Weaste Cemetery

Biographies of people buried between 1940 & 49

William Downsby (1850 - 1942)

William Downsby was reputed to be the oldest and longest-serving tram driver in England. He drove the first horse tram in Salford in 1877 and retired in 1924 aged 74. He was also largely instrumental in the formation of the Amalgamated Association of Tramwaymen, which later merged with the Transport and General Workers Union. He was also one of the pioneers of a superannuation scheme for transport workers and was the first Salford Tramwayman to retire on superannuation.

He was born in 1850 in Spalding, Lincolnshire and baptised at Pinchbeck, Lincs on 13th June 1850. His father was William Downsby (born 1821 in Holbeach, Lincs), who was an Agricultural Labourer and his mother was Martha Downsby (born 1822 at Stamford, Lincs). In 1861 the family lived at North Gate, Pinchbeck, Spalding, Lincs, where William was aged 11 and was an Agricultural Labourer. He had five brothers and one sister, all born at Pinchbeck. In 1971, William was 20 years old and was a groom for a Clement Laxton at Star Lode Drove, Cowbit, Spalding, Lincs.

On 14th March 1886 William Downsby married Sarah Ann Ashton at St Mary the Virgin Church, Eccles. William was aged 34 and a Coachman, living at Weaste. Sarah was aged 29 and living at Eccles. She was the daughter of Thomas Ashton, Manager. The 1891 census says that they lived at Martin Street, Westoe, South Shields, Durham, where William is aged 40 and is a Foreman Housekeeper Tramway. Sarah is aged 34, Sarah's son William (b. 1883) is 8, Lucy (b. 1887) is 4 and Charles (b. 1890) is 1. (Also, on the Electoral register for 1891 is a William Downsby at 34 Bridson Street, Seedley, Salford). In 1901, at 56, Stowell Street, Pendleton, William's occupation is Horse Tram Driver. Young William is 18 and a Grocer's Porter and Vanman; Lucy is 14 and a Mantle Maker, and Charles is 11-years-old.

On 19th February 1911, William's wife Sarah Ann, died aged 54 and was buried at Weaste Cemetery on 23rd February in (C of E) Plot M number 183. The 1911 census shows William as a 60-year-old widower and a Tramways Motor Man. His son William is entered as William Downsby Ashton, aged 28 and a Traveller. Lucy is 24 and is still a Mantle Maker and Charles is aged 21 and a Hairdresser.

In 1912, William Downsby Ashton married Ellen Challinor at Salford by Registrar. In 1819 Lucy Downsby married Arthur Coulborn at Chorlton-upon-Medlock Register Office. The family grave shows that William Downsby Ashton died on 6th February 1923 aged 41, and that Lucy's daughter Mildred (Little Milly) died on 4th April 1925 aged 5. The 1939 Register for 129 Fitzwarren Street, Salford shows William Downsby was a Retired Tramway Conductor aged 89 and widowed; Lucy Coulborn was aged 53 and also widowed; and Charles Downsby was a Catering Superintendent aged 49 and still single.

William Downsby died on 21st December 1942 aged 92 and was re-united with his wife Sarah Ann at Weaste Cemetery. Lucy died in April 1951 aged 64, and Charles died on 27th December 1954 aged 64. Both were buried in the family grave at Weaste.