TOWNSHEND, John (1568-1603), of Raynham, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

b. 1568, 1st s. of Roger Townshend of Raynham by his 2nd w. Jane, da. of Sir Michael Stanhope of Shelford Notts.; bro. of Robert. educ. Magdalen Hall, Oxf. 1581. m. Anne, da. and coh. of Sir Nathaniel Bacon of Stiffkey, Norf., 2s. suc. fa. 1590. Kntd. 1596.2

Offices Held

J.p.q. and commr. musters, Norf. from c.1597.


Townshend inherited from his father large estates in Norfolk. He spent some years abroad, including service in the Netherlands, before settling at Raynham and marrying, probably about 1593. His father had been kept away from his home county and the duties of local government by his service with the 4th Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Arundel, but Townshend soon claimed the place due to him through his wealth and influential connexions. He quickly became involved in the faction struggle inside the county and inevitably took the side of his father-in-law and of his father’s friend, Edward Coke, against the group led by Sir Arthur Heveningham. His return for Castle Rising in 1593 was no doubt due to his personal influence locally, aided by his friendship with the Howard family. His election for the county in 1597, however, suggests the united backing of the Bacon/Coke party. It is possible that wider issues were involved, for Townshend and his friends, especially Coke, were associated with the group hostile to the Earl of Essex, and his return may have been a rebuff for the Earl as well as for Townshend’s immediate opponents in the shire. Townshend was returned for Orford to the 1601 Parliament probably through the influence of his cousin, Michael Stanhope and his friend Coke,3 who was recorder of the borough. Though his name does not occur in the journals of the House of Commons, Townshend may have attended a committee on kerseys, 23 Mar. 1593 and, as knight of the shire for Norfolk in 1597 he may have served on committees concerned with enclosures (5 Nov.), the poor law (5, 22 Nov.), armour and weapons and the penal laws (8 Nov.), monopolies (18 Nov.), the subsidy (15 Nov.), the export of wool (18 Nov.), the Great Yarmouth charter (23, Nov.) and draining the fens (3 Dec.).4

Townshend’s aggressive disposition several times inflamed local quarrels and disagreements to the point of breaches of the peace. In 1600 he quarrelled with Theophilus Finch and even more violently with Sir Christopher Heydon, with whom he was prevented from fighting a duel only by the action of the Privy Council. On this occasion Edward Coke offered to bind himself for Townshend’s good behaviour. Heydon’s Subsequent part in the Essex rising suggests again that the quarrel may have had ramifications outside Norfolk.5

Townshend accompanied the expedition to Cadiz in 1596 and was knighted there by Lord Howard: as a man ‘of good experience in martial affairs’ he was appointed to the commission of musters two years later. He died intestate 2 Aug. 1603 from wounds received in a duel with Sir Matthew Browne on Hounslow Heath. His lands descended to his seven year-old son.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Folger V. b. 298.
  • 2. Vis. Norf. (Norf. and Norwich Arch. Soc.), i. 308 seq.; Al. Oxon. iv. 1500.
  • 3. Carthew, Hundred of Launditch, ii. 781-2; CSP Dom. 1591-4, p. 241; A. H. Smith thesis, 288, 313-15; J. Durham, Townshends of Raynham, 31.
  • 4. D’Ewes, 507, 552, 553, 555, 557, 559, 561, 562, 567.
  • 5. HMC Hatfield, x. 352, 367, 458; APC, xxx. 731.
  • 6. Smith thesis, 305; F. Blomefield. Norf. vii. 134-5.