Sara Downs

Sara Downs

Department of History
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

PhD title: The status and economic agency of women landholders in the lordships of Ellesmere and Whitchurch, 1760-1860
Supervisors:Dr Malcolm Dick and Professor Karen Harvey

PhD History


  • MSc (Econ) Archive Administration
  • BA Hons Open
  • Undergraduate Advanced Diploma in Local History
  • Certificate of Higher Education in British Archaeology


My first class honours degree was awarded from the Open University. The credits towards the degree came from Certificate of Higher Education in British Archaeology gained from Birmingham University. The other credits were achieved from the Open University’s history modules.  I gained my Masters degree in Archive Administration via distance learning at Aberystwyth University. Since qualifying as an archivist, I have completed an Undergraduate Advanced Diploma in Local History with the University of Oxford for which I was awarded a distinction.

I am an archivist at Shropshire Archives where I have worked for twenty years. From 2010 to 2020 I was also the archivist for Oswestry Town Council Archives during which time I managed the Heritage Lottery Fund supported Oswestry Cemetery Project and The National Archives’ Archive Service Accreditation programme.

In my spare time I enjoy reading and a variety of crafts including dress making, cake decorating, crochet and knitting.


This research investigates the manorial lordships of Ellesmere and Whitchurch in Shropshire to find the extent and management of women’s land ownership for the period 1760 to 1860. It explores whether the customs of the lordships dissipated the punitive limitations imposed on women through the instruments of primogeniture and coverture and whether common law became the predominant law affecting inheritance during the period. Case studies will be generated to recreate the lives of a sample of the women landholders in the two lordships. The research will add to women’s history by investigating their status in family and community networks, through their economic activities, the items they owned and their wealth distribution strategies. It will add to Shropshire’s local history investigating the changes in landholding during a period of industrialisation and how this compares with research of women’s landholding in other parts of England.

Other activities

  • I was awarded the Ironbridge Institute - John Pagett Bursary for 2020.
  • I am member of the Archives and Records Association (ARA) and am currently working towards registration status. I am treasurer for the ARA West Midlands region.
  • Volunteering to catalogue the Bridgewater archive collection at Shropshire Archives, Shrewsbury. This collection contains the manorial records for the lordships of Ellesmere and Whitchurch, essential for this research.