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Chauncy Hare Townshend

Chauncey Hare Townshend, John Boaden, oil painting, ca. 1828, Museum no. 1411-1869

Chauncey Hare Townshend, John Boaden, oil painting, ca. 1828, Museum no. 1411-1869

Chauncy Hare Townshend was a friend of Charles Dickens and later his literary executor. He bequeathed to the Museum a large collection  of objects including oil paintings, watercolours, drawings, prints, drawings and books.

Chauncy Hare Townsend was born on 20 April 1798, and changed the spelling of his surname to Townshend in1828. He was educated at Eton and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and published his first collection of poetry in 1821. In 1840, at the house of the mesmerist Dr John Elliston, he befriended Charles Dickens, who later served as his literary executor. At the time of his death, Townshend owned the manuscript of Great Expectations.

On account of his poor constitution, Townsend lived abroad for long periods of time. He died in London on 25 February 1868. Townshend left his library to the Wisbech and Fenland Museum; his bequest to the South Kensington Museum comprised 186 oil paintings and 177 watercolour drawings, 832 volumes, 390 drawings, 1,815 prints, and gems, precious stones, cameos and intaglios.


Information in the V&A Archive

MA/1/T1191: Nominal file – C. H. Townshend

MA/31/2: Register of loans in

Report on, and inventory of, the bequest in Seventeenth Report of the Science and Art Department. London: George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for HMSO, 1870

ED 84/36: Precis of the Board Minutes of the Department of Science and Art, 8 July 1863 to 31 December 1877

Henry Cole: diaries: typed transcripts, 1822-1882

Other archival deposits

See the National Register of Archives

Selected printed sources

List of the bequests and donations to the South Kensington Museum, now called The Victoria and Albert Museum: completed, to 31st December 1900. London: HMSO, 1901. NAL pressmark: VA.1901.0001

Tennant, James. A descriptive catalogue of gems, precious stones and pearls: bequeathed to the South Kensington Museum by the Rev. Chauncy Hare Townshend M.A. London: HMSO, 1877. NAL pressmark: 607.AA.0102

A catalogue of the British fine art collections in the South Kensington Museum: including the gifts of John Sheepshanks Esq., Mrs. Ellison, and part of the bequest of the Rev. Chauncy Hare Townshend. London: HMSO, 1870. NAL pressmark: VA.1870.0002

Scott, Rosemary. ‘Townshend, Chauncy Hare (1798–1868).’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004

To locate material in the National Art Library, please search the Library Catalogue.

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