TOWNSHEND, Sir Roger (by 1478-1551), of Raynham, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



? 1536

Family and Education

b. by 1478, 1st s. of Sir Roger Townshend of Raynham by 2nd w. Eleanor, da. of William Lunsford of Lunsford, Suss. educ. L. Inn, adm. 1496. m. ?(1) Amy, da. of William Brewes of Wenham, Suff., 6s. 2da.; (2) Anne. suc. fa. 9 Nov. 1493. Kntd. 1518/22.3

Offices Held

J.p. Norf. 1501-13, 1524-d.; sheriff, Norf. and Suff. 1511-12, 1518-19, Jan.-Nov. 1526; commr. subsidy, Norf. 1512, 1514, 1515, 1523, 1524, for survey of monasteries 1537, benevolence, Norf. and Norwich 1544/45, chantries, Norf., Suff., Norwich, Ipswich Yarmouth 1546, Norf., Suff., Norwich 1548, relief Norf., Norwich, Yarmouth 1550; other commissions 1504-47; councillor to hear causes in ct. of requests 1528/29; knight of the body by 1533; lt. Norf. Apr. 1551.4


The son of a distinguished lawyer, Roger Townshend was himself bred to the law but did not make much headway in that profession. From his mother’s death in 1499, when he obtained possession of all his father’s estates, he probably devoted himself mainly to his lands and local affairs. He served against the French in 1512 and 1513, in which year he provided a force of 30 men, and at the time of the northern rebellion he was called upon to supply 50 men to wait upon the King; but he found his real métier in the administration of his shire, especially during the upheaval of the Reformation. His later pre-eminence there makes his absence from the commission of the peace for some ten years before 1524 somewhat surprising; it may have had some connexion with the pardon he sued out on 3 July 1514.5

In 1536 Townshend was consulted by the 3rd Duke of Norfolk as to the probable yield of the subsidy in that county and throughout the late 1530s he was in constant correspondence with Cromwell, giving news of any disaffection, heresy and treason, and of the progress of the Dissolution. ‘Would that the King had three or four such as Mr. Townshend in every shire’, wrote the Duke of Norfolk in 1538. In 1528-9 Townshend had been one of the councillors hearing cases in the court of requests and he was still being called King’s Councillor as late as 1549. The new reign saw no cessation of his activities: on 2 Feb. 1547 he was one of four gentlemen whom the Privy Council bade secure East Anglia and four years later, only a few months before his death, he was one of three commissioned to act as lieutenants of Norfolk.6

During the half century of his public activity Townshend did not neglect his own interests. The 20 manors which he had inherited were valued in his father’s inquisition post mortem at just under £100 a year, but in a valor of 1500-2 he himself estimated his landed income at £255. He added some properties before 1536 but it was after the Dissolution that he made his greatest acquisitions: between 1536 and 1541 he bought or obtained by exchange at least six manors and much other land including the possessions of several chantries and religious houses. His aim seems to have been to consolidate his holdings round his chief manor at Raynham and he eventually owned a score of manors within a ten-mile radius as well as a number of others only a little further away.7

Townshend was a man of sufficient resources to have secured his election as senior knight of the shire from 1529, but as an increasingly valued servant of the crown he could also have counted on official support. Although the names of the knights for Norfolk in the Parliament of 1536 have been lost, Townshend’s appears with those of three other lawyers on the dorse of an Act for continuing expiring laws passed in that Parliament, and he may thus be taken as having been re-elected in accordance with the King’s general request for the return of the previous Members. Similarly in 1542, when a defective indenture leaves the identity of only one knight known, and that uncertainly, Townshend was one of four Members whose support was solicited on 31 Jan. 1542 by the common council of London for a bill to cleanse the Fleet ditch. In the intervening Parliament, that of 1539, it was his son-in law, Edmund Wyndham, who had been returned at the King’s behest.8

By the end of the Parliament of 1542 Townshend was an elderly man, and although he would remain active until the end he had already begun to provide for the future of his family. In 1537-8 he settled a number of estates on himself and his wife in survivorship with remainder to his heir: this transaction may have accompanied a second marriage of which there is no mention in the pedigrees and which has perhaps been obscured by the similarity of the names ‘Amie’ and ‘Anne’. As early as 1511 he had settled four manors on his eldest son John and his wife, in 1537 he allotted considerable estates to his grandson Richard on marriage, and between 1536 and 1550 he provided for his younger sons: but although his children were so numerous his estates were to yield an ample heritage. His lands were valued in his inquisition at £308, a nominal figure of which well over two thirds descended to his heir.9

Townshend had seen both his eldest son and his grandson die before him when he came to make his will on 31 July 1551, and his heir apparent was his six year old great-grandson, another Roger Townshend. He asked to be buried at Raynham alongside his wife Amy, and made a number of religious and charitable bequests. He divided his plate between his heir and his four surviving sons and left flocks of sheep to certain of his children and grandchildren. His sons George and Thomas, who were to share his books, were named executors and were accordingly to hold lands in trust for the heir, and his supervisor was his other son-in-law Sir Henry Bedingfield. Townshend died on 25 Nov. 1551 and his will was proved on 10 May 1552.10

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. House of Lords RO, Original Acts 28 Hen. VIII, no. 9.
  • 2. Indenture defaced, only ‘Roger T ...’ surviving, C219/18B/54; City of London RO, Guildhall, rep. 10, f. 242v.
  • 3. Date of birth estimated from age at parents’ i.p.m.s., CIPM Hen. VII, i. 492; ii. 302. Vis. Norf. (Norf. Arch.) i. 306; LP Hen. VIII, iii.
  • 4. CPR, 1494-1509, pp. 361, 408, 474, 560, 652; 1547-8, pp. 72, 75, 76, 87; 1548-9, p. 136; 1553, pp. 356, 361-2; LP Hen. VIII, i-v, vii, viii, xii-xvi, xviii, xx, xxi; Statutes, iii. 81, 115, 173; Lansd. 12(57), ff. 124-30; APC, iii. 259.
  • 5. CIPM Hen. VII, ii. 302; LP Hen. VIII, i, xiv; C67/62, m. 1.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, xi-xiii; Elton, Policy and Police, 17, 82, 144-5, 342; Lansd. 12(57), ff. 124-30; CPR, 1548-9, p. 308; APC, ii. 10-11; iii. 259.
  • 7. Add. 41139; Wards 7/6/68.
  • 8. House of Lords RO, Original Acts 28 Hen. VIII, no. 9; City of London RO, rep. 10, f. 242v.
  • 9. Wards 7/6/68.
  • 10. Norwich consist. ct. 31 Lyncolne; Wards 7/6/68.