Sir Cloudesly Shovell and the Marsham Townshends of Frognal

Article by Patricia Gibson

When Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell (1650-1707) married Elizabeth, the widow of Sir John Narborough (1640-1688), in 1691 she was described in Secret Memoirs of the Life of the Honourable Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Anon, which was written in 1708. She appears to be a woman of independent mind and means, who had the self-assurance to marry her late husband’s former protégée and servant. Cloudesley Shovell began his life at sea as John Narborough’s cabin boy. After Cloudesley Shovell’s death(do I need to explain his death or is that written about elsewhere on the website?) she did not remarry and continued to live on at May Place, the estate north of St Paulinus Church Crayford, which Cloudesley Shovell had purchased in 1694, until her death in 1732. Gossip in 1708 associated her with Thomas, Earl of Pembroke. Lady Shovell being told of the gossip replied, in a manner that again shows her forthright character, that she ‘had lately married a daughter to Sir Something Marsham and had given her £15,000 down, and promised £20,000 more at her death, therefore was disabled for marrying men, looking chiefly at the fortune’. ‘Sir Something Marsham’ was Sir Robert Marsham (1685-1724), 5th Baronet and 1st Baron Romney of Mote Park, near Maidstone. Elizabeth Shovell’s daughter married him at the Chapel Royal, Whitehall, on 19th August 1708. He was a man of great fortune and had married a wealthy woman.

Lady Elizabeth Shovell’s wealth came from her father, Captain John Hill, Commissioner of the Navy. When she married John Narborough in 1681, Elizabeth’s dowry was sufficient to purchase Knowlton Court, near Deal in Kent, one of Narborough’s four manors in Kent. From her father, who died in 1706, she inherited almost £100,000, an enormous sum of money in the early 18th century. As the wife of seafaring men, who spent years away from home with minimal communication available, she would have had considerable involvement in supervising financial arrangements, and the management of their Kent estates and their London homes. In the legal documents in the Marsham-Townshend archives at Bromley Local Studies, her signature appears as frequently as Cloudesley Shovell’s signature. Click here to see more on these legal documents.

Cloudesly Shovell’s great great great grandson, Robert Marsham-Townshend (1834-1914), who lived at Frognal (now a home for the elderly) on the borders of Chislehurst and Foots Cray, was a keen genealogist. In 2001 family and estate records dating from the 14 th century to the 20th century, in over 100 archive boxes, were purchased by the London Borough of Bromley. These records are available to the public at Bromley Local Studies archive. Several records relate to Robert Marsham-Townshend’s attempt to trace his family history and include letters to various people inquiring about births, deaths and marriages. Correspondence between 1884 and 1914 with Reverend Jessop who lived in North Norfolk, near Shovell’s birthplace of Cockthorpe, assisted Robert Marsham-Townshend in tracing the early Shovell pedigree.

Robert Marsham-Townshend’s research was printed by London publisher in 1908. These records list the descendants of Cloudesley Shovell, relative to the Marsham and Marsham-Townshend family. The connection of the names Marsham and Townshend was made in the late 19th century when the last male Townshend heir died without issue, and a female Townshend married a Marsham. Click here to view a chart illustrating the line of descendants. Sir Robert Marsham married Cloudesley Shovell’s daughter Elizabeth, when she was just 16. They had 8 children. Their first son, Shovell Marsham, died age 6 or 7. Their second son Robert Marsham (1712-1793) was the 2nd Baron Romney. He married Priscilla Pym (1724-1771) in 1742. They continued to live at Mote Park and had 8 children. He was a man of simple tastes. In a letter of 1737 he wrote ‘ I was this day at Hampton Court to pay my compliments to their Majesties, but return’d again to Town before dinner, for I preferred a mutton chop in my own house to all the fine things at the Great Men’s Tables.’

Robert and Priscilla Marsham, also named a son Shovell, their fourth. Their second son, Charles Marsham (1744-1811), was created Earl of Romney and Viscount Marsham in 1801. Charles married Lady Frances Wyndham (1755-1795), daughter of the Earl of Egremont, in 1776. They had 5 children. She is said to have instigated the demolition of the old house at Mote Park as it was deemed unfashionable. The foundation stone for the new house was laid a few months before her death. Mote House and its 450 acres is now a retirement village.

Charles and Frances Marsham’s first child, also called Charles (1777-1845), succeeded his father as 2nd Earl of Romney and 2nd Viscount Marsham. He had 5 children by his first wife who died in 1812. Twenty years later he married a widow, Mary Elizabeth nee Townshend (1794-1847). She was, born at Frognal, the daughter of John Thomas Townshend (1764-1831), 2nd Viscount Sydney. They had one son, Robert Marsham-Townshend, the genealogist, mentioned above. On the death of his aunt by marriage, Countess Sydney, in 1893, he came in possession of Frognal, Scadbury, and other estates, and became Lord of the Manors of Chislehurst, Scadbury, and St Paul’s Cray under the will of his maternal uncle, Earl Sydney, John Robert Townshend (1805-1890). Robert Marsham took the additional name of Townshend in compliance with conditions expressed in the will. The Townshend family was at the centre of British politics in the 18th and 19th centuries and this is the probable reason that the family wanted the name to continue.

The Marsham-Townshend name continued on for two more generations. Partly due to deaths in both world wars, the male line ended. However a descendant of Sir Cloudesley Shovell, in the daughter of the last Marsham-Townshend, is the present Lord of the Manors of Chislehurst, Scadbury and St. Pauls’s Cray. She is married to an Italian Count and lives in Italy.

The name Cloudesley Shovell was not forgotten in the descendants of Robert Marsham and Elizabeth Shovell. These include: Admiral Henry Shovell Jones-Marsham (1794-1875), a great grandson of Robert Marsham and Elizabeth Shovell. His navel career is listed in the Marsham-Townsend archive. He lived at Hayle Place, Loose, Kent. Reverend Cloudesley Dewar Bullock-Marsham (1835-1915), nephew of the above. In his obituary, Wisden described him as ‘in his day, the best amateur bowler in England’. Cloudesley Henry Bullock-Marsham (1879-1928), son of the Reverend above. He was also a keen cricketer and captained the Kent County team from 1904 to 1908. The Marshams were a strong cricketing family. Cloudesley Henry’s uncles George, Charles and Robert Marsham, played for Oxford University and George Marsham also played for Kent.


Primary Sources

1080/3/2/26/10/3/12: Folder entitled 'Marsham evidences', containing allegations for marriage licences 1080/3/2/26/10/2/3: Letters from Reverend Augustus Jessopp to Robert Marsham (later Marsham-Townshend) Printed Primary Sources 1080/3/2/26/10/1/5: Chart and narrative pedigree of the Marshams of Kent

Secondary Sources (articles)

Clayton, J., Snapshots of the Past, Archives, Vol.34, Orpington & District Archaeological Society Archives (2012)

Secondary Sources (books)

Harris, Simon, Cloudesley Shovell Stuart Admiral, (StapLehurst, 2001)


D. G. C. Allan, ‘Marsham, Robert, second Baron Romney (1712–1793)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Oct 2007; online edn, May 2008

J. D. Davies, ‘Narbrough, Sir John (bap. 1640, d. 1688)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008

John B. Hattendorf, ‘Shovell, Sir Cloudesley (bap. 1650, d. 1707)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008

Wikipedia contributors. C. D. B. Marsham [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2013 May 22, 21:45 UTC [cited 2014 April 4]. Available from:

The Legal Documents

These two documents dated 17 May 1699 contain Cloudesley Shovell and his wife’s signatures, which span the seals. These documents refer to the Manor of Paul’s Cray, and land in St Paul’s Cray and St Mary’s Cray and includes the estate of May Place which Cloudesley Shovell took possession of three years after marrying Elizabeth Hill, John Hill’s daughter. Elizabeth had been previously married to John Narborough (d. 1688) and they had 3 children. John, the eldest was just 4 years old when his father died. He was left £5000 and 4 manors in Kent, whilst James and Elizabeth inherited £10,000 each.

The documents appear to be securing the property and land in trust for the ultimate benefit of James Narborough, using £4000 of James’s inheritance to fund the transaction. The other parties involved in the transactions are Elizabeth Shovell’s father, John Hill, and the husband of James’s sister, Thomas D’Aeth. The transactions appear over complex. This relates to an intricate practice called Lease and Release which was in general use until 1841 to avoid paying revenue to the Crown.