The surname of TOWNSEND was a locational name 'the dweller at the end of the town or village'. Local names usually denoted where a man held land. Early records of the name mention Richard atte Tounende, 1297, County Conrwall. Godmannus atte Townesend, 1327, County Surrey. Ricardus de la Thounhende, listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Geoffrey de la Tunesende, was documented in 1400 in County Norfolk. Thomas Townshend and Elizabeth Powys were married at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in 1760. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face, and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield and embroidered on his surcoat, the flowing and draped garment worn over the armour.
A notable member of the name was Charles Townshend (1725-67) the English statesman. He entered the House of Commons in 1747. In 1766 he became Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he asserted British authority over the American colonies by imposing swingeing taxes, especially on tea, that ultimately provoked the American War of Indenpendence (1775-83). He was a brilliant speaker in the House, using witty irrelevancies. Since the dawn of civilisation the need to communicate has been a prime drive of all higher mankind. The more organised the social structure became, the more urgent the need to name places, objects and situations essential to the survival and existence of the social unit. From this common stem arose the requirements to identify families, tribes and individual members evolving into a pattern in evidence today. In the formation of this history, common usage of customs, trades, locations, patronymic and generic terms were often adopted as surnames. The demands of bureaucracy formally introduced by feudal lords in the 11th century, to define the boundaries and families within their fiefdoms, crystallized the need for personal identification and accountability, and surnames became in general use from this time onwards.
The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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