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Downham Market
PE38 0HJ


Closed for repairs

OS grid reference



Set near the village of Denver, on the Cambridgeshire borders with Norfolk. The sign off the main road says simply “Byroad”.

St Mary's used to be a wayside church, hugging the edge of the Great Cambridge Road (A10).

When the A10 was diverted on a different alignment, St Mary’s suddenly became a secret, overlooked only by two houses rather than constant traffic. It is somehow poignantly appropriate that the sign off the main road says simply “Byroad”.

About St Mary's, Fordham

St Mary’s ended up with us by an unusual route. Normally our Anglican churches come to us through the Church Commissioners, after a declaration of redundancy – but Fordham church had already been redundant for decades.

Set near the village of Denver, on the Cambridgeshire borders with Norfolk, in a landscape of sluices and fens, St Mary’s was once a wayside church on the historic Great Cambridge Road. After the road was diverted, St Mary’s became isolated and forgotten.

The church is basically 14th century and constructed mostly in the very distinctive ferruginous carrstone or ‘gingerbread’, with undressed surface and in a deep brown which contrasts with the 18th century dressed ashlar and brick on the buttresses. Nearby Downham Market is nicknamed the ‘Gingerbread Town’, due to many of its historic buildings, including the town hall and railway station, being built from carrstone.

Already in the post medieval period, Fordham’s church had proved too large and in 1730 the south aisle was taken down and the arcading infilled with salvaged stonework and the resited traceried windows. The distinctive buttresses were added to take the weight of the roof which is itself mostly an eighteenth century rebuild.

Most of the fittings have been lost but two very curious features remain: two medieval coffin-shaped monumental stones and a much-battered medieval pew with carved ends showing a lion. Both of these items may not be original to the church.

We were awarded funding from the Culture Recovery Fund in 2021 to carry out repairs at Fordham, including repairs to the bellcote and the roof timbers, installation of new rainwater goods and repair and redecoration of the interior. Another programme of repairs commenced in autumn 2023.

Fordham face


  • Distinctive local ‘gingerbread’ building
  • Two mysterious medieval grave slabs — one small one with a simple cross, the other larger one featuring two wyverns chewing on a floriated vine (you’ll find a link to an article about these below)
  • Worn medieval pew-end with a carved lion
  • Row of 18th century gravestones in the churchyard

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