TOWNSEND, Chauncy (1708-70), of Austin Friars, London
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
bap. 23 Feb. 1708,1 o.s. of Jonathan Townsend, London brewer, by Elizabeth, da. of Richard Chauncy, London merchant and Welsh mining adventurer. m. c.1730, Bridget, da. of James Phipps of Westbury, Wilts, gov. of Cape Coast Castle, 7s. 5da.2 suc. fa. 1710.
Chauncy Townsend lost his father at the age of two, and in business followed his mother’s family. He was apprenticed to Richard Chauncy Company, linen-drapers; in 1730 was admitted to the Mercers’ Company;3 and in commercial directories up to 1740 appears as a linen-draper, subsequently as a ‘merchant’. Before 1750 Chauncy Townsend was already working coal mines in the Swansea district, which he greatly extended. He also engaged in mining, smelting, and refining copper and lead, and from 1744 till his death held Government contracts for provisioning troops and settlers in Nova Scotia.4 He had extensive connexions in America, and in 1767 obtained in St. John’s Island a grant of 20,000 acres of land.5 He subscribed to Government loans.6 But by the time of his death his mining ventures overshadowed all his other interests, and he is stated to have ‘expended his whole fortune in it, for he died without any other property but that’.7 This statement seems largely to be borne out by his will.8
At the general election of 1747, at Westbury where the family of Chauncy Townsend’s wife had an interest and he himself owned considerable property, he replaced his kinsman Joseph Townsend who stood for Wallingford. Writing to James West, 26 June 1754, he claimed to have undertaken both boroughs at Pelham’s request on a promise that ‘if I carried them he would help me out to my satisfaction’, and to have heavily contributed to the expenses then and in subsequent years.
Money support I always declined when hinted—half Gibraltar [contracts] was my object. You know the promise I had, you know who and how Mr. Pelham was drove in that affair, and I am mistaken if you don’t know he wished it to me and I had his solemn promise he would make me amends ... HE always treated me with a degree of tenderness, owned I had more merit than all the Gibraltar people together, but that he was drove and I should be no sufferer for my friendship. Now, Sir, these things are absolutely just [what] the Duke [of Newcastle] should know but when he does, I know not what to ask; but indeed it is a debt of £6,000 which is too heavy for me, and I hope he will bear me in his mind when anything offers.
Newcastle seems to have tried to compensate Townsend by mining contracts—in spite of protests from Lord Powis who described him as ‘a great schemer and an insinuating artful man’. But on the whole Townsend seems never to have been close to Newcastle. In 1754 and 1761 he was returned unopposed for Westbury on a compromise with Lord Abingdon in which the Treasury was not concerned (in Newcastle’s election papers of March 1754 the entry against Westbury reads: ‘Supposed to be compromised’); and in 1762 he sold his property in the borough (including some burgages) to Abingdon.9
But in the House he was a regular Government supporter. In Bute’s list of December 1761 he was first marked ‘Newcastle, Government’; next ‘Newcastle’ was deleted. On 13 Nov. 1762 Newcastle classed him as ‘doubtful’, and Fox in December as favourable to the peace preliminaries. He also adhered to the Grenvilles—he wrote to Charles Jenkinson on 10 Dec. 1763 from Bath where he had been confined with illness: ‘I expect to be able by the time the House meets after Christmas to attend my friends, the prevention of doing it last month made me very unhappy which I flatter myself they will believe.’ And as on 18 Feb. 1764 over general warrants he does not appear in Jenkinson’s list of absent friends, he presumably voted with the Government. On 30 July he wrote to Jenkinson from Llansamlet, near Swansea: ‘If Mr. Grenville interferes in the county election in my neighbourhood [Pembroke] I wish to know for whom or a hint in some way to know his wishes.’ On the formation of the Rockingham Administration Townsend did not return to Newcastle’s fold; was listed by Rockingham in July 1765 as an opponent; and (classed as a follower of Grenville) appears in Meredith’s list of those who voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act, 22 Feb. 1766, though not in the more reliable, printed, list of that division. Townsend adhered to the Chatham Administration, and was invariably listed as their supporter, voting with them even on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767. He did not stand at the general election of 1768, but on 23 Dec. was returned for Wigtown Burghs, the first Englishman to sit for a Scottish constituency; Lord Garlies, eldest son of Lord Galloway, who had the leading interest in the burghs, being ineligible in Scotland, was returned by George Selwyn for Ludgershall, and Selwyn by Galloway; Selwyn was succeeded by Townsend, on a transaction arranged by the Treasury. But not a single vote by Chauncy Townsend is recorded in that Parliament. Nor is there any record of his having spoken in the House during the 22 years he sat there.10
He died 28 Mar. 1770.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Sir Lewis Namier
- 1. Freshfield, Register Book of St. Christopher-le-Stocks, 37.
- 2. Misc. Gen. et Her. n.s. iv. 125-31.
- 3. W. P. Courtney, N. Q. (ser. 11), v. 2.
- 4. Cal. Treas. Bks. 1742-5, pp. 517-27; T29/31/32, 35-37; Add. 33038, ff. 328-9; 33039, ff. 43, 145; 38430, ff. 26-39.
- 5. Add. 32693, f. 121; APC Col. iv. 62.
- 6. Add. 33040, ff. 292-3; Devonshire mss.
- 7. Evidence of his gd.-s. H. Smith, Report of the Committee on Collieries in South Wales, 1810, p. 2.
- 8. PCC 211 Jenner.
- 9. Add. 32735, f. 573; 32737, f. 277; 32995, ff. 75-80; T29/32/258-60; Bodl. Top. Wilts. c. 5.
- 10. Jenkinson Pprs. 226-7, 314; Add. 38304, f. 48; 32974, f. 169; J. H. Jesse, G. Selwyn, ii. 382-3.