Down Hatherley Village History


Down Hatherley Lane - early 20th century


Henry Brett 1675 - 1714


A signatory of the US declaration
of independence...


Our 15th century church tower

These local history pages originated from the Down Hatherley Village History website, and are by courtesy of Bill Welsh, the original author and expert on local history.

They are intended to describe major events, people, buildings, etc, associated with the village over the centuries.

We receive queries from around Britain and, indeed, the world from people trying to trace ancestors, who were born or lived in Down Hatherley. We have access to a churchyard database listing the known graves in the village.

"Down Hatherley has a colourful past which I have been researching. I welcome more insights and information to help me build a more complete story of this fascinating village.

Recently I have been doing some research into the memorials in Down Hatherley church commemorating people who were killed in the First World War, in particular the two very fine stained glass windows in memory of Captain Thomas Villiers Tuthill Thacker Neville, who was killed at Ypres in May 1915. I have now turned this into a short talk which was given at a coffee morning in the church on 6 December 2014."

An initiative is now underway to restore the Gwinnett family tomb in Down Hatherley churchyard, which dates from the late 18th century. Various sources are being approached to see whether funding can be made available. See Note below

Restoration of the Gwinnett Family Tomb,

Down Hatherley, Gloucestershire

The present church of St Mary & Corpus Christi in the village of Down Hatherley, Gloucestershire, dates from the 15th century. The tower and remnants of the chancel remain from this period, but the body of the church was rebuilt in 1859-60.

As a village with a long history (it was listed in the Domesday Book of 1086), Down Hatherley has had a number of distinguished people connected with it. A 2007 churchyard survey re-established a link with perhaps the most famous: Button Gwinnett, second signatory of the US Declaration of Independence.

Button Gwinnett’s place in American history

Button Gwinnett was born in 1735 when his father Samuel Gwinnett was Rector of Down Hatherley. As a young man he pursued a career as a merchant and in 1762, set sail for America. Establishing himself in Savannah, Georgia, Button rose to prominence in the local community, eventually becoming Governor for a short period. It was in his role as state representative that on 4 July 1776 Button voted for the US Declaration of Independence and became the second signatory of this historic document. However, Button’s political differences with a rival led him to an untimely end. He was involved in fighting a dual and although initially surviving the shot, he succumbed to his wounds and died on 19 May 1777, aged 42.

It is not known how Button’s revolutionary activities were greeted within his home parish of Down Hatherley. His elder brother, also Samuel, is thought to have commissioned the tomb to hold the ‘mortal remains’ of their mother Ann, who died in 1768, and their father, Samuel, who died in 1775.

Evidence confirming the family tomb

The tomb was recorded in 1985 as a Grade II listed monument , but with very little detail. Its historical significance also appears to have been lost within the recent history of the parish. Although there are tales from villagers recalling choir boys promised half-a-crown if they could find the Gwinnett tomb, its lack of obvious inscriptions seems to have hidden its true identity for many years.

However, a churchyard survey begun in 2007 unearthed a Latin inscription on the monument. Further research matched this with the description given in Bigland’s survey of historic monuments (1789 –1889) and the link was re-established.

Restoration work

Like many small rural parishes, Down Hatherley has limited funds for maintaining the fabric of the church. Whilst the body of the church is in good order, and we have plans to upgrade facilities for the benefit of the community, we have not had the funds to routinely maintain all the ageing monuments in the churchyard.

The Gwinnett family tomb is clearly a priority for restoration given its historic interest. There is now a drive to raise the funds necessary to fully restore it and to provide information about Button Gwinnett’s place in American history and his early Gloucestershire links.

This project will involve sensitive restoration in accordance with guidance from all interested parties. We will be working closely with the Diocese of Gloucester, Historic England, Gloucester City Council, Tewkesbury Borough Council and Down Hatherley Parish Council. We welcome interest from historians, researchers, visitors and the wider community as our plans take shape.

For further information, please contact Ellie Stevenson (elstevenson@hotmail.co.uk).