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In front of No 6, West Street, is the name 'Down' set into the pavement. This comes from a family who were grocers and provision dealers in the town for over 100 years.
My own photograph 2014
John and Margaret Down
A John Down married a Margaret Fursman Leaman in Ashburton 21 August 1796, after banns. John is a sojourner (temporary resident) in the parish.
This is probably the couple who have nine children baptized in Ashburton, the first of them in 1797. They are the only Down family shown in Family Search in Ashburton at the time.
John Down, son of John and Margaret, is baptized in July 1806. Another John Down, son of John, had been buried in 1804.
One child, Margaretta, has the middle name Leaman.
John Down may have died in November 1833, aged 65.Parish register
William Frazer Down
William Frazer Down was born in Ashburton on the first of May and baptised on 2 July 1809, one of the nine children of John Down and his wife Margaret.Parish register
He married Elizabeth Ford on February 3rd 1833 - Richard Ford and Mary Ford were witnesses.
William was trading circa 1834 - see the newspaper item below from 1864.
In 1844 William Fraizier Down was a grocer in East Street, and was still there in the early 1850s.
Pigot & Co.'s Directory of Berks, Bucks etc., 1844, p5
Slater's Directory of Berks, Cornwall, Devon etc.,1852-53 , p7
The 1851 census shows him next to the Duke's Head, i.e. No 4 East Street. He and Elizabeth have five children; Elizabeth was born in Ashburton.
But by 1861 they were living, and probably trading, from West Street - possibly at No 6. His wife Elizabeth and son John are with him, as, on census night at least, is his brother-in-law William Seacombe, also a grocer.
1861 census http://www.freecen.org.uk/
£500 Reward !
William Down appeared incensed in 1864 - an 'evil disposed person' had begun a rumour that he was bankrupt. He offered a reward of £500 to anybody who could prove that this had ever been the case. He thanked his friends and customers, and assured them that he would continue to offer high quality products at 'very low profits'.
He writes of trading for 30 years - this would take the beginning of his business back to about 1834.
Western Times 4 March 1864 p8 col6
In July a large number of Ashburtonians petitioned the House of Lords in favour of the Teign Valley Railway Bill. J. Down and W. F. Down were amongst the signatories.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 1 July 1864 p6 col4
William died later that year (William Fraser Down in http://www.freebmd.org.uk/) and his son John carried on the business.
William's widow Elizabeth was buried on 4 September 1893 - she was described as the widow of Mr W Frazier Down, 'an old tradesman of this town'
Western Times 5 September 1893 p8 col6
Right: William Frazier Down's gravestone to the south of St Andrew's Church. The inscription is as follows:
'Sacred to the memory of William Frazier Down who departed this life July 5th 1864 aged 55 years. "His end was peace". And of Elizabeth his beloved wife who died August 29th 1893 aged 83. Together with the Lord. Also of William Down son of the above who died on his voyage from Denver September 15th 1895 aged 56 years. Also of their third son George Down who died November 8th 1913 aged 70 years.'
John Down married Mary Ann Cowell in the Newton Abbot registration district in 1862. The GRO website confirms that the mother's maiden name of Sarah Maria Down, born 1862, is Cowell.
In the 1870s section of the Virtual museum is a document from J Down, Tea Dealer, Grocer and Provision Factor, West Street, Ashburton.
In 1872 the Newton Abbot petty sessions granted John Down a license to sell petroleum
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 13 November 1872 p3 col1
In 1881 Elizabeth is living in her son John's house (labelled 'shop' in the census) in West Street. Assisting John, who is also widowed, is his daughter Sarah Maria, his son William F*., and a cousin, Isabella Ford. A younger daughter, Annie B C Down, is a scholar at this time.
*Probably William Frazier, born 1865 Newton Abbot registration district. http://www.freebmd.org.uk/
October 11 1881. J Down of Ashburton married Mary Tarr of Cheltenham (formerly of Goodstone, Ashburton) at Dungarvon, Ireland.
North Devon Journal 20 October 1881 p8 col6
A daughter was born on 30th July 1886 - probably the Elizabeth Mary Down registered in the September Quarter of 1886, whose mother's maiden name was Tarr.*
Western Times 4 August 1886 p1 col1
* Miss E M Down is a daughter at John Down's funeral in 1913
19 November 1889, St Lawrence Chapel. At the Court Leet and the Court Baron of the Right Hon Lord Clinton, Lord of the Manor, John Down was elected Portreeve. He had been Bailiff the previous year.
Western Times 22 November 1889 p7 col2
In March 1890 he presided over a committee meeting of the Ashburton Improvement Society, which adopted a scheme for a building company in the town. Many of the 500 shares of £5 each were taken up at the meeting, and John Down himself was a shareholder by the time of the first meeting.
Western Times 28 March 1890 p7 col3
See The Ashburton Building Company under Banks and Businesses.
In 1891 John Down is shown as a grocer and provision dealer in West St. Although on his own for a second time he now has a son George H J, aged 8.
1891 census http://www.freecen.org.uk/
George Henry J Down was born in the Newton Abbot district December Quarter 1882, with mother's maiden name Tarr.
John Down's son William Frazier Down, born in 1865, is by this time no longer working in his father's business in Ashburton. In the June quarter of 1888 he married Elizabeth Mantle Smith* in the Edmonton district.
*http://www.freebmd.org.uk gives different page numbers for William and Elizabeth, but family information confirms the marriage
Left: William Frazier Down, Elizabeth and their children Elizabeth Alice (Lil), Dorothy (Doll) and William F Jnr (born 1890). Later children were John and Ronald.
They emigrated circa 1910/1911, moving first to Canada, and then to the United States.
Many thanks to Susan Down Jones for this photo and information
In 1902 there was a wedding at the Congregational Church – Mr William Beer of Wadebridge married Miss Bertha Down*, youngest daughter of Mr John Down. The Rev Dr Naish officiated.
The bride wore a white silk dress, which was embroidered in lovers' knots of pearls and ribbons. Her veil and wreath of were of orange blossom, and she carried shower bouquet. The bridesmaids wore white cashmere skirts, tucked and strapped with pale green silk; the bodices were trimmed with pale green silk and white chiffon. They carried bouquets of pink roses and lilies of the valley.
Western Times 21 May 1902 p2 col6
*Annie Bertha Cowell Down in Western Times 23 May 1902 p15, col5
An announcement in the Western Times on November 18th said that the wife of Mr William Beer had given birth to a daughter. Although not named in the newspaper report, this daughter was Ethelwynne - the only child to survive from the marriage.
Western Times, 20 November 1903 p15, col6
Right: Ethelwynne Beer.
The reverse of the postcard reads: Ethelwynne Beer, age 9 years, 1912. Wishing you all a Happy Xmas and New Year.
The card was produced by Mrs A Hannaford, Photographer, 3 Vealenia Terrace, Ashburton.
From my own collection.
1908 John Syms and John David Bowden were charged with breaking into John Down's warehouse at Craig's Corner, where he stored potatoes.
Louis White, apprentice to Mr Down, gave evidence.
Western Times 19 March 1908 p2 col4
The 1911 census shows John Down still working as a grocer and provision dealer at 75, but he is in partnership with his son-in-law, William Beer. William Beer's wife, Bertha, is assisting in the business - Ethelwynne is aged 7.
1911 census http://www.ancestry.co.uk/
1913 John Down, of London House, Ashburton, is buried on March 3rd, aged 77
Left: Down's shop in West Street
From my own collection
In 1914 Down and Beer, West St., Ashburton, feature in Kelly's Directory, although John Down died in 1913.
His obituary in the Western Times described him as 'the oldest tradesman in the town', and went on to say that he had been Portreeve from 1899-90 (it should have been 1889-90). He had been treasurer of the Ashburton Lodge of Oddfellows, and was a Deacon of the Congregational Church.
The principal mourners at the funeral were his daughters Mrs W Beer and Miss E M Down, and his brother Mr G Down.
Kelly's Directory of Devon & Cornwall, 1914 p1077
Western Times 6 March 1913 p4 col7
An advertisement for H A G Caffein-free coffee has Down and Beer, London House, Ashburton as one of the stockists
Western Morning News 7 August 1931 p4 col5
1935 Down and Beer, Grocers, feature in Kelly's directory. The telephone number is 34.
Kelly's Directory of Devon 1935 p35
In 1940 (William) Beer, living at Trevone, advertised a good salary for a working manager for a good-class grocery and provisions business. Candidates had to have the highest references and be over military age.
Western Morning News 13 Aug 1940 p1 col5
The manager may have been needed because of the death of Edgar K Beer in the June Quarter of 1940, who seems to have been in business with William (see below)
Three years later, on July 15th, 1943, William died.
A Grocer for 'many years', he lived at 'Trevone' after retirement.* He was a choirmaster at Ashburton Methodist Church, and superintendent of the Sunday School; he was also a manager of the local school. Aged 66 when he died, he was buried in Ashburton churchyard. He left a widow and daughter.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 23 July 1943 p8 col3
*He had been there since at least 1933 – various advertisements feature in newspapers from that date, usually to do with renting out property, where respondents have to contact Beer at Trevone. Trevone is in Eastern Road.
In 1949 The Western Times reported the funeral of Mrs. Eleanor Beer, widow of Mr E K Beer, who had been in business at London House. Mrs William Beer, sister-in-law, and E Beer, niece, were amongst the mourners, as was Raymond Beer, the son of the deceased.
Western Times 5 August 1949 p8 col4
The above report seems to confirm that E K Beer and William were brothers: probably William Beer baptised 1877 and Edgar Knight Beer baptised 1884, both at the Camelford Wesleyan Circuit, the sons of Joseph and Elizabeth Beer. A third child, Ethel, was also baptised in 1881.
On the 1911 census William is down as being born in Delabole, Cornwall.
1911 census http://www.ancestry.co.uk/