‘The neat little village of Church Lawford, with its equally pleasant tributary, Kings Newnham, are most favoured localities, and the inhabitants of those rural places ought to be, and no doubt are, proportionately happy, for all is done that can be accomplished to make village life enjoyable’.1
The history of the Townsend family based around Church Lawford and Kings Newnham in Warwickshire is in many ways the story of a typical upper-middle class family who were not quite gentry but farmed a little land, had lots of family connections and were part and parcel of the local community.
A little less typical
The survival of so many of the family’s personal papers, however, is a little less typical. Due to a preponderance of daughters who never married and the untimely death of an only son, the family lost their direct connection with the area during the twentieth century, the descendants of a younger son based in Surrey having emigrated to Canada in the 1940s. The resulting collection of items deposited with the Warwickshire County Record Office in 2014 (collection reference CR 4651) therefore provides a unique snapshot of the family in time. The family photographs and letters in particular provide a wonderfully intimate glimpse into their lives and relationships, revealing a network of connections far beyond the parish boundaries yet always revolving around and referring back to the villages they inhabited.
The family held prominent positions in the communities they lived in: William Henry Worth Townsend, for example, was J.P. for Warwickshire, an Alderman, and Chairman of Rugby Rural District Council and Board of Guardians. All members of the family regularly attended their local parish church for services (several times on a Sunday) and the importance of religion and charity in their lives is reflected in many of their records. The family were prolific letter writers, ensuring that their friends and family kept up to date with all the latest news and gossip. Social rounds of visits also ensured that the family kept in touch. The family were well educated: the girls were sent away to small ‘household’ schools to be educated whilst the boys attended Rugby school and went on to University at either Cambridge or Oxford. Continental excursions were undertaken for leisure as well as for education and health benefits, though their letters home reflect that, far from soaking in the local culture, they fraternised most with fellow English (sometimes American) tourists!
In part two, I will look a little closer at some of the male characters of the family and will look in more detail at some of the women in the family in part three.
1 Newspaper cutting, Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR 4651/637