Rev. William Downes, B.A. [Obituary]


 Rev. W. Harpley.

Trans. Devon. Assoc., 1887, Vol XIX, pp.42-43.

Prepared by Michael Steer


The obituary was read at the Association’s Plympton meeting, July 1887. Bernard Burke and Arthur Charles Fox-Davies, “A genealogical and heraldic history of the landed gentry of Ireland”, (1912), p. 465 records that Mabel Violet Blanche Montgomery married Percy Downes, 3rd son of Rev William Downes of Combe Raleigh, 3rd July, 1894. The article, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.


Rev. William Downes, B.A., was the son of the Rev. John Downes, Rector of Hannington, Northamptonshira He received his early education at Oakham School, Rutland, and subsequently proceeded to Exeter College, Oxford, where he took his B.A.. degree in 1860. When at school Mr. Downes's classical power was very marked, his Latin versification being especially excellent. In 1861 he was ordained deacon by the Bishop of Ely on the curacy of St Mary Rumsey, Huntingdonshire. His priest's orders he acquired in the following year on the title of the curacy of Staverton, in the Deanery of Totnes. He remained at Staverton as curate until the death of the vicar in 1874, when he accepted the curacy of Kentisbeare. In 1885 he was presented, by E. S. Drewe, Esq., to the living of Combe Raleigh, near Honiton.

Mr. Downes was an enthusiastic student of geology, especially that branch of the science which relates to fossils, and read several papers at various times to the Geological Society, of which he was a Fellow, and also to the Geological Section of the British Association. He became a member of this Association in 1876, and was rarely absent from its meetings afterwards. The following list of papers read by him at the annual meetings will testify to the industry he manifested in his favourite pursuit: "The Fossils of the Culm Measure Limestones around Holcombe Rogus" (1878); "The Limestones of Westleigh and Holcombe Rogus" (1879); "Blackdown" (1880); "On the Occurrence of Upper Devonian Fossils in the Component Fragments of the Trias near Tiverton " (1881); "Chert Pits: a Stray Note on Blackdown" (1882); "Geological Notes upon the Exe Valley Railway" (1883); "On the Occurrence of Barytes in the Culm Measure Limestones of Westleigh" (1883); "On a Newly-discovered Dyke of Mica-trap at Rose-ash, near Southmolton" (1884) ; "On an Explosion, supposed to have been aerial, which was heard in East and South Devon on the 13th January, 1884" (1884); "Geological Notes upon the Honiton District" (1885); and "Geological Notes upon the Honiton District," No. il (1886).

Mr. Downes did not live to see the last-named paper printed in the pages of the Transactions. He went for change of air into the North of England, where he died suddenly from heart disease in the grounds of his friend, whom he was visiting, at Malham Farm, Yorkshire, on the 12th August, 1886, aged 48 years.

Mr. Downes married Miss Emily Frances Whyte, of Southwood House, Staverton, youngest daughter of Dr. Whyte, Medical Inspector of Hospitals.