TOWNSHEND, Charles (1728-1810), of Honingham Hall, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



13 Dec. 1756 - 1784
1790 - 1796

Family and Education

b. 27 Aug. 1728, o.s. of Hon. William Townshend, M.P., (3rd surv. s. of Charles, 2nd Visct. Townshend) by Henrietta, da. of Lord William Powlett, M.P.; cos. of Hon. Charles and Hon. George Townshend.  educ. Eton 1742-5; Clare, Camb. 1747-9.  m. 21 Aug. 1777, Annabella, da. of Rev. Richard Smith of Itchen, Hants, 3s. 5da.  suc. fa. 29 Jan. 1738; cr. Baron Bayning 20 Oct. 1797.

Offices Held

Sec. to embassy to Spain 1751-5; ld. of Admiralty 1765-70, of Treasury 1770-7; P.C. 20 June 1777; jt. vice-treasurer [I] 1777-Mar. 1782; treasurer of navy Apr.-Dec. 1783.


Even in scholarly works Charles Townshend of Honingham is occasionally confused with his more famous cousin: thus by J. A. Venn regarding their respective dates of admission to Clare; and in the official Return of Members over the by-election at Yarmouth in December 1756. Contemporaries often distinguished him by referring to him as ‘Spanish Charles Townshend’.

When his cousin was given office in the Devonshire-Pitt Administration, and would not seek reelection at Yarmouth because of the risk and expense of the impending contest, Charles Townshend became candidate for the seat which the Townshend family had held without break since 1715 (his own father sitting 1723-38). George Townshend wrote to his brother Charles, 24 Nov. 1756:1

I have had a conference or two with Lord Townshend. He will not hear of Charles Townshend of Honingham and says that if you vacate he will support Roger as far as £200 or £300, and no more. This you see is nothing at all. Charles Townshend will go as far as £1,000 or £1,500 and act vigorously and heartily with us ... I am going to talk finally with Lord Townshend ... the part [we] should—and are only able to take, is obvious. It is high time Yarmouth should either be vigorously supported or totally dropped.

In the contest which ensued Townshend had the support of his Raynham cousins and of Lord Orford, the other patron in the borough.2 He was returned by a narrow margin.

At first George Townshend repeatedly sponsored his cause, especially where the family interest at Yarmouth was involved. When on the death of Roger Townshend, senior, the post of governor of Yarmouth fell vacant, George Townshend wrote to Newcastle, 10 Aug. 1760, asking that his cousin Charles should succeed ‘unless some [military] sufferer in his Majesty’s service ... engages your patronage’; otherwise:

I hope your Grace will ... consider how much the matter is interwoven with our family interest at Yarmouth, and the effect which this government (with which the King honoured both my father’s cousin and his uncle) may have upon the approaching election, where our family has twice lately stood two warm contests.

In the end it was not given to Charles Townshend, being looked upon as a military governorship.3

He now separated politically from his Raynham cousins (but remained on good terms with them); and in every extant division list under the Bute and Grenville Administrations appears as voting with the Opposition. He was also an active member of Wildman’s Club. When on 30 June 1765 eighteen friends of Newcastle gathered at Claremont to consider whether to form an Administration, Spanish Townshend was among them, and was one of the six young friends who were against it.4 When it was formed, Townshend was considered for the Board of Trade or the Admiralty.5 Rockingham wrote to Newcastle, 11 July 1765:

I think your Grace mentioned Spanish Charles as preferring the Admiralty to the Board of Trade. And I must wish that Sir William Meredith may have the choice of either the Board of Trade or Admiralty.

Newcastle replied the next day: ‘I must insist that Mr. Charles Townshend of Honingham ... may be in the Admiralty’; to which post he was appointed.6

When the Chatham Administration was being formed, 16 friends dined with Newcastle at Claremont on Sunday 20 July, and Spanish Charles was again one of them. About this dinner, Newcastle wrote:7

You may imagine that nothing passed as to the present situation of affairs in so large a company. I heard, however, that most of the company, in their little separate coteries, seemed strongly for going on with, and supporting Mr. Pitt’s administration.

This was obviously Townshend’s view who remained in office, and from now onwards till the fall of the North Administration in March 1782, never once is known to have voted against the Government.

At the general election of 1774 and the by-election of 1777 he encountered a local opposition of little weight. In 1780 he was returned unopposed jointly with Richard Walpole who in the previous Parliament had steadily voted against the Government.

Townshend was a close and trusted friend of North, who, distressed by colleagues and circumstances, was told by Robinson on 14 May 1779: ‘I own I much wish you would consult Mr. Townshend on the present situation of things before you finally decide, as he is a person on whose attachment to you and disinterested judgment you can depend.’8 Townshend went out of office with North, and remained his friend and adviser;9 voted against Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783; returned to office under the Coalition; voted for Fox’s East India bill; and once more went out with North. At the general election of 1784 the local opposition of independents and Dissenters put up anti-Coalition candidates at Great Yarmouth, and, Richard Walpole having declined re-election, the Walpole interest was exerted on their side. Townshend and his fellow-candidate, Sir John Wodehouse withdrew before the poll.

During the 27 years December 1756-March 1784, only four interventions by Townshend in parliamentary debate are reported: three were concerned with the corn trade, important at Yarmouth, 5 Mar. 1759, 27 Mar. and 16 Nov. 1770; and one, 19 May 1768, with the seamen’s riots—Townshend was then at the Admiralty.10

Out of Parliament, Townshend continued to cultivate the family interest at Yarmouth, and in 1790 regained the seat.

He died 19 May 1810.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Buccleuch mss.
  • 2. Orford to Chas. Townshend, 22 Nov. 1756, ibid.
  • 3. Add. 32881, ff. 262-3; 32909, ff. 389-90; 32910, ff. 3, 393; 32911, ff. 115-16, 405-6; 32912, f. 203.
  • 4. Rockingham Mems. i. 220.
  • 5. Fortescue, i. 93, 126, 143.
  • 6. Add. 32967, ff. 315-17, 349.
  • 7. Bateson, Changes in the Ministry, 86.
  • 8. Abergavenny mss; Fortescue, v. 46.
  • 9. Add. 38309, f. 75; 38567, ff. 139-40; Corresp. C. J. Fox, i. 34-35.
  • 10. Add. 32888, f. 338; Cavendish’s ‘Debates’, Egerton 215, p. 80; 221, p. 99; 222, pp. 87-89.