Born: Feb­ru­ary 12, 1818, Pul­ver­batch, Shrop­shire, Eng­land.

Died: June 8, 1885. Place of death re­port­ed as ei­ther Hop­ton, Suf­folk, Eng­land (Ju­li­an & The Peer­age) or Thet­ford, Nor­folk, Eng­land (An­ces­try.com).

Buried: Hoxne, Suf­folk, Eng­land.


Henry was the son of John Down­ton (Sub-Li­bra­ri­an of Tri­ni­ty Col­lege, Cam­bridge) and Han­nah King­well, and hus­band of Eli­za­beth Mc­Kee (mar­ried 1849, Ar­dagh, Coun­ty Long­ford, Ire­land).

He was edu­cat­ed at Tri­ni­ty Col­lege, Cam­bridge (BA 1840, MA 1843).

Taking Ho­ly Or­ders in 1843, he served as cur­ate of Bem­bridge, Isle of Wight (1843–44); curate of Ho­ly Tri­ni­ty, Cam­bridge (1847–49); and in­cum­bent of St. John’s, Cha­tham, Kent (1849–57).

In 1857, he went to Ge­ne­va, Swit­zer­land, where he was Eng­lish Chap­lain un­til 1873. Re­turn­ing to Eng­land, he was rec­tor of Hop­ton, Suf­folk (1873–85). He was al­so for some time Do­me­stic Chap­lain to Lord Mon­son.


Downtown’s hymns were main­ly con­tri­but­ed to the Church of Eng­land ma­ga­zine, Ar­thur Rus­sell’s Psalms and Hymns (1851), Bar­ry’s Psalms and Hymns (1862), and the Sun­day Ma­ga­zine.

In 1873, he col­lect­ed these and pub­lished them as Hymns and Vers­es. His trans­la­tions from the French of Al­ex­andre Vi­net are al­so in the vol­ume.

His oth­er works in­clude:


Bird of Joy

Bird of joy! why art thou lin­ger­ing here,
In the place of weep­ing?
Bird of morn! why rings the ca­rol clear
Where the dead are sleep­ing?
Bird of summer! cannot win­ter’s cold
Chill thy bosom’s glad­ness?
Cannot mourners’ tears, that wet the mould,
Touch thy heart with sadness?

Thus I wondered in myself to see
Mirth and sorrow meeting,
As a lark arose, and caroled free,
Bleak November greeting,
Where a widowed husband, silent tears
In fresh sorrow pouring,
Wept the while his loss of other years,
A sweet child deploring.

Hither when we brought the sleeping dust
Of that gentle maiden,
Ev’n while earth received her solemn trust,
And from hearts o’erladen,
Broke the stifled sob—lo! from the side
Of the grave, upspringing,
Rose a lark, and soared, and far and wide,
Filled the air with singing.

Bird of joy! and thou art true to-day
To the blessed token;
Mother with the child to rest we lay,
Sad, but not heart-broken;
Out of drear November we have heard
Promise more than vernal;
Visions thou hast brought us, happy bird,
Of the Day Eternal!

Henry Downton
Light of the World and Other Poems
and Hymns
, 1871



Help Needed

If you know where to get a good pho­to of Down­ton (head & shoul­ders, at least 200×300 pix­els),