TOWNSHEND, Sir Henry (c.1537-1621), of Cound and Ludlow Castle, Salop and Lincoln's Inn, London

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. c.1537,1 ?3rd s. of Sir Robert Townshend of Ludlow, Salop (d.1557) and Alice, da. of John Poppey of Twyford, Norf.2 educ. L. Inn 1559, called 1569.3 m. (1) by 1577, Susan (bur. 31 May 1592), da. of Sir Rowland Hayward of London and Cound, 4s. (3 d.v.p.), 3da.;4 (2) 2 Sept. 1593, Dorothy (bur. 15 July 1635), da. of Sir Arthur Heveningham of Aston, Staffs., wid. of Henry Vernon of Hilton, Staffs. 1s.5 kntd. 29 June 1604.6 d. 8 Dec. 1621.7 sig. H[enry] Touneshend.

Offices Held

J.p. Mont. 1568-d., rest of Wales and Marches by 1578/9-d., Salop 1580-d.;8 commr. eccl. causes, Wales 1579, Chester dioc. 1598, musters, Denb. 1580;9 freeman, Ludlow, Salop 1584, Shrewsbury, Salop 1590;10 commr. oyer and terminer, Oxf. circ. by 1602-d., gaol delivery, Worcester, Worcs. by 1603-17;11 v.-chamberlain, Chester, Cheshire 1604-d.;12 commr. mise, Mont. 1605,13 sewers, R. Dee 1607, Denb. and Flints. coast 1609, R. Mersey and Cheshire coast 1612,14 subsidy, Salop and Shrewsbury 1608, 1621;15 v.-pres., Council in the Marches 1614; common cllr., Ludlow 1614-d.16

Steward, reader’s dinner, L. Inn 1575;17 justice, Council in the Marches 1576-d., puisne just., Chester and just. of assize, Chester circ. 1578-d., justice, Compter prison, London 1592;18 recorder, Ludlow 1577-d., Worcester 1587-1617, Carmarthen, Carm. c.1588-90, Leominster, Herefs. c.1590-d., Bishop’s Castle, Salop ?by 1597-d., Bridgnorth, Salop ?1610-d., Oswestry, Salop 1617-d.;19 bencher, L. Inn 1580, reader 1581;20 high steward, Shrewsbury by 1603-d.21

Patentee (jt.) concealments 1575;22 commr. enclosure compositions, duchy of Lancaster 1615.23


Townshend was a cousin of the Norfolk family, and his father had been a justice of the Council in the Marches, which counted in his favour when his own preferment was considered in 1576. However, he owed much of his local influence to his first father-in-law, the London alderman Sir Rowland Hayward, who owned a large estate in the Marches including the manor of Cound, Shropshire, which Townshend made his main residence.24 Townshend’s return to Parliament for Bridgnorth in 1571 and 1572 was probably arranged by the Council official Sir Andrew Corbet†, but his workload presumably discouraged him from standing for election thereafter.

Townshend’s career juddered to a halt in 1599, when lord president Pembroke refused to recommend him for the chief justiceship of Chester, where he had served as puisne justice for 20 years. The post was first put in commission, then granted to Sir Richard Lewknor†, on the strength of Pembroke’s warning that Townshend was ‘neither just nor honest, and therefore unworthy’.25 Townshend probably earned this snub because of his behaviour during an earlier dispute with Edward, Lord Stafford† over the Hayward property of Caus Castle: when the case came to trial at the Montgomeryshire assizes in 1593, he had ignored Sir Robert Cecil’s† request that he withdraw temporarily from the bench to avoid a potential conflict of interest.26 Later evidence also suggests that Townshend was not preoccupied by the niceties of due process. In 1613 he was fined by Star Chamber as an accomplice to the forgery of the will of Sir Randall Brereton, while in the following year he was accused of defacing a bond to ensure that a debt case did not come to trial at the Bridgnorth borough court.27

In 1601, a few months after Pembroke’s death, it was mistakenly reported that Townshend was to be knighted, an honour he finally received three years later after lord president Zouche lobbied in his favour at Court. Townshend slowly rebuilt his relationship with Cecil, advising over procedure during the year in which the presidency at Ludlow lay vacant, and persistently pressing for a rise in his own fees. In 1603 he provided precedents for the validity of entails on Crown lands, thereby allowing the king to overturn Queen Elizabeth’s sales of duchy of Cornwall assessionable lands.28

Townshend is not known to have stood for election to Parliament in 1604, but, probably at Lewknor’s behest, he seems to have recommended Samuel Lewknor* and William Twyneho* for Bishop’s Castle in 1604, and he definitely endorsed the unsuccessful candidacy of his brother-in-law Sir George Hayward at the Bridgnorth by-election of February 1610. His own return for Ludlow in 1614 was almost certainly promoted by Lord President [Ralph] Eure†, whose attempt to nominate an outsider in 1609 had been sharply rebuffed by a corporation resolution to elect MPs only from among their own number. While a member of the Council in the Marches, Townshend was also borough recorder, and his return probably represented an attempt to reconcile the rival interests, although the corporation fulfilled the letter of its earlier injunction by making him a common councillor.29 He made only one recorded speech, on 21 May, at the third reading of the grace bill to repeal a clause of the 1542 Welsh Union Act. Townshend insisted that the repeal of this proviso, which allowed the Crown a notional right to promulgate laws for Wales by proclamation, would abolish the jurisdiction of the Council in the Marches, but the bill passed regardless of his objections.30 At the general election of 1620/1 he was replaced at Ludlow by Spencer, Lord Compton, son of the new lord president. At the same time he presumably backed the return of his brother-in-law Sir John Hayward at Bridgnorth.

An old man at the start of James’s reign, Townshend had speculated that he might be retired as early as 1607, and when Sir Richard Lewknor died in 1616 one newsletter writer assumed that it was Townshend who had expired. By then far too old to be considered for promotion, he nevertheless remained in office. He signed the 1619 report upholding the Shrewsbury Drapers’ monopoly of the Welsh cloth trade, and was still sitting on the Ludlow bench five days before his own death on 8 Dec. 1621.31 In his will of 2 Apr. 1621 he left his modest estate of less than 1,000 acres to his second wife and the only son of this marriage, as the last surviving son of his first marriage was then ‘beyond the seas and doubtful of his life’; the latter subsequently returned home safely.32 None of his descendants sat in Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. Liber Famelicus of Sir J. Whitelocke ed. J. Bruce (Cam. Soc. lxx), 90-1 states that he died aged 84.
  • 2. Vis. Salop (Harl. Soc. xxix), 464-5.
  • 3. LI Admiss.; LI Black Bks. i. 361, 457.
  • 4. Two Elizabethan Women ed. A.D. Wall (Wilts. rec. soc. xxxviii), 3; Vis. Salop, 465; Cound (Salop par. reg. soc.), 3.
  • 5. Vis. Salop, 465, 472.
  • 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 133.
  • 7. C142/402/147.
  • 8. JPs in Wales and Monm. ed. Phillips, 2-9, 19-26, 38-44, 58-67, 95-105, 127-38, 158- 65, 187-93, 206-14, 256-65, 288-95, 318-28, 347-54; Reg. Marches in Wales ed. R. Flenley (Cymmrodorion rec. ser. viii), 216.
  • 9. CPR, 1578-80, p. 120; C66/1479 (dorse); Reg. Marches in Wales, 200.
  • 10. Shrewsbury Burgess Roll ed. H.E. Forrest, 287.
  • 11. C181/1, ff. 17, 46.
  • 12. HMC Hatfield, xvi. 121.
  • 13. NLW, Duchy of Cornw. A1.
  • 14. C181/2, ff. 46v, 102, 173v.
  • 15. SP14/31/1; C212/22/20.
  • 16. Salop RO, LB2/1/1, f. 103v.
  • 17. LI Black Bks. i. 395.
  • 18. P. Williams, Council in the Marches, 358-9; Lansd. 76, f. 22; 79, f. 182.
  • 19. CPR, 1578-80, p. 132; Chamb. Order Bk. Worcester ed. S. Bond (Worcs. Hist. Soc. n.s. viii), 29, 140, 144; C66/2194/4; STAC 8/56/3 (but note Bodl. Blakeway 18, f. 40); Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. iii. 112.
  • 20. LI Black Bks. i. 416, 418.
  • 21. Salop RO, 3365/2632; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. xi. 173.
  • 22. CPR, 1572-5, pp. 564-6.
  • 23. HLRO, Lords’ large parchments, Box 178/11.
  • 24. Vis. Salop, 462-4; SP12/110/13; C142/241/125.
  • 25. CSP Dom. 1598-1601, pp. 345-6, 397; HMC Hatfield, ix. 400, 415-16; x. 97-8, 140.
  • 26. HMC Hatfield, iv. 426, 554; xiii. 492-3; Two Elizabethan Women, 42-3.
  • 27. STAC 8/14/7, 8/56/3; CSPD, 1623-5, p. 547.
  • 28. Two Elizabethan Women, 19; HMC Hatfield, xi. 18, 225, 271, 320, 327; xv. 137, 234, 390-1; xviii. 115; xix. 199; G. Haslam, ‘Jacobean Phoenix’, in Estates of Eng. Crown ed. R.W. Hoyle, 267-9.
  • 29. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 566; Salop RO, LB2/1/1, ff. 82v, 103v.
  • 30. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 310, 314.
  • 31. HEHL, EL74; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 425; APC, 1619-21, pp. 49-50, 57-9; Liber Famelicus, 90-1.
  • 32. PROB 11/138, ff. 352v-4; C142/402/147.