DOWNING, William, of London.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
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Family and Education

Offices Held


Shortly after 6 Oct. 1586 the corporation of Orford received the following letter from its newly elected Member:

After my very hearty commendations, I heartily thank you for your good opinion and free election of me, I will willingly attend the parliament to do any good that may lie in me, as concerning your town itself, for I hold myself as one of you. I will perform the best office that I can. I pray you take order that I may have instructions and some body to solicit, as need shall require. I do hereby remit all demand of allowance for my attendance, for I will bear mine own charges. And so I betake us to the grace of God who keeps us ever His, and bless the Parliament with a godly beginning [and] happy end, for the things to be handled there and take my leave at London. Yours to my power in the Lord.

The writer, William Downing, was probably the London notary who speculated in land in partnership with two Exchequer officials, Peter Osborne and Thomas Fanshawe I, each of whom sat in 1584 and could rely on being re-elected in 1586, and Thomas Shirley I, who also sat in 1584 but whose membership was to be interrupted in 1586 by his service in the Low Countries with Leicester. Whether any of these introduced Downing to Orford is unknown, but there can be little doubt that the borough would have been receptive to the possibility of having for its Member someone already resident in London and willing to serve without wages. Local connexions or, better still, local origins, would have made him even more acceptable. It is just possible that the London notary had both, an indication of the first being a dispute over lands between the partners Downing, Osborne and Fanshawe on the one hand and the dean and chapter of Norwich on the other, while the second rests on the supposition that he was the William Downing who went up to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in 1556, later married Martha, daughter of William Grosse, widow of Thomas Eachard, both of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, and was himself the fourth son, born circa 1540, of George and Cecily Downing of Beccles, Suffolk. Edmund Downing, who is known to have bought lands in Suffolk, may have belonged to the same family.

PCC 20 Stevenson; E. Anglian Peds. (Harl. Soc. xci), 61; Lansd. 51, f. 207; A. H. Smith thesis, 252-75; HMC Var. iv. 276; Orford mss, Special Pprs.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.H.