The surname Dowding is derived from the Old English forename Dogod with the patronymic suffix "-ing" ("son of"). Dogod comes from the old verb "dugan", meaning to avail, or to be of use. In England the surname is chiefly found in Gloucestershire and Somerset, where members of the Dowding family farmed in the Westbury on Severn area from 1700 or earlier. Dowdeswell near Cheltenham has the same origin, and the earliest recorded form of the place name is "Dogodeswellan", meaning "Dogod's stream".
The starting point of our Dowding line is Edward Dowding, who married a woman named Elizabeth in the early 1720s.. They had no less than 15 children, all christened at Stanton St Quintin, Wiltshire:
m. Elizabeth Boy, 1766
m. Mary Sainsbury, 1761
m. Susanna Horsman, 1757
We know little or nothing about the origins of the family: there were no other Dowdings in Stanton St Quintin at this time, so presumably Edward and Elizabeth moved there from elsewhere.
It is unlikely that all the children survived to adulthood, but in addition to the line followed below we know that John Dowding married Elizabeth Boy at Stanton St Quintin in 1766 and had two daughters, while Thomas Dowding married Susanna Horsman in Tormarton, Gloucestershire in 1757, and founded a family which continues to the present day.
Edward Dowding died in Stanton St Quintin on 4 August 1743.
Edward Dowding and Elizabeth’s tenth child, James Dowding married a woman named Joanna, and settled over the border in Gloucestershire. They had two childen, christened at Great Badminton:
Joanna died fairly young, and was buried at St Michael & All Angels’ Church, Great Badminton on 22 November 1759. James then married Mary Sainsbury on 3 December 1761 at Great Badminton, and had eight more children:
George Harris Dowding
Edward William Dowding
m. Sarah Chapman , 1792
m. Sarah Smart
George Harris Dowding and Abiah had five children, including the patriotically-named Joseph Trafalgar Dowding, who was born in 1806 - the same year as the battle. Matthew Dowding and Sarah Smart's six children had a large number of descendants, although once again, those lines are not followed here.
James Dowding and Mary Sainsbury's oldest son John married Sarah Chapman on 18 October 1792 at Sherston Magna, Wiltshire. John was a reasonably wealthy man, owning land in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire, and he probably lived off the income from his property. He and Sarah lived in Gloucestershire, and had nine children. The first five were christened at Great Badminton, and the younger children at Dodington.
m. William Tayler, 1815
m. John Baldwin, 1839
m. Lucy Ann Broughton, 1848
m. Robert Berwick Were, 1863
John made a will on 28 October 1891, and added a codicil on 27 November 1825, shortly before he died. In this will, among other bequests, he left £500 to his married daughter, Louisa, and instructed that the same sum should be paid to Isabella and Juliana when they married - provided that the executors approved of their chosen husbands!
Charles Dowding was the only male of this generation to marry. He entered the Church, and was curate of Lidgate, Suffolk in 1840. He married Lucy Ann Broughton on 2 November 1848 in London, and by 1851 was curate of Steeple Langford, Wiltshire, where he remained until about 1860. He then became rector of Priston, Somerset until his death in 1863. He and Lucy had six children, and the family was evidently quite well-off: three sons lived off their private income, while the other two were a solicitor and a doctor respectively.
Edwyn Dowding, youngest son of John Dowding and Sarah Chapman, studied law like his oldest brother Frederick, and joined him in practice in Bath. Frederick was a person of some importance in the community: in addition to being at various times a magistrate and an alderman, he was Mayor of Bath from 1849-1850. (A portrait of him hangs in the Council Chamber in Bath Guildhall.) Frederick died unmarried in 1861 in Walcot, Bath.
After Frederick died, Edwyn became the senior partner of the firm Dowding and Byrne, listed at the same Vineyards address where he and Frederick had lived and worked. The Bath Post Office Directory for 1864/65 lists Edwyn as a director of the New Theatre Royal, while Messrs Dowding and Byrnes are the solicitors of Bath Ladies’ College. Edwyn owned 10 acres of land in Bath, which probably provided him with further income in addition to his earnings as a solicitor.
Edwyn was named as her husband by Harriet Louisa Jones, a Bath saddler's daughter when she registered the births of her five children, although there is no record that any marriage ever took place. In addition, they are recorded living separately on census returns, where Harriet uses the surname James. Circumstantial evidence suggests that Edwyn and Harriet maintained a discreet relationship for over 20 years, prevented perhaps from marrying by the rigid Victorian class system.
Edwyn died in Bath on 15 May 1872 at the age of 61. The cause of death is given as “softening of the brain” - today this would be called a stroke. In his will he left money in trust for Harriet and "her" children.