DOWNES, Francis (1606-1648), of Wardley Hall, Lancs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press




Family and Education

bap. 19 July 1606,1 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Roger Downes* of Wardley Hall, and 2nd w. Anne, da. of John Calvert of Cockerham, Lancs.2 educ. Brasenose, Oxf. 1623, G. Inn 1623.3 m. Elizabeth (d. 16 Mar. 1648),4 da. of John Preston† of Furness, Lancs. s.p.5 suc. fa. 4 July 1638.6 d. 9 Mar. 1648.7

Offices Held

Commr. swans, Lancs., Cheshire and elsewhere 1627;8 freeman, Wigan, Lancs. by 1628.9


Downes, who must be distinguished from a Northamptonshire namesake, was the son and heir apparent of Roger Downes of Wardley. Although admitted to Gray’s Inn, where his father was a bencher, he does not appear to have pursued a legal career. Elected for Wigan when he was only 18, he was one of several under-age Members to sit in 1624 and 1625.10 He made no impression upon the records of James’s last Parliament, though he may have attended the committee of the York gaol patent bill, to which all Lancashire burgesses were appointed on 19 May 1624.11 In 1625 he was present at both meetings of the Macclesfield tenants bill’s committee (23 June), and was named to the committee for the alienations bill (25 June); at the Oxford sitting he was appointed to one bill committee, for Daniel Deligne’s naturalization (11 August).12

In the early 1630s Downes, whose mother had been a Catholic, himself openly embraced that religion.13 Both Downes and his wife Elizabeth appeared in the Lancashire recusant rolls, and this presumably explains why, unlike his father, he was excluded from the magistrates’ bench and other local offices even after he inherited Wardley Hall in 1638.14 He became renowned for supposedly converting his brother’s father-in-law, Sir Cecil Trafford, formerly a ‘noted persecutor of Catholics’; and Downes’s enthusiasm for the Roman faith also became a local legend on account of a skull he preserved at Wardley, reputedly that of Fr. Ambrose Barlow, a priest executed in 1641.15 As a recusant, Downes, in 1641, was stripped of all his weaponry apart from a single case of pistols for self-defence.16

Drafting his will in 1643, Downes declaring himself ‘much impaired and weakened in body by a long consuming sickness’. He died on 9 Mar. 1648, a few days before his wife Elizabeth; they had no children.17 Although he had inherited an expansive estate from his father, he left his brother John to repay a debt of £5,000 to a consortium of creditors that included his father-in-law John Preston, Sir Cecil Trafford, and Orlando Bridgeman†, according to the terms of a deed dating back to 1622.18 Boldly asserting that he was ‘a member of the Catholic Church’, Downes desired to be buried in the family vault at Wigan church ‘without any pomp and charge’. It is not known whether this wish was fulfilled, for there is no record of his burial in the parish register. John Downes, who recovered Wardley from the creditors, became a royalist in the Civil War.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Eccles Par. Regs. (Lancs. Par. Reg. Soc. xxv), 53.
  • 2. Vis. Lancs. (Chetham Soc. lxxxii), 133.
  • 3. Al. Ox.; GI Admiss.
  • 4. H.V. Hart-Davis, Wardley Hall, 57
  • 5. Vis. Lancs. (Chetham Soc. lxxxviii), 236.
  • 6. DL7/27/54.
  • 7. Hart-Davis, 57.
  • 8. C181/3, f. 227v.
  • 9. D. Sinclair, Hist. Wigan, i. 197.
  • 10. N and Q (ser. 15), clxix. 64-5; C231/5, ff. 25, 139; C142/601/16; PROB 11/211, f. 33v.
  • 11. CJ, i. 705a.
  • 12. Procs 1625, pp. 226, 246, 457; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 227.
  • 13. VCH Lancs. iv. 333; T.E. Gibson, Lydiate Hall and its Associations, 224.
  • 14. E377/39; VCH Lancs. iv. 384-8; N.G. Philips, Views of the Old Halls of Lancs. and Cheshire, 46-51; Hart-Davis, 155-7.
  • 15. J. Croston, Historic Sites of Lancs. and Cheshire, 449, 473-4.
  • 16. HEHL, EL12004; Hart-Davis, 138-9.
  • 17. Hart-Davis, 57; Lancs. RO, WCW, Elizabeth Downes, Admon. 1649.
  • 18. PROB 11/213, ff. 227-9v.