Downe, Kent Genealogy

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Kent Parishes

Guide to Downe, Kent ancestry, family history, and genealogy: parish register transcripts, census records, birth records, marriage records, and death records.

Downe, Kent
Downe St Mary the Virgin Kent.jpg
Downe St Mary the Virgin
Type Ecclesiastical Parish
Civil Jurisdictions
Hundred Ruxley
County Kent
Poor Law Union Bromley
Registration District Bromley RD
Ecclesiastical Jurisdictions
Rural Deanery Orpington [1]
Diocese Canterbury
Province Canterbury
Legal Jurisdictions
Probate Court Court of the Peculiar of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Deaneries of Arches, Croydon and Shoreham
Location of Archive
Bromley Archives

Parish History

The name Downe probably derives from the old English word ‘DUN’ a hill. The spelling has changed over the years in record sources:

Done or Doune 1283.
1304 Dune.
Downe 1610-1664
19th Century Down, with a suggestion that to avoid confusion with other places spelled Down that an e was reintroduced for postal handling reasons. The village has been consistently spelled Downe with an ‘e’ in records from the 1830's but Down House stands as a reminder of an earlier variation also found on maps.

Downe is a village in the London Borough of Bromley Downe Wikipedia and includes Down House the former home of Charles Darwin see 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.

In June 1860 the large walnut tree at the centre of the village was blown down and the lime tree which replaced it has been adopted and incorporated symbolically in the centre of the village sign surrounded by Invicta, Charles Darwin and St Mary the Virgin Church.

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

Hasted describes the ecclesiastical jurisdiction as a peculiar of the Archbishop of Canterbury within the Shoreham deanery and the status as a peculiar may account for the existence of dual parish register entries for the years 1697-1733 before they record keeping became more regular in a single register to 1812. There is an entry dated 4 November 1898 that the duty of keeping the parish register was imposed by royal injunction on 29 September 1538 and consequently the earliest register entry was a marriage in that year.

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]

The 1841 Tithing Settlement schedule and map locate the same Luxted Road site as being "Dissenters chapel" on page 13 and is numbered 3 on the map. The image in Chambers book is of the same building. The modern replacement is on the same land but lies back from the Luxted Road.

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 Phillips 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

Downe parish registers of christenings, marriages and burials are available online for the following years:

FS PRs = England, Kent, Parish Registers, 1538-1911 (FamilySearch) - free
FS Canterbury PRs = England, Kent, Canterbury Parish Registers, 1538-1986 (FamilySearch) - free
FS BTs = England, Kent, Bishop's Transcripts, 1560-1911 (FamilySearch) - free
FS = FamilySearch - free
FREG = FreeREG - free
FMP Kent = Kent Baptisms, Marriages, Burials (FindMyPast) - ($)
FMP Canterbury = Kent Canterbury Archdeaconry Baptisms, Marriages, Burials (FindMyPast) - ($)
FMP East Kent = East Kent Marriage and Burial Indexes (FindMyPast) - ($)
BOYD = England, Boyd's Marriage Indexes, 1538-1850 (FindMyPast) - free
IGI = International Genealogical Index (FamilySearch) - free[2]
FS Catalog PRs = FamilySearch Catalog Parish registers - free
FS Catalog BTs = FamilySearch Catalog Bishop's transcripts - free
Downe Online Parish Records
Indexes Images Indexes Images Indexes Images
FS PRs 1538-1911
FS Canterbury PRs 1538-1986
FS 1538-1975
FREG 1538-1900s
FMP Kent 1538-1988
FMP Canterbury 1538-1918
FMP East Kent




FS Catalog PRs

FS Catalog BTs

To find the names of the neighboring parishes, use England Jurisdictions 1851 Map. In this site, search for the name of the parish, click on the location "pin", click Options and click List contiguous parishes.

Kent Online Parish Clerks has indexes available for select parishes. Records are also available at the Kent Archives.

Monumental Inscriptions

Online index Kent Archaeological Society

North West Kent Family History Society have published a transcription of those inscriptions recorded by Mr. Leland L. Duncan ( 1919) accessed online at the above link for Kent Archaeological Society.

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. From May 2012 the transcripts are being added to that page. Downe Online Parish Clerk

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

From May 2012 the Downe Online Parish Clerk page contains census transcripts:

1841 Census for Downe

1851 Census for Downe

1891 Census for Downe

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.
Category:England Family History Centres to locate local Family History Centres in UK
Introduction to Family History Centers 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

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

The parish had a parish poor House and garden although when this began to operate is not clear and there are no surviving records.

The parish burial register from 1784 contains several references to pauper burials including two infant pauper deaths in 1786.
The 1787 burial entry for Henry MARVELL describes a pauper death "in a field" suggesting work or out relief from the parish. The number of travellers in the village is also reflected by " infant and stranger, pauper" descriptions from the 1780's. (Downe has traveller burials from the 1500's onwards and some Irish travellers are in the parish registers for Baptism and burial) It appears likely that the parish operated relief for the poor from the 1780's onwards.

The house was situated directly opposite the parish church and is clearly shown as a House and garden on " Town Land" in the 1841 Tithing Settlement map and schedule for the village. There are references to pauper burials in the parish burial register from 1813 until the 1890's when church yard burial diminished.

In 1844 the Union Workhouse in Locksbottom opened operated by Bromley Poor Law Union but the parish burial registers reflect burials of those from the Union workhouse for several decades of it's operation. The Union chapel records have not survived but examination of both admission and discharge records and creed registers indicate that paupers were returned to constituent parishes within the union for burial where admission from the parish was recorded. Casuals admitted to the Union Workhouse are likely to form pauper burials in Farnborough, Kent parish which covered Locksbottom and the Workhouse and Infirmary on the site.

Burial register entries reflect the development at Locksbottom of the Infirmary role of the site and the Bromley Archive records series reflect the role of the infirmary development of care for those within the terms of Lunacy (Union Lunacy register dated from 1871-1930) and other degrees of physical disability and learning difficulty (deemed feeble minded). The subsequent development post 1948 of a distinct psychiatric unit within the National Health Service in seperate buildings on the Workhouse site can be traced to original Infirmary provision. This tradition is also reflected on the site by a distinct Psychiatric unit (Green Parks House) of the modern Princess Royal University Hospital which is managed outside the district hospital organisation.

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) exempt Deanery of Shoreham.

Images in this collection can be viewed at the Kent Archives Centre and Library, Maidstone in the Reading Room on computers provided there. In addition local family history Centres sometimes referred to as FamilySearch Centres can provide free access to images in this collection (see below).

Commercial Directories

The University of Leicester project to provide online Directories enables entries for the village to be viewed, including Melville & Co.'s Directory of Kent, 1858 and subsequent directories see Historical Directories website

Link to other resources may be found at Downe page of Kent Online Parish Clerks Kent Online Parish Clerks

Hearth Tax

A transcript of the Hearth Tax returns for Downe is available at the Downe Online Parish Clerk web page 1664 Hearth Tax for Downe

The transcript is valuable in locating within the village the surnames of local landowners and is effectively a census with an indication of the size of their house.

For an overview of the Hearth Tax see Hearth Tax in England and Wales

Maps and Gazetteers

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

Extract from A Topographical Dictionary of England
DOWN, a parish, in the union of Bromley, hundred of Ruxley, lathe of Sutton-at-Hone, W. division of Kent, 2 miles (S. by W.) from Farnborough. There is a place of worship for Particular Baptists. [3]

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.


Refer to Kent Online Parish Clerks (OPC) page for other relevant web sites for this parish and comprehensive links to record sources in various locations. for a history of Grace Baptist chapels.

Downe on GENUKI


  1. Rural Deanery: Shoreham 1861-1864, West Dartford 1864-1909, Beckenham 1909-1936, Bromley 1936-1954, Orpington 1954-
    F. Youngs, Local Administrative Units: Southern England (London: Royal Historical Society, 1979), p. 269. via A Vision of Britain through Time - Downe EP
  3. Lewis, Samuel A., A Topographical Dictionary of England (1848), pp. 78-84