Townshend Papers

Scope and Content

Papers of the Townshend family of Norfolk, from 1666 to the nineteenth century, comprising a rental for Horsham St Faith in Norfolk, 1724-1761; Raynham Hall labourers' accounts, 1666-1667; and miscellaneous Townshend family militia papers of the eighteenth century, with correspondence and papers of George Townshend, 1st Marquess Townshend (1724-1807), mainly as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, 1767-1772.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Townshend family have been associated with Raynham in Norfolk since at least the early sixteenth century, when they acquired some twenty manors at the dissolution of the monasteries. Sir John Townshend (1567/8-1603) was knighted for his valour during the attack on Cadiz in 1596. He was returned to Parliament successively for Castle Rising in Norfolk, the county of Norfolk, and Orford in Suffolk. Sir Roger Townshend, first baronet (1595-1637), began work on the construction of the present Raynham Hall in 1619. His son Horatio (baptized 1630, died 1687), sat in the Protectorate Parliaments of 1656 and 1659, but by the late 1650s was an active supporter of the Restoration. In 1661 he was rewarded with the title Baron Townshend of Lynn Regis. Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount (1674-1738), was appointed ambassador-extraordinary to The Hague in 1709, and played a critical role in concluding the peace treaty with the Dutch. He held several other important offices of state but fell out with Walpole in 1730 and retired to his Norfolk estate, where his enthusiasm for agricultural improvements earned him the nickname Turnip Townshend. He also employed William Kent to remodel Raynham Hall. Charles Townshend, 3rd Viscount (1700-1764), held various offices, including Lord of the Bedchamber, Master of the Jewel House, Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, and High Steward of Norwich Cathedral.

George Townshend, 1st Marquess Townshend (1724-1807), politician and caricaturist, was educated at Eton College and St John's College, Cambridge. In 1743 he volunteered for the army in Flanders and in 1748 became lieutenant-colonel of 7th Regiment of Dragoons. In 1747, while in Flanders, he was elected unopposed as MP for Norfolk. In the 1750s Townshend gained political prominence as the foremost supporter of a succesful campaign to extend of the militia; he was subsequently promoted to the rank of colonel in 1758 and became aide-de-camp to George II. In December 1760 he was sworn into the Privy Council. On 14 March 1763 Townshend became Lieutenant-General of the Ordnance. Inspired by Hogarth and Italian caricature, Townshend used pictorial satire against his enemies to reinforce his political views, though this probably hindered rather than helped his career. He succeeded his father as 4th Viscount Townshend on 12 March 1764 and became Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1767, attempting a number of major reforms. He returned from Ireland to his old office at the Ordnance. After the death of his first wife, Lady Charlotte Compton, in 1770, Townshend married Anne Montgomery (d 1819), the daughter of Sir William Montgomery, in 1773. He continued to climb the ranks of the army, becoming field marshal in 1796. On 31 October 1786, he was created Marquess Townshend of Raynham.

Source: Martyn J. Powell, 'Townshend, George, first Marquess Townshend (1724-1807)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

Access Information

The collection is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library from James Fairhurst of Oldham in February 1939.


Description compiled by Jo Humpleby, project archivist, with reference to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on George Townshend, 1st Marquess Townshend.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1937-1951 (English MSS 938, 939, 940, 941).

Separated Material

The bulk of the Townshend family records are held at Raynham Hall, Norfolk Record Office and the British Library, Manuscript Collections; for further information see the National Register of Archives at