Raynham Hall has witnessed nearly 400 years of history and has hosted kings and queens. It is still, we believe, one of the most elegant houses in Norfolk and remains our home. The surrounding lands have belonged to our ancestors since the 12th Century.
100 years ahead of its time, work was started on Raynham Hall in 1619 by Sir Roger Townshend. An untrained, gentleman architect who was inspired by the work of Inigo Jones, the plans and siting were highly accomplished.
Following the trauma of the English Civil War, our family played an important part in the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. Sir Horatio Townshend, younger brother of Sir Roger, accompanied the newly restored King Charles II back to England from the Netherlands.
His relationship with the Stuart king would continue to flourish seeing Sir Horatio ascend first to the title of Baron and ultimately to Viscount. In 1671 Raynham Hall was visited by King Charles II, his younger brother James Duke of York and the royal entourage. This great honour was a sign of the family’s social and political standing.
The extensive park of over 800 acres was laid out by the 1st Viscount during this time. On his death it was said that Raynham Hall was now “the noblest pyle among us”.
Raynham Hall underwent significant change in the early 18th Century under the direction of the 2nd Viscount, Charles ‘Turnip’ Townshend, and was considered the earliest example of the Palladian style in Norfolk. The Hall’s grand central entrance and sweeping staircase were constructed at this time as were many of the remarkable interior designs that can still be seen to this day.
The 2nd Viscount held numerous political offices including Secretary of State for the Northern Department and Lord President of the Council. His championing of the agricultural innovations of the time, such as the Norfolk system of crop rotation, were to fuel the British Agricultural Revolution.
The sons of the 3rd Viscount thrust the Townshend family further onto the national and indeed international political stage. George Townshend, the 3rd Viscount’s eldest son, had a distinguished military career. He served as Viceroy of Ireland from 1767 to 1771 and in 1787 was elevated to the title of Marquess Townshend.
The second son of the 3rd Viscount was Charles Townshend who became Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1772. He passed the infamous legislation that would tax American colonists on paper, glass, paint and tea. Known as the Townshend Acts, these bills resulted in the Boston Tea Party and were to be a catalyst to the American Revolution.
19th & 20th Century
Through marriage the family acquired Balls Park in Hertfordshire which became the principal residence for many years and saw Raynham Hall taking on more of a secondary role for a number of years. Our family returned permanently to Raynham in the early 20th Century and it has been our much loved home ever since.
Members of the family continued to dedicate their lives to public service with both the 4th and the 5th Marquesses serving as Members of Parliament, before their eventual entry into the House of Lords.
During the Second World War, Raynham Hall was requisitioned by the British military. There are still bullet holes in the top floor of the house as a reminder of the presence of soldiers during those years. The family continued to live alongside the the troops until the end of the war.