George Downing

George DOWNING (1556 – 1611) was Alex’s 13th Great Grandfather;  one of 16,384 in this generation of the Miner line.

Immigrant Ancestor

Immigrant Ancestor

George Downing was born about 1556 in Beccles, Suffolk, England.  His parents were George DOWNING and Cicely [__?__].  Alternatively, his parents were Geoffrey Downing, b. 17 Mar 1524 at Great Dunham, England, and Elizabeth Wingfield.  He married Dorcas BELLAMY about 1577 in England.  George Downing left a will on 17 Jan 1610/11 at Suffolk, England and died before 24 Mar 1610/11 at St. Lawrence, Ipswich, Suffolk, England.  George’s estate was probated on 3 Oct 1611 at Suffolk, England.

Dorcas Bellamy was born 1560 in St Nicholas Ipswich, Suffolk, England. She died 21 Dec 1610 in St Lawrence Ipswich, Suffolk, England.  Sometimes she is called Dorcas Blois.

Children of George and Dorcas:

Name Born Married Departed
1. Susanna Downing bapt.
20 Nov 1578
St. Nicholas, Ipswich, Suffolk, England
Francis Kirby
Little Munden, Hertfordshire, England
St Helens, Bishopsgate, England
2. Joshua Downing ca. 1580
Ipswich, Suffolk, England
Grace Edisbury
Ipswich, England
1 Jan 1629 will &  26 Mar 1629 probate
Chatham, Kent, England
3. Elnathan Downing ca. 1583
Ipswich,  England
9 Feb  1609/10
St. Lawrence, Ipswich, England
4. Emanuel Downing 12 Aug 1585
St. Lawrence, Ipswich, England
Anne Ware
7 Jan 1614/15
Edinburgh, Scotland
Lucy Winthrop
10 April 1622
Groton, Suffolk, England
26 Jul 1658
Salem, Mass.
5. Nathaniel Downing bapt.
8 Oct 1587
St. Mary at the Tower Church
Ipswich, England
Margaret Selyne
6 May 1613
St Lawrence Ipswich, England
betw 7 May 1616 will &
14 May 1616 probate England
6. Rev. Joseph DOWNING ca. 1589
St. Nicholas,
Ipswich, Suffolk, England.
Jane ROSE (obtained a marriage license on 6 Nov 1616 at Suffolk, England) Aug 1656
Salem, Mass.
7. Nahomie Downing ca. 1590
Ipswich, England
Richard Hill
8. Abigail Downing ca. 1592
Ipswich, England
John Goade
20 Feb 1614/15
St. Lawrence, Ipswich, Suffolk, England
1665 in Salem, Essex, Mass
9. Benjamin Downing 1 Jan 1593/94
Ipswich, England
10. Anne Downing 12 May 1595
Ipswich, England

George entered Queen’s College, Cambridge,  B.A. 1573-74; M.A. 1577.

He was Master of the Grammer School, Ipswich for twenty-one years from 1589 to 1610.

Ipswich School is a co-educational public school for girls and boys aged 3 to 18. Situated in Suffolk, England in the town of Ipswich, it was founded in its current form as The King’s School, Ipswich by Thomas Wolsey  in 1528.

The oldest record of Ipswich School goes back to 1299 but the school was founded in its current form in 1528 by Thomas Wolsey, later Cardinal Archbishop of York andLord Chancellor of England, who was a pupil of the school. A merchant and Portman (Alderman) of Ipswich called Richard Felaw (a school house is named in his honour) bequeathed his house in what is now Foundation Street to the School, endowing it with lands so that children of needy parents could attend without paying fees. One of the first pupils to benefit from Felaw’s endowment was Thomas Wolsey who never forgot that it was largely thanks to Felaw that he became what he became.

In part to thank the school, Wolsey wanted to transform it into an institution that would compete with likes of Eton College, recently founded by King Henry VI, and would become one of England’s greatest educational institutions. Wolsey created his new college, funded by the suppression of religious houses such as Rumburgh Priory, by absorbing into the former school some of the institutions in the town such as St. Mary’s College, and named it (The King’s School, Ipswich).

After Wolsey’s downfall in 1530 Thomas Cromwell ensured the survival of the School by securing for it a new endowment from King Henry VIII and the status of a royal foundation. This was confirmed by Queen Elizabeth I in the royal charter that she granted to the School in 1566. For part of the School’s history it was known as Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Ipswich. The School’s coat of arms and motto, Semper Eadem (Always the Same), are those of Elizabeth I.  Queen Elizabeth II is the School’s Visitor.

Ipswich School Coat of Arms is the same as Elizabeth I

A Visitor, in English law and history, is an overseer of an autonomous ecclesiastical or eleemosynary institution (there’s a new word for ya’ –  a charitable institution set up for the perpetual distribution of the founder’s alms and bounty), who can intervene in the internal affairs of that institution.

During the reign of James I [which overlapped George’s last years as master] part of the Blackfriars Monastery was appropriated for use as a classroom, and the Blackfriars remained the School’s home until 1842 when the building was deemed to be unsafe. The current school buildings are Victorian.

The school now has six day houses – Holden, Rigaud, Sherrington, School, Broke and Felaw – into which all pupils are filtered from year 9/Upper 6th Form onwards, and a single large boarding house – Westwood. Those with relatives who attended the school are generally expected to be placed in the same house. Like Hogwarts, there is a good deal of competition between the houses and every year, the houses compete for the Ganzoni Cup (house cup), which is won by gaining points from winning inter-house events.

House House Colours
Sherrington Maroon/Yellow
Felaw Brown/Blue
School Navy/Yellow
Broke Purple/Yellow
Holden Scarlet/Yellow
Rigaud Green/Yellow
Westwood Grey/Black

Felaw has won more times than any other house, with Rigaud in second place; it is believed that School has not won since the days of the reign of Queen Victoria. However, School is the oldest house and dates from the days when the boys lived and were taught in one house (called School House).

No Quidditch pitch, though the first recorded cricket match on the school ground was in 1859.


Gryffindor values courage, bravery, loyalty, nerve and chivalry. Its mascot is the lion, and its colours are scarlet and gold.


Hufflepuff values hard work, tolerance, loyalty, and fair play. The house mascot is the badger, and canary yellow and midnight black are its colours.


Ravenclaw values intelligence, creativity, learning, and wit. The house mascot is an eagle and the house colours are blue and bronze (blue and grey in the films).


Slytherin house values ambition, cunning, leadership, and resourcefulness. The house mascot of Slytherin is the serpent, and the house colours are green and silver.

George’s 17 Jan 1610/11 will  left virtually all his estate, including a house of his own, and the lease of the house he lived in (called “The White Friars, ” owned by William Hill of London, merchant), to his three daughters, Susan, Nahomie and Abigail, all unmarried, and made them executrices. He gave his books “at home and at Cambridge” to Joseph Downinge [our ancestor Rev. Joseph DOWNING]. His sons had been well educated and apparently well provided for.

Research on George’s Origins

From Jill Thorne – “From the original Norfolk Visitations 1589. Jeffrey Downing of Poles Belcham, Essex married to Elizabeth daughter of Thomas Wingfield of Downham Magna [Norfolk] had one son named Arthur Downing of Lexham, Co. Norfolk. As yet there is no proof that they had a son named George. I have no birth date for Arthur but he was married in Clare, Co. Suffolk 22nd Nov. 1570 to Susan daughter and heir of John Calybutt of Castle Acre, Norfolk [marriage ref-Clare Parish Reg. FL.501/4/1]

Here I have used the spellings used in the different documents seen – There was a George Downing who married a Dorcas Bloyce at St Nicholas Church, Ipswich, Suffolk.[ref.Parish transcript Page7+Fiche 1 of 38]. She was baptised at St Nicholas’s [two dates] 2nd/3rd Sept. 1592 the daughter of William Bloyse/Bloise. The family lived in Ipswich before they moved about 4 miles to the village of Grundisburgh. George Downing was buried up by the altar of St.Peter’s Church Spexhall, Suffolk the date on his stone is 1655, Dorcus is named on his stone as his his father-in-law. Dorcus is buried in St Georges Church, St Cross, South Elmham, Co. Suffolk the date Sept. 3rd 1638. [ref burial record – Ipswich Record Office].

The George Downing linked to ? Bellamy is possible the headmaster of a school in Ipswich, Suffolk [now known as Ipswich School], but there is no proof of her names. From the burial record of St. Lawrence Church, Ipswich, Suffolk the wording is –
‘….. Downynge wyff of George Buried the 21 of December.’
then under are the words.- ‘George Downing was Buried the’
[no date was given] This George Downing the headmaster, [will – 16th Jan. 1611. Proved 3rd Oct. 1611 – ‘Suffolk Manorial Families…’ Muskett Vol.1] was the son of George Downing of Beccles, Suffolk [will – 20th Dec. 1561. Probate 26th June 1564. Muskett Vol.1] and he was the father of Emanuel Downing who 1st married Anne Ware and 2nd Lucy Winthrop.

In the 1611 will of the Ipswich headmaster George Downing he named one of his 3 daughters as Abigale. She was also named in the will of her brother Nathaniel Downing dated 1616. Probate 14th May 1616 [Muskett Vol.1] and by then she was married to John Goade a skinner with a son also named John. ”


1. Susanna Downing

Susanna’s husband Francis Kirby was born 1578 in Little Munden, Hertfordshire, England.  His parents were John Kirby and Joan Cranfield.  After Susanna died, he married in 1645 in Little Munden, Hertfordshire, England to Elizabeth Turfett.  Francis died 12 Oct 1661 in St Olaves Southwark, Surrey, England.

Francis Kirby, Joseph’s brother-in-law, in a letter from London to John Winthrop Jr., dated 26 Feb 1633/34, mentioned shipping “the twigs of quodlin tree” that “my brother Joseph Downinge” had provided.

In the 1630’s, New England’s export potential was limited to furs.  A London based sub-partnership led by Emanuel Downing and Winthrop’s son John Winthrop the Younger. and the city merchant Frances Kirby [Emanuel’s brother-in-law] carried out a series of fur trading expeditions under the auspices of the company of undertakers.

2. Joshua Downing

Joshua’s wife Grace Edisbury was born 1582 in Chatham, Kent, England.

4. Emanuel Downing

Emanuel’s first wife Anne Ware was born 1592 in Dublin, Ireland.  Her parents were Sir James Ware and Mary Brydon (Briden) of Dublin, Ireland.  Anne died before 10 April 1622.

Emanuel’s second wife Lucy Winthrop was born 9 Jan 1599/00 at Groton, Suffolk, England or 9 Jan 1600/01 in St Peters, London, England. Her parents were Adam Winthrop and Ann Browne.  Her father’s family had been successful in the textile business, and her father was a lawyer and prosperous landowner with several properties in Suffolk. Her mother’s family was also well-to-do, with properties in Suffolk and Essex. When she was young his father became a director at Trinity College, Cambridge.  When her uncle John (Adam’s brother) emigrated to Ireland, the Winthrop family took up residence at Groton Manor. Lucy died on 19 April 1679 in London, England at age 79.

Lucy’s brother was John Winthrop, the leader of the first large wave of migrants from England in 1630 and the 2nd, 6th, 9th, and 12th Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Emanuel was a law school graduate of the University of Cambridge in England, a lawyer of the Inner Temple of London, England.  Emanuel was practicing law in Dublin, Ireland in August of 1623 when his famous son (George Downing) was born.

Emanuel Downing participated in the creation of the Massachusetts Bay Company.  John Winthrop, Thomas Dudley, Isaac Johnson, Emmanuel Downing, William CoddingtonJohn Underhill and other men made agreements under New World Tapestry for the King of England for the Massachusetts Bay Company.

Charles granted the new charter on 4 Mar 1628/29  superseding the land grant and establishing a legal basis for the new English colony at Massachusetts. It was not apparent that Charles knew the Company was meant to support the Puritan emigration, and he was likely left to assume it was purely for business purposes, as was the custom. The charter omitted a significant clause – the location for the annual stockholders’ meeting.

In July 1629, Downing and Winthrop conferred with the Earl of Lincoln and several other prominent Puritans about Isaac Johnson’s [the Earl’s brother-in-law] idea of moving the charter’s location

After Charles dissolved Parliament in 1629, the company’s directors met to consider the possibility of moving the company’s seat of governance to the colony. This was followed the Cambridge Agreement later that year, in which a group of investors agreed to emigrate and work to buy out others who would not. The Massachusetts Bay Colony became the first English chartered colony whose board of governors did not reside in England. This independence helped the settlers to maintain their Puritan religious practices with very little oversight by the king, Archbishop Laud, and the Anglican Church. The charter remained in force for 55 years, when, as a result of colonial insubordination with trade, tariff and navigation laws, Charles II revoked it in 1684.

In the 1630s Ferdinando Gorges, the founder of Maine,  attempted to revive the moribund claims of the Plymouth Company. In concert with colonists banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, he formally questioned the issuance of its royal charter in 1632, and forwarded complaints and charges made by the disaffected colonists to the Privy Council of Charles I.   Emanuel Downing’s back room efforts in London helped defeat the challenge, but the animosity he began between the crown and the Massachusetts government eventually led to the repeal of its charter in 1684.

In the 1630’s, New England’s export potential was limited to furs.  A London based sub-partnership led by Emanuel Downing and Winthrop’s son John Winthrop the Younger. and the city merchant Frances Kirby [Emanuel’s brother-in-law] carried out a series of fur trading expeditions under the auspices of the company of undertakers.

The mansion house of Emanuel Downing, on Essex Street in Salem, Mass, was large, two stories in height and many gabled, having a ” great” room, “great” entry, “great” stairs and “great” chamber. There was also a leanto. There were two chimney stacks. It had two columns of leaded sash and diamond-shaped panes on either side of the front door. There were great lanterns for lighting the ample grounds in front, by the use of candles, on festive and other occasions, being entered from each floor through doors. Undoubtedly it was the finest house then built in the Colony.

Emanuel Downing, Inner Temple Lawyer of London refused to relocate his family to America because of the lack of education for his children.  John Winthrop and his sister Lucy Winthrop Downing wrote many letters to each other and they find a way to convince Emmanuel Downing to relocate his family to Salem, Massachusetts.  Lucy recommended John propose to build a college in Newtowne.   Harvard was founded in 1636 by vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Initially called “New College” or “the college at New Towne”, the institution was renamed Harvard College on March 13, 1639.

Emanuel’s son Sir. George Downing (Wikipedia) was second of nine students in the first graduating class of 1642. He was hired by Harvard as the college’s first tutor, but more on him later.

In the summer of 1638, Emanuel and his family left England on the Thomas and Francis for Salem, MA.

Within one month of arriving Emanuel had purchased 300 acres of land in what is now Peabody, MA and erected a house upon it called “Groton” after the name of the English home of his wife.

When Mr. Downing was in England in the summer of 1645, on Sunday, April 6th, while Mrs. Downing and her family were at meeting in the town, the chimney of the house caught fire, and the house and with it a large store of gunpowder (for the use of the colony) was wholly consumed, the house and bedding, apparel and the household furniture and furnishings being worth, Governor Winthrop wrote, two hundred pounds. Upon his return from England, Mr. Downing apparently bought the house and land on Essex Street, where he afterwards lived. He and his family let the farm to various tenants as long as it was owned by the Downings.

Peabody, Essex, Mass.

Emanuel Downing was a hard man. In 1645, he wrote to his brother-in-law of John Winthrop longing for a “juste warre” with the Pequots, so the colonists might capture enough Indian men, women, and children to exchange in Barbados for black slaves, because the colony would never thrive “untill we gett … a stock of slaves sufficient to doe all our business.”

Emanuel made frequent trips back to England, taking nine voyages across the Atlantic.  His letters show his absences were devoted to procuring men and money for the iron works  and prosecuting unsettled claims. With a family of ten children, he was probably tempted to embark into too many ventures, several of which proved unlucky.  He suffered an additional misfortune when his house and its contents burned up  in 1645 when he was in England and his family was at church.

At the end of ten years from his emigration, he found himself much less well off than when he started and at one point had to auction off his saddle-horse for £10 in order to buy a piece of machinery  and he had to foot it from Salem to Boston (20 miles) and back in order to see a friend.

Emanuel was given permission in 1648 for the distilling of “strong water”, and used one of the houses on the old Ipswich Road in Peabody as a tavern. He was also evidently fond of hunting. In 1638 the town of Salem, Massachusetts granted him 500 acres of land for “the placing of decoys”. These were brought from England at great expense. From 1646 to 1656, Emanuel Downing lived in a house in Salem that he bought from a Mr. H. Peter.

Hugh Peters was the second husband of our ancestor Elizabeth Cooke Reade Peters.   Peters returned to England,  was active in public affairs throughout the Commonwealth, and eventually became Cromwell’s personal chaplain.  Although he had played no direct role in the trial and execution of King Charles I, Peter’s reputation and strong association with the Cromwellian régime resulted in his arrest at the Restoration on charges of treason. Almost universally reviled, he was hanged, drawn and quartered at Charing Cross on 16 October 1660.   You can see his story on Col. Edmund Reade’s page as well as my Artistic Works page

Back to the house in question, Gov. Simon Bradstreet later lived in this house from 1676-1697. The house was on Essex Street, which is still the main street in Salem, MA. This lot is now the site of the Peabody-Essex Musuem. Historians in Salem believe the house burnt or was torn down in the the late 1700’s or early 1800’s.

Emanuel returned to England in 1656 and leased his farm, near Salem, to John Proctor (famous witch trial victim and son of our ancestor John PROCTORwho ran a tavern out of the same house in Peabody MA . (348 Lowell St.) as had Mr. Downing.

John Proctor House 348 Lowell St. Peabody, Mass.

John Proctor, an early opponent of the witch hunt, lived in this house in 1692. One of the afflicted girls, Mary Warren, was a maidservant in his household. Proctor had cured her fits with a good whipping and maintained that the others could be cured with similar treatment.  The stream which runs behind the house is known to this day as Proctor Brook. The Proctor house is privately owned.

The grant for this farm was originally given to Robert Cole in 1635 by the selectmen of Salem. He sold it to Emanuel Downing in 1638. In 1700 Charles Downing, the son of Sir George, sold the farm to Thorndike Proctor. He was the son of the murdered John Proctor. It remained in the Proctor family until 1851.

Then for years it was known as the Roome farm. The Downing/Proctor house still stands at 348 Lowell St. in Peabody. The Saccone family occupied the Downing/Procter house/tavern for twenty years and found early 1700 clay earthenware in the attic.

Vincent and Marion Raponi, who bought the house from the Saccone’s, have owned the property for some twenty-odd years now and report having found two British coins dating back to 1740 and 1755. When they started remodeling the house they found three fireplaces and the original wall and ceiling beams which were held in place by wooden pegs.

After Emanuel Downing returned to England in 1656 (his last of nine voyages across the Atlantic), his son George secured an appointment for his as Clerk of Council of State for Scotland. He resided in Edinburgh, Scotland until his death at age 75 on 26 September 1660.

Emanuel was returned for burial in London at St. Martin’s in the Field, which is a very large church in Travalgar Square, Westminster, England. On the burial register he was listed as Emanuel Downing, Armiger, which means gentleman of high position. His wife Lucy Winthrop Downing returned to live in her son’s (Sir George) mansion in East Hatley, England and died in London, England on 10 April 1679.

Children of Emanuel and Anne Ware

i. Abigail Downing b. 1616 in St Michael Cor London, London, England; d. 6 Dec 1705 Wethersfield, Connecticut,

ii. James Downing b. 1616 in London, England.  Came with Governor Winthrop in the Arbella, in 1630; d. 13 Feb 1937
Ipswich, Essex, Mass

iii. Emmanuel Downing b. 1618 in St Lawrence Ipswich, Suffolk, England d. 28 Mar 1623

iv. George Downing b. 1620 in London, England;

v. Mary Downing b. 1619 in London, England.  Came to New England in May, 1633, with Governor Coddington in the Mary and Jane; d. 16 Jun 1647 Boston, Suffolk, Mass; m. Anthony Stoddard of Boston Nov 1639 in Boston, Suffolk, Mass

vi. Susan Downing b. 1622 in St Michael Corn London, London, England. Came to New England in May, 1633, with Governor Coddington in the Mary and Jane; d. 25 Sep 1666 Essex, Mass; m. Thomas Perrin 28 Feb 1666 in Ipswich, Mass

Children of Emanuel and Lucy Winthrop

Sir George Downing Portrait

vii. Sir. George Downing 1st Baronet b. 1623 in Dublin, Ireland; d. July 1684.  (Wikipedia)  He was an Anglo-Irish soldier, statesman, and diplomat. Downing Street in London is named after him. As Treasury Secretary he is credited with instituting major reforms in public finance. His influence was substantial on the passage and substance of the mercantilist Navigation Acts. The Acts strengthened English commercial and Naval power, contributing to the security of the English state and its ability to project its power abroad. More than any other man he was responsible for arranging the acquisition of New York from the Dutch, and is remembered there in the name of Downing Street, in Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York.

10 Downing Street – The official home and office of Britain’s Prime Minister. It is 1 of 4 surviving homes built in 1680 for Sir George Downing who went to America as a boy and returned to fight for the Parliamentarians in the English Civil War.

Downing College, Cambridge derives its name from his grandson, Sir George Downing, 3rd Baronet. The title became extinct when Sir Jacob Downing, 4th Baronet, died in 1764.

Downing attended Harvard College and was one of nine students in the first graduating class of 1642. He was hired by Harvard as the college’s first tutor. In 1645 he sailed for the West Indies with slaves in-tow, as a preacher and instructor of the seamen, and arrived in England some time afterwards, becoming chaplain to Colonel John Okey‘s regiment (who had originally sponsored Downing’s education in America).

By 1648, Downing was chaplain to Sir Arthur Hesilrige‘s regiment and accompanied Heselrige when he was commissioned governor of Newcastle-upon-Tyne during the Second Civil War.

Subsequently he seems to have abandoned preaching for a military career, and in 1650 he was scout-master-general of Cromwell’s forces in Scotland.    His duties involved the supervision of scouts for reconnaissance work and spies for intelligence gathering. Although it was a civilian appointment, Downing was wounded fighting at the battle of Dunbar in September 1650. He also participated in Cromwell’s great victory at Worcester in 1651 and wrote an important account of the battle.

With the ending of the civil wars, Downing became involved in the administration of the settlement of Scotland. He worked closely with the Council of State in London, and many of his commentaries on Scottish affairs were published in the official newsbook Mercurius Politicus. Downing’s wealth and status increased significantly in 1654 when he married Lady Frances Howard (d.1683), sister of Charles Howard, the future Earl of Carlisle. He was elected to all three Protectorate parliaments as MP for Edinburgh in 1654 and for Carlisle in 1656 and 1659.

He received in 1657 a salary of £365 and £500 as a Teller of the Exchequer.

Downing emerged as a firm supporter of the Protectorate government and was a leading member of the faction that offered the crown to Oliver Cromwell in 1657.

Downing’s diplomatic career began in 1655 when he was sent to France to deliver Cromwell’s protest over the massacre of Protestants in Vaudois in Piedmont

Later in 1657 he was appointed resident at The Hague, to effect a union of the Protestant European powers, to mediate between Portugal and the Dutch Republic and between Sweden and Denmark, to defend the interests of the English traders against the Dutch, and to inform the government concerning the movements of the exiled royalists.  He showed himself in these negotiations an able diplomat. He was maintained in his post during the interregnum subsequent to the fall of Richard Cromwell.

In April 1660, with the Restoration imminent, Downing sought a pardon from Charles II, through an intermediary, claiming that his service to the Commonwealth and Protectorate had been a result of erroneous opinions assimilated in puritan New England, which he now repudiated. He declared his abandonment of “principles sucked in” in New England of which he now “saw the error”.

His explanation accepted, he was knighted in May 1660, re-assigned to his diplomatic post in the Netherlands, was confirmed in his tellership of the exchequer, and was further rewarded with a valuable piece of land adjoining St. James’s Park for building purposes, now known as Downing Street.

In 1662, Downing notoriously  engineered the arrest in Holland of the regicides John BarksteadMiles Corbet and John Okey, his former commander and sponsor apparently after reassuring Okey that he held no warrant for their arrest. Downing’s personal intervention violated normal diplomatic procedure and was widely condemned as a betrayal, particularly as he had once been chaplain to Okey’s regiment.  Samuel Pepys, who characterised his conduct as odious though useful to the king, calls him a “perfidious rogue” and remarks that “all the world took notice of him for a most ungrateful villain for his pains.” However, the King was pleased and on 1 July 1663 he was created a baronet.

His character low as it stood with English historians, was more infamous yet in the eyes of his New England countrymen, and it passed into a proverb, to say of one who proved false to his trust, that ” he was all arrant George Downing.”

Downing’s aggressive promotion of English mercantile interests and hostility to the Dutch as the commercial rivals of England was regarded as a cause of the Second Anglo-Dutch War, (1665-7).

He had strongly supported the Navigation Act of 1660, and he now deliberately drew on the fatal and disastrous Second Anglo-Dutch War, in the first year of which, 1665, he was expelled by the Dutch because of his intrigues and spying activities.

On November 9, 1666, renowned diarist Samuel Pepys wrote that he had seen politician Sir George Downing using sign language to talk with a deaf employee of his spy network. Although Downing was hearing, he grew up in an area of Kent known as the Weald. This region had a very large deaf population, and because of this all of the hearing residents learned sign language. The high number of deaf people there was caused by a genetic mutation early in the seventeenth century, which resulted in a recessive gene for deafness being passed down for generations.

During its continuance he took part at home in the management of the treasury.  Based upon his observation of Dutch practices, he introduced the appropriation of supplies (meaning that Parliament gained the right to specify that taxes should be used only for a particular purpose, rather than spent as the government saw fit), opposed strongly by Clarendon as an encroachment on the prerogative, and in May 1667 was made secretary to the commissioners, his appointment being much welcomed by Pepys.

He had been returned for Morpeth in the Convention Parliament of April 1660, a constituency that he represented in every ensuing parliament till his death, and he spoke with ability on financial and commercial questions. He was appointed a commissioner of the customs in 1671. The same year he was again sent to Holland to replace Sir William Temple, to break up the policy of the Triple Alliance and incite another war between the Dutch Republic and England in furtherance of the French policy. His unpopularity there was extreme, and after three months’ residence Downing fled to England, in fear of the fury of the mob. For this unauthorized step he was sent to the Tower on 7 February 1672, but released some few weeks afterwards. He defended the Declaration of Indulgence the same year, and made himself useful in supporting the court policy.

He died in July 1684 having acquired a substantial fortune and was considered to be the largest landowner in Cambridgeshire (critics claimed he amassed the fortune partly through his exceptional meanness about money).

Downing was undoubtedly a man of great political, diplomatic, and financial ability, but his character has often been maligned by his enemies because of his willingness to make the most of changing political circumstances. Today his reputation is undergoing a revival among scholars of the period as his contributions as a financial reformer and diplomat are again recognized. On the other hand his least attractive personal quality- miserliness- is well documented.

viii. Lucy Downing b. 1625 in London, England; d. 5 Feb 1698 Ipswich, Essex, Mass.; m. William Norton 1649 in Ipswich Hamlet, Essex, Mass

ix. Joshua Downing b. 1627 in London, England; d. 1658 Salem, Essex, Mass;m. Frances [__?__] 1657

x. Robert Downing b. 24 Mar 1629 in London, England; d. 1651

xi. Henry Downing b. 3 Oct 1630 in London, England; d. 25 Sep 1694 Salem, Essex, Mass.

xii. Adam Downing b. 1631 in London, England; d. 1631

xiii. Ann Downing b. 12 Apr 1633 in Salem, Mass.; d. 19 Apr 1713
Salem, Essex, Mass. m1.  Capt. Joseph Gardner 2 May 1667 in Salem, Essex, Mass. m2. Simon Bradstreet 1676 when Ann was 43 and Simon 72 years old.

File:Gov Simon Bradstreet's Mansion.jpeg

Emanuel gave this house to his daughter Anne and her husband Capt. Joseph Gardiner. After Joseph was killed at the Great Swamp Fight, Anne remarried to Gov. Simon Bradstreet

Historians in Salem believe the house burnt or was torn down in the the late 1700’s or early 1800’s.  The lot is now the site of the Peabody -Essex Musuem which  may be considered one of the oldest continuously operating museums in the United States. It combines the collections of the former Peabody Museum of Salem and the Essex Institute.  The museum holds one of the major collections of Asian art in the US. Its total holdings include about 1.3 million pieces, as well as twenty-four historic buildings.

Capt. Joseph Gardner was born 1629 in Salem, Essex, Mass. His parents were Thomas Gardner and Margaret Fryer.  Joseph was killed at the Great Swamp Fight 19 Dec 1675 in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts. (For details of Joseph’s service see Great Swamp Fight 5. Massachusetts Regiment)

Simon Bradstreet (baptized 18 Mar 1603/4  – 27 Mar 1697) was a colonial magistrate, businessman, diplomat, and the last governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Arriving in Massachusetts on the Winthrop Fleet in 1630, Bradstreet was almost constantly involved in the politics of the colony but became its governor only in 1679. He served on diplomatic missions and as agent to the crown in London, and also served as a commissioner to the New England Confederation. He was politically comparatively moderate, arguing minority positions in favor of freedom of speech and for accommodation of the demands of King Charles II following his restoration to the throne.

File:Simon Bradstreet 1854.jpeg

Simon Bradstreet Engraving based on a painting in the Massachusetts State House

Bradstreet was first married to Anne, the daughter of Massachusetts co-founder Thomas Dudley and New England’s first published poet. He was a businessman, investing in land and shipping interests. Due to his advanced age (he died at 93) Cotton Mather referred to him as the “Nestor of New England”. His descendants include the famous jurists Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. and David Souter.

In early 1679 Governor John Leverett died, and Simon Bradstreet as deputy succeeded him. Leverett had opposed accommodation of the king’s demands, and the change to an accommodationist leadership was too late. Bradstreet would turn out to be the last governor under its original charter. His deputy, Thomas Danforth was from the commonwealth faction. During his tenure, crown agent Edward Randolph was in the colony, attempting to enforce the Navigation Acts, under which certain types of trade involving the colony were illegal. Randolph’s enforcement attempts were vigorously resisted by both the merchant classes and sympathetic magistrates despite Bradstreet’s attempts to accommodate Randolph. Juries frequently refused to condemn ships accused of violating the acts; in one instance Bradstreet tried three times to get a jury to change its verdict.  Randolph’s attempts to enforce the navigation laws eventually convinced the colony’s general court that it needed to create its own mechanisms for their enforcement. A bill to establish a naval office was vigorously debated in 1681, with the house of deputies, dominated by the commonwealth party, opposing the idea, and the moderate magistrates supporting it. The bill that finally passed was a victory for the commonwealth party, making enforcement difficult and subject to reprisal lawsuits. Bradstreet refused to actually implement the law, and Randolph published open challenges to it. Bradstreet was in some degree vindicated when he won re-election in 1682, and he then used his judicial authority to further undermine the law’s effects.

Randolph’s threats to report the colonial legislature’s intransigence prompted it to dispatch agents to England to argue the colony’s case; however, their powers were limited. Shortly after their arrival in late 1682, the Lords of Trade issued an ultimatum to the colony: either grant its agents wider powers, including the ability to negotiate modifications to the charter, or risk having the charter voided. The general court responded by issuing the agents instructions to take a hard line.  Following legal processes begun in 1683, the charter was formally annulled on October 23, 1684.

King Charles II in 1684 established the Dominion of New England. Bradstreet’s brother-in-law Joseph Dudley, who had served as one of the colonial agents, was commissioned by James as President of the Council for New England in 1685 by King James II, and took control of the colony in May 1686. Bradstreet was offered a position on Dudley’s council, but refused.  Dudley was replaced in December 1686 by Sir Edmund Andros, who came to be greatly detested in Massachusetts for vacating existing land titles, and seizing Congregational church properties for Church of England religious services.  Andros’ high-handed rule was also unpopular in the other colonies of the dominion.

The idea of revolt against Andros arose as early as January 1689, before news of the December 1688 Glorious Revolution reached Boston. After William and Mary took the throne, Increase Mather and Sir William Phips, Massachusetts agents in London, petitioned them and the Lords of Trade for restoration of the Massachusetts charter. Mather furthermore convinced the Lords of Trade to delay notifying Andros of the revolution. He had already dispatched to Bradstreet a letter containing news that a report (prepared before the revolution) stating that the charter had been illegally annulled, and that the magistrates should “prepare the minds of the people for a change.”  News of the revolution apparently reached some individuals as early as late March, and Bradstreet is one of several possible organizers of the mob that formed in Boston in April 18, 1689. He, along with other pre-Dominion magistrates and some members of Andros’ council, addressed an open letter to Andros on that day calling for his surrender in order to quiet the mob. Andros, who had fled to the safety of Castle Island, surrendered, and was eventually returned to England after several months in confinement. 

In the wake of Andros’ arrest, a council of safety was formed, with Bradstreet as its president. The council drafted a letter to William and Mary, justifying the colony’s acts in language similar to that used by William in his proclamations when he invaded England. The council fairly quickly decided to revert to the government as it had been under the old charter. In this form Bradstreet resumed the governorship, and was annually re-elected governor until 1692.  He had to defend the colony against those who were opposed to the reintroduction of the old rule, who he characterized in reports to London as malcontents and strangers stirring up trouble. The colony’s northern frontier was also engulfed in King William’s War, where there was frequent Indian raiding. Bradstreet approved the expeditions of Sir William Phips in 1690 against Acadia and Quebec.

In 1691 year William and Mary issued a charter establishing the Province of Massachusetts Bay, and appointed Phips its first governor. Bradstreet was offered a position on Phips’ council when the new governor arrived in 1692, but declined. Bradstreet died at his home in Salem on 27 March 1697 at the age of 93.

xiv. Martha Downing b. 1636 in Salem, Mass.; m [__?__] Peters 1659

xv. Richard Downing b. 1637 in Marblehead, Essex, Mass; m. Mary Bennet Nov 1665 in Marblehead, Essex, Mass

xvi. John Downing b. 3 Jan 1640 in Salem, Mass.  baptized in Salem 1 Mar 1640/41 ; merchant; lived at Nevis; and probably died in Boston April 29, 1694.; m. Mehitable Brabrooke 2 Nov 1669 in Ipswich, Essex, Mass

xvii. Dorcas Downing bapt. 7 Feb 1641 in Salem, Mass.; d. 6 Jun 1647

xviii. Theophilus Downing b. 9 Aug 1644 in Mass;

5. Nathaniel Downing

Nathaniel’s wife Margaret Selyne was born 1589 in Suffolk, England. Her parents were Daniel Selyne and Mary [__?__].

Nathaniel gave his brother Joseph £20 in his 1616 will. Joseph got married later that year.

6. Rev. Joseph DOWNING (See his page)

7. Nahomie Downing

Nahomie’s husband Richard Hill was born 1580 in St Nicholas Ipswich, Suffolk, England.

8. Abigail Downing

Abigail’s husband John Goade was born 1587 in St Nicholas Ipswich, Suffolk, England.


Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society 1894 – Defense of Emmanuel Downing.

Genealogical gleanings in England, Volume 1 By Henry Fitz-Gilbert Waters, New England Historic Genealogical Societ

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17 Responses to George Downing

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  12. Peter Stoddard says:

    As a descendant of Emanuel Downing I was thrilled to discover you page today. An absolutely priceless resource. Thank you for your work.

  13. This Downing coat of arms is copyright of Please remove it, or at least add a link to our website and remove any advertising to outside companies, such as…. This amounts to you using my images to collect ad dollars for yourself. Please cease and desist. You have quite a huge number of my graphics on your site at

    Mike Kennaugh

  14. David Jenkins says:

    Thank you for this great site. You might be aware in the Emanuel Downing narrative that “Mr. H. Peter” is probably Reverend Hugh Peter, the individual who replaced Roger Williams as minister of the Salem, MA church. Per John M. Barry’s “Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul” Peters “ended his life on the gallows, drawn and quartered for his role in killing a king.” In addition, from Missy Wolfe’s “An Insubordinate Spirit, a true story of life and loss in earliest America 1610-1665,” Emanuel Downing (from memory) “donated”(?) the land for 10 Downing St., London.
    Thanks very much. D. Jenkins

  15. Holly Downen Hall says:

    Glad to have found your site since it confirmed the work myself and my niece have been looking into. Our ancestors printed a book in the 70’s with Josiah Downing who fought in the Revolutionary War, we traced down from there. Today we looked further into the site on ancestory and continued the direct line to Emmanual Downing and further. It would be a continued line of Downings, now Downen, by male descendant.

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