TOWNSHEND, Henry (?1537-1621), of Cound and Ludlow, Salop.

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. ?1537, s. of Sir Robert Townshend of Ludlow by Alice, da. of John Popey or Poppey of Twyford, Norf. educ. L. Inn 1559, called 1569. m. (1) Susan (d.1592), da. of Sir Rowland Hayward of London and Cound, 4s. inc. Hayward 3da.; (2) 1593, Dorothy (d.1635), da. of Christopher Heveningham of Aston, Staffs., 1s. Kntd. 1604.1

Offices Held

Pens. L. Inn 1578, bencher c.1580, Autumn reader 1581; member, council in the marches of Wales 1576 (j.p. Salop and other neighbouring English and all Welsh counties from c.1579), vice-pres. from 1614; dep. justice, Chester 1577; puisne judge, Chester, Denb., Flints., and Mont. 1578; recorder, Ludlow from 1577; dep. recorder, Bridgnorth 1586-9; recorder, Carmarthen c.1588-90, Leominster from c.1590, Worcester, Oswestry from 1617; judge in sheriff’s court, London 1592; steward, Oswestry 1596, Shrewsbury from 1598; vice-chamberlain, Chester from 1604.2


Grandson of a Norfolk landowner, and son of a Chester judge, almost all Townshend’s connexions were in the west of England and the Welsh marches. When he was one of those that ‘desire to be placed justices in Wales’ in 1576, he was described as:

of Lincoln’s Inn, an honest gent of good learning and substantial living. He was born in Norfolk, and by reason his father was justice in Chester and of this council he draweth toward these parts and is a counsellor at assizes and sessions in the marches, and well liked of all men, and zealous in religion. I know not a man of better disposition.

Just before this, he had sent to the Privy Council a set of articles about ‘sundry things to be reformed in Wales’, which the councillors evidently took seriously and considered, with some satisfactory results.3

The patron who secured Townshend’s parliamentary seat at Bridgnorth, when he had only fairly recently been called to the bar, and apparently before he began his legal career in the west, is not known, but his father (who died in 1557) had friends on the council in the marches, among them no doubt Sir Andrew Corbet, whom the Privy Council instructed in 1571 to supervise Shropshire elections. A contributory factor in the choice of Townshend may have been that his first wife brought him land in Shropshire. Townshend made no known contribution to the business of the 1571 Parliament. In that of 1572 his committees included those concerned with the explanation of statutes (28 May 1572), recoveries (31 May 1572 and 7 Mar. 1576), innholders and tipplers (17 Feb. 1576), the county palatine of Chester (25 Feb.) and sheriffs (4 Feb. 1581). On 6 Feb. 1581 he and Henry Knollys II were appointed to examine a charge of outlawry brought against Walter Vaughan. He made two recorded speeches, the first on 5 June 1572 to ask for a bill to be considered concerning lands given to hospitals, ‘for that he doubteth it may touch his inheritance’, and the second two days later on a petition by one Robert Wykes for lands which had been illegally withheld from him.4

The majority of references to Townshend are concerned with his work as a justice or as a member of the council in the marches, where by 1600 he was one of the three members of the quorum, two being bound to be always in attendance: his salary was by this time £100. In his early years in the marches he was generally allied with the faction of the Earl of Leicester and Sir Henry Sidney, and opposed to Whitgift and Fabian Phillips. No clear picture of Townshend as a man emerges, but hints of puritanism may be seen in some of the comments made about him, and in his will, where he asked to buried ‘without pomp, feasting or vain glory’, and prayed that God would ‘of His mere mercy and grace grant unto me that I may be one of His elect children’. He supported the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the council in the marches, and complained that the ‘chancellors and registers’ in the ‘jurisdiction spiritual’ were often at fault themselves in cases which came before the council. With the 2nd Earl of Pembroke, lord president of the council from 1586, Townshend’s relations were at first good. But in 1599, when on the death of Sir Richard Shuttleworth, chief justice of Chester, the Privy Council suggested temporarily appointing Townshend in his place, Pembroke ‘laboured all that ever he could to the contrary’, and a compromise was reached by which the post of justice was put into commission, Townshend being one of the five justices of great sessions appointed. Angry at the loss of his expected promotion, Townshend persuaded Thomas Egerton I, the lord keeper, to use his influence on his behalf, only to be again blocked by Pembroke, who, while claiming that he had no ‘private malice’ against Townshend, declared:

Neither is he for learning (as I think) nor for uprightness (as I know) worthy that place. But so far is he carried either with his own ambition, or by the confidence he reposeth in some men’s great favour towards him, that he ceaseth not (as I hear) still to seek it.

Early in 1600 Richard Lewknor was granted the Chester post, and Townshend now began a campaign against Pembroke, who in turn complained bitterly of statements made by Townshend to Lord Chandos about him. In the end the matter was smoothed over and Townshend kept his place on the quorum. He was presumably consoled by being made vice-chamberlain in 1604.5

Townshend’s attempt to exercise by deputy his office of judge of the sheriffs court in London was strongly opposed by other lawyers, notably James Dalton, who declared the proposal to be ‘contrary to all law and justice’. References to him in the boroughs where he held office are favourable—‘well learned’, ‘a most worthy esquire’, and (from the town of Shrewsbury) ‘so full of pity and mercy that he did what was possible for the life of the prisoners’. Shrewsbury had especial reason to be grateful to him in 1598, when the corporation was sued before the council in the marches for charging excessive market tolls. Townshend gave the borough officials advance notice of the charges, advised them to come prepared with charters and records, and ended ‘with my commendations in secret sort’. At Ludlow, where he became a burgess in 1584, he was frequently entertained by the corporation, and his horses regularly provided with hay. In turn, he presented two silver-gilt spoons to the town. The ‘fair house’ he occupied when in Ludlow is described as ‘in St. Austin’s, once a friary’.6

As his career progressed he became wealthy, through salaries, perquisites, and a profitable grant for concealments. Like other Elizabethan officials he continually complained that he was underpaid. Little information has been found about his domestic life. In August 1610, after a visit to Sir John Wynn of Gwydir, Townshend’s wife and other gentlewomen in the company ‘do so sweat from Sir John’s good cheer and their ill throwing at dice, that they must needs wash and purify themselves in the Holywell’. Of his children the best-known was Hayward, the parliamentary diarist. Another son, John, is mentioned in his father’s will as having died by 1621. Early in 1617 there was a rumour that Townshend himself had died, but he lived until December 1621, and was buried at Cound on the 9th of that month. He ‘reckoned himself’ to be 84, which would have made him 22 when he entered Lincoln’s Inn, a surprisingly late entry. His will, made in April 1621, was proved before the end of the year. He asked the executors, who included his widow and son ‘Harry’, to see that he was buried at Ludlow or Cound. Various grandchildren were provided for, 100 marks being a usual legacy. An ambiguous clause referring to the stewardship of Whitchurch leaves it doubtful whether Townshend himself had held the office. The executors were reminded that John Vaughan had not paid a £200 debt. Charitable legacies included ten marks to Cound church, and there were individual bequests to several servants, while the others, unnamed, were to have a quarter’s wages.7

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. W. R. Williams, Welsh Judges, 56-7; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 2), x. 332-3; DNB (Townshend, Hayward); Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. xxxii), 291; Vis. Salop (Harl. Soc. xxix), 464-5; Colls. Hist. Staffs. (Wm. Salt. Arch. Soc. v(2)), 173.
  • 2. Black Bk. L. Inn, i. 342, 360-1, 395, 397, 416, 418, 422, 457; P. H. Williams, Council in the Marches of Wales, 359; Welsh Judges; Lansd. 76, f. 22; 79, f. 182; Flenley, Cal. Reg. Council, Marches of Wales, 179-237 passim; Bridgnorth leet bk. 3, ff. 2, 16; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 1), vii. 259; (ser. 2), x. 332; liv(2), 184; Cal. Wynn Pprs. 130.
  • 3. Black Bk.; SP12/110/13; Bull. celtic Studies, vi. 70; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 404, 514.
  • 4. Add. 48018, f. 294v; CJ, i. 96, 98, 99, 106, 108, 111, 122; D’Ewes, 292; Trinity, Dublin, Thos. Cromwell’s jnl. ff. 34, 52, 55.
  • 5. P. H. Williams, 104-5, 139, 140, 176, 193, 247-8, 269, 271, 291-3; PCC 107 Dale; HMC Hatfield, iv. 554.
  • 6. Lansd. 76, f. 22; 79, f. 182; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 2), xi. 318-19; P. H. Williams, 193.
  • 7. Lansd. 47, f. 28; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 336; 1603-10, pp. 315, 425; 1611-18, p. 425; P. H. Williams, 139; Cal. Wynn Pprs. 87; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 2), x. 333; PCC 107 Dale.