On the night of the 28th March 1977, a young boy set light to the altar of St Margaret’s Church Downham. The fire brigade had to use water from a nearby swimming pool until a hose laying fire engine arrived from Chelmsford to pump water from a high pressure main a mile away. They were unable to save the roof, chancel, vestry, altar, some of the nave and a priceless stained glass window. All that remained was the stonework and bells which date from the 13th and 15th century.
The parishioners pulled together to clear the body of the church of rubble and spread a large tarpaulin over the space where the roof had been, and were able to go ahead and have a planned wedding within a month.
It has taken years to restore the building to the beautiful church it is now.