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Townend Family Papers


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Letters primarily from Herbert and Joan Townend to their children, with journals of Joan's treks in the Himalayan foothills.


  • Creation: 1929-1945


1.65 Linear metres (11 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, [followed by shelfmark, e.g. MS. 13103/1].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. 13103/1-11

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 13103


Correspondence between members of the Townend family writing from India, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa with accounts of some treks in the Himalayan foothills.

Biographical / Historical

Herbert Patrick Victor Townend (sometimes known as Toto) was born in Dublin on 11 March 1887. He was a Scholar of the King's School, Canterbury, and a Scholar of St John's College, Oxford. In October 1911 he departed for Bengal to take up an appointment in the Indian Civil Service.

Lettice Joan Bevington was born in Essex on 27 December 1892. She was educated by governesses and at a day school in Southsea before attending St Monica's School, Kingswood, Surrey. She married Herbert Townend in August 1913 and they sailed for India in December.

The Townends initially lived in Barrackpore, then Contai and Asansol. Herbert Townend's appointments then varied between Calcutta and country districts with leave in England every few years. Their eldest child Richard was born in Darjeeling in 1917, Annette in Calcutta in 1919 and Rosemary (Romey) in Darjeeling in 1923. The children were sent to boarding school in England and their parents wrote regularly to them, describing life in India and commenting on current affairs.

Joan was very keen on moutaineering and took part in treks in the foothills of the Himalayas. She was closely involved in the Himalayan Club and helped to organise Everest expeditions before World War II. She was very interested in the Sherpa porters and compiled a 'Porters Register' with a photograph and climbing record of each man. She also revised and edited Percy Brown's book, Tours in Sikhim and the Darjeeling District.

Herbert was on leave from October 1940 to August 1941 and he and Joan spent the time in Australia and New Zealand. He took early retirement the following year and they left India in December 1942, going initially to South Africa until they secured a passage back to England in August 1944. They settled in Oxford and Herbert died in 1950 and Joan in 1966.

Richard was at Merton College, Oxford, and then became a sub-lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. He was listed as missing in action over the North Sea in August 1942. Annette went to Somerville College, Oxford, and then, from July 1940, worked at Bletchley Park, translating and analysing Luftwaffe Enigma messages. She died in 2000. Rosemary was evacuated to Canada in June 1940 and never returned to live in England. She died in 2008.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Helen Thornton, the grandaughter of Herbert and Joan Townend, in March 2018.

Existence and Location of Copies

Transcripts of the letters and journals and additional information are available at*/ .

Related Materials

Letters from Annette Townend to her parents from 1939 to June 1940 and her diary, 1936-1941, are at Somerville College Library, Oxford. Her letters to her parents from Bletchley Park, July 1940-1944, are in the Bletchley Park Archive.

Catalogue of the Townend Family Papers
Finding aid prepared by Lucy McCann
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom