The son of Jonathan Townsend, he started his business career as a London linen draper, before becoming a merchant in about 1740. He developed extensive interests in coal mines in the Swansea area of Wales, as well as mining, smelting, and refining copper and lead. From 1744, he was as a government contractor supplying military and settler needs in Nova Scotia. By the time of his death, most of his money had been consumed by the mining business.
Townsend was a regular supporter, in the House of Commons, of whatever government the King appointed. He represented Westbury between 1748 and 1768. He was elected for Wigtown Burghs in 1768 and sat for them until his death in 1770. He was the second Englishman to be elected and the first to actually sit in Parliament, for any Scottish constituency. Despite being a Member of Parliament for 22 years, he is not recorded as ever having spoken in the House. James Townsend MP was his son.
- "Townsend, Chauncy". History of Parliament. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- "Townsend, James (1737-87), of Bruce Castle, Tottenham, Mdx.''". Historyofparliamentonline.org. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
- History of Parliament: House of Commons 1754-1790, by Sir Lewis Namier and James Brooke (Sidgwick & Jackson 1964)
- Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs
|Parliament of Great Britain|
| Member of Parliament for Westbury
With: Matthew Michell 1748–1753
Peregrine Bertie from 1753
George Augustus Selwyn
| Member of Parliament for Wigtown Burghs
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