Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Townshend, Roger (d.1493)

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TOWNSHEND, Sir ROGER (d. 1493), judge and founder of the Townshend family, was son and heir of John Townshend (d. 1465) of Rainham, Norfolk, by his wife Joan, daughter and heir of Sir Robert Lunford of Romford in Essex and Battle in Sussex. The family had long been settled in Norfolk, and in ancient charters the name was latinised as ‘ad Exitum Villæ’ (‘at town's end’). Roger was in September 1454 admitted student at Lincoln's Inn, of which he was governor in 1461, and again in 1463, 1465, and 1466. His name occurs in the year-books from Hilary term 1465 onwards. On 24 July 1466 he was placed on the commission of the peace in Norfolk (Cal. Patent Rolls, Edw. IV, p. 568), and in April 1467 he was returned, probably through the influence of his mother's family, to parliament for Bramber, Sussex. His legal practice was evidently considerable, and on 9 Nov. 1469 he bought from Sir John Paston (1442–1479) [q. v.], for 66l. 13s. 4d., his manor of East Beckham, with all his lands in West Beckham, Bodham, Sheringham, Beeston Regis, Runton, Shipden, Felbrigg, Aylmerton, Sustead, and Gresham, all near Cromer in Norfolk (Paston Letters, ii. 391). He seems to have acted as legal adviser to the Paston family; in June 1470 he was counsel for John Paston who was tried on a charge of felony at the Norwich sessions for shooting two men. Sir John borrowed money of Townshend, and by 1477 owed him four hundred marks (ib. ii. 397–9, iii. 199, 255). On 15 Sept. 1472 Townshend was returned to parliament for Calne in Wiltshire. He was double reader at Lincoln's Inn in 1468, and again in 1474, and in October 1477 was made serjeant-at-law, becoming king's serjeant in 1483 (Rymer, xii. 186). Richard III appointed him justice of the common pleas about January 1484, and Henry VII not only retained him in this position, but knighted him on Whitsunday 1486. On 14 July following he was placed on the commission of oyer and terminer for London and its suburbs, and on 7 April 1487 was made commissioner of array for Norfolk. In 1489 he was appointed on the commissions for the peace in Sussex, Essex, and Hertfordshire, and on commissions for gaol delivery at Hertford, Colchester, and Guildford (Campbell, Materials, i. 428, ii. 135, 325, 477–83). According to Dugdale, the last fine acknowledged before him was at midsummer 1493. He died on 9 Nov. following, his will being dated 14 Aug. (Cal. Inquis. post mortem, 1898, vol. i. Nos. 1028, 1136, 1143; Blomefield, Norfolk, vii. 131). Foss erroneously states that Townshend continued sitting in court until Michaelmas 1500.

Townshend's first wife was Anne, daughter and heir of Sir William Brews or Braose, who brought him the manor of Stinton, Norfolk. By her, who died on 31 Oct. 1489, he had six sons and six daughters; the eldest son, Sir Roger (1477–1551), was thrice sheriff of Norfolk, which he also represented in parliament in 1529 and 1541–2. Dying without issue, on 30 Nov. 1551, he was succeeded by his great-nephew, Sir Roger (1543?–1590) [q. v.] The judge's second wife's name was Eleanor, who was his executrix, and died in 1500.

[Authorities cited; Dugdale's Orig. Jurid. and Chronica Ser.; Visitation of Norfolk (Harleian Soc.); Lincoln's Inn Records, i. 12; Rye's Norfolk Records; Collins's Peerage, vi. 36–9; Off. Return of Members of Parliament; Blomefield's Norfolk, passim; Foss's Lives of the Judges.]

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