TOWNSHEND, Lord Charles Vere Ferrars Compton (1785-1853), of 20 Cavendish Square, Mdx. and Rainham Hall, nr. Fakenham, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1812 - 1818
1820 - 1834

Family and Education

b. 16 Sept. 1785, 2nd. s. of George, 2nd Mq. Townshend (d. 1811), and Charlotte, da. and coh. of Eaton Mainwaring Ellerker of Risby Park, Yorks. educ. Harrow 1797-9. m. 24 Mar. 1812, his cos. Charlotte, da. of Gen. William Loftus† of Stiffkey, Norf., s.p. d. 5 Nov. 1853.

Offices Held

Maj. Norf. rangers 1808; capt. Norf. yeoman cav. 1831.


Townshend’s family had held one of Tamworth’s seats from 1765 until 1818, when Townshend fought desperately but unsuccessfully to retain it, having been disadvantaged by the enforced sale of the Tamworth Castle estate by the Townshend trustees which had followed the death of his father in 1811. His elder brother George, who had succeeded to the peerage, and with whom the public were ‘well acquainted’ owing to his alleged homosexuality and failure to consummate his marriage, had been partially disinherited and lived abroad. By their father’s will Townshend, who had married his cousin, a ‘pretty young modest looking person’, eventually came into possession of the entailed estates at Rainham, with their ‘very large income’ of about £15,000 a year, in 1832, but in the meantime was embroiled in a series of bitter legal disputes over his father’s entrusted properties. In 1820 Lady Jerningham observed that he lived ‘in a very small house’ and ‘at present he has not £2,000’, and his case was described as ‘one of singular hardship’ in a letter sent to Sir Francis Burdett* in 1831, shortly before he obtained ‘unrestricted possession’ of Rainham Hall.1

At the 1820 general election Townshend offered again for Tamworth in opposition to the Peel interest and their assumption of both seats. Rather than face another stiff contest, Sir Robert Peel stepped down, leaving his son William and Townshend to come in unopposed.2 A regular attender, Townshend gave generally steady support to the Whig opposition to the Liverpool ministry on most major issues, including economy, retrenchment and reduced taxation.3 He voted against Catholic claims, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar. 1825. He divided for parliamentary reform, 9 May 1821, 25 Apr. 1822, 24 Apr., 2 June 1823, 13, 27 Apr. 1826; but in his only known intervention in debate, 24 Apr. 1823, he ‘censured the revolutionary principles contained in the Norfolk petition’ presented that day in favour of reform. At the 1826 general election Townshend, whose uncle Lord John Townshend† had been assured by Robert Peel, the home secretary, that his father had ‘no thoughts of proposing at the ensuing election more than one of his sons’, was again returned unopposed for Tamworth.4 He voted for the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May 1827, against extending East Retford’s franchise to the hundred of Bassetlaw, 21 Mar. 1828, and for transfer of its seats to Birmingham, 5 May 1829, 5 Mar. 1830. He voted to condemn delays in chancery, 24 Apr. 1828. He voted for repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb. 1828, but was absent from the division on Catholic claims, 12 May. The following day he voted against the provision for Canning’s family. He divided for inquiry into the Irish church, 24 June, and to adjourn the additional churches bill, 30 June 1828. In February 1829 Planta, the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary, predicted that he would be ‘opposed’ to securities to counterbalance Catholic emancipation. His name appears in none of the divisions of the following month except a minority of 17 against the Irish franchise bill, 19 Mar. 1829. He voted for the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester, 23 Feb., and parliamentary reform, 28 May, and divided steadily with the revived opposition from March 1830. He voted for leave to introduce a bill for Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., but against the second reading, 17 May 1830.

At the 1830 general election Townshend stood again for Tamworth where, following the candidature of Robert Peel, ‘the borough was in a state of great excitement’ and preparations were under way for a ‘strenuous contest’ if Peel’s brother William did not step down. Townshend, who hoped that the electors ‘would never suffer the borough to be closed by any family compact’, considered it ‘unnecessary’ to ‘declare his political principles’, other than to observe that he had ‘always voted for all necessary reductions in public expenditure’ and had ‘never been connected with any ministerial jobs’. After the withdrawal of William Peel he was returned unopposed.5 He was listed by the Wellington ministry as one of their ‘foes’, and divided against them in the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He was absent from the division on the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., but present to vote against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election he offered again for Tamworth, urging the ‘propriety and necessity of parliamentary reform’, which would be ‘of essential benefit to the community, and by no means dangerous to the constitution’. He had ‘expected that a recent vote he had conscientiously given would probably have separated him from some of his chief friends, but the reception he met with convinced him that Tamworth ... was favourable to the disfranchisement of such places as Gatton, Old Sarum and Castle Rising’. Rumours of a third candidate came to nothing and he was again returned unopposed.6 He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, at least twice against the adjournment, 12 July 1831, and gave generally steady support to its details, although he divided against the proposed division of counties, 11 Aug., and for Lord Chandos’s clause to enfranchise £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug. He voted for the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He divided with ministers on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. 1831.

Following the reform bill’s rejection in the Lords, Townshend was considered for possible inclusion in a list of ‘heirs apparent or presumptive to the peerage, whose immediate elevation to the House would have no tendency towards the permanent augmentation of the numbers of that assembly’. In a report sent to Peel by William Holmes*, 6 Jan. 1832, he was rumoured to be one of 20 creations about to be ‘immediately ordered’ by the king, but nothing came of this.7 He voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and again generally supported its details, although he was in the minority against the inclusion of Helston in schedule B, 23 Feb. 1832. He divided with government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 20 July, and relations with Portugal, 9 Feb. 1832. He divided for the reform bill’s third reading, 22 Mar., but was absent from the division on the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May. He voted for the second reading of the Irish bill, 25 May 1832.

At the 1832 general election Townshend was re-elected unopposed for Tamworth, where he sat as a Liberal until the dissolution of 1834, when he retired.8 Following the death in 1833 of John Robins, who had bought the family’s Tamworth estate in 1814, Townshend, in collaboration with the family trustees, repurchased the Castle and some of the adjoining land.9 He also aspired to succeed to the peerage, but his claims were uncertain. The Marchioness Townshend, who had never divorced his brother, had in 1809 taken at Gretna Green a second husband, John Margetts, with whom she had a son John (1811-1903), styled Lord John Townshend, 1823-8, and then earl of Leicester, under which name he was returned as a Conservative for Bodmin in 1841. His claims, as one commentator put it, threatened to ‘cast the honour of this distinguished family upon an alien brood’, and in 1843 Townshend obtained a private Act of Parliament declaring that the children of the Marchioness ‘are not, nor were, nor shall they or any of them be taken to be, or be deemed, the lawful issue of the said George Ferrars, Marquess Townshend’. The self-styled earl changed his name to John Dunn Gardner shortly thereafter.10

Townshend died at St. Leonard’s-on-Sea in November 1853. By his will, dated 12 Aug. 1853, he left all his personal estate to his wife. The family estates at Rainham, of which he was ‘tenant for life’, and Tamworth Castle passed to the next male heir, his cousin Captain John Townshend (1798-1863), who sat for Tamworth as a Liberal, 1847-53, and succeeded Townshend’s elder brother as the 4th Marquess Townshend in 1855, when the earldom of Leicester became extinct.11

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Philip Salmon


  • 1. Gent. Mag. (1811), ii. 93, 664; Jerningham Letters, ii. 185; The Times, 14 June 1819; Sheffield Archives, Arundel Castle mss MD 2613.
  • 2. N. Gash, Secretary Peel, 296; Staffs. Advertiser, 4 Mar. 1820.
  • 3. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 487.
  • 4. Add. 40385, f. 321; Staffs. Advertiser, 10 June 1826.
  • 5. Lichfield Mercury, 16, 23, 30 July, 6, 13 Aug.; Staffs. Advertiser, 24, 31 July, 7 Aug. 1830.
  • 6. Lichfield Mercury, 29 Apr., 6 May; Staffs. Advertiser, 30 Apr., 7 May 1831.
  • 7. Arundel Castle mss MD 2613; Add. 40402, f. 175.
  • 8. Dyott’s Diary, ii. 187-8.
  • 9. White’s Staffs. Dir. (1834), 383; (1851), 620; C. Palmer, Hist. Tamworth, 499.
  • 10. Arundel Castle mss MD 2613; Gent. Mag. (1853), ii. 631; CP, xii. 812-13.
  • 11. Gent. Mag. (1853), ii. 631; H. Wood, Borough By Prescription (1958), 69; PROB 11/2188/247; IR26/2011/176.