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Henry Dowty

Freshwater, IOW.

1. Born 13th May 1842 at Alderbury, Wiltshire, the only son of the village blacksmith William Dowty and his wife Sarah (nee Lawrence). They also had five daughters. He moved to the Isle of Wight as a young man, marrying Susan Long of Northwood, Cowes, on Christmas Day 1865, in Newport. They had five sons and three daughters. He set up in business at Freshwater as a blacksmith. Over the years he expanded his interests to cover china, ironmongery, house furnishing, farming, estate agency and brickmaking, becoming one of the two largest employers of labour in the West Wight at the beginning of the 20th century. A staunch Primitive Methodist, he was a founder of the Totland Chapel, benefactor of the Alderbury Chapel when it was extended in the 1900s, and trustee of the Newbridge Chapel.

2. Steam Engines: Following a dispute with the Island railways on rates for his bricks he went to the Smithfield Show and ordered a traction engine (Aveling and Porter 8 hp. compound agricultural locomotive, No. 4013 of March 1898). He may also have owned a second locomotive. There were not many such locomotives on the Island in 1898 (steam rollers were owned by the Councils at Newport, Ryde and Ventnor) and this machine caused an outburst of public indignation on both safety grounds and it’s use on the Sabbath, even though limited to the period from 6pm to 10 am.

3. Brickworks: He operated two works, viz:

  a. Totland which was a pottery works started in the 1870’s, employing 40-50 men. All types of bricks, tiles, pots, and were made. They were used locally and exported. The ships were loaded at Kings Manor quay on the River Yar. Pots went to Channel Islands for tomato growers. Closed about 1914. Most of The Avenue, across Henry Dowty’s property, was built with bricks from this works. Jack Ball’s antique shop at the junction of The Avenue and Warden Road was the brick drying shed. The type of kiln is unknown but the 1907 O.S. map leads me to suspect a Hoffmann.

  b. Newbridge from 1905 to 1929 (last years not in Dowty ownership), employing up to 72 men. On a site alongside the railway, it was approached by road by a track through Cook’s Copse. Henry Dowty had a pass to walk along the railway line from Ningwood Station. Kiln builders were brought in from the North of England, but the clay quality was not of the best and many breakages resulted (he was an optimist and ignored advice on suitability of site). Wire cut and handmade bricks, tiles, and were fired in the Hoffmann kiln. There may also have been a smaller kiln. The works were served by a railway siding installed in March 1905, on guarantee of a minimum of £100 of traffic per annum for 7 years. (The condition was met). The siding was taken out on the 23rd. March 1929. Later in 1905, he asked permission to use traction engines over the level crossing from Cook’s Copse into the works. This was declined, but he did so anyway. The railway objected and considered getting a bye-law forbidding traction engines on crossings, but did not proceed. The chimney was demolished during World War II as it was a landmark, and the final traces of the kiln, and were eradicated when the North Sea gas main was laid through to Freshwater and went right through the site. Today only rubble lies in the undergrowth, the site being overgrown and hard to reach.

4. Miscellaneous: Henry Dowty laid the first tarmac road in Freshwater. His uncle was George Dowty (1818-1910), shoemaker of Alderbury and a well known Methodist lay preacher who spoke as far afield as London and Wales.

Handwritten Note:- " In 1906, £20,000 lost on the stock exchange in one week. On 1871 Census, shown as resident at School Green, Freshwater."

The DOWTY Family

1. Origins. The name is a variation of Doughty, and the first references I have are two entries in the Biographical Register of the University of Cambridge. They are

Richard DOWTY at King’s College, 1449 to 1453 Richard DOWTY entered in 1480

2. Tradition. I have been told that tradition related that there were two brothers, one a smuggler and the other a clergyman. The first so annoyed his brother that the clergyman altered the spelling of his name. A variation is that one brother double-crossed the other (no professions given), and the aggrieved innocent brother changed the name from Doughty.

3 Figures. The birth/marriage/death records for England and Wales have been kept centrally by the Registrar General since mid-1837. For the period of 65 years to the end of 1901 there are the following entries for Dowty -
births - 121 marriages - 67 deaths - 66
and of the births I have established that 53 definitely relate to the family.

Great-grandfather Henry Dowty (1842-1927) is supposed to have had a complete tree, but unfortunately it has not survived. One comment, though, is that we are related to Sir George Dowty of the aircraft firm. Sir George died in December 1975 and I was only able to get an outline family tree from him before that. In this tree are 13 more of the 121 births, so 60 percent are accounted for in the two trees. For such a small family there are coincidences between the two, and I feel I know where they link, but so far I don’t have the proof.

4. The Wiltshire Line. The family moved from Codford, St. Mary (13 miles NW of Salisbury on the A36) to Alderbury (3 miles SW of Salisbury on the A36). ‘When is not known, but probably about 1780. The attached tree gives the line as it is known, and the first (William, born 1787-8) probably had a brother John, about 2 years older, who was the blacksmith at Alderbury (his wife was Ann - same age as William). In Alderbury churchyard is a stone to Elizabeth Dowty, wife of John, died 12 November 1821, aged 51. Maybe the parents of John and William?
  Anyway, William’s eldest son was apprenticed to his uncle (?) and, in due course, succeeded to the blacksmith business. His father-in-law owned property along Silver Street, but was a tippler and most of it was sold to meet debts incurred at the bar of the Green Dragon. The blacksmith’s business still exists, but for long has been in other hands.
  William, born 1842, was the only son and also became a blacksmith. He spent some time in Kent, but why is not known, before moving to the Isle of Wight, marrying a Cowes girl and ultimately becoming one of the richest men in West Wight.