The history

Hardscape made a return visit earlier in 2017 to a market town in the Fens, Norfolk, with a long history believed to date back to the Saxon Period. One of the oldest market towns in Norfolk (it was granted a market charter as early as 1050), Downham Market stands on the banks of the river Great Ouse and its name translates as ‘settlement on a hill’, with its hilltop location rising above the surrounding fens.

The brief

The brief from Kings Lynn & West Norfolk Borough Council in 2003 was to create a people friendly location for locals and visiting tourists to allow their free movement alongside road users controlled by wide generous footpaths and high level design build outs.

Starting with a strategic urban design study of the whole town, landscape architects’ Sheils Flynn from Docking, Norfolk considered all the nuances of people and traffic interaction, as well as circulation arrangements, landmarks, views, entrances and exits.

Early discussions with the market traders confirmed that traditional patterns of movement had shifted away from the Historic Market Place.

Materials used

Crossland Hill sandstone paving diamond sawn and shot sawn finishes were chosen because of its rich buff colour and high durability suiting the town vernacular and adjacent building colour facades. Royal White flamed granite and Crystal Black flamed granite was specified for all kerbs and features specified because of its durability and workability. The whole area covers approximately 5000m2.

Hardscape also supplied beautiful high detailed radius fan layouts in sandstone on the footway corners. The glorious market square recessed into the main space with a granite step staircase with a gentle but meaningful radius shape.  Local ironstone split-walling retaining and level-change walls capped with Crossland Hill sandstone copings. Traffic controlling circular plug bollards with bronze artscape location lettering within the gateway wall and bollards were also supplied

The scheme in 2017

As things stand today this has now become a place for tourists to enjoy and civic activities to take place whilst a car park close-by has become a centre for market trading and community.

At the very centre of the town, the inclines of the historic square are stepped to form an events space that is partially enclosed by a wall carved with local market scenes using images contributed by local school children. There is also a beautifully crafted central Market Place clock tower feature which is a solid yet subtle, highly considered design, which blends so well with the area and its immediately felt DNA.

Throughout the town centre pavements have been renewed and widened, the traffic flows altered, roads narrowed and pinch points developed to give priority to pedestrian circulation.

Hardscape overcame many challenges with the project including allocating space for logistics – having all high level details controlled and made to perfect accuracy for scheduling.

All in all, Hardscape proved its focus and proactivity with the client team that included Ward Associates (Structural & Civil Engineers) and Kings Lynn & West Norfolk Borough Council, specifically, the Highway & Civil Engineering department and of course Sheils Flynn to deliver a scheme that has stood the test of time!