Religious Conviction

The Langdon Downs’ driving force was a strong religious conviction. Joseph Almond Down, Langdon Down’s father, had been one of the original subscribers to the Congregationalist Church in Torpoint. His brother Richard was an elder of the church and his sister Jane had married the Reverend Everard Ford. From 1884 onwards the Langdon Downs maintained a full-time Church of England Chaplain at Normansfield. Sunday service was preceded by choir practice on Thursday evenings. The Chaplain had a free hand but his sermons should never last more than 10 minutes. There were two services on Sunday.

The Langdon Downs took success and failure in their stride. The death of their only daughter Lilian was a heavy blow. The later tragic death of their son Everleigh, at the age of 21, was another trauma they had to endure. Reginald, the older surviving son followed his father into medicine. He too made observations on Down’s syndrome. Percival also became a doctor and with his brother Reginald took over the medical management of Normansfield after their father’s death. In due course, Percival’s daughter Mary and son Norman followed on and the supervision of Normansfield remained a family concern for almost 100 years, throughout which the reputation of the institution was consolidated. In 1893, when Langdon Down had lived to see Normansfield free of debt, flourishing and successful, his sons Reginald and Percival established in their careers, and his own position in medicine and in society fully assured, Mary and he re-affirmed their religious convictions. They commissioned a mural which can be seen inset in the wall beside the Theatre staircase. The mural depicts the Divine Creator holding the globe of the world in his hand and bears the inscription; “Blessing and honour and glory and power be to him that sitteth upon the throne”. In his addresses to students he always ended with the exhortation that they should lead gentle Christian lives terminated by a peaceful, hopeful death. When he entertained, as he did on a generous and lavish scale, grace was said before the meal. He was in advance of his time in many matters and when the question of the admission of women into the medical school was under discussion, he supported this but also foresaw the admission of women into practice of law and to the ministry in the Church. He held women in high regard and his Harley Street address was used by the movement for universal suffrage.


He paid public tribute to his wife Mary who had shared his early struggles and who had contributed greatly to his success. She was the one to develop the training programmes and while he busied himself about his practice and his patients she administered Normansfield combining the roles of manager, finance officer, purchasing officer, administrator, planning officer, entertainment manager, personnel manager and public relations manager. She accomplished all of this while losing nothing of the human touch and she was known to everyone in Normansfield as “Little Mother”.