Get your teeth into this…

Anyone know who this lady was, and what the improvement might have been? Top spot by local history ferret Howmuch? - in a way he should get out more, but I'm rather glad he doesn't, if you know what I mean. From a patent list in the London Gazette, September 28th 1866.

You can always rely on top friend of the Brownhills Blog [Howmuch?] to come up with the really, really offbeat stuff. Whilst rooting through the archives recently, the intrepid researcher spotted the above patent application for ‘Improvements in artificial teeth’. The document it relates to is still listed, and I’d love to know what Anne proposed, and whether it was successful. I wonder who she was, and what her occupation was? I doubt it was too common in 1863 for ladies to submit patent applications, so there has to be a story there.

Wonder what the Stonnall folks think?

Once again, thanks to [Howmuch?] for a great piece of lost local history…

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12 Responses to Get your teeth into this…

  1. From a post in the Stonnall History Group in Facebook by Scarlet Goodwin:-

    “the younger Anne Abbey had patents out on ‘improvments in artificial teeth’ and hooked earrings.”
    15 November at 00:55

    Anne was the daughter of Rev James Downes, the first Vicar of Stonnall. It is intriguing to see the original listing. Indeed, what were these improvements?

  2. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    and interesting that Harborne was in the country of Stafford. When did Brum become its own authority?. Unless there was another Harborne at the time..?

    What was a garden engine? ….


  3. Andy Dennis says:

    Yes, I always found it odd that Harborne played in Staffordshire competitions. It seems this is more to do with the church. Over the centuries lands were donated and some of these were separate from the main body of the receiving diocese. Many of these “exclaves” were removed long since, but some persisted. When the bishopric of Birmingham was established in 1905 there were moves to transfer the parishes of Handsworth, Harborne and Smethwick from the Lichfield Diocese, but this was fought off. Historically, the Lichfield diocese was entitled to rents, tithes and other benefits from its land, but I don’t know if this continued up to 1905 and therefore the reason for resistance to the change. Although the municpal boundaries were rationalised through various local government acts from 1891 to 1966, I can’t see from the web whether this applies to the dioceses.

    I think a garden engine was for watering large gardens.

  4. Steve says:


    I worked in Wolverhampton for some years near to St John’s Church. The Church information board had ‘Diocese of Lichfield’ across the top. So I would surmise that just as the Wolverhampton municiple boundaries have changed I bet Harbourne and Smethwick are still under lichfield.

  5. Andy Dennis says:

    Hell’s teeth! Ann Abbey Downes was no ordinary lass. She spent most of her adult life at the London home of eminent surgeon dentist Edwin Truman sometime dentist to Her Majesty’s household.
    Regrettably, I have found no deatil of Anne Abbey’s import to the science of dentistry. It would be interesting to know in layman’s terms, but I suspect the technical details would be indigestible.
    Anne Abbey Downes was baptised on 1 Jan 1830 at Burton on Trent, daughter of James Downes and Ann Abbey, who had married 8 Dec 1825 at Southam, Warwickshire.
    By 1841 James was a clergyman at Stonnall and, later censuses tell, he was Curate and Vicar of Stonnall 1851-91. His wife Ann Abbey died in 1844, he remarried and there were more children, including one Clara Adelaide – more later. He died in 1893.
    “On the 7th October 1849 the Revd J. Downes solemnized the very first Ogley Hay Baptism in the school room. This of course was before the St James Church was built and gives us an idea of the demands made on the Revd Downes as he ministered and journeyed to surrounding areas where churches had yet to be built. Records show that he attended Walsall Wood, Ogley Hay, Brownhills and other places as far away as Burton-on-Trent.” That first baptism was of William Taylor the son of William and Sarah on 7 Oct 1849. (From
    After 1841, aisde from the patent, there is no trace of Ann Abbey Downes in Stonnall, but a bit of lateral thinking led to 1851 and Putney in London when Ann A Downes, 21, born Burton-on-Trent (how many could there be?) was visiting her cousin Edwin Truman, dentist. At that time he lived at 40A Haymarket, Westminster.
    In 1861 he was at Wimbledon and dentist to Her Majesty’s household. Also there were “Ann Abbey” and a Louisa Abbey, also cousin, professor of french and a Franco-British subject. This is one brainy family! (Though I can’t see that Louisa was Anne Abbey’s sister.) In 1864 Edwin Truman launched the Archives of Dentistry – the 1865 edition is available online as a free Google book.
    In 1863 Anne Abbey Downes applied for a patent for an invention of “improvements in artificial teeth”; sealed in 1834. It seems reasonable to suppose that, given the prejudices and strictures of the time that Miss Downes would not have been able to graduate from university or obtain accreditation as a dentist, but was able to pursue a career under the guidance of Edwin Truman.
    In 1871 the household, which did include a Mrs Truman, was at The Homefield, Putney Hill where they settled until at least 1901 (I can’t find them in 1891). Anne Abbey is always there, variously as Ann Downes, Miss A Downes and Anne A Downes, with birthplace Burton-on-Trent recorded. She never married.
    There is a record of death of an Anne A Downes in the Jul-Sep quarter of 1911, registered in Lichfield, so perhaps she returned to Stonnall in old age (though I can’t find her in the 1911 census).
    As a post script, Clara Adelaide Downes remained unmarried and was a companion to the lady widow of The Shrubbery, Great Barr, Mrs Proffitt. Clara died in 1825 and left effects worth more than £7,000. That’s an awful lot of money for a vicar’s daughter from Stonnall.

  6. Thank you Andy – I’m actually speechless. Stuff like this – starting with something that started as a daft observation, turning into a discovery of such a fascinating history thanks to the dedication of readers – is what this blog is all about.



  7. Desmond Burton says:

    Brilliant piece of detective work, Andy, through the maze of variant names, alternative spellings and mis-transcriptions – and it admirably complements what has gone up on the Stonnall Facebook page so far about the Downes family (perhaps you have already seen it). Strange that the family seems to disappear in 1891 – perhaps they all went off to France for a final holiday with their aged father James. And yes, Anne Abbey Downes did indeed return to the area in old age. In 1911 she was living at 110 Walsall Road Lichfield with widowed sister Eleanor Dodds and half-sister Maria Elizabeth (the transcribed record which I saw mis-spelt her name as Downs). And I presume she was buried in Stonnall, as there is an inscription in the north section of the churchyard: “In loving memory of Ann Abbey Downs [sic], dauighter of…”. I am simply citing the microfiche record, I but haven’t been to see the inscription myself – seems strange for the name to be spelt wrongly here, unless it is now virtually unreadable. If you fancy more detective work, what happened to Maria Sophia Downes (born 1827/8 in Burton), the eldest daughter of Rev James Downes? I am wondering if she was born disabled and kept more or less out of sight as was common in those days for co-called ‘imbeciles’ – even with the Queen’s cousins!

  8. Desmond Burton says:

    PS: Mis-spelling of ‘daughter’ in the citation above is my mistake!

  9. I’m very pleased that the London Gazette archive is proving useful. So that we can bear it mind when developing the service in futre, can you tell me how you came across this entry anyway please Brownhills Bob?

  10. Andy Dennis says:

    Desmond, it was not quite so grim.

    It was relatively easy to find that in 1851 Mary S Downes was living at Marlowes, Hemel Hempstead, Herts and that Mary Sophia Downes married a Charles Jennings (1860 Apr-Jun Lichfield 6b 503 – Stonnall?) and that they lived at Aston Manor (Erdington) in 1871. Charles was a draper born Hemel Hempstead abt 1830. There is a record of death for Mary Sophia Downes (1875 Apr-Jun Hemel Hempstead 3a 268).

    I can’t find them in 1861.

    Afterwards it appears Charles returned to Hemel Hempstead where he had a wife named Maria, born Barnstaple.

  11. Desmond Burton says:

    Thanks for this, Andy!

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