TOWNSHEND, Sir Roger, 1st Bt. (1595-1637), of the Barbican, London and Stiffkey, Norf.; later of Raynham Hall, Raynham, Norf.

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

bap. 10 Dec. 1595,1 1st s. of Sir John Townshend† of Raynham Hall and Anne, da. and coh. of (Sir) Nathaniel Bacon* of Stiffkey.2 educ. privately (Sir Henry Spelman*) c.1603-11;3 Camb. (tutor: Giles Fletcher) 1611-14;4 G. Inn 1614.5 m. 27 May 1627,6 Mary (d. 18 Nov. 1669), da. of Horace, 1st Bar. Vere of Tilbury, 5s. (2 d.v.p.) 4da.7 suc. fa. 1603,8 uncle Sir Robert Townshend* c.1617, grandfa. (Sir) Nathaniel Bacon 1622;9 cr. bt. 16 Apr. 1617.10 d. 1 Jan. 1637.11 sig. Ro[ger] Townshend.

Offices Held

Collector, Palatinate Benevolence, Norf. 1622-3,12 j.p. 1626-d.;13 dep. lt. 1626-d.;14 commr. Admlty. causes 1627,15 piracy 1627,16 subsidy, 1628;17 sheriff 1629-30;18 commr. charitable uses 1630-4, Needham, Norf. 1634,19 oyer and terminer, Norf. circ. 1631-d.,20 maltsters, Norf. 1636.21


The Townshends settled in Norfolk as sheep-farmers in the mid-fourteenth century before rising to prominence as lawyers in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Townshend’s great-great-grandfather, Roger†, was a justice of Common Pleas, while the latter’s son, also named Roger†, was an esteemed lawyer who later served Henry VIII as a knight of the Body.22 During the sixteenth century the Townshends, who were settled at Raynham, in north Norfolk, began to add to their estates.23 Townshend’s father had a quarrelsome reputation and was killed in a duel with Sir Matthew Browne* in 1603, when Townshend was only eight.24 Townshend’s subsequent education and prosperity owed much to his paternal grandfather’s widow, Jane, who had married Henry, Lord Berkeley in 1597.25 One of the most remarkable and astute women of the age, Lady Berkeley purchased Townshend’s wardship for £4,000 and continued adding to the Townshend estates, eventually spending over £5,000.26 Townshend spent part of his childhood in her house at the Barbican, but he spent the rest of the time at Stiffkey on the north Norfolk coast with his mother and paternal grandfather. He received his early schooling from an old family friend, the noted antiquary Sir Henry Spelman*, alongside Spelman’s son, John*, and Sir Hamon L’Estrange*.27 All three were remarked upon as good scholars, and in 1611 Townshend went to Cambridge, where his tutor was the learned puritan divine, Giles Fletcher.

Townshend attained his majority in 1616, but was prevented from entering into his inheritance as his grandmother had a life interest in his estates. As compensation she purchased a baronetcy for him in 1617. At around the same time he inherited his uncle Sir Robert Townshend’s manor of Wivenhoe in Essex. When Lady Berkeley died in January 1618, Townshend took possession of the Raynham estate, plus houses in the Barbican and at Kensington and the majority of her furnishings, jewels and Norfolk sheep flocks. In all, he now enjoyed an annual income of between £2,000 and £2,500.28 This meant that, following a long family tradition, he was free to indulge a passion for architecture and house-building.29 He owned several books on architecture, and in 1619 twice travelled to the Low Countries, probably to examine gardens and building styles.30 He also visited many of the grand houses in East Anglia and the London area. He was particularly interested in the designs of Inigo Jones*, but he also viewed Sir Lionel Cranfield’s* house at Copthall, Essex, the earl of Arundel’s mansion at Highgate, Hatfield House, and the residence of his kinsman Sir Francis Bacon*, Verulam House. The same year Townshend embarked on the construction of his own project, Raynham Hall. One of the first classical houses in England, it was previously thought to have been the work of Inigo Jones, but it was actually designed by Townshend under the guidance of his mason, William Edge. The building was still unfinished when Townshend died in 1637.31

Townshend was elected to the 1621 Parliament for the Suffolk borough of Orford through the patronage of his great-uncle, Sir Nicholas Bacon†, but he played no recorded part in its proceedings. In 1622, his grandfather Sir Nathaniel Bacon sent him instructions on how to perform the duties of a loan collector for the Palatinate benevolence.32 Shortly afterwards both his mother and Bacon died, whereupon Townshend gained lands at Heydon, Stiffkey and Morton worth over £1,000 p.a., increasing his already substantial estates.33 Despite the expectations of many Norfolk gentry, Townshend showed a marked reluctance to assume his grandfather’s role in both county and national politics. He refused an appointment to the magistrates’ bench and remained mostly in London, visiting Norfolk only at Christmas, Easter and for parts of the summer.34 Despite earnest pleas from senior Norfolk gentry, among them his old friends L’Estrange, Sir John Spelman (now his brother-in-law) 35 and Sir John Corbet*, Townshend declined to stand for Parliament in 1624 and 1626, pleading ill-health.36 However, general support among the freeholders and his reputation for honesty and piety meant that he still received a large vote.37

The years 1626-7 were a turning point in Townshend’s life. He finally accepted a position on the bench and became a deputy lieutenant following entreaties from his grandfather’s former clerk, Michael Mann:

this part of the country is at great inconvenience by want of justices to reside near them, and thereby fear some mischief by lewd people in case of any offer of invasion be made by pirates. Their eye is upon your worship ... [and] it is hoped you will now undertake it; the common good, your own abilities and the county’s desire calling and entreating you thereunto.38

In May 1627 Townshend married Mary, daughter of Horace, Lord Vere, and moved to Stiffkey, accompanied on the journey by Lord Houghton (John Holles*), the husband of Mary’s elder sister, Elizabeth.39 Thereafter, Townshend spent the majority of his time in Norfolk, assiduously attending quarter sessions and taking upon himself the role of co-ordinating the activities of his fellow deputy lieutenants. He also served as sheriff in 1629-30.40 Townshend’s enhanced activity was perhaps influenced by his father-in-law, who was master of the ordnance and a member of the Council of War.41 However, as a devout puritan, Townshend became increasingly disillusioned with the political and religious policies of Charles I. He promoted many puritan divines in East Anglia, including the radical preacher, John Rous, while his wife, who shared his views, corresponded with John Davenport and William Ames.42 The rector of Stiffkey, appointed by Townshend, was the outspoken godly Protestant, John Yates.43 Townshend also received five book dedications from puritan writers.44

Townshend’s decision to stand for Parliament in 1628 probably reflected his disillusionment with royal policies, and was undoubtedly influenced by the fate of his close friend, Sir John Corbet*, who had died as a direct result of his imprisonment for refusing to pay the Forced Loan. At the Norfolk election, support for Townshend and the Loan refuser Sir John Heveningham* was so great that for the first time since 1588 there was no contest. Townshend, who attended the hustings in person, paid 15s. for his tent to be erected in Castle Yard.45 As in 1621, Townshend took no recorded part in the activities of the Commons, but he sent a letter to Sir John Spelman in which he recorded the main events of the Parliament. In this he noted his concern at the actions of the king:

nothing was left safe or entire to the subject, either in the property of his goods or in the liberty of his person or in his right in the laws of the kingdom, but only his life unattempted by these courses and ways and that also left to survive to slavery and a lingering consumption in prison.46

Sir John Trevor was asked by his aunt Elizabeth Lady Winwood to sit next to Townshend in St. Stephen’s Chapel, but unfortunately the nature of what she described as her ‘Norfolk business’ is unknown.47 Townshend arrived back in Norfolk on 13 June, a fortnight before the session was prorogued, when he informed the neighbouring gentry that ‘the Parliament meant to go on where the former Parliament left, viz. in remonstrance against the duke [of Buckingham]’ but that ‘the success is in God’.48 He is not mentioned in the records of the 1629 session.

Townshend remained active in Norfolk politics for the rest of his life, and continued to advance puritans to livings under his control. In late 1636, while visiting Raynham, he suddenly fell ill, and died on 1 Jan. 1637, less than two weeks later. In a nuncupative will, made on 31 Dec., he gave his wife all her plate and jewels and bequeathed £100 to the poor of East Raynham. He also put in place final arrangements for Sir John Spelman to receive £5,000. However, Townshend failed to mention the bulk of his estates.49 Shortly after her husband’s death, Townshend’s widow married Mildmay Fane*, 2nd earl of Westmorland. Townshend’s eldest son died in 1648, whereupon the estates passed to Townshend’s second son, Horace†, who sat for Norfolk in 1656, 1659 and 1660.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Chris Kyle


We are grateful to the Mq. Townshend for permission to use the papers at Raynham.

  • 1. L. Campbell, ‘Sir Roger Townshend and his Fam.’ (Univ. E. Anglia Ph.D. thesis, 1990), p. 250.
  • 2. Ibid. facing 1.
  • 3. Ibid. 8.
  • 4. Norf. RO, Bradfer-Lawrence I b; VII b.i; Townshend is not listed in Al. Cant.
  • 5. GI Admiss.
  • 6. C.R. Markham, The Fighting Veres, 434. For the settlements, see Norf. RO, BRA 926/72.
  • 7. Campbell, facing 1; fig. xvii.
  • 8. C142/280/42.
  • 9. Campbell, 10.
  • 10. CB.
  • 11. Campbell, 23; Norf. RO, E. Raynham par. reg.
  • 12. Norf. RO, RAY 416.
  • 13. A.H. Smith, County and Court, 369.
  • 14. W. Rye, Norf. State Pprs. 6; Add. 27447, f. 278.
  • 15. HCA 1/32/1, f. 4.
  • 16. C181/3, f. 236v.
  • 17. Rye, 136.
  • 18. Norf. Official Lists ed. H. L’ Estrange, 21.
  • 19. C192/1, unfol.
  • 20. C181/5, f. 19.
  • 21. PC2/46, p. 374.
  • 22. C.E. Morton, Townshends and Norf. c.1450-1551, pp. 5-13, 27-31.
  • 23. C142/280/42.
  • 24. Campbell, 118-34.
  • 25. CP.
  • 26. Campbell, 5; Raynham Hall Attic, Norf. estate pprs. and accts. view of purchases and accts. of Lady Berkeley.
  • 27. Campbell, 8.
  • 28. Ibid. 10.
  • 29. Campbell, 32.
  • 30. Campbell, 37-9; APC, 1618-19, p. 480.
  • 31. Campbell, 37-9; J. Harris, ‘Raynham Hall’, Arch. Jnl. cxviii. 180-7; H.L. Bradfer-Lawrence, ‘Building of Raynham Hall’, Norf. Arch., xxiii. 93-146; C. Hussey, ‘Raynham Hall’, Country Life, lviii, 742-50.
  • 32. Norf. RO, RAY 416.
  • 33. Ibid. BRA 926/72.
  • 34. Campbell, 19.
  • 35. Spelman married Townshend’s sister, Anne, in 1619.
  • 36. Norf. RO, Cozens-Hardy I, no.100; HALS, I.X.D. 60h.
  • 37. ‘Earle 1624’, ff. 65v-6, 110; ‘Pym 1624’, i. ff. 40v-1; CJ, i. 749a-b; FSL, case 1472, Bacon II, folder 5; ibid. L.d.215, 418, 543; HMC Townshend, 23; J. Glanville, Reps. of certain cases, 3-6; Official Pprs. of Sir Nathaniel Bacon ed. H.E. Saunders (Cam. Soc. xxvi), 39-41; Add. 63082, f. 31; Norf. RO, RAY 429, 484.
  • 38. W. Prest, ‘Bacon-Townshend Pprs. at the Univ. of Adelaide’, Norf. Arch. xxxvii. pt. 1, p. 122.
  • 39. Campbell, 21, 152; Markham, 434; Letters of John Holles ed. P.R. Seddon (Thoroton Rec. Soc. xxv), 350.
  • 40. Campbell, 95, 98.
  • 41. CP.
  • 42. K.W. Shipps, ‘Lay Patronage of E. Anglian Clerics’ (Yale Ph.D. thesis, 1971), p. 148; Rous Diary ed. M.A. Everett Green (Cam. Soc. lxvi), 48-50; Add. 4275, f. 8; Letters of John Davenport ed. I.M. Calder, passim.
  • 43. K.W. Shipps, ‘The Political Puritan’, Church Hist. xlv. 194-205; K.L. Sprunger, ‘Yates of Norf.’, Jnl. Hist. Ideas, xxxvii. 697-706.
  • 44. P. Fletcher, Locustae, vel pietas Jesuitica, (Camb. 1627); E. Gurnay, The Romish chaine (1624); J. Robotham, Omen Romae (1627); J. Yates, The saints sufferings and sinners sorrowes (1631); G. Fletcher, The Reward of the Faithful, (Camb. 1623).
  • 45. FSL, V.b.161.
  • 46. FSL, L.d.596.
  • 47. E. Suss. RO, Glynde 565, unfol.
  • 48. Rous Diary, 16-17.
  • 49. PROB 11/174, f. 363r-v.