George Downing

George Downing was the youngest son of John Downing of Blakeley Hall Farm in Harborne, Staffordshire. He was born on 14 Sep 1789 and baptized on 29 Sep 1789 at Oldbury by Halesowen Presbyterian Church. His mother’s name was Sarah, probably with the maiden name Sarah Smith.

We know a little bit about the Downing family because of John Downing’s will of 1810 that identifies all his surviving siblings and indicates that between him and his four brothers they owned a fair amount of farming land around the Harborne and Oldbury area. George’s oldest brother was called John Downing and he continued to farm his father’s land.

George married Elizabeth Shaw on 15 Dec 1818 in St Thomas, Dudley and they had six children. In the 1841 census he is described as a farmer and maltster. The full time trade of maltster was to be taken up by his eldest surviving son William and enabled his descendants to accumulate substantial wealth in and around Smethwick.

His sister Nancy Thompson was also a significant figure in the life of the young family – referred to as Aunt Thompson in the one letter we have dated 1845. Her husband John Thompson, a grocer, was probably the brother of Samuel Thompson, who founded the rival firm of maltsters Samuel Thompson and Sons in 1805.

Shortly before his death in 1848, George bought out his elder brother Thomas’s land in Smethwick. Thomas moved out to Walsall and continued to farm there.

George died on 20 Jun 1848 at the age of 58. His will was proved on 7 Oct 1848 and mentions five houses and other buildings he owned in the Holly Lane area.

One of the keys to the future wealth of the George Downing’s descendants was this considerable accumulation of farm land and buildings around Holly Lane and Oldbury Road in the 1840’s. This included land eventually sold to the Great Western Railway that cut across part of the farmland completed in 1854. As more and more of this was developed for housing and urban development it culminated in 43 lots being listed for sale in auction in April 1859 after the death of George’s widow Elizabeth on 16 Mar 1858.

Monumental Inscription at Holy Trinity Church, Smethwick (Courtesy Paul Thomas and Ros Ditchfield, Holly Lodge School)

Monumental Inscription at Holy Trinity Church, Smethwick (Courtesy Paul Thomas and Ros Ditchfield, Holly Lodge School)


Family of George DOWNING and Elizabeth SHAW

Husband:George DOWNING (1789-1848)
Wife:Elizabeth SHAW (1795-1858)
Children:John DOWNING (bap.1820, d.1840)
William DOWNING (1821-1901)
George DOWNING (1823-1875)
Thomas DOWNING (1825-1886)
Sarah DOWNING (1828-1892)
Eliza DOWNING (1830-1897)
Marriage15 Dec 1818St Thomas, Dudley

Husband: George DOWNING

Name:George DOWNING
Father:John DOWNING (bap.1744, d.1810)
Mother:Sarah SMITH (bap.1751, d.1830)
Birth14 Sep 1789Harborne, Staffordshire
Baptism29 Dec 1789 (age 0)Oldbury by Halesowen, Presbyterian
Occupation1841-1848Farmer and Maltster
Death20 Jun 1848 (age 58)Harborne, Staffordshire
Will7 Oct 1848 (age 59)Smethwick (Proved)

Wife: Elizabeth SHAW

Name:Elizabeth SHAW
Father:Joseph SHAW (c. 1764- )
Mother:Elizabeth GEAST ( – )
Birth1795Dudley, Worcestershire
Baptism6 Sep 1795 (age 0)St Thomas, Dudley
Occupation1851 (age 55-56)Proprietor of Houses
Death16 Mar 1858 (age 62-63)Smethwick, Staffordshire

Child 1: John DOWNING

Baptism4 Jun 1820All Saints, West Bromwich
Death20 Jan 1840

Child 2: William DOWNING

Name:William DOWNING1
Spouse 1:Emma CLIFTON (1824-1851)
Spouse 2:Susannah (Susan) LEE (1827-1920)
Birth19 Apr 1821Smethwick, Staffordshire
Baptism8 Jul 1821 (age 0)All Saints, West Bromwich
Occupation1871 (age 49-50)Maltster and Landowner (Employing 22 Men)
Residence1881 (age 59-60)150 Holly Lane, Smethwick
Residence1891 (age 69-70)Hay, Herefordshire
Occupation1891 (age 69-70)Retired Maltster – JP for Staffordshire
Death9 Jan 1901 (age 79)Holly Lodge, Smethwick
Burial16 Jan 1901Holy Trinity, Smethwick

Child 3: George DOWNING

Name:George DOWNING
Spouse:Anna Maria COLLINS (bap.1832, d.1906)
Birth1823Smethwick, Staffordshire
Baptism27 Jul 1823 (age 0)All Saints, West Bromwich
OccupationMaltster and Victualler
Death3 Feb 1875 (age 51-52)West Bromwich Street, Oldbury

Child 4: Thomas DOWNING

Name:Thomas DOWNING
Spouse:Mary HODGETTS (1829-1907)
Birth1825Smethwick, Staffordshire
Baptism20 Mar 1825 (age 0)All Saints, West Bromwich
Residence1849 (age 23-24)Ivy Bush Inn and Farm
Occupation1861 (age 35-36)Farmer of 80 Acres
Residence1861 (age 35-36)Galton Cottages off Holly Lane
Death10 May 1886 (age 60-61)St Pauls Road Smethwick

Child 5: Sarah DOWNING

Name:Sarah DOWNING
Spouse:William LAISTER (1829-1892)
Birth1828Smethwick, Staffordshire
Baptism19 Oct 1828 (age 0)All Saints, West Bromwich
Death31 Jan 1892 (age 63-64)Stourbridge

Child 6: Eliza DOWNING

Name:Eliza DOWNING
Birth1830Smethwick, Staffordshire
Baptism10 Apr 1831 (age 0-1)All Saints, West Bromwich
Death24 Jul 1897 (age 66-67)24 Water, Street, Rhyl


Text From Source: In 1816 Crockett’s property was sold under a Chancery decree. The northern part of the farm, 30 a. surrounding the farmhouse at the corner of Oldbury Road and Holly Lane, was bought by Thomas Downing and his brother George; the remainder, 34 a. near the Halesowen boundary, was bought by William Spurrier, a Birmingham lawyer. (fn. 17) In 1848 Thomas Downing sold his share to his brother George, who died later the same year. George’s widow and their son William continued to live at the farmhouse. The widow died in 1858, about the time that William was building Holly Lodge to the south-west of the farmhouse. In 1859 William sold the farmhouse, then known as Holly House, and moved into Holly Lodge. He continued to live there until his death in 1901. The house then seems to have been occupied by his widow and his son W. E. Downing and is said to have stood empty for a few years after the son’s move to Hagley (Worcs.).From: ‘Smethwick: Other estates’, A History of the County of Staffordshire: Volume 17: Offlow hundred (part) (1976), pp. 99-107. URL: