Thursday, 14 November 2013

The earliest parish register of Downe,Kent

The earliest of the registers of Downe is a 74 page volume, measuring thirteen inches by five and a half, 54 pages of vellum parchment with the last twenty of paper. It is roughly stitched with string, by way of binding, into a parchment sheet which is part of an old deed. This deals with a debt and consequent transactions between ' the said Anthony ' and ' the said Israeli', Sale of Wapping, distiller, and a Mr. John Johnstone. One of the parties seems to have lived in the parish of the Blessed Mary of Bow in the ward of Cheap. This document shows no  evidence of any connexion with the parish of Downe although a Lieutenant Colonel Johnson, who inhabited Down House may have kept this record of an ancestor and donated it to bind the register. The latest date visible in the deed is 1650. The inclusion within the wrapper or binding of a list of clergy as late as 1874 ( the Induction of a domestic chaplain to Lord Carrington to the vicarage 2 November 1874) suggests that the whole register we now see as “The Downe Register of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials 1538-1733” at the Bromley Library and Archives under reference P132/1/8 was bound or rather rebound with the addition of a half page and clergy page later than the original register binding.
There is evidence of water damage, some pages are partly holed before ink entries were added as the writing avoids the hole; whereas the page with Baptisms for 1564 and on reverse for 1574 and 1575 have missing part word entries. It is however possible to read sufficiently to offer transcripts for the two baptisms in “Anno Domini 1574”
The period of the Civil Wars and Commonwealth was one of ecclesiastical anarchy, which seriously affected parish registers.  (In 1640 a Committee was appointed to deal with scandalous ministers, that is, with the Clergy who were loyal to Church and King).
Refusal to take the Covenant caused the ejection of many clergymen in 1643 and afterwards. New ministers, often undesirable persons, were imposed upon many parishes, and in 1653 civil registrars were ordered to be appointed, and marriages to take place before justices of the peace. All these conditions came to an end with the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 ; meanwhile, the system of parish registers had fallen into confusion if not into neglect.
There were curates at Downe during part at least of this troubled period. No appointment appears between those of Nicholas Peirson in 1589 and Thomas Emerson in 1646. Emerson was followed by Kinge in 1650, and then by George Bradshaw in 1654. The next is Philip Jones in 1672.
Actually, the disorder of the Downe registers extends over a longer period than that of 1640-60. The entries of baptisms are not completely interrupted, except in 1646-8, for any period longer than a year; but there are only fifty-one of them in twenty-two years. Marriages are not registered from 1640 to 1653, nor burials from 1641 to the same year. From 1654 George Bradshaw made some entries in his own hand until 1664. But another and quite literate hand made most of the few baptismal entries over the whole period from 1638 to 1663, apparently at one time, and this may represent an attempt to collect the names of those who at the end of the Commonwealth were not unbaptized. Again from 1665 there is a lapse in the marriage entries until 1671, and in those of burials until 1672. The year of the plague (1665-6) is not covered. Philip Jones resumed the proper keeping of the register in 1672.
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.
To access the Downe parish registers see Downe homepage Kent Online Parish Clerks
Copyright (c) Henry Mantell 2013