Towneley Manuscripts Collection

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection consists of a 17th-century library catalogue of the Towneley Library (Eng MS 735), and a series of four manuscripts on Lancashire Catholics during the late sixteenth to late early seventeenth centuries (Eng MSS 736-739).

These documents may have been brought together by Charles's brother Christopher Towneley (1604-1674), a well-known antiquary who collected documentary evidence for the history of Lancashire.

Administrative / Biographical History

Charles Towneley (1600-1644), royalist catholic and son of Richard and Jane Towneley of Towneley Hall, was educated in Belgium, later entering the English College in Rome. He left Rome in 1624, returned to England, and married Mary Trappes in 1628. His father died in the same year. When his eldest brother Richard died unmarried in 1635, Charles inherited the estate. Charles Towneley was killed fighting for King Charles I at the Battle of Hesom Moor in August 1644.

English MSS 736-737 relate to the administration in Lancashire of the collection in 1639 of contributions from Catholics to help finance the Scottish expedition of Charles I. This collection was organised by Charles' consort, Queen Henrietta Maria, herself a Catholic, in an attempt to demonstrate Catholic loyalty. The collectors for Lancashire were Sir Basil Brooke and Sir Kenelm Digby, assisted by local lay coadjucators (in this case Charles Towneley junior, William Gerard and Mr Bradshaw). The gathering of funds was usually entrusted to local clergy.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library from Lady Abingdon [Gwendolin Mary Bertie, née Dormer (1867-1942), second wife of the 7th Earl of Abingdon], via E.H. Tibbing of Oxford, in November 1933.


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan and Jo Klett, project archivists, with reference to:

Other Finding Aids

Custodial History

The papers probably passed by descent to Caroline Towneley (1838-1873) who in 1858 married Montagu Arthur Bertie, 7th Earl of Abingdon (1836-1928).

Related Material

See also English MS 416, a volume of Arms and Seals formerly belonging to Richard Towneley.

Oxford University, Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts, holds papers relating to the Towneley family and Catholicism (ref.: GB 161 MSS. Eng. c. 7031-2, Eng. d. 3537-40, Eng. e. 3387-93, French e. 41, Lat. misc. d. 100, Lat. misc. e. 133-4): see Towneley family and estate papers are held by Lancashire Record Office (ref.: GB 055 DDTO) and a number of other repositories.


For English MS 737 see Godfrey Anstruther, 'Lancashire Clergy in 1639, A recently discovered list among the Towneley papers', Recusant History, vol. 4, no. 1 (1957), pp. 38-46.

For English MS 739 see Geoffrey de C. Parmiter, 'Sir Alexander Colepeper of Bedgebury', Recusant History, vol. 19 (1988), pp. 364-85.

Geographical Names