Downe, Kent Genealogy

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Downe St Mary the Virgin

Parish History

Downe is a village in the London Borough of Bromley Downe Wikipedia and includes Down House the former home of Charles Darwin Down House Wikipedia which has been proposed as World Heritage Site. The house has been restored and is open to the public.

Downe Bank Wikipedia lies between Downe and Farnborough.

Downe St Mary the Virgin was formed as a chapelry in Orpington, Kent Ancient Parish and dates from the 13th century. A map of the parish boundary is available at A church near you

See Kent Archeological Society and Edward Hasted The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 2 (1797), pp. 54-59 at British History Online  and Kent Churches website

The village and civil parish is 3.5 miles southwest of Orpington and was home to Charles Darwin. Down House was home to Darwin for 40 years until his death in 1882.

The neighbouring estate of the Avebury family was partly in Farnborough, Kent and both John Lubbock 1st Baron Avebury and Sir John Lubbock 3rd Baron Avebury  resided within this parish.

See Downe North West Kent Family History Society and Downe St Mary the Virgin

Downe Baptist Church, Luxted Road, Downe was founded in 1851 as Grace Baptist Church, see church website Downe Baptist Church  and now occupies modern buildings in Luxted Road.

The 1813 Dissenter Meeting register refers to a Baptist church in Downe "in the property of Thos. Town Blacksmith"; the Dissenter Meeting register 1833 refers to " a certain Building situated in a lane leading to Gorringe's farm being the dwelling house of Mr. William Sales and the property of Mr. Timothy Sales". Both record entries described a building set apart for worship by dissenters and registered with the Archbishop of Canterbury within the deanery of Shoreham.

The Downe Baptist Chapel came about when in 1836 James Carter moved to Downe and later in 1844 founded a group. He was later baptised in 1850 by Mr Shirley of Sevenoaks and in 1861 shortly before his death he reformed the independent group as a Strict Baptist Church on 25 May 1861. In his 1952 "The Strict Baptist Chapels of England,Volume III" Ralph F. Chambers describes a 79 year lack of a local pastor but describes supply visitors. In 1942 the chapel ( Chambers has an illustration) a private property belonging to Miss Smith of Downe Court was purchased and put in trust. In 1945 a roof fire damaged the building but this was repaired and Mr. R.E.P. Crisp was pastor from 1940-1946 when he resigned. In 1949 he was succeeeded by C.B. Phillimore who became minister. [The Strict Baptist Chapels of England; Kent Vol III 1956 p89 published by the author Ralph F. Chambers and in the London Borough of Bromley Collection]

Prominent families

The early register and research of deeds identifies several major households and families Cranes, Farrants, Frythes, Happies, Heylockes, Hollesters, Owtredes and the first century of parish register entries 1538-1637 contains 273 male baptisms and 280 females. Only eight baptisms of children as illegitimate, either through the mother's name alone being given, or through one or other parent being named as ' reputed', or, in one instance, through the blunt entry ' Joan ye daughter of an harlot'. An infant in 1607 is stigmatized as ' a base chylde ' ; otherwise the phrase ' base-born ' comes only later into use. In 1655 we find ' Comford a base born child was baptized March 24 '. From 1538 to 1637, 115 marriages were registered and therefore the village had a relatively high birth rate.

When field names are examined other early families can be identified:

Ralph Walkelyn, whose family name is corrupted in a field known as Walking Piece to this day; there were Wakelings in Downe in 1750, but there is not a continuous succession. Godliffe is another early family whose land survives as Goodly Piece. The Waterfield of the present is the Weterfield of 1297, which before this date was in the occupation, at least in part, of John de Aqua!
The Frith family ( with variant spellings) are from John Frith the martyr who died in 1533. He is said to have been born at Westerham, and was educated at Eton and King's College, Cambridge, moving afterwards to Cardinal College (later Christ Church), Oxford, and he was burned for heresy. Thomas Frythe before 1483, and about 1500-30 a John Frythe of Downe, a Richard of Westerham, a Robert of Limpsfield, a Thomas of Edenbridge, and a John of Seal, all related, appear in deeds relating to the transfer of property in Downe : the family evidently was widespread in the county.

The Mannings were the most distinguished of the earlier families of Downe. They are described by Edward Hasted to come from Mannheim in Saxony, and to have come to England before the Conquest. John Manning died in 1542. His eldest son, George, married in the following year, and his second son, Henry, some twelve years later. The third and fourth sons, John and Richard, lived and worked in London.
Henry Manning was Knight Marshal, or Marshal of the Household, under Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth. The Downe parish register records that Margaret, one of Henry's daughters, was baptized on November 30, 1559, ' after ye Queene's visitacon'.
The entry of Margaret's baptism in 1559 is the last referring to Henry and his family in the Downe parish register until that of the death of his wife in 1596. He sold Downe Court in 1560, so that he presumably left Downe for Greenwich in that year. His widow may have come back to end her days at Downe, perhaps with her eldest son Henry, whom she made her executor and heir.
Phillips of Orange Court, whose name runs from the earliest registers included George Phillps who in 1771 established a trust to educate children in the village, this was later supplemented by Sir John William Lubbock


Civil Registration

See Bromley Registration district

Birth, marriages and deaths were kept by the government, from July 1837 to the present day. The civil registration article tells more about these records. There are several Internet sites with name lists or indexes. A popular site is FreeBMD.

Church records

Online Downe, Kent Genealogy Parish Register Images and Indexes



1678-1732 FindMyPast[1]

Deposited Parish registers are held at Bromley Archives reference P 123

Bromley Central Library
Telephone: 020 8461 7170
Fax: 020 8466 7860

The earliest of the registers of Downe is a 74 page volume, measuring thirteen inches by five and a half, 54 pages of vellum parchment with the last twenty of paper. It is roughly stitched with string, by way of binding, into a parchment sheet which is part of an old deed. This deals with a debt and consequent transactions between ' the said Anthony ' and ' the said Israeli', Sale of Wapping, distiller, and a Mr. John Johnstone. One of the parties seems to have lived in the parish of the Blessed Mary of Bow in the ward of Cheap. This document shows no evidence of any connexion with the parish of Downe although a Lieutenant Colonel Johnson, who inhabited Down House may have kept this record of an ancestor and donated it to bind the register. The latest date visible in the deed is 1650. The inclusion within the wrapper or binding of a list of clergy as late as 1874 ( the Induction of a domestic chaplain to Lord Carrington to the vicarage 2 November 1874) suggests that the whole register we now see as "The Downe Register of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials 1538-1733" at the Bromley Library and Archives under reference P132/1/8 was bound or rather rebound with the addition of a half page and clergy page later than the original register binding.
There is evidence of water damage some pages are partly holed before ink entries were added as the writing avoids the hole; whereas the page with Baptisms for 1564 and on reverse for 1574 and 1575 have missing part word entries. It is however possible to read sufficiently to offer transcripts for the two baptisms in "Anno Domini 1574"
The period of the Civil Wars and Commonwealth was one of ecclesiastical anarchy, which seriously affected parish registers. In 1640 a Committee was appointed to deal with scandalous ministers, that is, with the Clergy who were loyal to Church and King.
Refusal to take the Covenant caused the ejection of many clergymen in 1643 and afterwards. New ministers, often undesirable persons, were imposed upon many parishes, and in 1653 civil registrars were ordered to be appointed, and marriages to take place before justices of the peace. All these conditions came to an end with the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 ; meanwhile, the system of parish registers had fallen into confusion if not into neglect.
There were curates at Downe during part at least of the troubled period. No appointment appears between those of Nicholas Peirson in 1589 and Thomas Emerson in 1646 ; but Emerson was followed by one Kinge in 1650, and then by George Bradshaw in 1654. The next is Philip Jones in 1672.
Actually, the disorder of the Downe registers extends over a longer period than that of 1640-60. The entries of baptisms are not completely interrupted, except in 1646-8, for any period longer than a year; but there are only fifty-one of them in twenty-two years. Marriages are not registered from 1640 to 1653, nor burials from 1641 to the same year. From 1654 George Bradshaw made some entries in his own hand until 1664. But another and quite literate hand made most of the few baptismal entries over the whole period from 1638 to 1663, apparently at one time, and this may represent an attempt to collect the names of those who at the end of the Commonwealth were not unbaptized. Again from 1665 there is a lapse in the marriage entries until 1671, and in those of burials until 1672. The year of the plague (1665-6) is not covered. Philip Jones resumed the proper keeping of the register in 1672.

The second register "Number 2" register includes baptisms, marriages and burials for the years 1697-1812 and in the years 1697-1733 creates a duplicate of events. This register includes more genealogical information including parts of the parish like North End, Downe and occupations and birth dates as well as baptismal entries. The slightly irregular dual register apparently drew attention; within the front cover there is a Rector's declaration that only one register was kept but both registers for the overlapping years are deposited at Bromley Archives. It is advisable to refer to the number 2 register for years from 1697 onwards.

The register also contains some interesting records of the change of churchwardens 1697-1772; and some payments for burial for individuals including burial in the church of Reverend Dr Boote, the brick grave burial of Thos. Omer and the vault for Mr and Mrs Willm. Werry. From 1697 onwards the Revd C Clarke MA was responsible for the planting of "ye trees in ye churchyard, except the two great yews".

International Genealogical Index Batch C165281 post 1812 This extraction batch is from microfilm of the Bishop's Transcripts for the parish for years 1813 - 1835,1849 - 1858 and1875 for baptismal entries only derived from Genealogical Society of Utah filming of the Bishop's Transcript series for the diocese at Kent Archives in 1987. The Microfilm includes Baptisms, burials and marriages, 1813-1835; baptisms and burials, 1849-1858, 1875, 1893, 1898-99, 1903 and spelling variation of the parish name is found in the Family History Library Catalogue for the 1987 microfilming. This variation is present in transcription also. It is advisable to check primary record sources for the parish as some entries as extracted in the International Genealogical Index contain some transcription errors.

Kent Online Parish Clerks (OPC) Research is underway during 2012 to begin to prepare transcript material for a variety of record sources in relation to Downe by volunteers working in the Bromley Archives. The earliest register transcription is an initial priority. Although two microfilms of this register are available; one by Kent Archives  the other is the filming listed at the Family History Library it has been found beneficial to handle the original document for many years as outlined above. The register includes a November 1559 visitation by Queen Elizabeth I to atttend the Baptism of a daughter of Henry Manning who was Knight Marshal, or Marshal of the Household, under Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth.

The number 2 register is also being transcribed.

Family History Library film numbers
See also England, Kent, Parish Registers and Bishop's Transcripts (FamilySearch Historical Records)

From Spring 2012 material formerly held at
Centre for Kentish Studies,County Hall,Maidstone,Kent ME14 1XX
is available at Kent History and Library Centre see Kent Archives which also enables a search of the catalogue for Kent Archives material deposited at Canterbury Cathedral Archives

Contributor: Include here information for parish registers, Bishop’s Transcripts, non conformist and other types of church records, such as parish chest records. 

Records for Downe Baptist Church have not been deposited with Bromley Archives, it is advisable to contact the Downe Baptist Church elders for assistance in access to the Downe Baptist Church Minutes.

Land Tax

Images for Downe are available at FamilySearch Records see England, Kent, Land Tax Assessments (FamilySearch Historical Records) 1780-1831 and are derived from microfilm.

The Court of Quarter Sessions of the Peace records are at Kent Archives and Library at Maidstone and have been preserved and conserved. The originals are in some years folded and the content can be obscured by this and the general fragility of the record. In order to aid conservation in 1987 The Genealogical Society of Utah in collaboration with the Kent Archives undertook microfilming of the county.
The Downe Land Tax 1780-1831 under reference Q/RPL/109 was microfilmed and is available as an item on LDS microfilm FHL BRITISH Film 1469943 Item 4 The film has duplicate images and has some years filmed out of chronological sequence.

In 2009/2010 a transcript of the Land Tax Assessments for Downe was prepared at the Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone by volunteers. In case of difficulty with some pages the original manuscript was consulted with permission of the Archive.
The microfilm contains several sets of duplicate images to try to capture problematic originals where ink from the second page has bled into a column of names on the first page or page folds or fading has obscured entries.

The digital images are direct microfilm conversion although the digital processing may have enhanced some images (compared to a microfilm reader lamp illumination) and in several cases entries are obscured. For this reason the transcribers have offered their best interpretation of entries and indicated problems by use of square bracket indicators [page fold] or explained ink bleeding through paper.
The parish is for most years spelled Down but in other years Downe. As one examines the entries from 1780 it is immediately apparent that spellings of place and surnames by the same person were not fixed even in the later years of the Land Tax records. The local assessors are also variable in the treatment of names and titles of nobility who owned land.
Unfortunately for the family historian the inconsistency of entries does not lend itself to computerisation of an index and the local assessors leave blank the column on the printed form which describes the land use! Prior to the introduction of a printed form in 1798 Assessors did not include titles consistently with the exception of the Right Honourable William Pitt ( who lived in Downe) From 1798 the inclusions of various abbreviations indicate that Sir William Geary ( a member of Parliament) owned land and from 1807 2 baronets John William Lubbock 1st baronet Avebury and Sir Thomas Dyke begin to build their estates in Downe.

The transcript was prepared for inclusion in transcript material on the Downe page of Kent Online Parish Clerks.

Research Tip

The entry annually is often a reliable indicator of a death over the 50 years of records of property. "The late" or "Heirs of [abbreviated Hrs by one Assessor] or "Widow Durling" indicates a will search and burial entry may be fruitful and identify to one calendar year the year of death. Probate for land ownership may be a protracted affair in the "proprietor" column entry.
Most titled persons pedigrees referred to may be readily traced either online or in the various sources for peerages like Burkes.

Census records

Census returns for Downe 1841-1891

FamilySearch Records includes collections of census indexes which can be searched online for free. In addition FamilySearch Centres offer free access to images of the England and Wales Census through FHC Portal: Computers here have access to the Family History Centre Portal page which gives free access to premium family history software and websites that generally charge for subscriptions.
[1] to locate local Family History Centres in UK
[2] to locate outside UK.
Many archives and local history collections in public libraries in England and Wales offer online census searches and also hold microfilm or fiche census returns.

Images of the census for 1841-1891 can be viewed in census collections at Ancestry (fee payable) or Find My Past (fee payable)

The 1851 census of England and Wales attempted to identify religious places of worship in addition to the household survey census returns.

Ancestry UK Census Collection

Find my Past census search 1841-1901

for details of public houses in the 1881 census

Prior to the 1911 census the household schedule was destroyed and only the enumerator's schedule survives.

The 1911 census of England and Wales was taken on the night of Sunday 2 April 1911 and in addition to households and institutions such as prisons and workhouses, canal boats merchant ships and naval vessels it attempted to include homeless persons. The schedule was completed by an individual and for the first time both this record and the enumerator's schedule were preserved.
Two forms of boycott of the census by women are possible due to frustration at government failure to grant women the universal right to vote in parliamentary and local elections. The schedule either records a protest by failure to complete the form in respect of the women in the household or women are absent due to organisation of groups of women staying away from home for the whole night. Research estimates that several thousand women are not found by census search.
Find my Past 1911 census search

Poor Law Unions

Bromley Poor Law Union

Probate records

Records of wills, administrations, inventories, indexes, etc. were filed by the court with jurisdiction over this parish. Go to Kent Probate Records to find the name of the court having primary jurisdiction. Scroll down in the article to the section Court Jurisdictions by Parish.

See England, Kent, Wills and Probate (FamilySearch Historical Records)

Local Family History Centre

Orpington Family History Centre, Kent

Maps and Gazetteers

Maps are a visual look at the locations in England. Gazetteers contain brief summaries about a place.

Local Family History Centre

Orpington Family History Centre, Kent is within the London Borough of Bromley, located adjacent to Orpington Station and on major bus routes through the borough.

Web sites

Contributor: Add any relevant sites that aren’t mentioned above.


  1. "Boyd's Marriage Index - Parish details by county,", (WayBack Machine) accessed 13 March 2012.