Darwin played an active role in the affairs of St Mary’s Church at Down village. The following three letter sets provide a glimpse of church life and Darwin’s part in it, from future plans regarding the church, to the relationship between the church and school at Down, to the scandalous departure of S. J. H. Horsman, Down’s Curate.
Letter 182 — Darwin, E. A. to Darwin, C. R., 18 Aug 
Darwin’s brother Erasmus A. Darwin reports on the commissions Darwin requested of him [in a missing letter], comments on English political issues, and family gossip. He responds to a comment Darwin made in a missing letter about his future plans regarding the Church.
Letter 297 — Darwin, S. E. to Darwin, C. R., 12 Feb 1836
Darwin’s sister Sarah E. Darwin reports on the commissions Darwin requested of her [in a missing letter], comments on English political issues and family gossip. As was the case in an earlier letter from her brother Erasmus to Darwin, she too wonders about Darwin’s future plans with respect to the Church.
Church and School
Letter 1536 — Darwin, C. R. to Lubbock, J. W. (b), 11 Oct 
Darwin gives his opinion to Sir John Lubbock, after consultation with John Innes (perpetual curate of Down), on some difficulties that have arisen in connection with the establishment of the school for the poor at Down, specifically on trust-deeds. Trust-deeds of schools applying for public funds after 1847 include ‘management clauses’ formulated by the Privy Council Committee on Education. Religious and moral instruction remained, under the provisions of the clauses, and the responsibility fell to the minister, and the direction of the school was placed in the hands of a committee comprised of the minister, the curate, and a number of local residents who subscribed to the support of the school. Failure to comply with this requirement resulted in the loss of public monies for the school.
Letter 9122 — Darwin, C. R. to Down School Board, [Nov–Dec 1873]
Darwin, Sir John Lubbock, Ellen Frances Lubbock, and S. E. Wedgwood, petition the Board to grant permission for the school hall to be used as a reading room in the evening during winter. It was mentioned that the late Vicar appreciated the advantages of such an institution.
Letter 12879 — Darwin, C. R. to Fegan, J. W. C., [Dec 1880 – Feb 1881]
Darwin writes to J. W. C Fegan, a nonconformist evangelist saying he gladly turns the reading room over to him for his mission work. He says through Fegan’s gospel services there is not a drunkard left in the village.
Curates and Scandal
Letter 6223 — Horsman, S. J. H. to Darwin, C. R., 2 June 
Horsman attempts to convince Darwin that he only intended to be away for a short amount of time, but upon hearing rumours about himself coupled with his unhappiness in Down, he will resign curacy of Down.
Letter 6241 — Innes, J. B. to Darwin, C. R., 13 June 1868
J. B. Innes, vicar of Down writes to Darwin about difficulties in which Horsman, curate at Down, has involved himself and others. Horsman has said he would resign. Innes offers to give up his interests in the living at Down.
Letter 6486 — Darwin, C. R. to Innes, J. B., 1 Dec 1868
Darwin writes to J. B. Innes, vicar of Down about the problems with the next curate, Mr Robinson, who has suddenly departed for Ireland for a month. Darwin says the parish urgently needs some respectable man to hold the living permanently.
Letter 6492 — Innes, J. B. to Darwin, C. R., 4 Dec 1868
J. B. Innes, vicar of Down provides Darwin with the full background on the difficulties of the vicarage of Down.
Letter 6501 — Innes, J. B. to Darwin, C. R., 12 Dec 1868
J. B. Innes, vicar of Down is concerned about the rumours regarding John Robinson [curate of Down]. He will seek to get the facts and will try to protect Robinson against malicious rumours, but if he is immoral he must go forthwith.