POTT SHRIGLEY AND THE DOWNES FAMILY
Grid Ref: SJ 944 791
18 December 2002
|St. Christopher's in winter sun
|Entance and Tower
St. Christopher's church at Pott Shrigley was formerly a chapel of ease for
the parish of Prestbury. Pevsner descibes it as mainly of the Perpendicular
style, used in England in the period from about 1335 to 1530. The south arcade
is late Perpendicular and may be connected with the foundation of a chantry
chapel in 1491. Raymond Richards believed that the church was founded in the
late 14th century and completed in its present form by the construction of the
Downes Chantry Chapel by Geoffrey Downes. Richards drew on information on the
church from Geoffrey Downes' will dated 7 June 1492. The church was closed when
I visited the site but Richards comments that there is evidence from a column
that the church was about 100 years older than the Downes Chapel. The church
has monuments to the Downes and Lowther families. The belfry has two bells from
the fifteenth century and one recast in 1607. A list of ministers is known from
1502 and the baptism registers commence in 1629. In the churchyard is a preaching
cross that probably predates the church. The clock has four faces and was made
in 1809 by Thomas Schofield of Manchester.
The Downes Family of Pott Shrigley
The Downes family came originally from Taxal and are first recorded in the 13 th century when Robert de Dunes was a forester. They came from an area near the Goyt Valley, part of which is now under the reservoir at Errwood. The Forest of Macclesfield stretched from North Rode through Gawsworth towards Prestbury, with Pexhall Lane being the boundary on the the west of Macclesfield. From Broken Cross the boundary ran down towards Fallibroome, through Prestbury towards Poynton. The Forest was characterised by its governance under Forest Law which gave the farming of game priority.
In the Forest of Dean the administration was as described in this article from the Victoria County History:
Under the constable’s overall control, a tier of senior foresters administered ten divisions, called bailiwicks or baileys, in the demesne woodland; they were usually termed foresters-in-fee in the Middle Ages, but to avoid confusion with another group of foresters they are referred to here as woodwards, which was their usual style in the modern period. The woodwards held manors adjoining the demesne woodland by the serjeanty of keeping a bailiwick and paid a chief rent to St. Briavels castle.
And later in the article:
Another group of foresters were usually called serjeants-in-fee in the Middle Ages but later foresters-in-fee. Unlike the woodwards, they performed the duty of protecting the venison and vert and dealing with offenders throughout the Forest woodlands. They were headed by a chief serjeant, also called the chief forester, who held a small manor in St. Briavels by his service and enjoyed valuable privileges, including an allowance of venison. He performed his duties on horseback, whereas the other serjeants went on foot, and he appointed an under-forester, known as the bowbearer. There were as many as 11 other serjeants-in-fee during the 13 th century, and five or more of them held small estates in St. Briavels by the service.
William de Dunes, a younger son of the family bought land in Pott Shrigley. His son William had about 20 acres which may have been land assarted out of the forest for he was fined by the Forest Court for trespass. Robert Downes, who died in 1436 acquired the manor of Worth in Poynton through his marriage to an heiress, Agnes Hulme. He was also an hereditary forester and had additional land at Upton in Macclesfield. The family used the main church of the area, Prestbury, for burials even after they obtained permission for a chapel of ease at Pott Shrigley in 1492. It was built by Geoffrey de Doune, who left a will dated 7 Henry VII (1492).
In 1553, Robert Doune or Downs, then the heir of the estate, was disinherited for refusing to marry and the estate passed to his younger brother, Lawrence, who married Elizabeth Legh, sister of Sir Peter Legh of Lyme. Their son, Roger, married Anne Warren of Poynton.
During the Civil War, the family were royalists. William, who died in 1645 and Laurence, who died in 1661 fought and the family were fined during the Commonwealth period and their land sequestered as they could not pay. The family regained its lands at the Restoration and a younger brother, Edward succeeded Laurence in 1661. At this period of financial difficulties the family was unable to pay dowries for their daughters to marry into the gentry and they married men in the professions.
Edward Downes (1662-1747) brought land at Nether Padley in Derbyshire to the estate from his marriage. Peter Downes (1724-1791) had two sons and six daughters. His eldest son, Edward, died a bachelor in 1819 having sold Worth to Sir George Warren of Poynton. He sold Pott Shrigley to William Turner MP for Blackburn. Edward’s younger brother, Peter, had been a midshipman on the Leander and died of his wounds after the Battle of the Nile in August 1798. Edward and Peter have memorials at Pott Shrigley church.
The following family tree of the Downes of Shrigley is taken from Earwaker's East Cheshire, page 321.
- 1. William de Downes, son of Robert de Downes of Taxal had six sons, Robert, William, Henry, John, Peter and Thomas.
- 2. Robert de Downes died 1342 with no issue.
- + Agnes, dau and coheir of Will de Tablegh a forester in Macclesfield Forest
- 2. William de Downes, 2nd son, living 1345. He had a son, William, and two daughters, Margery and Sybil.
- 3. William de Downes of Shrigley known to be living in 1359 and 1385.
- + Alice, who survived her husband. They had two sons, Robert and Geoffrey.
- 4. Robert de Downes, aged 60 in 1436.
- + Agnes dau and heir of William de Hulme from whom he obtained lands in Worth (near Poynton) and Upton near Macclesfield. This couple had a son Robert, and two daughters.
- 5. Robert de Downes, died in 1460.
- + Alice, dau of Sir Gilbert de Haydock. This couple had two sons, Robert and John.
- 6. Robert de Downes, born c. 1420, died 1489, buried Prestbury.
- + Matilda, mentioned on her sons monument at Presbury. This couple had sons Robert, Geoffrey, Reginald, William, Nicholas and James, a daughter Margery and a daughter whose name is lost. Margery married Richard de Downes of Downes and Taxal. Geoffrey founded Pott Shrigley church c. 1490. His will is dated 7 June 1492.
- 7. Robert de Downes of Shrigley and Worth, born c. 1445, died 10 August 1489, buried at Prestbury where there is a monument.
- + Emma, dau of Roger Bothe, settlement dated 16 May 1464, buried at Prestbury. This couple had a son Roger and two daughter, Emma and Ellen.
- 8. Roger Downes of Shrigley and Worth, born c. 1467, died 1527.
- + Ellen dau of William Davenport of Bramall, settlement dated 24 January 1491. This couple had sons Robert, Laurence, Piers, Richard, Thomas, Nicholas, Christopher and Geoffrey and a daughter of unknown name who married John Wetenhall of Coppenhall.
- 9. Robert Downes died in his father’s lifetime before 1520.
- + Parnel, dau of Thomas Davenport of Henbury. They had two sons, Roger and Christopher, who became a priest.
- 10. Roger Downes of Shrigley and Worth, died 1553.
- + Ellen, dau of Laurence Warren of Poynton, married about 1521 and living at least until 1551. This couple had two sons and eight daughters. The eldest son Robert was said to be disinherited for not marrying so we follow the second son, Laurence.
- 11. Laurence Downes of Shrigley and Worth, buried Prestbury, 1564.
- + Elizabeth, dau of Piers Legh of Lyme married before 1551. This couple had two sons, Roger and John and two daughters, Margaret and Ellen.
- 12. Roger Downes of Shrigley and Worth, buried 8 Jan 1602/3 married twice.
- + 1st wife, Elizabeth dau of Thomas Stanley of Alderley, married 1570 and had three daughters, Frances, Dorothy and Margaret.
- + 2nd wife, Anne, dau of John Warren of Poynton, married Prestbury, 27 Mar 1592/3. She outlived Roger and went on to marry Thomas Singleton of Lancashire then on 2 Jan 1616/17 she married William Davenport of Woodford as his second wife. Roger Downes and Anne had five sons, Laurence, William, Thomas, Randle and Robert.
- 13. Laurence Downes of Shrigley & Worth, born about 1593 buried Prestbury 5 Apr 1635.
- + Margaret, dau of Robert Duckenfield of Dukinfield, born 1594 married c. 1611 and living at least until 1644. This couple had six sons, William, Laurence, Edward, Geoffrey, Roger and Richard and seven daugthers, Margaret, Ann, Frances, Elizabeth, Susanna, Jane and Mary.
- 14. William Downes, of Shrigley and Worth bapt. Stockport 23 Oct 1613, died before July 1645.
- + Mary dau of Henry Birkenhead of Backford, Cheshire. They had one daughter, who was buried at Prestbury on 15 March 1641/2.
- 14. Laurence Downes of Shrigley and Worth, succeeded his brother but died without issue and buried at Prestbury 2 May 1661.
- 14. Edward Downes of Shrigley and Worth, born about 1630, succeeded his brother and was buried at Prestbury 15 Feb 1693/4.
- + 1 st wife, Elizabeth, dau John Shallcross of Shallcross, buried Prestbury 20 July 1677. They had two sons and a daughter.
- 15. Edward Downes of Shrigley and Worth, born 8 March, bapt Pott Shrigley, 24 Mar 1662/3, buried at Prestbury, 9 May 1747.
- + Sarah, dau of Robert Assheton from whom he obtained lands in Nether Padley in Derbyshire, buried Prestbury, 27 Aug 1718. They had a son and two daughters, Elizabeth and Sarah.
- 16. Edward Downes of Shrigley and Worth, buried Prestbury, 9 Aug 1748
- + Bridget dau of Rev Philip Egerton D.D. second son of Sir Philip Egerton of Egerton and Oulton, marriage settlement of 26 September 1722. They had four sons and 6 daughters.
- 17. John Downes of Shrigley, Worth and Butley Hall, born 23 Sept, bapt 1 October 1723, buried a Prestbury, 7 March 1764, unmarried.
- 17. Peter Downes of Shrigley, Worth and Butley Hall, bapt at Pott Shrigley 28 Sept 1724, succeeded his brother, buried Prestbury 6 April 1791.
- + Elizabeth Ann, dau of John Craven of London, merchant, buried Prestbury, 13 Feb 1781 aged 35. This couple had three sons and five daughters of whom only Sarah survived to marry and have children.
- 18. Edward Downes of Shrigley, born 1769, of Christ Church, Oxford, MA, died 30 Dec 1819, aged 50, buried Pott Shrigley, monumental inscription.
- 18. Peter Downes, born Butley Hall, bapt Prestbury 9 Oct 1778, died 19 Aug 1798 of wounds received in naval engagement between, Leander and Généreux, MI at Pott Shrigley.
- 18. John Downes, buried Prestbury, 13 Feb 1781 an infant
- 18. Sarah Downes, born c. 1774, died 25 July 1854 aged 80
- + John Leach Panter Esq of Fulham near London.
||Detail of Downes Monument
The Downes Monument at Prestbury appears at first glance to have an epitaph in mysterious hieroglyphics. However, the monument was not intended to be viewed against a wall but on the ground. As shown in the photograph at the lower left, when the inscription is seen upside down it can be read as "Hic iacent Robtus Dounes armigr et Matilda" or "Here lie Robertus Dounes, armiger and Matilda." Raymond Richard's book states that the inscription is to Robert Dounes and his son, who died in 1489 and 1495 and their respective wives. The wife of the younger Robert appears to be Emmota, daughter of Roger Bouthe. These individuals are shown in the family tree in generations 6 and 7.
The Downes Family of Taxal
Below I show the family tree of the Downes of Taxal and Worth, simplified from the account given in Earwaker's East Cheshire. It shows how the Downes of Pott Shrigley are connected. The family estates were sold in 1691.
- 1. Robert de Downe, held manors of Downes and Taxal by Forest service, Inquisition Post Mortem, 1273.
- 2. John de Downes, died without issue.
- 2. Robert de Downes, living 1306. In addition to his eldest son, Edmund, Robert also had a son Robert who married Margery dau of Sir Hugh Fitton of Bollin and a third son William Downes of Shrigley from whom the Downes of Shrigley as shown above.
- 3. Edmund de Downes, presented to Taxal church, 1316-31. Living 1337.
- + Margery, dau & heiress of Roger Throsle of Macclesfield & Alderley, living 1337. This couple had nine sons of whom we look only at the first two.
- 4. Roger de Downes living 1307, died 1339 who had a son who died young.
- 4. Edmund Downes of Downes and Taxal, living 1339 and Inquistion Post Mortem in 1376.
- 5. Edmund de Downes of Downes and Taxal, aged 22 in 1376 and Inquisition post mortem in 1399.
- + Alice
- 6. John de Downes of Downes and Taxal, aged 12 in 1399, died in 1421 and Inquistion post mortem in 1437.
- + Anne.
- 7. Reginald de Downes of Downes and Taxal, said to be of full age in 1437.
- + Katherine dau Robert de Downes of Shrigley at Taxal in 1426.
- 8. Richard Downes of Downes and Taxal son of Reginald, Inquistion post mortem in 1512. Earwaker notes that he is said to have married Margery dau of Robert de Downes of Shrigley but doubts if this is correct. Richard’s widow was alive at the time of the Inq. P.M. This couple had three known sons, John, Reginald and Christopher of whom we follow only the eldest.
- 9. John Downes of Overton, Downes and Taxal, aged 21 in 1512, living 1564.
- + Ann dau of John Pigott of Chetwynd in Shropshire. This couple had sons Reginald, Humphrey, Peter and a daughter Joyce. We need to follow the first two sons to see the succession.
- 10. Reginald Downes of Overton, Downes and Taxal, died 1592, Inq. P.M. 1594 and 1595.
- +Jane, dau of George Trafford of Garrat near Manchester but had no legitimate issue. However, he had an illegitimate daughter, Anne Watson baptised at Macclesfield in 1579 who married her cousin Reginald as shown below.
- 10. Humphrey Downes, 2nd son, died before 1588
- 11. Reginald Downes of Overton, Downes and Taxal, succeeded his uncle Reginald and married Reginald's illegitimate daughter, Anne Watson. Reginald was born 1577, died 1610, Inq. P.M. in 1612.
- + Anne Watson. This couple had three sons. Anne outlived her husband and marriede William Thornycroft and survived until at least 1623.
- 12. John Downes of Overton, Downes and Taxal born about 1598, died 29 Dec 1621 and was buried at Taxal.
- + Sarah, dau of Edward Thornycroft of Siddington. This couple had four daughters, Margaret, Anne, Mary and Sara.
- 12. Richard Downes, living 1610, died before 1622 without issue.
- 12. Edmund Downes of Overton, Downes and Taxal, succeeded his brother John and had his lands from 1627 when he was 21. Buried Taxal 17 March 1671/2.
- + Barbara, dau of Rowland Smith of Waterford, buried Taxal 18 March 1663/4. This couple had two sons Reginald and Edmund and a daughter Mary.
- 13. Reginald Downes of Overton, Downes and Taxal, living 1650, sold his estates in 1691, buried at Taxal on 3 May 1699.
- + Jane dau of Henry Overton of Wilmslow on 28 May 1656 and was buried there in 1699. This couple had three sons and three daughters.
Effigy of Sir Reginald Downes?
The effigy shown above is at the north side of the sanctuary in St. Michael's, Macclesfield. It bears two cards, one stating that it is an unknown knight and one that it is Sir Reginald Downes but without any dates for him.
The Buildings of England, Cheshire, by Nikolaus Pevsner and Edward Hubbard,
Yale University Press, 2003, ISBN 0 300 09588 0
Old Cheshire Churches, with a supplementary
survey of the lesser old chapels of Cheshire, completely revised and enlarged
by Raymond Richards, first published in 1947 and reprinted by E. J. Morten,
East Cheshire Past and Present by J.P. Earwaker, London, 1877 (CRO, Knutsford). This is widely regarded as the best work on East Cheshire of the 19th century. It is useful for family trees of landed families. Now available from the Family History Society of Cheshire on CD ROM .
Notes from Cheshire Gentry by Clare Pye a series of lectures held underr the aegis of Wilmslow Guild, at Poynton, Autumn 2005.
Back to list of families
Introduction to Cheshire Gentry
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