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Raynham Hall, Norfolk, designs for alterations to a house and for a bridge for George, 4th Viscount and 1st MarquessTownshend, c1782, unexecuted (5)

George, 4th Viscount and 1st Marquess Townshend was born on 28 February 1724, the eldest son of Charles, 3rd Viscount Townshend (1700-1764) and his wife Etheldreda (c1708-1788), the daughter and heir of Edward Harrison of Balls Park, Herts. Townshend was educated at Eton before attending St. John’s College, Cambridge, where he graduated in July 1749. In December 1751 he married his first wife, Lady Charlotte Compton (d. 1770), Baroness Ferres. As the sole heir to both of her parents’ individual titles and estates, Charlotte bought a significant inheritance to the marriage. Together they had four sons and four daughters. Following the death of his first wife, Townshend remarried in May 1773 to Anne, daughter and heir of Sir William Montgomery, Bt. In addition to his already extensive family, Anne and Townshend would go on to have two sons and four daughters.

Townshend began his distinguished army career in 1743 when he joined the British Forces at Flanders as a volunteer. In April 1745 he obtained a commission as Captain in the 7th regiment of dragoons, where he served under William, Duke of Cumberland. Following his parents' separation in 1741, his paternal family were keen to promote the Cumberland connection, simultaneously seeking to curtail the perceived influence of Townsend’s mother with whom he had a close relationship. As a result Townshend went on to serve Cumberland at the battle of Culloden in April 1746. A few months later he was appointed aide-de-camp to the Duke, but a disagreement arose between the two men, leading to Townsend’s departure from the army in 1748 to pursue a political career.

In 1747 he had been elected in absentia as MP for Norfolk, and on his return to England his hatred for Cumberland fuelled his political alliances. In 1748 Townshend bought forward a motion to restrict the punishment of officers to court marshal alone, thus removing the powers of the commanding officer. The move was seen as a direct attack on the Duke of Cumberland, one which was supported by the Duke’s brother Frederick, Prince of Wales and the Leicester House Circle, with whom Townshend briefly allied himself. In 1751 a pamphlet attributed to Townshend was published attacking Cumberland and accusing him of ineffectual command. His campaign against Cumberland continued throughout his early political career, resulting in his opposition to Henry Fox and his alliance with Pitt the Elder.

In 1757 Townshend campaigned ardently for the Militia Bill, which was eventually passed in June 1757. His support of the Bill was instrumental to its success and saw the beginnings of Townshend as a political caricaturist and satirist. Powell notes an account of Walpole’s of the events preceding the Bill’s passing where he states that Townshend filled ‘The shutters, walls and napkins of every tavern in Pall Mall with caricatures of the Duke and Sir George Lyttelton, the Duke of Newcastle and Mr Fox’ (Walpole, Corres. 37.444). Powell goes on to highlight Townshend as a significant figure in the development of satirical art, as one of the first to recognise it as a tool for commanding public opinion.

In February 1759, with support from Pitt, Townshend secured the post of brigadier to Major-General James Woolfe. Following the death of Wolfe at the Battle of Abraham Heights Townshend took up command and accepted the surrender of Quebec in September 1759.

In December 1760 Townshend was appointed to the new King’s Privy Council, a position secured for him through his close friendship with John Stuart, Lord Bute. Loyal to Bute’s government, Townshend gave his support to the controversial Peace Treaty, which sought to end The Seven Years War and the unpopular Cider Tax. In 1767 he was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and later took up the post of Master of the Office of the Ordnance. In later life he was a firm supporter of the North administration and was offered the appointment of Governor of Jersey. In October 1786 he was created 1st Marquess Townshend.

George Townshend died 14 September 1802 at Raynham Hall, Norfolk. Namier noted that he was a warm-hearted man who ‘grew up antagonistic to his superiors and responsive to the misery of the downtrodden’.

The manor of Raynham was established as the Townshend family seat in the fifteenth century when Sir Roger Townshend constructed a courtyard-plan house on the Raynham estate, close to the Church of St Mary. In the seventeenth century a project to construct a new house was undertaken, which began around 1620. Bolton attributed this Jacobean manor house to Inigo Jones, which stylistically reproduces elements reminiscent of Jones’s work. However it has since been accepted as the work of Raynham’s owner, the gentleman-architect Sir Roger Townshend (c1595-1637), 1st Bt. Sir Roger worked in collaboration with the mason William Edge, taking inspiration for the project from a variety of sources. Boyington and Draper highlight Bath House as a likely influence, Sir Roger having made a visit to the site in November 1619. The use of the Dutch gables is an evident link to Bath House and is a form of architecture which became popular throughout East Anglia in the early seventeenth century. The west and south fronts of Sir Roger’s red brick, three-storey house remain largely unaltered. The east façade, however, was adapted in the early eighteenth century under Charles, 2nd Viscount Townshend and again in 1732 as part of works carried out by William Kent. Around this time substantial alterations were also made to the entrance hall and staircase, and Kent’s remarkable interiors were introduced.

Adam’s drawings for the remodelling of Raynham Hall are undated. Boyington and Draper suggest a date of 1767, three years after George Townshend inherited the estate, however a bill dating to 23 February 1782 records a payment of £141. 10 from Lord Viscount Townshend for 'Designs etc for Rainham'. Therefore the designs date to c1782. The unexecuted scheme proposes substantial alterations with the formation of a new and extensive colonnaded façade, which Bolton compares to a scheme for Compton Verney. The designs include the addition of flanking wings joined to the principal block with curved link bays. The left-hand wing was to contain a complex of ground-floor domestic offices, with a dining room, bedrooms and an interesting bathing suite at the first-floor level. The right-hand wing formed an extensive stable block and courtyard.

The office also produced a further unexecuted design for an elaborate, five-arch bridge (SM Adam volume 51/3). At 476 feet, King notes this to be the largest of Adam’s bridge designs, which he compares to an almost identical scheme produced for Sherborne Castle in Dorset.

Horace Walpole, Correspondence, Volume 37, Yale ed., 1974; A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 26, 89; N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: North-West and South Norfolk, 1962, p. 150; D. King, The complete works of Robert and James Adam & unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume II, pp. 121, 182-83, 224-25; M.J. Powell, ‘Townshend, George, first Marquess Townshend (1724-1807)’, September 2004, www.oxforddnb.com; V. Clark, ‘A neo-Palladian country house reveals its treasures for the first time’, April 2018, www.houseandgarden.co.uk; L. Namier, ‘Townshend, Hon. George (1724-1807), of Raynham, Norf.’, www.historyofparliamentonline.org; A. Boyington and K. Draper, ‘A Concise Architectural History of Raynham Hall, Norfolk’, www.artandthecountryhouse.com; ‘George Townshend, 4th Viscount and 1st Marquess Townshed’, www.britishmuseum.org; ‘History’, www.raynham.co.uk; www.raynhamhall.com (accessed March 2021)

Anna McAlaney, 2021
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