith, rector of Denver from 1820-1852, and to his wife Lucy Maria (née Collyer, of Gunthorpe Hall in Norfolk) and her mother Sarah Maria (née Pratt) who is remembered as ‘feeble in body yet strong in faith’, dying aged 45.

In his will, the Revd Samuel Colby Smith left 90 acres of land in Denver in trust to Gonville & Caius College so ‘that a fellowship be founded to be called Smith’s Fellowship....out of gratitude for the many advantages I received as to my education and prosperity in life from my college’. Candidates were to be in holy orders and native to Norfolk. He also left 192 acres of land west of the Ouse in Hilgay to William Henry Gooch, the husband of his sister Jane – farmed by Thomas Cooper on the tithe map of 1838. He also left seven acres of land to provide £4 per annum for poor widows and widowers in Denver.

Memorial to Lucy Maria Colby Smith (d1843)

Gonville & Caius is the third wealthiest of the Cambridge colleges, with assets valued at £140m in 2006. It was founded in 1348 by Edmund Gonville, rector of Terrington St Clements. The college fell upon hard times and was refounded as Gonville & Caius in 1557 by physician John Caius. Caius was master from 1559 until his death in 1573. He insisted that the College admit no scholar who was ‘deformed, dumb, blind, lame, maimed, mutilated, Welsh, or suffering from any grave or contagious illness, or an invalid, sick in any serious measure’. Times, thankfully, have changed.

It is believed that Robert Brady was born in Denver around 1627 although there is no record of his baptism in the parish registers. He was educated in Downham Market until 1644 when he went up to Gonville & Caius, Cambridge. He was about to complete his MB in 1650 when he was forced to flee the country because Edmund Brady, presumed to be his brother, was executed in Norwich for his part in an alleged Royalist plot. He returned to Cambridge in 1652 to continue his training but was unable to complete his MD until 1658 because of his political affiliations. These also resulted in a six months spell in prison in Great Yarmouth. Brady’s life changed for the better at the Restoration when, in 1660, he became master of Gonville & Caius, holding the post for forty years until his death. He was appointed physician-in-ordinary to Charles II in 1652, a post he retained under James II in 1685.

Robert Brady c1627-1700 (courtesy Gonville & Caius)

However, it is as a Royalist historian, rather than a physician, that Brady is most remembered although he was a witness to the birth of James Edward Stuart, the Prince of Wales, at St James’ Palace in 1688 – later to be dubbed ‘The Old Pretender’. He was an MP for Cambridge in 1681 and 1685 but his active political life came to an end when James II went into exile and William & Mary assumed the throne in 1689. His most notable work is entitled ‘A Complete History of England, from the First Entrance of the Romans to the End of Richard II’. He married Jane Constable of Swaffham but she died, aged 56, in 1679. Brady himself died on 19 August 1700 and was buried at St Mary’s, Denver, leaving most of his estate to Gonville & Caius College.

Other memorials in the church include some to former rectors. William Haughton Stokes was rector for 32 years up until his death in 1884, aged 81, and is commemorated with a glass plaque and memorial window. The Revd Stokes was followed by the Revd Canon James Mourant DuPort (1884-1899) and by the Revd Canon St Vincent Beechey (1899-1906). The last was the son of the rector of Hilgay of the same name and was born in Hilgay in 1840. The carved oak lectern was presented in his memory in 1907. His wife, who outlived him by many years, was Edith de Vere Grimke who was born in St Petersburg in 1854. She was buried in Clifford’s Mesne, Newent, in 1943.

Kelly’s Directory of 1896 refers to the memorial window dedicated to George Wood who served as churchwarden for 58 years. Born in Stow Bardolph in 1793, he married Mary Ann Flower in Downham on 04 Oct 1825. He started farming in Denver before 1841 and by 1851 he was working 700 acres at West Hall Farm in Sluice Road, employing 20 labourers. He was also parish constable. Widowed twice before 1871, he was still farming 528 acres at West Hall in 1881, aged 87, employing 15 men, 7 boys and 2 women. He died later that year.

Francis White’s Directory of 1854 says that Denver consisted of 942 souls, 200 houses and just over 2933 acres of land.

By 1881 the population of the parish was 836. William White’s Directory records a large number of residents and their occupations in 1883. It is very noticeable that the population of Denver is far less ‘village-bound’ and much more mobile than the communities to the south. There is certainly no predominance of a few surnames as there is in Southery, in particular. This is partly due to the proximity of the larger urban centre of Downham Market and partly to the fragmentation of the parish due to its unbridged portions either side of the Ouse. There are many farmers, inevitably, but there are many other trades in evidence, too. The public houses, three of which were over the river in Salter’s Lode, are covered later. Of the farms, the largest in terms of its 633 acres, was Hill Farm on Ryston Road and rented from the Pratt estate by Henry William Turner. Other farmers of note were Reuben Tuck who farmed 340 acres in Salter’s Lode, Charles Elworthy who farmed 202 acres at James’ Drove in Nordelph, John Thorpe at Silt Fen Farm (133 acres) and William Tingay with 200 acres west of the Ouse at Ten Mile Bank. Reuben Tuck had done well for himself, being recorded only as an ‘ag lab’ in 1851.

Other farmers mentioned by name were William Beart; Charles Bennett, who also ran the Carpenter’s Arms; (Mr) Clare Butcher, Salter’s Lode; George Corston, farmer & boat owner; Henry Dawson; Matthew Green; Joseph Harpley, of The Hollies, Denver Common; Henry Johnson, with 17 acres; Jacob Paul, cowkeeper; James Sharpe, farmer & carrier; Frederick Gay Sherringham, Lower Farm; John Shingles, Salter’s Lode; John Sutleff, farmer & landowner; Robert Towler, cowkeeper; Robert Upcraft; Joseph Wootton, College Farm.

The postmaster in 1881 was Ollett Ambrose (born in Denver, 1824) and his father William was postmaster before him in 1854 as well as being a blacksmith. Robert Ambrose, born in 1809 in Denver, William’s brother, was a tailor in the village on Ryston Road. Both were sons of William Ambrose and Olivia Bowman (born in West Dereham) who married in Denver in 1791. Olivia’s grandfather, Daniel Bowman, was buried in West Dereham in 1784, aged 82. Her father, Joshua, was buried in the same village on 30 December 1829, aged 91, outliving his wife Alice, née Tingay, by almost three decades.

A summary of the various tradesmen in the village, not already mentioned, provides a good picture of the day-to-day life in the 1880s: John Banham, bootmaker; Benjamin Barber, carpenter & wheelwright; William Boyden, coal dealer; Reuben Cork, beerhouse keeper & cattle dealer; Robert Dungay, (Ryston) estate carpenter; William Dungay, carpenter, wheelwright & parish clerk; George Hodgson, blacksmith; Charles Holliday and William Holliday, bricklayers; James Horne, blacksmith & dealer in ropes & nails; Henry John How, corn & coal merchant, The Hall; William Kent, grocer & draper; Mrs Mary Lancaster, gardener; George Monk, grocer, draper & butcher; Frederick Nash, plumber, glazier & painter; Joseph Reeson, retired miller; Edward, Henry & William Robinson, bootmakers; Mrs Sarah Rodwell, gardener; Thomas Sayer, furniture broker & general dealer; William Tebbutt, farm bailiff, Salter’s Lode; Mrs Ann Watson, coal dealer; George Watson, farm bailiff, Denver Sluice; Isaac Wing, boat builder, Denver Sluice.

In addition to this list were James Beasley, sluice keeper; George Bowker, sluice keeper and toll collector, Salter’s Lode; Mrs Jane Gates; Mr Francis Hopkin, yeoman; Mrs Jane Mumford; Francis Perry, station master; Thomas Lancelot Reed, solicitor, Reed & Wayman, Crow Hall; Revd Stokes, rector; Alfred Williams, schoolmaster.

Of all the people listed above less than twenty were born in the village. The labouring families were less mobile but this is a different pattern than found in the more rural parishes further from Downham. The arrival of the railway in mid-century was a major influence in the increasing mobility of the population.

Some families do have long-established roots in the village however. The surname Hovell occurs on numerous occasions in the registers and censuses. Not surprising perhaps as Thomas Hovell and his wife Sarah (née Jude), who were running a beerhouse in Sluice Road in 1851, had twelve children. Thomas was christened in Denver on 11 June 1777; Sarah was of a similar age and was born in Stow Bardolph. It is then possible to trace Thomas’s family back to the marriage of his great grandfather George Hovell to Elizabeth Garner in Denver on 12 Oct 1705. William Hovell, probably George’s father, was buried in the village on 09 May 1714 but, as was usual in the burial entries at the time, no age was given. Elizabeth was one of at least seven children born to Thomas & Elizabeth Garner; the earliest record being the burial of an older sister Amie in April 1676.

Hopkin is another familiar surname. In 1851, Abraham Hopkin (aged 35) was farming around 200 acres at Denver Sluice along with his wife Mary Smythee Haynes who he married in Denver on 15 May 1837. Abraham’s mother died in 1829 when she was 45 and his father, William, remarried Mary Haynes, née Smythee, also widowed, who brought two stepchildren to the marriage. Mary was one of these stepchildren, so Abraham’s stepmother was also his mother in law. Francis was a favoured Christian name in the family which makes it possible to trace the family back from Denver to Hilgay where William & Katherine Hopkyn were resident in the 1670s. Their son Francis, christened in Hilgay in 1684, was married four times and by his fourth wife had triplets in October 1727. Sadly, but not unexpectedly for the times, they did not survive and were buried together later in the same month.

Moses Dungay was landlord of the Cricketer’s Arms from 1851-1865, at least, followed by his grandson George (until after the 1881 census) who then moved on to the Great Eastern in Downham. Moses was born in West Dereham in 1791, the son of John Dungay and Elizabeth Smith who married there on 27 Aug 1787. Together they had five children before John died in 1797 (bur West Dereham 24 May). The following year Elizabeth remarried the widower John Bushell who also had five young children. Four more children followed from the new marriage so the family home, one feels, would have been somewhat crowded. There are many Bushells in the West Dereham registers and the families can be traced back to the marriage of Richard Bushell and Jane Kime in Stradsett on 29 September 1699. Arthur Dungay was Denver parish clerk in 1904 and was still in post in 1925.

Abraham & Elizabeth Crockford moved to Denver from Sutton, Cambridgeshire, around 1825. This surname also appears as Crocksford, or Croxford, but these variations are as nothing compared to the children of daughter Martha who became the wife of William Uffendale in Denver in 1865 where subsequent baptismal entries include Ovendil and Ovendale as well as Uffendale.

Sutliff, with variations, is another Denver surname that can be traced back in the village to the late 1600s. However, the John Sutliff farming 62 acres in Sluice Road in 1851 was born in Bradenham in 1793. He married in Denver in 1813 and, with the middle name Thurlow, one wonders if there was not a longer term connection with the village.

Sluice Road remained unfenced until around 1970 but freely roaming cattle and the motor car came into conflict more and more until fencing was deemed expedient (Mike Bullen)

Longstanding millers in the village were the Gleaves family. The tower mill was built in 1835 by John Porter of Southery – ‘JMP 1835’ is marked on the building – when a post mill was demolished to make way for the new structure. John Gleaves was born in Willingham around 1819 and was farming 120 acres in Salter’s Lode in the 1851 census. He purchased Denver Mill in 1853 and proceeded to operate it, latterly with his son James, until it was sold on in 1896. A 12hp steam engine was added in 1863 so subsequent trade advertisements referred to Gleaves, millers, ‘steam & wind’. James was born in 1841, in Willingham, where his parents were farming. Sarah, his mother, died in 1844 and John remarried. A daughter Sarah was born in Willingham in 1847 who was to marry William Henry Rose in 1867 and reside at Wellington House in Ten Mile Bank. As well as being a farmer of considerable standing, William Rose played a key role in building the Primitive Methodist chapel in Ten Mile Bank in 1878. James Gleaves, the son, married Susan Ann Morton, born in Tipp’s End in 1843, on 23 August 1870 at St John’s Church, Little Ouse.

Tithe Map 1837 showing Denver Mill (left) and location of the Wheatsheaf (see below) public house (right)

Denver tower mill c1910, with steam chimney. Please refer to the excellent

The mill was bought by Thomas Edward Harris in 1896 who left it to his son Thomas Edwin in his will of 1925. The mill was put out of action after a severe gale on 22 February 1908. Kelly’s in 1925 says the mill is powered by ‘oil & wind’ whereas two years previously it was ‘steam & wind’. New sails were fitted in 1927 but in 1941 the mill was struck by lightning and this brought an end to wind milling, though operations continued using the diesel engine. Thomas Edwin Harris died in 1969 and in 1973 the mill was gifted to Norfolk County Council. It was fully restored and opened to the public in April 2000.

The former Harris’ house and engineering works east of the mill

Thomas Edwin was an engineer of considerable standing and, in addition to the mill, ran an engineering works. This undertaking made a considerable contribution to the war effort in1939-45 and employed a large workforce.

A Victory party for Harris’s employees was held in 1945 in the former village hall which was located on the west side of Whincommon Road at the junction with the common where a private house now stands. Older residents may be able to recognise some of those present

The ‘JMP’ on the mill tower stands for John & Mary Porter. Their large memorial stands due west of St Mary’s tower.

John& Mary Porter memorial, Denver churchyard

One John Porter married Mary Neale in Southery on 12 January 1810. On that occasion John’s parish was entered as Hilgay though the 1851 census gives his birthplace as Southery. He died in Downham on 28 April 1858, aged 69, but there is no corresponding baptismal record in the Southery registers, nor those of Hilgay, around 1789. Mary died in Denver on 05 February 1845, aged 58, but her birthplace was not in Norfolk according to the 1841 census – no specific places of birth being given until the census of 1851. After Mary died, John remarried the widow Mary Olphin in Downham on 08 February 1848 and on that occasion his father was entered as Thomas Porter but which Thomas, at the time of writing, is unclear. Mary Smith had married John Olphin in Upwell, the village of her birth, on 30 May 1811 when she was in her mid 20s. Mary’s father, Thomas, was recorded at the time of her second marriage as a wool comber by trade. Mary appears in the 1861 census as the widow of a retired miller and as a person of independent means in 1871, living at Plantation House, Lynn Road, Downham. Her age, given as 71 and 85 respectively, serves to underline the unreliability of some ages as given in the census. On both occasions she is living next door to Whitmore Baker, the dentist. Mary died on Christmas Day and was buried in Downham on 28 December 1871 when her age was given as 87, suggesting a birth year of 1784. Most oddly, neither the death of John Porter, nor that of Mary, his first wife, were recorded other than in the burial register at Denver. The second Mary left her estate to James Thornton of Theobald’s Park, near Cheshunt, a retired contractor of public works. A Yorkshireman by birth, James had married Sarah Porter, her stepdaughter, in Denver on 12 October 1836. That the estate was left to James rather than Sarah is reflective of the times.

Until the Married Women’s Property Rights Act of 1882, British law defined the role of the wife as a ‘feme covert’, emphasizing her subordination to her husband, and putting her under the ‘protection and influence of her husband, her baron, or lord’. Upon marriage, the husband and wife became one person under the law at which point the property of the wife was surrendered to her husband and her legal identity ceased to exist. Any personal property acquired by the wife during the marriage, unless specified that it was for her own separate use, went automatically to her husband. Further, married women were unable to draft wills or dispose of any property without their husbands’ consent.

Women were often limited in what they could inherit. While males received real property (land and buildings), females inherited personal property, which included clothing, jewellery, household furniture, food, and all moveable goods. In an instance where no will was found, the British law of primogeniture automatically gave the oldest son the right to all real property, and daughters could only inherit real property in the absence of a male heir. The law of primogeniture remained on the statute books in Britain until 1925.

The dissolution of a marriage, whether initiated by the husband or wife, usually left the females impoverished, as the law offered them no rights to marital property

Picture by Mike Page shows :-

The fully-restored Denver Mill from the air 2008

There was another mill, a smock mill, over the river in Salter’s Lode that began life as a drainage mill but was later converted to a corn mill.

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Two views of Salter’s Lode corn mill, here and above. Both are looking east, this one (c1915) also shows the Jolly Waterman, to the immediate right of the mill, the bridge over the Well Creek, and, continuing right, the lock-keeper’s cottage (dated 1914) and the toll collector’s cottage. The one below, taken perhaps in 1905, shows the road to Nordelph with the Royal George on the extreme left.

The first edition of the Ordnance Survey shows the road to Nordelph in its present position. However, Faden, three decades earlier, shows a second road following the course of the present Sluice Road along the river bank from the Old Post House, crossing the Well Creek by the bridge, where tolls were payable, and then proceeding west to Nordelph along the south side of the Well Creek. This road is today only metalled from Nordelph as far east as Riverside Farm though the rest of the route through to Salter’s Lode remains as a public right of way. Bryant (1826) shows the road to the north of the Well Creek.

It is uncertain when the mill converted to grinding corn but it was before the 1851 census when William King (aged 35, born in Titteshall) was master miller employing one man. His son Arthur took over and ran the mill until its closure in 1924. The sails were removed around 1930 and the mill became derelict, being demolished some time after World War II.

The Old Bedford Sluice at Salter's Lode allowed the exit of vessels from the Old Bedford Level into the tidal Ouse. There were, online, photos by Neil Arlidge of the narrow boat ‘Earnest’ making a rare exit from the Old Bedford River into the tidal Ouse in 2001. A great deal depended on the state of the tide to effect this exit and careful planning was needed. The waterway was not well maintained and there were considerable problems with silting which have continued so that the route is now impossible. The sluice was rebuilt in 1828. Navigating the New Bedford is much more straightforward.

The silted up sluice between the tidal Ouse and the Old Bedford River

Also easy to navigable is the restored Well Creek through to Outwell. The Well Creek Trust has renovated and currently maintains eight miles of the navigation from Upwell to the tidal lock at Salter’s Lode. Vessels can only pass from the Well Creek to the Old West River (the non tidal Ouse south of Denver Sluice) via the tidal Ouse at high tide. Boats go up into the tidal Ouse and down into the Old West River. Travel from Denver to Earith by the Old West River via Ely is 31 miles but only 20 miles by the New Bedford.

This view is of the lock from the Well Creek into the Ouse looking east. Faden (1797) shows that the bridge was still the main road route out of the village but the present main road was in place by Bryant’s map of 1826. The former main road ran along the river bank and joined the new road by the Old Post House. The website has further information.

Restoration of the tidal lock at Salter’s Lode in January 2009. The lock is seventeen feet deep. Just visible, on the underside of the bridge, on the keystone for example, are the grooves worn by the ropes used to pull barges through in the past. The lock was rebuilt in 1827.

Kelly’s Directory 1904 shows that James Horn had taken over the post office and blacksmiths in Denver from Ollett Ambrose who died in 1895. George Monk was at the Bell Public House & posting house – ‘trains met by appointment, good stabling’. His widowed mother, Sarah Monk (née Johnson, in Denver in 1827), was also listed as a grocer & draper in Downham Road. Walter William Covell (born in Upwell in 1871) had arrived to farm at Denver Sluice with his wife Emma (born in March). Bensley Redhead had moved from Hilgay to be a market gardener at The Orchards, Common Lane (Whincommon Road). His wife Elizabeth, Ollett Ambrose’s widow, was listed as a collector of taxes. James & Benjamin Sharpe were carriers and farmers, Denver Common. Joseph Wootton was a farmer and auctioneer at College Farm. His father, John, was buried in Hilgay churchyard earlier in the year although he had lived at Hill House, Westgate Street, in Southery for forty years or so from where he farmed some 500-600 acres.

Kelly’s in 1912 reminds us that ‘the immense capacity of the sluice for discharging water may be realised when it is borne in mind that in times of high flood the flood waters of 800,000 acres of land are poured through its openings’. On the tidal side, the barriers were capable of holding back a tidal rise of 24 feet. As is to be expected, in the intervening eight years there were many residents continuing in the same occupations and at the same addresses as before but there were some significant changes too. There were a new rector and schoolmaster, for example. George William Spurling had taken over the tenancy of Crow Hall Farm – he had been a farm foreman at Walpole St Peter in 1901. George was born in Denver in 1856, the son of Samuel Spurling, a labourer, and Sarah English Yews who were married in Downham in 1846 so he had done well for himself. If he had found it tough to get on the ladder his was an easier start to life than his nephew Bertram, born illegitimately to his half sister Elizabeth in 1894. His mother died when he was little over a year old and he was then brought up by his grandmother Harriet until she too died in 1901 when he was seven..... Enough to stop most from grumbling about their lot one hopes.

There are a number of old photographs of Denver that, together, paint a picture of the village a century or so ago.

The main road to Downham, looking north, with the village shop on the left and the rectory behind the wall on the right. The Primitive Methodist chapel is just visible on the far right

Denver Reading Room – there was formerly a glass lantern in the roof to allow extra light. The corrugated iron structure was the last building of the old village on the road to Downham and is still to be found north of the old chapel and adjacent cottages. It was at one time used as a billiard hall but, in 2016, its future is under review owing to its declining physical condition.

The importance of reading rooms (see also Southery, in the former National School) is often overlooked. Denver’s was donated to the village in 1903 by the then rector, St Vincent Beechey. Joseph Heath, the schoolmaster, was honorary secretary & treasurer in 1904, followed by his successor at the school, Albert Rutter in1912. Daily and weekly newspapers were available in addition to a collection of books.

The village shop – c1900

Downham Road looking south towards the war memorial. Pine Tree House, pre-rendering, stands impressively on the far left. The former post office is on the right and to its right, out of view, the old blacksmith’s yard (two generations of Ambroses, William & Ollett, were blacksmith and postmaster, followed by James Horn, born in Stow Bardolph, 1850). The Cricketer’s Arms is the darkest of the three buildings in the middle distance. The landlord of the Cricketer’s in Kelly’s Directory of 1925 was John Lister, brother of Ben at Middle Drove Farm, who had previously been a coachman for the Selfridge family in London. In that year, Mrs Emily Horn, formerly Emily Hanbury, was postmistress. Joseph Wootton had moved from College Farm, where Robert Riches now farmed, to Crow Hall. Mrs Mary Ann Monk (née Agger, Denver 1862), whose husband was formerly landlord of the Bell, was a grocer, taking over from her mother in law, Sarah.

Ryston Road looking west. Note that the houses on the left have been raised to two storeys since this photograph was taken. The school is the second building from the right. First on the right is the property known locally as 'Rochester House' which is being demolished in 2016. There is an interesting background to this building before it became the premises of builders EC&TD Covell. In 1887 the property, in what was then known as Eastgate Street, was sold by Professor George Gabriel Stokes, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge from 1849 until his death in 1903, younger brother of the then current rector. The buyer was William Fergusson, a butler, then living in Chesterton Road in Cambridge who, for £550, also purchased Robert Dungay's cottage (third building on the right with the window in the gable end) and three further cottages towards the village centre plus land that is now the school playing field amounting to 2acres, 2 roods, and 2 perches. William Fergusson sold the land in 1903 to Edith de Vere Beechey, the rector's wife, who, after the death of her husband (in 1905) sold it for £900 to John Webb in 1912, she by then having moved to The Noels, Newent in Gloucestershire. John Webb was the steward of the Castle Club in Rochester and he and his heirs owned the property until 1978 - the land for the school playing field having been sold off twenty years before. More can be read about the Lucasian Chair at Other holders of note include Isaac Newton, Charles Babbage and, more recently, Stephen Hawking. Also mentioned in the deeds is William Henry Drosier MD (1812-1889) a considerable benefactor of Caius College. He was born in Blakeney and is buried in Cambridge's Mill Road cemetery. (Terry Covell)

Scientific Identity, Portrait of George Gabriel Stokes

Sir George Gabriel Stokes (1819-1903)

Sluice Road, Denver, looking west in the 1930s. The wall on the left was demolished to make way for Denver Garage which, in turn, has been replaced by a small housing development in 2008.

Several more recent pictures are also reminders of how things have changed.

The lodge on Ryston Road. This was the former entrance into the Ryston estate prior to the realignment of the A10 in the early 1980s.

The former Ryston Vicarage on Ryston Road

Former shop, run by the Reast family, on Sluice Road. There was a cycle shop immediately to its left.

The Fishing Cottage and boathouse at the confluence of the Ouse and Wissey, with the latter flowing in from the right. Demolished about 1940, it was a summer residence for the Pratt estate. The banks have been reworked and the distribution of trees is now much changed. Bryant (1826) labels this as Fish House and indicates that Hilgay Ferry crossed the Ouse to and from the opposite bank. (Mike Bullen)

The clubhouse of Ryston Park Golf Club soon after its foundation in 1933. The clubhouse is now very different with a much larger car park required for members and officials. The course is part of the Pratt estate and has remained 9 holes throughout.

Golf is not the only sport! The Denver cricket team in 1905. This photo, with thanks, from the club’s Centenary booklet (1901-2001). Back row (l-r): George Johnson (umpire); Tom Beart; A Bowman; E Beechie, Jim Sharpe snr; A Murton; Bill Jerry. Front row: L Bailey; H Hassock; Joseph Heath; R Veal; ‘Shrimpie’ Chapman; William Paul (scorer). Mr Veal had achieved a hat-trick in the match.

The only George Johnson in Denver in the 1901 census was farming in Sluice Road. His father Henry, son of William & Elizabeth Johnson, married Jemima Thorpe in Downham in 1855. Tom Beart was a jobbing gardener in 1901 living in Seven Sisters cottages but he was not born locally. His birthplace was Shoeburyness while his father Edward, born in Welney in 1832, was serving in the army. A Bowman is either Archibald or his younger brother Alfred, sons of James & Rebecca (née Osler) who were married in Hilgay in 1870. James was born in Hilgay in 1849, son of Thomas & Mary Ann (née Porter). Rebecca’s great grandparents were George Osler (bap 11 November 1777) & Ann Phillis (née Cook) who married in Southery on 07 April 1800. E Beechie must be Ernest Beechey, nephew of the rector, who was later resident at the Vicarage on Ely Road in Hilgay where he was living when he died in September 1945. The 1901 census says that Jim Sharpe was born in Setch in 1875 and was a self-employed carrier. His widowed mother, Harriet, was born in South Creake in 1837. Arthur Murton’s parents, George & Susanna, were farmers on Denver Common. His grandfather Robert was born in Shelfanger in 1818. Robert married Rebecca Carman in Denver on 12 October 1844. Rebecca’s mother was Mary Register whose ancestors can be traced in Southery back to before 1700. Her father was Samuel Carman whose parents John & Ann had settled in Denver by the 1770s. Bill Jerry was born in South Runcton in 1852 and married Caroline Jakes from Wretton in Denver on 06 October 1876. He was a gardener in 1901 living on Denver Common.

L Bailey is probably Leonard Barley, aged 13, son of William Barley and his wife Sarah (née Fretwell). William’s father Thomas came from Wereham – he married Sarah Batterby in Denver in 1849. Sarah Fretwell’s family can be traced in West Dereham to the 1780s. Hassocks and Hassacks tend to get a little confusing but this is presumably Harry Hassock, son of William & Elizabeth, née Dungay, who married in Denver in 1869. Both families had long-established roots in the village. Joseph E Heath was born in Hanley, Staffs in 1874 and was schoolmaster in the village from before the 1901 census. Robert J Veal was a railway platelayer living on Denver Common in 1901; he was born in Hilgay in 1877 where his ancestors go back to his great grandfather, David Veal, who had settled in Hilgay after marrying Mary Dearsley in 1791. Robert’s mother Louisa was a member of another Hilgay family, the Goates, whose grandfather James was born in Hilgay in 1793. One is not able to offer any further information on ‘Shrimpie’ Chapman since census returns and parish registers tend to be somewhat more formal than to use nicknames. However, though ‘Chapman’ is a relatively common surname having its origins in the occupations of pedlar or hawker, there appears only one family by that name in the village in 1901. Having said that census returns tend to formality, William Paul appears in the 1901 census as ‘Willie’. His father, also William, was a groom in 1901 and was born in Denver in 1873; his mother Mary came from West Dereham. Readers should be aware that ages and dates taken from the census are not always accurate and should be treated with some caution. A further problem is illustrated here with the Hassock/Hassacks and Bailey/Barleys since, in the days before universal literacy, enumerators and parsons were very much dependent on their interpretation of the spoken word for the accuracy of their entries.

The Denver team in 1936 included no fewer than four Veals:

Back (l-r): Lew Edwards (umpire); Harold Holman; Sid Tokelove; Stan Easter; George Osler; Harry Veal; Bob Veal; Billy Veal (scorer)

Front: Billy Wiles; Harry Goodley; Jim Sharpe (Captain); Bernard Veal; Ron Cox. Two other Veal brothers, Ivan & Arthur, also played for the team in the period leading up to the war. Bernard Veal turned down an offer to play county cricket for Surrey. Harold Holman became head gamekeeper on the Ryston estate and died, aged 91, in 2007; his son Patrick represented Cambridgeshire as a batsman on many occasions.

The parish registers (the earliest parts of which date from 1653), as elsewhere, highlight some of the events in the parish, particularly after the introduction of the more detailed burial registers in 1813. Britain’s first cholera epidemic reached these shores in the spring of 1832. Denver was badly affected with Temperance Oatey, the first victim, being buried on 27 June, aged 73. In the next month a further 24 burials were caused by the disease with Mary Carman, aged 47, being the last so recorded on 21 July. However, there is then a gap in the burial register until 16 October which suggests further victims. It is not difficult to imagine the mood of the village when five people were buried on 04 July, two on the 6th, two more the next day and a further three on the 8th. Nearly all the victims were adults. Nearby Upwell and Nordelph were worse affected with 67 victims recorded in two months.

On to matters no less weighty, Joseph Freeman (16) was buried in November 1833 having been ‘accidentally shot’ and Hannah Sadler (49), alias Hannah Manfield, was interred on 06 January 1837 ‘murdered in her house at Denver’.

Sarah Boyden, aged 5, was buried 03 March 1838 ‘belonging to Denver’ having died in Union House – the Downham Union Workhouse. Jonas Page (22) was buried in August 1845 also having been accidentally shot, this incident occurring in Fincham; less than a year later James Reddy (12) suffered the same fate. Shearman Stanford (16) was ‘killed on the railway’ in June 1847. Another outbreak of cholera occurred in September 1849 but it appears that only one victim was claimed, Mary Ann Foreman (60), who was buried after a coroner’s inquest. Drownings, given the parish’s proximity to the Bedford Levels and the Ouse, were relatively common. Several times in the early 1800s bodies were recovered and buried anonymously without any identity being established, the victims presumably entering the water higher up – as was the case with William Jordan, the landlord of the Dog & Duck, who was buried in Denver on 21 January 1851.

Earlier in the records we find the burial of James Dye, a waterboy from Whittlesea, found drowned in 1802 and that of Robert Ellis (65), labourer, ‘accidentally killed by a tree falling upon him’ in May 1800. Martin Day, shoemaker, was drowned attempting to swim over the River Ouse in 1798.

We return to the death of Hannah Mansfield which caused considerable interest and no small amount of alarm at the time, as the headlines convey:

Perhaps we should point out, in these days of credit crunches, that the perpetrators were labourers, or navigators (navvies), employed on drainage work rather than bankers engaged in high finance! Hannah appears in the Denver baptismal register as the base born daughter of Hannah Sadler and the entry is dated 25 December 1786. Thus, her age given in the burial register is not quite accurate. There is an entry for the marriage by banns of John Manfield and Hannah Sadler on 06 Feb 1787 in Denver so Hannah grew up using the surname of her, presumed, father. John Mansfield was one of the victims of the cholera epidemic in 1832, being buried in Denver on 08 July, aged 79.

The ‘Horrid Murder’ broadsheet, published by Wm Upcroft of Norwich, begins “On Tuesday, January 3rd, 1837, a most diabolical murder took place at Denver, near Downham, Norfolk, which has excited a sensation of horror in all ranks. Hannah Mansfield, a female about 50 years of age, residing on Denver common, of rather eccentric habits....”.

Hannah Mansfield’s home today at Bates’ Wood on the edge of Whin Common. The date on the gable end takes the house back to the 18th century

There follows a long description of what happened to poor Hannah in the early hours of Wednesday morning and how the body was discovered the next day. Her throat had been cut and blood stains on the walls are believed to be detectable to this day. There had been snowfall and the blooded footsteps of the three men were traced across the common to where one of them had washed blood from his person by the stream known as Captain’s Run. The motive appears to have been robbery, with an extensive amount of silver plate and £20 stolen. Three bankers were seen in the vicinity of Hannah’s house the previous evening and they immediately assumed the status of prime suspects. Their arrest, in the days before railways, fast road travel and telephones, is remarkable. However, they escaped via Stamford (on Wednesday 11 January) and were located in Doncaster on the following Thursday evening at the Bird in Hand, ‘a notorious house’. On Saturday morning the express coach brought Mr T V Wright, one of the principal officers of the town of Lynn, to Doncaster. Wright and two local officers ‘with firmness and promptitude, grappled and handcuffed their powerful prisoners in a few seconds, who were led, trembling, to the gaol’. Smith (25), Vernam, or Varnham (25), and Timms (22) were brought back to Swaffham gaol to await the next assizes in April. The Times on 08 April begins its lengthy news item “At an early hour this morning the Court was in a state of siege, owing to the great desire of the public to hear the details of a murder which has been the subject of universal interest in this county, and the Court was filled almost to suffocation in every part”. A full account is available through the Timesonline archives and makes interesting reading. “At 9 o’clock Mr Gunning rose to address the jury on behalf of the prisoners; and at half-past 10 Mr Justice Coltman commenced a careful and patient summing up of the evidence, which was not concluded till a quarter past 12.” The jury were less painstaking and had reached their guilty verdict within 15 minutes. All three defendants were sentenced to death but the sentence on Varnham was commuted following the confessions of Smith and Timms who were hanged on Castle Hill in Norwich on 29th April in front of a large crowd.

Not all entries in the registers are as grim as that for Hannah Mansfield and some cannot fail at times to amuse – as with the baptism of a boy with forenames William East, son of John West and Juda, his wife on 25 March 1811.

The register records some answers made in response to the Bishop of Norwich’s Visitation of 02 July 1801. The parish is deemed to measure about four miles from east to west and about two miles north to south containing some 60 houses. The rector was able to confirm that there was no change with regard to Papists since his last return. There was one Quaker family but ‘ye tythes are regularly paid’. Several persons, in answer to a question about Dissenters, attended Divine Service in the Church and frequently also went to ’the licensed meeting house in Downham’. The question ‘Are there any persons in ye parish who regularly absent themselves from all public worship on the Lord’s Day?’ provoked the response that there were ‘several persons... but chiefly of ye lowest class of inhabitants’. Divine Service was performed twice every Sunday during ye summer and once, in ye morning, in winter. Reference is made to the infirm state of health of the incumbent (Revd Benjamin Young) and that the Revd Dade had been appointed but not yet inducted. The Sacrament was administered regularly on the three festivals and at Michaelmas with about 40 communicants. There was no voluntary charity school, no free school hospital nor almshouses in the parish.

One annuity of £4 is recorded, having been left to poor widows of ye parish by Mrs Harriet Stafford, widow, and is properly applied every Xmas Day.

The return was made by the Curate, the Revd Robert Sole, who was rector of Bexwell (1791-1814), assisted by Mr Dering as Mr Young’s answers were lost – he had been buried on the 4th March.

Denver has featured in the Times on other occasions. On 30 September 1912 it reported that “by the capsizing of a sailing boat at Denver Sluice..... two lives were lost. There were four persons in the boat, and the two drowned were Mr L Gainsborough and Mr Harwood, assistant masters in the Norfolk County Council Schools, Downham Market. Mr Gainsborough was 35, and leaves a widow and three children; Mr Harwood was married last Christmas. Mr Eric Higner and another teacher named Sills were saved”. The Thunderer lets us down here, the first mentioned was, in fact, Leonard Gainsbury, born in Wisbech.

Partly in Fordham and partly in Ryston, Denver Spinney figured prominently in the Times on 06 January 1870 under the headline “Desperate Poaching Affray in Norfolk”. The spinney extends from beside what is now the third tee on Ryston Park Golf Club southwards to Hilgay Road at Fordham (near the old school), though its southerly extent is known as Poacher’s Belt. The report begins “During the present season the neighbourhood of Downham has again been infested with gangs of poachers, who have carried on their nefarious practices with such impunity as to become a source of great annoyance to the different landowners of the district, the principal sufferers being Sir W Bagge MP of Stradsett, Sir Thomas Hare of Stow, Major Marcon of Wallington, the Revd Dr S Allen of Shouldham, and Mr E R M Pratt of Ryston Hall. Matters were brought to a climax upon the night of 23rd or morning of the 24th December upon the last named estate, when a gang known as the ‘Young’ or ‘Bridge’ gang, in making a raid in a plantation called the Denver Spinney, were watched by Mr Pratt’s keepers and the police, and a large party of gentlemen who were visiting at Ryston Hall, which resulted in the head keeper, Matten, being dangerously shot.” There were seven or eight poachers, apparently, and four were captured: James Ling (25), drover, of Downham Market, the ringleader; Larman Gromett (20), whose father James was farming 40 acres of Downham Fen; George Filby (22), bricklayer’s labourer, of Downham; and Thomas Goodrum (29), of Wimbotsham. The four appeared before the Downham bench, chaired by (the hardly-disinterested) Sir William Bagge. Thomas Goodrum was discharged through lack of evidence while the other three were sent for trial on a charge of attempted murder at the Norwich Assizes. The Times adds “the greatest credit is due to Mr Pratt and the keepers acting under him for the forbearance and cool courage exercised on the occasion, when their lives were exposed to imminent danger from a gang of men who were evidently prepared to go to any length rather than be captured, and who had for a long time been a perfect terror to the keepers and watchers of the surrounding estates”.

All three were found guilty on 30 March 1870. Ling, who fired the shot at John Matten, was sentenced to twelve years while Filby and Gromett got ten years each. In the 1871 census, James Ling and Larman Gromett, along with around 1700 other convicts, were incarcerated in Gillingham gaol. George Filby was serving his time in Portland gaol in Dorset. All three men can be traced in the census after their release. In 1891 James Ling, aged 46 and unmarried, was a labourer living with his widowed mother Charlotte in Railway Road, Downham. Charlotte Wenn from King’s Lynn had married William Ling from Haslingfield in Cambridgeshire in Downham on 11 February 1844. George Filby married Jane Southgate from Fincham and in 1891 was a general labourer living in Bridge Road. In 1881 Larman Gromett was living with his sister Rebecca Berry and her husband in Hull. A little more is known of the Gromett family. In 1861 they were living on their small farm in Downham Fen Drove, Stow Bardolph. Larman’s parents were James Gromett (born Downham 1823) and Mary Ann Lallam (born Hilgay 1825) who were married in 1844 and had at least twelve children. Larman’s paternal grandparents were James Gromett and Ann Read who married in Southery on 23 October 1821. The Lallams have a long history in the area and can be readily traced back to Philip & Mary Lallam who were living in Southery in the first decade of the eighteenth century – Philip was buried there on 28 August 1712.

One might have a little more sympathy for the poachers if they were individuals acquiring for their starving families the occasional pheasant. However, the police found a jacket belonging to another man named Copsey, in the pockets of which were invoice heads and a printed direction label addressed to ‘Mr James Freeman Butler, meat, poultry & game salesman, 160 Metropolitan Meat Market, London’. Of the policemen involved in the arrests we know that Superintendant William Watson had a long and distinguished service in Downham. Born in Norwich, he moved to Shouldham shortly after his second child was born in 1844 and served there as police constable for ten years. After a brief spell in Methwold he moved to Downham and was in charge of the new police station on Church Lane, opened in 1859. Constables William Carra Gill and William Read were not local men, coming from Long Stratton and Tacolneston respectively but William Read married the Superintendant’s daughter Hannah on 07 January 1874 in St Edmund’s. He was a sergeant at Fakenham in 1891 and held the same ranks as his father-in-law at Terrington St Clements by 1901. Gill was the police sergeant in Stow Bardolph in 1881.

The former police station on Church Lane, Downham

In connection with crime, and of passing interest to Denver residents, mention might here be made of Duke’s Denver, the ancestral home of Lord Peter Wimsey, the fictional 16th Duke of Denver being Lord Peter’s elder brother, Gerald. Dorothy L Sayers (1893-1957) was brought up in the rectories of Bluntisham and, later, Christchurch where her father was a clergyman, dying there in 1928. The area, including the Great Ouse in flood, provided the background to her novel ‘The Nine Tailors’.

Other buildings of interest in the parish include the school and nonconformist chapels. The school was built by the Revd Stokes and opened in May 1876. It was attended by 120 children in 1883.

Denver Primary, Ryston Road (1876) Built by the Rev Stokes

Salter’s Lode Primitive Methodist Chapel (built in 1868 and recently converted into a private house)

Denver Wesleyan Chapel built 1864. The outline of the former porch on the east face is still visible.

The Methodist chapel in Denver costing £100 was financed by Robert Boyce and erected in 1864 to seat 100 persons. After its redundancy it has been used as a potato store and by local builder EC & TD Covell. In 1861 Robert Boyce was resident at Denver Hall and a farmer of 250 acres, employing 8 men, 5 boys and 3 girls. He was born in Hilgay in 1812, though there is no baptismal record in the All Saints’ registers, and his wife Elizabeth was born in Soham in 1801. They were married by licence in Hilgay in 1835, she the widow Woodroff and Robert was ‘of Southery’. In 1851, he had been farming 220 acres in Feltwell with 13 labourers. Although their daughter Ann Matilda was born in Hilgay in 1840 the family had already moved to Feltwell by 1841. An older daughter, Elizabeth, married Peter Chell, a farmer from Briston, in 1860. By 1871 he was living at 1 Eastern Terrace, Hills Road, Cambridge, a retired farmer and local Wesleyan preacher.

Both Denver and Salter's Lode have their own war memorials

Denver Salter's Lode

The Denver memorial includes the nearby parishes of Fordham, Ryston and Roxham, and Bexwell. Please see for more information and This website has an incredible amount of information for family historians, tragic though the circumstances might be.

Pubs & Beerhouse

I am indebted to the Norfolk Public Houses website for some of the information enclosed. The site contains masses of information on pubs throughout the county and is well worth an extended look. Please see

The Denver Bell (with the war memorial in the foreground) remains open

The Black Horse was a beerhouse located on Sluice Road. The landlord in 1891 was Thomas Barley, grandfather of Leonard Barley in the earlier of the two cricket team photographs above. The 1871 census shows the Black Horse uninhabited and next door to the Wheatsheaf where Thomas Barley was landlord. In 1861 Thomas is a beer retailer and miller’s labourer but the name of the pub is not mentioned.

The Wheatsheaf was a beerhouse on Sluice Road next to the Black Horse but its exact location is not known. Thomas Barley was landlord in 1871 and probably in 1861 as well. Thomas Hovell (born in Denver in 1777), mentioned above, was a publican in Sluice Road in the 1841 and 1851 censuses but the name of the premises is not shown. Was it the Wheatsheaf or Black Horse? There is a tithe award dated 1838 that shows Thomas Hovell as a publican in a premises on the south side of Sluice Road near the centre of the village. It is apparently owned by John Porter, owner and miller of the tower mill lower down towards the sluice. Hence the name perhaps?

The Wheatsheaf's location can be seen above in the 1837 tithe map earlier (Tithe Award 283) The 1930s photograph earlier of Sluice Road looking west, when compared to this map, might include the former Wheatsheaf and Black Horse – both appear only to have existed in the 19th century.

The Carpenter’s Arms closed about 1980 and is now a private residence carrying the name ‘Carpenters’.

The Carpenter’s Arms on the left of Sluice Road looking east

The Cricketer’s Arms was next door to the Lion & Lamb. The latter was apparently known as the Chequers c1780.

Both pubs, facing the church, are shown on the left of this photograph taken c1915, with the Cricketer’s Arms on the right and the Lion & Lamb on the left

Moses Dungay (born in West Dereham in 1791) was one past landlord who has already been mentioned, along with his grandson George who ran the Great Eastern in Downham following a spell at the Cricketer’s. Edward Brundle was landlord in 1891 and 1901, son of Charles Brundle, farm worker of Long Drove, Ten Mile Bank, where Edward was born in 1854. Charles was born in Banham in 1811.

Long-serving landlord, covering the censuses of 1871-1891, at the Lion & Lamb was Reuben Cork, from Boughton, with his wife Ellen (née Veal) who was born in Hilgay in 1829. Also living at the Lion & Lamb in the 1891 was Reuben’s older brother John, a retired publican, aged 72, who had married Ellen’s sister Mary. They were running the Boot Inn in St Albans, Hertfordshire, in 1881. By the 1930s the Lion & Lamb on the left was closed and the building had been pebble dashed.

The Crown, Denver Sluice, was situated on the east bank of the Ouse, on the opposite side of the present road from the lock-keeper’s house. It was demolished in the 1950s as part of the work to create the Relief Channel, alter the road layout and raise the river bank. The landlord in 1841 and 1851 was Robert Hooton, born in Stow in 1815. Widowed, he was landlord of the Swan in Hilgay in 1871. In 1891 the Jenyns’ was run by Simon Curson (born Tottenhill in 1828) who was previously at the Duke William in West Dereham a decade before (see below).

The Crown in the 1947 floods

The Jenyns’ Arms, Denver Sluice, also known as the Ship at times in the 19th century, remains a popular riverside hostelry. In 1851, the landlord was John Tyler Godfrey (born Thetford 1809) who was also a boatwright and gang proprietor employing 8 men. John died in 1859 and his widow Eliza took over the licence for the next twenty years or so.

The Jenyns c1930

The Jenyns’ Arms, also in the 1947 floods

The Mulberry Tree, Sluice Road, closed in 1955 and is now a private residence. John Dunnett and his second wife Harriet were in residence in the censuses of 1871 and 1891. In 1881 John is merely entered as an ‘ag lab’ and not as a publican; twenty years before he was a platelayer on the railway living in Black Horse Drove. His first wife was Mary Matthews, born in West Dereham in 1830.

The former Mulberry Tree in 2009

The Jolly Waterman, Salter’s Lode, was a beerhouse that stood on the opposite bank of the Well Creek from the lock-keeper’s cottage and has long since been demolished with a new dwelling now standing on the site. In the 1850s John Pinnick (born Denver, 1808) was landlord and sluice keeper with his wife Charlotte. Later, Edward Upshaw (born Chatteris, 1832) held the licence for over 20 years and was a farmer also in 1881. In 1891 he was recorded as an ‘ag lab’ with his second wife, Rebecca (née Johnson) and ten years later was a roadman working for the county council.

The Royal George, at the southern end of Salter’s Lode, closed in 1970. Long term landlords in the second half of the 19th century were John and Mary Green, the latter, born in Nordelph in 1808, took over the licence after her husband died.

The former Royal George, Salter’s Lode, in 2008. For more on Salter's Lode please see

The Three Tuns was located on Wisbech Road, Salter’s Lode. George Raby, also a farmer, held the licence in the 1860s, at least, and one imagines that the William Raby a decade later was his son, born in 1850 – though by 1881 he was earning his living as a builder in Tottenham. Charles Rasberry from Harpley was mine host in 1881 followed by John Shingles in 1891 who was also a waterman (‘barge’ is added), aged 53 and born in Hilgay. The pub is then named but the location is not exact, just ‘Salter’s Lode’.