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Medieval Families - Origins

The origins of the Towneley name can be summarised as -

  • According to one report King John granted the land "Towneley" or "Tunleia" (field belonging to the Tuni or, more likely, field belonging to the town) to Roger de Lacy, Constable of Chester - about 1195. The other version is that Roger inherited the land as part of his estates in Clitheroe and Pontefract.
  • Roger de Lacy gave the land in "Tunleia" to Geoffrey, Dean of Whalley, who had married his daughter - before 1211.
  • Richard, grandson of Geoffrey, inherited the land (about 1236) - then married widow Cecilia de Thunlay and combined estates
  • John de la Leigh married their daughter Cecilia and inherited the Towneley Estates - about 1295
  • Their son Sir Richard took the name - de Towneley (he was Sheriff of Lancaster from 1375 to 1379)
  • His son John de Towneley was the first recorded user of the currently accepted coat of arms.

The spelling of the name of the family and estate has been recorded as Towneley, Townley and Townly - even by family members - so spelling was not taken too seriously then. However since the name is also - infrequently - recorded as Townsley or a variant then some trees are hard to trace!

 

Family Branches

The publication "Tracing the Towneleys" provides a excellent source for finding the documented family branches. It is available as a free download PDF from the Towneley pages at http://www.burnley.gov.uk/. The main family branches are / were -

  • Towneley of Towneley, Lancashire - is taken as the main tree. After the breakup of the estates in the 1800s it is often shown as Towneley of Dyneley - after a retained family property at Cliviger; also in the Burnley area. This line of the family mostly kept this "old" spelling for the surname - but even here they did sometimes drop the middle "e". All the families below are thought to be branches of this family.
  • Townley of Barnside - descends from Laurence; son of John and Isabel (nee Sherburne / Shireburne). Barnside is about 10 miles from Towneley near Colne.
  • Townley of Dutton - descends from John & Helen - with origins thought to go back to Richard de Towneley (d 1454). Descendants became the Townley of Belfield line with many present day members. Dutton is 14 miles from Towneley near Hurst Green and Ribchester.
  • Townley of Hurstwood - descends from Sir Richard of Towneley via 3rd son - John. Hurstwood is about 2 miles from Towneley.
  • Townley of Royle - descends from Nicholas; son of John and Isabel (nee Sherburne / Shireburne). Royle is about 3 miles from Towneley.
  • Townley of Oakenhead - descends from Henry of Barnside but had died out before 1664.
  • Townley of Stonehedge - descends from Laurence of Barnside and is the source of the American Townley-Warner line of Virginia. Stone Edge (modern spelling) is about 7 miles from Towneley. Warner Hall in Virginia is a preservation site.
  • Townley of Littleton, Surrey - descends from Edmund of Royle and is the source of the American Townley line of New Jersey. Littleton was near to what is now London's Heathrow airport.
  • Townley of Fulbourn, Cambridgeshire - said to descend from Nicholas - who founded the Royle branch.
  • Townley of Drogheda, County Louth, Ireland - descendants of Royalist Major Charles Townley who is linked to Athclare Castle (nr Dunleer) and was shot at Gowran Castle by Cromwellian soldiers in 1650. Same coat of arms as Townley of Fulbourn(e) and thought to have common ancestors.

 

Family Seats

Towneley Hall, Burnley was the home of the Towneley family for over 500 years. The male line of the family died out in 1878 and in 1901 one of the daughters, Lady O'Hagan, sold the house together with 62 acres (250,000 m2) of land to Burnley Corporation. The house and remaining land is now Burnley's art gallery and museum plus golf course and playing fields (from wikipedia)

Townley Hall, Drogheda was designed and built by the architect Francis Johnston in 1799, for Blayney Townley Balfour, a descendant of Charles Townley (via Henry Townley). photo online map

Fulbourn Manor - the seat of this branch of the Townley family since the early 19th century. Richard Greaves Townley serving as MP for Cambridgeshire in 1831-1841 and 1847-1852. The family estates at Upwell had been acquired in the late 18th century from the Beaupre family through marriage. The Manor remained in the Townley family through the 20th century (from Cambridgeshire County Council)

Townley House, Ramsgate - ... is the gem in Ramsgate's collection of late Georgian and Regency buildings. Built in 1792 the large and commodious mansion soon became the centre of social life in Ramsgate. Mrs. Townley (wife of Charles of the Littleton branch) was a prominent pillar of local society and many were the balls and masquerades given at Townley House, attended by nobility and gentry of the county. Cards, at which she excelled, were a feature of the regular entertainment over which she presided, and to accommodate the overspill of Townley Castle was built opposite. It later became a boys school around the turn of the century and Vincent Van Gogh is rumoured to have applied to be a freelance art teacher there during his stay in Ramsgate. This structure was badly damaged during German bombing in WW1 on 22nd August 1917 when eight people were killed as giant Gotha bombers dropped twenty eight bombs on the town. What was left of the building has sadly long since been demolished. William IV was among the celebrated visitors that the Townleys entertained and during the 1820`s, the Duchess of Kent, together with the infant Princess Victoria ( later to become Queen ) stayed at Townley House for several months. more..

 

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