Townshend was the son of Sir John Townshend (died 1603) of Raynham, Norfolk and his wife Anne Bacon (1573-1622), eldest of the three daughters of Sir Nathaniel Bacon (c.1546-1622) by his first wife, Anne Gresham (d.1594), the illegitimate daughter of Sir Thomas Gresham.
He was the grandson of Sir Roger Townshend (died 1590) and Jane Stanhope (c.1547-1618), the daughter of Sir Michael Stanhope (d.1552) of Shelford, Nottinghamshire, by his wife, Anne Rawson, daughter of Nicholas Rawson of Aveley, Essex. After the death of Sir Roger Townshend (died 1590) (d.1590), his widow, Jane, married, as his second wife, Henry Berkeley, 7th Baron Berkeley. She died at her house in the Barbican on 3 January 1618, leaving a will dated 20 July 1617 which was proved by her grandson, Sir Roger Townshend, 1st Baronet, on 10 March 1618.
In 1621 Townsend was elected Member of Parliament for Orford. He was elected MP for Norfolk in 1628 and sat until 1629 when King Charles decided to rule without parliament for eleven years. He was Sheriff of Norfolk in 1629.
Townshend was much esteemed for his charity and munificence. He died aged 41 and was buried in the church of East Raynham.
Townsend married in or before 1628, Mary de Vere, daughter of Horace Vere, 1st Baron Vere of Tilbury. He was succeeded in the baronetcy by his eldest son, Roger. His younger son, Horatio, succeeded to the baronetcy in 1648, and was later elevated to the peerage as Viscount Townshend.
|Parliament of England|
Sir Francis Baildon
| Member of Parliament for Orford
With: Sir Lionel Tollemache, 2nd Baronet
Sir Robert Hitcham
Sir Edward Coke
Sir Robert Bell
| Member of Parliament for Norfolk
With: John Heveningham
Parliament suspended until 1640
|Baronetage of England|
|New creation|| Baronet