John Thomas, 2nd Viscount Sydney, born in 1764, was one of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, and also MP for Whitchurch. When his father, Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney, died, he became a Lord of the Bedchamber, an attendant upon King George III. When the King’s son, Prince George, became Regent in 1810, John Thomas gave up that post and was later appointed Ranger of St James’ and Hyde Parks. He also became Lord of the Manor of Chislehurst.
He raised a troop of yeomanry soldiers in 1794, one of the original local troops from which the West Kent Regiment was later formed. It included John Thomas as their Captain, his brother William as Lieutenant, and other notable local men such as Benjamin Harenc of Foots Cray Place and Richard Berens of Sidcup Place. These were troubled times, with Napoleon threatening to invade England, and these local troops were a kind of ‘home guard’ of their period.
It was John Thomas who, in 1822, allowed the West Kent Cricket Club to establish a cricket ground on Chislehurst Common, following the enclosure of its ground on Bromley Common.
The 2nd Viscount married twice, first, in 1790, to Hon. Sophia Southwell, daughter of Edward Southwell, 20th Baron de Clifford, but she died in 1795 after the birth of their only daughter, Sophia Mary. His second wife, in 1802, was Caroline Clements, daughter of Robert Clements, 1st Earl of Leitrim. She bore him a daughter, Mary Elizabeth (see note below), and a son, John Robert, but tragically she also died after her son’s birth.
John Townshend himself died in 1831, and his marble monument can be seen on the south wall of the Scadbury Chapel; though not quite as long as his father’s, it is full of family detail. His only son, John Robert, succeeded to his titles, and became Lord of the Manor.
Note: Mary Elizabeth was to marry Charles Marsham, 2nd Earl of Romney in 1832. Their son, Robert Marsham, was to succeed to the title of Lord of the Manor in 1890 when his uncle died without issue.
Sources: Webb’s History, The Times Archive.