Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Townsend, Isaac
TOWNSEND, ISAAC (d. 1765), admiral, nephew of Sir Isaac Townsend (d. 1731), captain in the navy, and for many years resident commissioner at Portsmouth, seems to have entered the navy about 1698 or 1699, as servant to his uncle, then captain of the Ipswich. He was afterwards in the Lincoln with Captain Wakelin, and again in the Ipswich. Several other ships are also mentioned in his passing certificate, dated 15 Jan. 1705–6, but without any exact indications. It is possible that he was at Vigo in 1702; it is probable that he was in the action off Malaga in 1704 [see Rooke, Sir George], but there is no certainty. On 24 Sept. 1707 he was appointed lieutenant of the Hastings with Captain John Paul, employed on the Irish station, apparently till the peace. On 30 June 1719 he was appointed commander of the Poole fireship, and on 9 Feb. 1719–20 was posted to the Success of 20 guns, which he commanded on the Irish station for the next ten years. From 1734 to 1738 he commanded the Plymouth on the home station; in 1739 he commanded the Berwick, one of the fleet under Nicholas Haddock [q. v.] off Cadiz, whence he was sent home in March 1739–40 in charge of convoy. He, with his ship's company, was then turned over to the Shrewsbury, one of the fleet in the Channel, with Sir John Norris [q. v.], and for some time the flagship of Sir Chaloner Ogle [q. v.], with whom, in the end of the year, she went out to the West Indies. In the operations against Cartagena in March–April 1741, the Shrewsbury, with the Norfolk and Russell, all 80-gun ships, reduced the forts of St. Iago and St. Philip, and after the raising of the siege the Shrewsbury returned to England with Commodore Lestock.
On 19 June 1744 Townsend was promoted to be rear-admiral of the red, and on 23 April 1745 to be vice-admiral of the blue. Early in the year he went out to the Mediterranean as third in command, with his flag in the Dorsetshire, and a few months later was detached with a considerable squadron to the West Indies, whence, early in 1746, he was sent to Louisbourg, and so to England. On 15 July 1747 he was promoted to be admiral of the blue, and in 1754 was appointed governor of Greenwich Hospital. In this position he had to undertake the custody of Admiral John Byng [q. v.], a duty which, it was said by Byng's friends, he performed with needless, and even brutal, severity (Barrow, Life of Lord Anson, p. 256n.), but the charge appears to be as ill-founded as most of the other statements put in circulation about that miserable business. In February 1757 Townsend was advanced to be admiral of the white, and by the promotion following the death of Anson in 1762 he became the senior admiral on the list. He was still governor of the hospital at his death on 21 Nov. 1765. He married Elizabeth, daughter of William Larcum, surgeon of Richmond, and, on the mother's side, half-sister of Elizabeth, daughter of Anthony Storey, apothecary of London, and wife of Sir Isaac Townsend, Townsend's uncle. The similarity of names has caused frequent confusion between the uncle and nephew, which this curious marriage with sisters of the same christian name may easily intensify. Townsend has also been often confused with George Townshend (1715–1769) [q. v.], a contemporary in rank, though a much younger man.[Charnock's Biogr. Nav. iv. 85; Beatson's Naval and Military Memoirs, vols. i–iii.; Captains' letters T, vols. ix–xii. in the Public Record Office; genealogical notes kindly communicated by Mr. J. Challenor Smith.]