TOWNSHEND, Roger (c.1544-90), of Raynham, Norf. and Brampton, Suff.

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. c.1544, 1st s. of Richard Townshend of Brampton by Catherine, da. and coh. of Sir Humphrey Browne. educ. Trinity Coll. Camb. 1553 m. (1) Ursula, da. of Sir Christopher Heydon, s.p.; (2) c.1564, Jane, da. of Sir Michael Stanhope, 2s. John and Robert suc. gt.-gd.-fa. Sir Roger Townshend 1551. Kntd. 1588.

Offices Held

Servant of Thomas, 4th Duke of Norfolk and Philip, Earl of Arundel; perhaps member of royal household by 1576.2


Townshend’s great-grandfather, Sir Roger Townshend, did well out of the dissolution of the monasteries, holding, by his death, over 20 manors in the Raynham district alone. Thus it was a rich inheritance to which Townshend succeeded while still a child. A special commission of February 1565 declared him of age to enter on his lands, and he received the royal licence to do so in the following May. He could have taken his place as one of the leading gentlemen in his county, but, in the same way that his grandfather had been in the service of the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, he entered that of the 4th Duke, as his man of business, for the most part in London, and did not attain even the commission of the peace. He was, however, elected as knight of the shire at a by-election for the second session of the 1563 Parliament after the 4th Duke had put pressure on the Sheriff, William Paston, who received his instructions on 28 Sept. 1566, to nominate ‘those I talked with you of’.3

In November 1569, when Norfolk was already involved in the Mary Stuart marriage negotiations, Townshend was one of those attendant on the Duke at Kenninghall, and after his master’s execution he took charge of the affairs of the heir, the Earl of Arundel, who was still a minor. It was to him, jointly with William Dix, that Arundel in 1583 made a deed of gift of all his movable goods towards the payment of his outstanding debts. Arundel was sometimes impatient with Townshend, as when, in 1582, Townshend hurried him off by boat to Arundel House, to avoid his becoming embroiled in the affray between the Earl of Oxford and Thomas Knyvet. Again, Arundel wrote to Burghley in June 1589 complaining that his ‘uncle Harry’ and a number of poor tenants were suffering through his agent’s rigid interpretation of his responsibilities: ‘Sir Roger Townshend is so resolute to part with nothing more than he shall be by law enforced’. But his regard for Townshend is apparent in the Earl’s will, where he is ‘my loving friend’, and was bequeathed a ‘fair bowl with a cover of 30 oz. double gilt’.4

Comparatively little is known of his career after Arundel’s imprisonment in 1585. Some notes of Sir Francis Walsingham in June of that year give his name as one of the Earl’s servants ‘committed abroad to diverse persons’, for whom Richard Topcliffe may have taken responsibility, but there is no indication that he was in custody for long. The lists of donors of New Year’s gifts to the Queen, on which he and his second wife (who perhaps also held a court position) appear between 1576 and 1584, do not contain his name among later entries. Townshend was knighted at sea by Lord Howard of Effingham 26 July 1588. In the following summer he used his bond to get Roger Wyndham of Norfolk released from the Marshalsea.5

He died at Stoke Newington, probably in the house bought from Thomas Sutton, on 30 June 1590, and was buried at St. Giles, Cripplegate. Townshend’s will, which he had drawn up in December 1587, lists his manors in Norfolk, with outlying property in Suffolk, Oxfordshire and Middlesex, but does not mention an estate which he is known to have acquired in Essex.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament; Folger V. b. 298.
  • 2. CPR, 1563-6, pp. 198, 199; DNB; Vis. Norf. (Norf. and Norwich Arch. Soc.), i. 308; Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. xxxii), 291-2; Wards 7/6/68; J. Durham, Townshends of Raynham, passim; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 469; 1581-90, p. 117.
  • 3. Wards 7/6/68; Bodl. Douce 393, f. 94.
  • 4. HMC Hatfield, i. 438; iii. 414-15; Venerable Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel (Cath. Rec. Soc.), 34-6, 38 seq., 368-77.
  • 5. Ven. Philip Howard, 135; Nichols, Progresses Eliz. ii. 1, 76, 87, 259, 270, 420; DNB; APC, xvii. 347.
  • 6. DNB; C142/231/107; PCC 16 Sainberbe.