William Edmund Downing

William Edmund Downing was born in Smethwick in 1849 the second son of William Downing and his first wife Emma Clifton. His mother died when he was only 2. Both he and his elder brother, George, went into the family business as Maltsters. There are still malthouses in Gloucester Docks bearing their names “G and WE Downing”.

WE Downing in 1905

WE Downing in 1905

Most of the photos and memorabilia we have of William Edmund Downing show him on numerous shooting trips at The Beacon up on the Shropshire/Welsh borders. Living to the age of 90 he certainly enjoyed the country life style in the last half of his life. His father supported the business career of his sons changing the names of the business to “G and WE Downing” in 1871. William Downing (snr) was already a wealthy man when he built Holly Lodge, but there is no doubt that the business continued to generate a large amount of wealth for his sons in the 1880’a and 90’s.The much younger third brother Thomas Lee Downing was also active in the business particularly after the early death of brother George in Llandudno in 1894. His son Noel Downing apparently was only really involved in the business after his return from the trenches in 1919, by which time William Edmund was pretty much retired.

William Edmund Downing married Hannah Pitt Showell, daughter of an important local brewer, in 1879. We have the letter from his staff congratulating him on his marriage. Interestingly there are very few photos of the couple together as Hannah evidently shunned the outdoor life. The four children were all born at Moorfields, Church Lane, Handsworth.  In 1893 the family moved to Elm Lodge, Hagley where William Edmund and Hannah eventually died. He is remembered as a somewhat jovial grandfather in contrast to the much sterner ‘Victorian’ Hannah Pitt.

There is a photo set of the Downing family on Flickr

William Edmund Downing died on 3 Oct 1939 and Hannah Pitt 0n 7 Oct 1941.

Family of William Edmund DOWNING and Hannah Pitt SHOWELL

Husband:William Edmund DOWNING (1849-1939)
Wife:Hannah Pitt SHOWELL (1855-1941)
Children:May DOWNING (1880-1931)
Margueritte (Daisy) DOWNING (1880-1958)
Ethel Mary DOWNING (1884-1966)
William Noel DOWNING (1888-1965)
Marriage30 Jul 1879Edgbaston

Husband: William Edmund DOWNING

Name:William Edmund DOWNING
Father:William DOWNING (1821-1901)
Mother:Emma CLIFTON (1824-1851)
Birth30 Apr 1849Smethwick, Staffordshire
Baptism3 Jun 1849 (age 0)North Harborne, Staffordshire
Education1861 (age 11-12)At school at Hardingstone, Northants aged 12
Occupation1871 (age 21-22)Maltster
Occupation1881 (age 31-32)Maltster
Occupation1901 (age 51-52)G and W E Downing, Maltsters Gloucester
Death3 Oct 1939 (age 90)Elm Lodge, Hagley1

Wife: Hannah Pitt SHOWELL

Name:Hannah Pitt SHOWELL
Father:Walter SHOWELL (1832-1901)
Mother:Sarah Cheshire HARTILL (bap.1835, d.1910)
Birth2 Mar 1855Oldbury, Worcestershire
Baptism21 Mar 1855 (age 0)Oldbury, Worcestershire
Death7 Oct 1941 (age 86)Hagley

Child 1: May DOWNING

Spouse 1:Thomas Llewellyn WILLIAMS (c. 1870-1910)
Spouse 2:John MacKay PRINGLE (1889-1955)
Birth11 May 1880Handsworth, Warwickshire
Death23 Mar 1931 (age 50)56 Redcliffe Square, Kensington

Child 2: Margueritte (Daisy) DOWNING

Name:Margueritte (Daisy) DOWNING
Spouse:William Henry (Willie) GRAZEBROOK (1865-1957)
Birth11 May 1880Handsworth, Warwickshire
Death24 Sep 1958 (age 78)Clent

Child 3: Ethel Mary DOWNING

Name:Ethel Mary DOWNING
Spouse:Walter Harry SIMPSON ( -1934)
Birth13 Apr 1884Handsworth, Warwickshire
Occupation1913 (age 28-29)Secretary Stourbridge Suffragettes
Death3 Jun 1966 (age 82)Ravenstone Nursing Home, Droitwich

Child 4: William Noel DOWNING

Name:William Noel DOWNING
Spouse:Constance Mary Shaw Hellier (Molly) EVANS (1890-1974)
Birth16 Dec 1888Moorfields, Church Lane, Handsworth, Warwickshire
Educationbtw 1907 and 1910 (age 18-22)Brasenose College, Oxford reading Law
Death4 Oct 1965 (age 76)Basingstoke, Hampshire


  • Molly Evans Diary: “Mills rang up at 8 to say Mr Downing died at 7.45am”