DOWNES, Roger (d.1638), of Wardley Hall, Lancs.
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Family and Education
6th s. of Roger Downes of Shrigley, Cheshire by his w. Elizabeth (?Pemberton), da. of either Alexander Worsley of Lancs. or Thomas Stanley of Aldersley. educ. Staple Inn; G. Inn 1589, called 1599. m. (1) at Wigan 23 Apr. 1601, Elizabeth (d.1602), da. of Miles Gerard of Ince, 1s. d.v.p.; (2) Anne, da. of John Calvert of Cockeram, 2s. 1da.1
Summer reader, G. Inn 1615, dean of the chapel 1624, treasurer 1628; v.-chamberlain, Cheshire 1625.2
The Downes family came from East Cheshire, where they had held the manors of Shrigley, Taxall and Downs since the reign of Henry III. Downes’s return for Wigan in 1601 was no doubt due to the influence of the Gérard family, into which he married, but he had himself a lifelong connexion with the town and perhaps also with Manchester, for he was named as overseer in the wills of two Mancunians, Sir Alexander Barlow of Barlow Hall, who described him as ‘loving loving cousin’, and Richard Halliwell, landlord of the Bull’s Head in the Market Place.3
Considering his appointments at Gray’s Inn, Dowries Downes presumably practised as a lawyer and spent part of his time in London. There is nothing to suggest that he played an active part in county affairs. No doubt the law and his estates provided him with sufficient occupation. All that we know of him relates to his life as a country gentleman. It was about 1601 that he acquired Wardley Hall, a moated manor house, dating from the reign of Edward VI. His household books give us some idea of his life and surroundings. Wardley Hall had its own private chapel, and more than 20 bedrooms. The furnishings consisted of beds—standing beds, feather beds and canopy beds—and stools. There was a great supply of household linen, 117 pairs of sheets, and 52 dozen napkins. There was also a large amount of pewter, and equipment for making butter and cheese. In the parlour were virginals, and books valued at £200. He managed the estate with a steward, and a large number of servants. A careful, methodical man, he kept detailed accounts of the smallest domestic expenditures, including such things as ribbands, garters and shoe repairs. The estate principally produced meat and hides—marketed perhaps in Manchester—as well as wheat, hay and small rents from the lease of lands. There were a number of fish pools stocked with tench and carp. At the time of his death, his personal goods and chattels were valued at £2,228 9s.3d. He made his will in 1638 and was buffed at Wigan on 6 July that year. He was succeeded by his second son Francis, his eldest son Roger, by his first wife, having predeceased him. Downes’s second wife Anne Calvert was a Catholic, and Francis later became one. It is possible that, like a number of northern gentlemen, Downes himself (though he certainly conformed during his life) was reconciled to Catholicism on his deathbed.4