Towards the end of the 17th century the “Old Hall” in Christleton was purchased by Gerard Townsend, a rising and wealthy merchant in Chester. He was named after his maternal grandfather, Gerard Jones, a Goldsmith and Mayor of Chester in 1658, who was the youngest son of Gworton, and Dorothy, daughter and co heiress of John Titteley of the county of Chester. He also married Katherine, daughter of Humphrey Dymocke of Willington, and brought into the ancient Jones family, the blood of the Eytons, Grosvenors, Hanmers, Breretons and many other names of note in Cheshire, Shropshire and the Principality. All this can be seen in an illuminated pedigree drawn up by Randle Holme in 1648. Gerard Jones married Priscilla, daughter of John Brerwood of Chester, and it was their daughter Priscilla who married Robert Townsend, Ironmonger and Sheriff of Chester in 1672 (the year in which he died). A memorial plaque to Robert can be found at St Peter’s Church at The Cross, Chester. He was the son of Richard Townsend also an Ironmonger in the city and Sheriff in 1652. His wife, Dorothy was the daughter of Robert Selsby, a Butcher and Freeman of Chester in 1639.
Gerard, the son of Robert Townsend, married Sarah Stratford, widowed daughter of Randle Vause. They had many children, all baptised at St James’ Christleton. The eldest son, another Gerard, whose son predeceased him at the age of 9 months, was succeeded at Christleton by his brother Robert Townsend, a very shrewd Lawyer and Recorder of the City of Chester 1754 -1787. He was evidently a grasping and ambitious man of affairs who married three times for profit; first to Elizabeth, daughter of William Farrington of Eardshaw, by whom he had two surviving daughters, Anne and Elizabeth; secondly to Anne, younger daughter of John Myddleton of Chirk Castle; and thirdly to Betty, widow of Thomas Farrington, but there is no record of any more children. His eldest daughter Anne made a favourable marriage to Mr Cecil Forester, and their son, the first Lord Forester married the daughter of the Duke of Rutland.
Elizabeth married Thomas Ince, an ensign in the Army and son of the Reverend Thomas Ince, a minor Canon of Chester Cathedral and a much loved Rector of Handley near Tattenhall whose wife Susan, was the daughter of Hugh Clough of Plas Clough and a lady of distinguished parentage from Denbighshire.
Rector A.A. Guest Williams
Rev Guest Williams Pedigree
Seal of Robert Dudley
The Inces were another family of Chester merchants and thriving tradesmen, and they too possessed a pedigree by Randle Holme, connecting them with the Inces of Ince, Lancashire. However the Townsends, though of similar origin and status because they were Councillors and Aldermen of Chester, disapproved of this alliance. To satisfy his wife’s vanity Thomas Ince was forced to give up his Army career, and live in Christleton. All might have might have been well, for he had an estate at Coddington called “The Beachin” which was left to him by his father, but this was not grand enough for his wife. She compelled him to build a house on the Stoneydale property in Pepper Street, Christleton which had been acquired by the family, to rival the “Old Hall” in the centre of the village where her father lived.
The new mansion, known as Christleton Hall, now the University of Law, was typical of a house built in the late Georgian period, with large rooms, a walled garden, and grounds laid out in the style of the day. In order to fund this mansion, Thomas was obliged to sell his commission in the army and gradually mortgage every acre of his own land to enable his wife to live in grand style. Elizabeth repeatedly promised that he would be reimbursed, and that all would be well when “the old rascal” her father died. Although she outlived her father, she did nothing to compensate her husband for her extravagance. On the contrary, she heaped insults upon his head to the end of her life, and compelled him to live in penury, whilst she and her daughters wanted for nothing.
Stoneydale, Pepper Street
Will of Robert Townsend
To be concluded