After years of dedicated planning, fundraising and hard work, the ‘Downham Market Heritage Society’ have finally seen their efforts come to fruition, succeeding in raising the necessary funds to proceed with transforming the dilapidated Old Fire Station into the focal point of Downham Market’s rich heritage. Both the ‘National Lottery Heritage Fund’, and community funding business ‘WREN’, have contributed financially to the project, alongside numerous contributions from individuals and societies who have helped to make this venture possible.
Originally intended to be bulldozed and turned into a car park, this historic building which was itself renovated from a row of workers’ cottages in 1938, will now undergo major refurbishments to transfigure it into a central hub for the community of Downham Market and the surrounding area. This newly named ‘Discover Downham’ Centre will be host to a collection of local historical artefacts originally stored in the Town Hall, as well as providing a function area available for local groups and societies to rent, making it a practical resource for all ages.
Last Friday, members of the community met at The Old Fire Station to celebrate the Heritage Society’s success, and to showcase their plans for the building. MP for South West Norfolk Elizabeth Truss spoke at the event about the success of saving the historical building, and of making it possible to create a new centre for the community, whilst maintaining the old features of the fire station.
Phil Rothwell of the Heritage Lottery Fund compared the station’s renovation to putting “new wine in old bottles”, not only celebrating local heritage, but also providing a real benefit for the community.
The Society plans to form links with Downham Market Academy and its affiliated cluster schools, in order to provide a tailored educational element to the centre, which will hopefully engage and educate the younger generation about the history of their home town. Students from Downham Market Academy will also themselves be contributing to the centre by designing the new logo for ‘Discover Downham’.
It is hoped that work will soon begin on the Old Fire Station, making visible the benefits of the work that has been put in over the past few years.