Francis Towneley was the youngest son of Charles Towneley (1658-1712) and Ursula Fermor (1662-1748). He served in the French army from 1728 but returned to live in Wales prior to 1745. In 1745 he was given a commission of Colonel in the invading Jacobite army, specifically being in charge of the Manchester Regiment, which was the group compose of those who joined the rebel army in England. When the rebellion failed he was tried and found guilty of treason and was hanged, drawn and quartered. His body was buried in the churchyard of St. Pancras, London. His head along with that of George Fletcher, a linen-merchant of Salford, were displayed on Temple Bar in London.
In March 1772, the heads fell to the ground and Francis's head was brought back to Towneley. For years the relic was kept in a large basket covered with a napkin in the Red Drawing Room, but eventually it was deposited in a small cupboard in the oak panelling of the chapel before being taken away with the rest of the Towneley heirlooms in 1902. In 1947 the head was finally buried in the Towneley family vault in St. Peters Church, Burnley.
The cupboard in which the head once rested can still be seen by the side of the font at the back of the chapel.