Francis Townley, Esquire of an honourable family in Lancashire, was Colonel of the Manchester Regiment, and one of the nine English gentlemen that suffered first upon Kennington Common, July 30th, 1746.
History of the Rebellion of 1745 by Robert Chambers, footnote page 306 & Scots Magazine, July (no year given), pages 326 to 330
Coming to England in 1742, he associated chiefly with those of the Catholic religion; and it was thought that he induced many of them to take an active part in the rebellion. When the Prince Charles came to Manchester, Townley offered his services: which being accepted, he was commissioned to raise a regiment, which he soon completed.
Raising the Manchester Regiment
Account written by James Johnstone a Captain in the Duke of Perth's Regiment. After Culloden he entered the French Army and served in Canada. On his return from Canada he used the title Chevalier de Johnstone.
"One of my Sergeants, named Dickson, whom I had engaged from among the prisoners which we made at Gladsmuir (Prestonpans), a young Scotsman, brave and intrepid as a lion, and much attached to my interests, came to render me an account at Preston on the 27th, that he had beat up all the journey for recruits without finding any and he was such the more chagrined that the other Sergeants were much more successful. He asked of me, at the same time, permission to go before the army a day’s march, in proceeding at once to Manchester, a very considerable town of England, where there are forty thousand inhabitants, in order to be able to strike a blow before the arrival of the army. I scolded him much on account of his extravagant proposition in venturing to expose himself by this rash march to the risk of being taken and hanged, and I ordered him to go back again to his company. Having great confidence in him I had given him a horse, and he carried my portmanteau behind him, to have it always with me. On entering my lodgings to go to bed, my hostess told me that my sergeant had come to take my portmanteau and blunderbuss. I perceived, immediately, his rashness, and his conduct annoyed me much; but the next day, on the evening of the 28th, on my arrival with the army at Manchester, Dickson presented himself before me with about a hundred and eighty men, whom he had enrolled for my company. He had left Preston in the evening with my kitchen apparatus and his mattress, and, having marched all night, he arrived next morning at Manchester, which is twenty miles from Preston, where he had commenced immediately to beat up for recruits. The populace, at first, did not disturb him, believing that our army was approaching the city; but from its being made known that it could not arrive till towards the evening, then they assembled tumultuously around them with an intention of making them prisoners or killing them. Dickson having the blunderbuss charged with a handful of blank shot lowered it to his cheek, threatening to kill the first of those who should dare to approach him, and turning continually upon his heels to present face everywhere, comporting himself as a lion, he cleared, immediately, a circle which an immense crowd of people had formed around him having continued this manoeuvre for some time, those people of Manchester who were attached to the House of Stuart took up arms and rushed on to Dickson, to save him from the fury of the people, in so much that he had presently five to six hundred men to his assistance, who immediately dispersed the crowd. Then Dickson, triumphant, and placing himself boldly at the head of this escort, paraded quietly the whole way down the streets with the drum, enlisting for my company all who offered themselves. Moreover, on giving me the muster rolls of these one hundred and eighty recruits, I was, further, agreeably surprised at finding by the account of the expenses that they had not cost me, on the whole, more than about from two to three guineas. This adventure of Dickson’s occasioned a good deal of pleasantry, by the city of Manchester finding itself ludicrously taken by one Sergeant, one drum, and one girl. One may judge from this trait that the bravery of our army amounted even to fanaticism; and that the panic-struck terror with which the English were seized was inconceivable. I did not profit by these recruits, to the great regret of Dickson. M. Townley, an old officer in the service of France, having joined the Prince some days before, obtained a commission as Colonel, with permission to raise a regiment composed entirely of English; and the Prince ordered me to pass over to him all those whom Dickson had enlisted for me. It was called the Manchester Regiment, and never exceeded three hundred men, of which the recruits of my sergeant made up more than the half. This was all of the English that declared themselves openly for the Prince, so that the Chiefs of the Clans were not much in the wrong in not trusting to these pretended succours, which the Prince believed infallible".
Memoirs of the Chevalier de Johnstone, first volume. Printed by D. Wylie and Sons, Aberdeen, 1870 from the original French manuscript. (Johnstone wrote three volumes of his memoirs)
He behaved with conspicuous zeal in the defence of Carlisle as Colonel of the Manchester Regiment. There can be no doubt that had he been the governor the place would have held out to the very last, for when acquainted with the term of capitulation he 'flew into a great passion with Colonel Hamilton, declaring that it would be better to die by the sword than fall into the hands of the damn Hanoverian's. He had acquired great military experience while in the French army-a circumstance used to his disadvantage when he claimed to be a French officer under commission. His execution (by being hung, drawn and quartered) took place on Kennington Common on 30 July 1746. Townley was one of the last persons to suffer that barbaric practice. It was ultimately abolished in England as a form of public punishment.
Bonnie Prince Charlie a Biography by Susan MacLean Kybett, page 172
Townley served in the French Army for some years and returned to England and settled in Wales. The French King sent him a Colonel’s commission in 1744. When Prince Charles reached Manchester and a regiment was raised there on the 30 November 1745, Townley was put in command of it. When the Prince’s army retired to Scotland he was left as Governor of the town of Carlisle. When the town was summoned by Cumberland he wished to hold out and quarrelled with Hamilton, governor of the Carlisle Castle, who wished or was forced to surrender. Townley was tried at St Margaret’s Hill Southwark, Surrey on 15 July 1746 and claimed to be treated as a prisoner of war, owing to his holding a French commission. This plea was repelled and he was executed on Kennington Common on 30 July 1746. Head placed upon Temple Bar.
The Prisoners of the '45, Vol. III, Scottish History Society, 1929, pages 276 & 377
He met his unpleasant fate with courage and dignity, wearing a new black velvet suit which he had specially made for the occasion by a tailor in Southwark.
Bonnie Prince Charlie by Fitzroy Maclean, page 289
After his execution a pamphlet appeared entitled "Townley's Ghost"
"Awake, infernal wretch: he cried,
And view this mangled shade
That on thy perjured faith relied
And basely was betrayed."
Historical Papers 1699-1750 Vol ii, New Spalding Club, 1896, page xxix
The full version is narrated in:
The Lyon in Mourning by Rev. Robert Forbes, Vol i, page 306 & 307
The verses are also printed, with variations, in:
Manchester Collectanea, Cheltham Society, Vol. lxviii