RepositoryLondon Borough of Bromley Archives
Ref No1080
DescriptionSee Admin History
Administrative HistoryMarsham-Townshend Papers

Papers of the Marsham Townshend family of Frognal, Chislehurst, Kent. The papers relate to the family's properties in Chislehurst and Paul's Cray, Kent as well as that in other counties, mainly Gloucestershire. Also papers relating to connected families including the Selwyns, Betensons, Farringtons and Berties. Although a large part of the collection consists of title deeds and estate papers, there also appears to be a large amount of family and household papers, in particular those relating to Robert Marsham (later Marsham Townshend), including vast amounts of genealogical notes. Also included in the collection are manorial records relating to the manors of Scadbury and Chislehurst and Paul's Cray in Kent and Matson in Gloucestershire. There are also some 14th century manorial court rolls that appear to originate from Wales.

Administrative History

The Family
Robert Marsham-Townshend inherited the Scadbury estate near Chislehurst, Kent on the death of his uncle, John Robert Townshend, Earl Sydney. The estate was sold off in the 20th century, but before this it had been in the hands of the Marsham-Townshend family and their forebears for nearly 300 years. Sir Richard Betenson, Robert Marsham-Townshend's ancestor purchased the Manors of Scadbury, Chislehurst and St Paul's Cray around 1650. On his death it was inherited by his son, Edward, who died without issue in 1733. He died intestate and his estate was administered to his three sisters, Albinia Selwyn, Theodosia Farrington and Dame Frances Hewett. The estate passed through inheritance into the hands of John Selwyn (1688-1751), who married his cousin, Mary Farrington (1691-77). Their daughter, Albinia Selwyn (1714-39) married the Honourable Thomas Townshend in 1730 and produced 5 children during the marriage. The estate, which by now included property in Matson, Gloucestershire, was passed down through the Townshend family (who later became Lords Sydney) until John Robert, Earl Sydney died in 1890. Robert Marsham was the son of Earl Sydney's sister, Mary Elizabeth Townshend from her second marriage to Charles Marsham, Lord Romney. Robert Marsham inherited the estate on the condition that he adopt the additional surname of Townshend. He produced two children from his marriage to Clara Catherine Paley of Freckenham in Suffolk. The youngest, Ferdinand Marsham-Townshend was killed in action during the First World War and the eldest, Hugh Sydney Marsham-Townshend inherited the estate. Hugh Marsham-Townshend married twice, the first time to Cecelia Frances Laura Bunbury, with whom he had a child, John and secondly to her sister Laura Constance Elinor Bunbury, with whom he had a child, Thomas Townshend. 'Tommy' Townshend was killed in action in World War II and left a widow and two children. John Marsham-Townshend went on to become the last resident Lord of the Manor and died in the 1970s.

The Estates
The Scadbury estate was originally owned by the de Scathebury family, who lived there until the 14th century. It was purchased by the Walsingham family in 1424. It lies on the eastern boundary of the parish of Chislehurst. After the Betenson family purchased the estate in the 1650s, it passed through successive heirs until it came into the hands of the Honourable Thomas Townshend. Thomas Townshend demolished the original moated Scadbury Manor, the site of which is now the subject of extensive archaeological excavations by Orpington and District Archaeological Society. The family moved to Frognal Manor House, which was purchased from Thomas Tryon in the 18th century after his widow was forced to sell the property following his suicide. This was the home of successive Lords of the Manor until after the death of Robert Marsham-Townshend in 1914. Hugh Sydney Marsham-Townshend moved his family to a house near the site of the old manor house and Frognal became a hospital for the duration of the War and later became Queen Mary's Hospital. After the death of John Marsham-Townshend in 1975, the estate was bought in 1983 by the London Borough of Bromley and turned into a public park. It is now a farm and nature conservation area. The Manor of Paul's Cray (originally Powlin's Cray) was also part of the Townshend family's Kent estate.

The family also owned estates around the country, the most significant of these being that in Matson, Gloucestershire. There were also properties in Wiltshire, Middlesex, London and Hampshire, among other counties.

The Papers
Part of the collection of papers relating to the administration of the family estates and to the household and family that owned them were sold in 1915, following the death of Robert Marsham-Townshend. However, a substantial part of the collection remained with the family until it was sold by auction in the 1990s and purchased by the London Borough of Bromley, with the help of a grant from the V and A.

The papers consist of around 120 boxes of original archival material dating from the 14th century to the 20th century. They cover every aspect of estate and family life during the administration and ownership of the estate by the Townshend family and their predecessors.

The largest component of the collection is that of papers relating to the estate. These are mainly concerned with the Kent estate, although a small number of documents survive that relate lands in other parts of the country that were at one time owned by the family. One of the most significant parts of the collection is a series of court rolls from the manor of Paul's Cray that date from 1455 up until the 19th century. These are the oldest records of the manor that are known to exist. The manorial records in the collection are very significant and mainly relate to the Manors of Pauls Cray, Scadbury, Chislehurst and Erith in Kent. There are also vast numbers of title deeds relating to the estate, including those for the purchase of Frognal in 1749; the purchase of the Manors of Chislehurst and Frognal in1659 and the purchase of the Manor of Paul's Cray in the 18th century, as well as deeds relating to the properties when they were sold by previous owners.

There are also many papers concerned with the management of the estates, particularly the Kent estate. These are concerned with tenants, finances, legal issues and disputes and estate enterprises, including fishing, game and fruit production. There are also a great deal of papers regarding the administration of the common land in the Manors of Chislehurst and Paul's Cray during the 19th century.

Three documents survive in the collection that relate to Manors in Montgomeryshire, Yorkshire and Shropshire (1080/1/12-14). These are Manorial rolls and accounts and date from the 14th century. The reason for their inclusion in the collection is unclear as the Manors involved were never, as far as can be determined, owned by any of the families in the collection. However, as Robert Marsham-Townshend was an avid antiquarian, historian and collector of documents, it can only be assumed that he purchased these documents for his own research. Richard Betenson owned land in London that was affected by the Great Fire in 1666 and various letters and legal papers survive relating to a case brought to court in connection with this.

The household papers in the collection are only a small part but will be invaluable in terms of research potential. Although these are mainly concerned with the lives of the owners of the manor, a small number exist that concern servants and workers at the house. There is a long series of plans and papers relating to dinner parties and balls held by successive Lady Sydneys at Frognal and several books of recipes and remedies, including a 'cure for the bite of a mad dog' (1080/2/15/19) and instructions for cooking a swan, dated 1838 (1080/2/15/7).

There is a large section of the collection comprising of family papers, although the amount that has survived for each family member varies. There are many family legal papers in this section, including marriage settlements and wills and also the personal papers of several members of the family. Of these, it is Robert Marsham-Townshend who appeared to produce the greatest quantity. He was interested in his own family history and produced dozens of folders of well-organised genealogical research material, much of which he placed in well-labelled envelopes. Other significant parts of this section include the papers of John Robert, Earl Sydney and his wife, Emily Caroline. Earl Sydney was actively involved in local defence and many papers relating to the Chislehurst local defence volunteers in the 19th century survive. Lady Sydney was a talented artist and many of her original watercolours remain in the collection.

The collection will be invaluable to local researchers. It contains a wealth of information concerning local people and places spanning six centuries. The estate papers record the administration and ownership of a significant amount of land in the Borough of Bromley and elsewhere, while the family and household papers give an insight into the characters and people that lived and worked there.

(Please note that there is a thesis available called "An Agricultural Depression in the late 19th century: The case of the Townshend estate in Northwest Kent circa 1830 to 1915". It was researched and written by Patricia Gibson who donated a copy to the Local Studies Department in 2012. It is filed the the vertical drawers at 338.10942178).
Extent120 Boxes
Access StatusOpen
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