Author Topic: DOWNING family of Castle Dawson & Bellaghy, 18th century  (Read 12053 times)

Offline Robert Stedall

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Re: DOWNING family of Castle Dawson & Bellaghy, 18th century
« Reply #36 on: Friday 11 August 17 10:10 BST (UK) »
Page 5

In 1901, William Colwell Downing and a professional genealogist from Philadelphia, R. Wilberforce, produced a Downing family history, which was well received and there is a copy in the Library of Congress in Washington DC. The principal objective was to link William Colwell of a well-to-do family in Pennsylvania to the Downing family in Ireland as descendants of Alexander Clotworthy Downing. Closer investigation shows that it is full of flaws; and it conflicts with the Downing of Gamlingay pedigree mentioned above. It is probable that they had access to the family tree provided by John David Downing at Rowesgift as they name Adam’s mother as Jane Clotworthy, but they revert to Burke by naming Adam’s father as Henry, but adding in a brother Nicholas.  In an apparent effort to overcome the difficulty that the Rev. Calybute did not have sons, Nicholas or William, they make them the sons of Emmanuel of the Suffolk family, who is included as a brother of the Rev. Calybute Downing. Yet, as explained above, they cannot be the sons of Emmanuel and Lucy.

It is also apparent that W. C. Downing and R. Wilberforce had seen the first version of Alexander George’s Memoir, as they copy its description of Henry as an officer of the guard of Charles II almost word for word. They present Adam as a hero of the siege of Londonderry, being granted land at Bellaghy by a grateful William III for his conspicuous gallantry. Contemporary histories confirm that Adam was present at the siege, but there is no mention of any great heroism on his part, and no record that he was at the Battle of the Boyne, except for the inscription on his mausoleum, which records that he showed “signal proof of his courage at the battle”. Furthermore, the land at Bellaghy was a leasehold from the Vintners’ Company and was not within the giving of a grateful King. It is apparent that evidence of Adam’s courage in the Williamite wars is based on several 19th century ballads published by the Orange Order to promote the valour of the ancestors of their members, who included the Downings. W. C. Downing’s and Wilberforce’s history has added confusion to those who have seen it, including myself!

In 1975, Sheelagh Elizabeth Church née Downing who was a descendant of Samuel Downing, a brother of Adam, lodged a pedigree with the College of Arms to demonstrate her entitlement to use to arms of Nicholas Downing recorded on his 1698 will. She made no attempt to extend the pedigree back further, but the College of Arms confirmed to her that Nicholas’s arms were those of the Norfolk Downing family even though they have no record of his pedigree. Bizarrely, Sheelagh Elizabeth named the parents of Samuel and Adam as Richard Downing and Jane Booth. The College of Arms say that she will have needed to provide evidence of this to allow the College of Arms to accept them, but are unable to confirm what this was. We have been unable to find any record of a Richard Downing and Jane Booth elsewhere, and Booth is not used as a given name elsewhere in the Bellaghy family.   

Evidence to link Adam Downing to Arthur Downing of Lexham

It has been explained above that Alexander George identified Lt. John Downing, who arrived in Ireland prior to the Battle of Kinsale, as the son of Arthur Downing of Lexham. This is corroborated in a footnote in Burke’s Royal Pedigrees of England, which states that Lt. John Downing’s descendants in co. Cork claim descent through the Wingfields from Henry III. Apart from this, the only tenuous evidence is the knowledge that Sir Richard Wingfield, the Queen’s Marshal in Ireland, was Lt. John’s grandmother’s second cousin. Perhaps he took a young kinsman under his wing. We also know that Sir Richard came to Derry in 1608 to put down O’Doherty’s rebellion, so it is plausible that Lieutenant John received rights to land there in lieu of pay. We have nothing to confirm Alexander George’s assertion that John married a Margaret and had a son George. Yet, a George Downing is recorded in a Muster of Londonderry in 1628 and was a tenant on the Fishmonger’s proportion with leases mentioning him there up to 1659. We have found no record of his marriage, or of him having children and no evidence of his purported son, George Downing, mentioned in the Memoir as the Comptroller of Customs, or of his wife, Jane, daughter of Hugh Montgomery of Ballygowan (now thought to be Hugh Montgomery of Gransheogh, who acquired lands at Maghera, near Bellaghy). Accepting the genealogy by this route requires a leap of faith.

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Offline Robert Stedall

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Re: DOWNING family of Castle Dawson & Bellaghy, 18th century
« Reply #37 on: Friday 11 August 17 10:15 BST (UK) »
Page 6

The impact of our findings

In summary, we have found evidence that Adam Downing was the son of Henry Downing (or Brett) by a wife Jane, of Major John Downing by Jane Clotworthy, of George Downing by Jane Montgomery, of Henry Downing by Jane Clotworthy and of Richard Downing by Jane Booth. My personal preference is to follow Alexander George Fullerton’s Memoir notwithstanding its shortcomings. There is at least some plausible evidence, however tenuous, that his parents were George Downing and Jane Montgomery. The Memoir is the only record which we have found which follows this route, and, in the absence of the Dublin Public Records Office, we have not been able to find what they seem to have established. Sadly, they appear to have left no notes.
 
Unfortunately for Alexander George, his magnificent coat of arms have quartered the Brett armorials with his own. As he was now contending that he was not descended from the Rev. Calybute Downing and Margaret Brett, he must have known that his arms were wrong!

If we accept the hypothesis that Arthur Downing of Lexham is the ancestor of Colonel Adam Downing, it means that the Irish Downings are descendants of the Norfolk rather than the Suffolk families. As there is no known connection between the two groups, it means that the Irish Downings are not related to Emmanuel Downing, Sir George Downing and his baronetcy, to Downing Street or to Downing College, Cambridge. This causes a significant change to our previous assumptions.

It remains a balance of probabilities.


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