TOWNSHEND, Sir Robert (1580-bef. 1617), of Raynham, Norf. and Wivenhoe, Essex.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. 1580,1 2nd s. of Sir Roger Townshend† (d.1590) of Raynham and his 2nd w. Jane, da. of Sir Michael Stanhope† of Sudborne, Suff.; bro. of John†.2 educ. New Coll., Oxf. 1593, aged 13; G. Inn 1599.3 unm. kntd. 11 May 1603.4 d. bef. 20 July 1617.5

Offices Held


Despite the Townshends’ prominence in Norfolk and a large collection of surviving family papers, little can be discovered about this Member. As a student at New College Oxford he purchased ink, quills, paper, and a copy of the well-known history of Rome by Valerius Maximus.6

A younger son, Townshend appears to have been heavily indebted throughout his life, probably due to legal wranglings over the manor of Wivenhoe, in Essex, which he had purchased with money borrowed from his mother.7 In 1604, and again in 1607, he went to Chancery to try to recover the Wivenhoe deeds and indentures, which by 1607 were in the hands of the heirs of the manor’s late steward.8 By July 1608 Townshend owed £2,272 17s., including £26 that was due to his tailor, £4 to a haberdasher, and £10 ‘to a widow who keeps the inn in Bury called the Whitehorse’. Over the next few years, he evidently cleared some of these debts.9 Townshend must ultimately have recovered the Wivenhoe deeds, for in 1613 he leased the manor to Jerome Briggs.10

Townshend may have sought election to Parliament in 1601 and 1604 to avoid his creditors. On both occasions he was returned for Castle Rising, a pocket-borough controlled by the Howards, with whom the Townshends had longstanding connections.11 He is not mentioned at all in the records of the last Elizabethan Parliament, and during the five sessions of the 1604 Parliament he is noticed only seven times. On 23 Mar. 1604 he was appointed to a committee to consider the grievances raised by Sir Edward Montagu. On 2 Apr. he joined the committee for restoring in blood the earls of Southampton and Essex, and also Thomas Howard, earl of Arundel, joint owner of the manor of Castle Rising.12 One month later Townshend was appointed to consider the sale of Edward Downes’s lands in Norfolk.13 In the second session he was named to a single committee, for Thetford’s school and almshouse (23 Jan. 1606).14 No further mention of Townshend occurs until 15 May 1610, when he commented upon Sir James Scudamore’s case of privilege. He spoke again on the same subject on 18 June.15 His only appointment of the fourth session was to the bill committee for the lands of the 18th earl of Oxford on 22 June.16 He does not appear in the records of the fifth session.

Townshend’s date of death is unknown, but he presumably predeceased his mother, as he is not mentioned in her will. Moreover, before she died in 1617 a chandler petitioned her for repayment of £10 5s. which the late Sir Robert owed him.17 No will, administration, or letters of administration have been found.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Chris Kyle


  • 1. Al. Ox.
  • 2. Vis. Norf. ed. G.H. Dashwood, i.308.
  • 3. Al. Ox.; GI Admiss.
  • 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 109.
  • 5. DNB sub Henry, 7th Lord Berkeley.
  • 6. Raynham Hall, Townshend Pprs., Lib. Box 50.
  • 7. Raynham Hall, Townshend Pprs., Lib. Boxes 64, 101, 109.
  • 8. C2/Jas.I/T3/25; 2/Jas.I/T3/43.
  • 9. Raynham Hall, Townshend Pprs., Lib. Box 101.
  • 10. Norf. RO, BRA 926/44.
  • 11. C.E. Morton, Townshends in Norf. passim.
  • 12. CJ, i. 151b, 162a.
  • 13. Ibid. 195a.
  • 14. Ibid. 259a.
  • 15. Ibid. 428b, 441b.
  • 16. Ibid. 442b.
  • 17. Raynham Hall, Townshend Pprs., Lib. Box 69.