Overview of the Townsend Family 1650 – 1900


It is 365 years since Colonel Richard Townesend arrived in Ireland with his Regiment in 1647 and 120 years since An Officer of the Long Parliament was published in 1892. As explained on the Home Page, this book is an account of the life and times of Colonel Richard and a chronicle of his family. Since publication, several generations of the family have entered the world and much new information has come to light that was not available to the editors of the book. There are now (2012) over one thousand individual entries on the Townsend Family website and, without reading them all, it is impossible to get a comprehensive overview of the family. This page of the website seeks to redress this by describing the fortunes of the family in Ireland between 1650 and 1900. Full details about any particular event or individual can be accessed in personal records.

Settling down — Colonel Richard Townesend and his children

Following settlement of the Catholic revolt in Ireland in 1652, Colonel Richard Townesend [100] retired from the Army sometime before 1654 and made extensive purchases of land; in all about 8,000 acres. On the restoration of Charles II in 1660 he was pardoned for his allegiance to Oliver Cromwell and escaped the forfeitures placed on many Cromwellian soldiers; his purchases of land were subsequently confirmed by royal patents in 1666, 1668 and 1680. Living for a time at Kilbrittan Castle, near Courtmacsherry, Richard finally settled at Castletownshend in about 1665. Appointed High Sheriff of Cork in 1661, he was elected MP for Baltimore in the Irish Parliament that same year but his appearances were infrequent and he was fined for non-attendance.

From the time that he settled in Castletownshend until his death, Richard sought to consolidate his estates in County Cork and to lead the settled life of a landowner. However, those were troubled times, particularly after the accession of James II in 1685, and Richard was frequently engaged in armed skirmishes with Irish rebels. In 1690 they unsuccessfully besieged Castletownshend, but when they attacked again shortly afterwards Richard was forced to surrender. He was subsequently paid £40,000 in compensation for the destruction of his home as described in the page Family Houses.

Colonel Richard's eldest son, John Townsend [101], pre-deceased him so when Richard died in 1692 his estate passed to his grandson Richard FitzJohn Townsend [113]. Sadly, Richard FitzJohn died unmarried in 1722 and the estate passed to Colonel Richard's second son, Colonel Bryan Townsend [200], who was born in 1648. Newly appointed a Colonel of Militia, Bryan had been proscribed as a traitor under the Act of Attainder in 1689 and forced to flee the country, along with his brothers, Francis Townsend [102] and Kingston Townsend [105]. However, he and Francis returned shortly afterwards but Kingston never did so, having fled to Barbados where he married and died in 1746.

In 1690, after his brother Captain Horatio Townsend [104] brought the Duke of Schomberg to Ireland in the sloop Lynn, Colonel Bryan was at the Duke's headquarters in Belfast, three weeks before William III landed in the province and six weeks before the Battle of the Boyne. In the years that followed this Bryan became involved in local governance; elected Sovereign of Clonakilty in 1693 and again in 1697, he was also elected MP for the Borough of Clonakilty in the Irish Parliament in Dublin in 1695. Aged 69, he last attended a meeting of the Clonakilty Borough Council in 1717 when his sons, Samuel Townsend [400] and Philip Townsend [500], were elected Freemen of the Borough.

When Bryan died in 1726 he left the Castletownshend estate to his eldest son, Richard Townsend [201], having made ample provision in his will for his younger sons, all of whom settled in County Cork – John Townsend [300] at Skirtagh, Samuel Townsend [400] at Whitehall, Philip Townsend [500] at Derry and Horatio Townsend [600] at Donoughmore and it is from these sons that the five branches of the Townsend family derive. By this time the family was firmly established in County Cork and developments over the subsequent 200 years are typical of many other Protestant families who settled in Ireland in the latter half of the 17th century.

Marriage and Kinship

Between 1700 and 1900, 213 males and 237 females in the 3rd to 8th generations of the family reached adulthood and of these 163 males and 149 females married — 77% and 63% respectively. Living mostly in County Cork during these years, it was in these generations of the family that there was a high proportion of intermarriage with other Anglo-Irish protestant families. Whilst not unique during the 18th and 19th centuries in Ireland, of the adults who married in these generations, 37% of these marriages took place with just thirty-five other Anglo-Irish protestant families. In particular, there were eight marriages with the Somerville family, seven with the Becher family and at least three other marriages each with ten other families: notably Baldwin, Beamish, Daunt, Fleming, Hungerford, Meade, Morris, Newman, Robinson and Warren. In addition, during the same period, there were thirteen other marriages with cousins from ten other families and fifteen Townsend/Townsend cousin marriages. A separate page — Intermarriage and Other Families — shows just how interwoven all these families were.

This intermarriage within the family and within the Anglo-Irish protestant community created a tightly associated but rather insular society. The diary of Agnes Somerville, wife of the Reverend Horatio Townsend [334], covers the forty-six years between 1845 and 1904 and reflects this social milieu. It contains well over one hundred entries about ninety-one members of the family from all five branches, along with notes about other Anglo-Irish families with whom they had close ties. This close association is reflected in family correspondence and shows that throughout and within all branches of the family in Ireland there existed a network of godparents, shared schooling, business associations, family networking, common interests and membership of various societies and clubs. The records of the Royal Cork Yacht Club afford an excellent example of this. Seventeen members of the family were members – where known, the names of their yachts are shown in italics

Purchased from Dr Richard Hungerford Townsend

If further evidence was needed to illustrate the closeness of the family, it can be found in the unpublished autobiography of the Reverend Edward Mansel Townsend [630] (1860–1947) entitled A Protestant Auto-Biography. His parentage is indicative of his extensive family contacts, as his mother, Marianne Oliver Townsend [5D16], came from the Derry branch of the family and his grandmother, Elizabeth Trelawney Townsend [410], came from the Whitehall branch. Space does not permit a detailed account of his visits to Ireland in 1882 and 1890; suffice to say, however, he visited Castletownshend, Myross Wood, Derry and Whitehall, calling on many members of the family who lived in County Cork in the twilight years of the 19th century, as well as several associated families. The overriding impression from the account of his travels is of a very close-knit family bonded by a common heritage. Sadly, since then, this close family association has largely dissipated through emigration.

The inability to widen the marriage pool on social or religious grounds and the inability to provide a suitable dowry probably accounts for the consistently high number in each generation of those in the family who never married. Of those born in Ireland during this period on average 23% of men and 37% of women of never married.

Politics, Local Government and Civic Appointments

Throughout the first eight generations of the family many were involved in national and local politics as well as undertaking various civic duties. As touched on above, Colonel Richard and Colonel Bryan were the first two members of the family to be elected to the Irish parliament in Dublin. Sixty years after Colonel Bryan was elected, his grandson Colonel Richard Townsend [213] was elected MP for the County of Cork in 1759, 1761 and 1768. His son, Richard Boyle Townsend [219], was elected MP for Dingle in 1783 and 1790 whilst his brother, John Townsend [214] was also elected MP for Dingle in 1790 and MP for Castlemartyr in 1797. Like his father, Richard Boyle was a staunch Tory who refused to vote for measures which he felt were not in the best interests of Ireland. Not even the offer of an English peerage could bribe him into supporting Union with England, with the result that he lost the favour of his party and the Borough of Dingle was disenfranchised. He was, nevertheless, paid £1,500 in compensation.

Between 1700 and 1900 forty-seven members of the family were appointed magistrates; thirty-three were elected Freemen of the City of Cork; sixteen were Poor Law Guardians and seven were appointed High Sheriff for the County of Cork. At a local level, several in the family became involved in the civic affairs of the Borough of Clonakilty. The oldest entry in the Council Book records the appointment of John Townsend [101] as Sovereign in 1675 and this was witnessed by his brother, Cornelius Townsend [108], who was a Freeman of the Borough.

Sovereign/Freeman of Clonakilty 1675 — 1828
Sovereign Freeman
John Townsend [101] — 1675 Cornelius Townsend [108] — 1675
Colonel Richard Townsend [100] — 1686 Colonel Bryan Townsend [200] — 1715
Colonel Bryan Townsend [200] – 1692 & 1697 Richard Townsend [201] —1715
John Townsend [300] — 1719 & 1728 John Townsend [300] — 1715
Philip Townsend [500] — 1764 Samuel Townsend [400] — 1717
Horatio Townsend [5D00] — 1799 – 1828 Philip Townsend [500] — 1717
  Cornelius Townsend [128] — 1727
Recorder Francis Townsend [125] — 1728
Commander John Townsend [316] in 1801 Butler Townsend [126] — 1728
  John Townsend [129 or 122] — 1728

Trinity College, Dublin

Special mention must be made about the family association with Trinity College, Dublin (TCD). The Reverend Philip Townsend [106] was the first member of the family to attend TCD and he graduated in 1689. Since then, a further sixty-three Townsends have studied there and several of them from various branches of the family were students concurrently. Between 1800 and 1900 there were only six years when a Townsend was not present at TCD and in sixty-two years of the century there were more than two members of the family 'up' at the same time. The most in attendance at the university at any one time was five in 1832 and in 1816 three of the four Townsends at TCD were named Richard! Between 1750 and 1900 there were only 19 years when the family was not represented at the university, whilst between 1813 and 1890 there was a Townsend represented there every year.


The Land

Of the 213 adult males born in Ireland between 1700 and 1900 11% derived their livelihood from the land; for some it was a principal source of income supplemented elsewhere whilst for others the reverse applied. Richard Townsend [201], Samuel Townsend [400] and Philip Townsend [500] all inherited land when Colonel Bryan Townsend died and in subsequent generations these inherited estates were enlarged, either by purchase or marriage. Several deeds show that Philip Townsend bought land in the first half of the 18th century, but letters of his written in 1758 show that this expenditure put him into debt. Philip's nephew, Richard Townsend [213], fared rather better, for when he married Elizabeth FitzGerald in 1752 she inherited her brother's substantial Kerry estate. Richard's great nephew, Richard Townsend [236], fared even better; when he married Elizabeth Mellifont in 1819, her dowry was £4,000 and she later brought to the marriage a total of £7,000 and estates in King's County and Queen's County on the death of her cousin John Sabatier in 1859.

Others in the family purchased estates in their own right; John Sealy Townsend [507] bought the Myross Wood estate from Lord Kingston in about 1820, whilst Richard Townsend [6A00], Samuel Philip Townsend [6B00] and their descendants acquired considerable holdings of land in County Cork at Pallastown, Firmount and Garrycloyne. In addition to these estates many of the junior sons in each generation owned smaller parcels of land from which it was only possible to derive a small supplement to their income.

The fortunes of those seeking to derive a living from the land were varied and are well illustrated by extracts from the book Statistical Survey of Cork by the Reverend Horatio Townsend [5D00], which was first published in 1810. Discussing horticulture, he wrote that Edward Mansel Townsend [401], the eldest son of Samuel Townsend of Whitehall,

"is greatly proficient in this style of gardening. When hounds became a subject of heavy taxation, he wisely exchanged the pleasures of the chase for those of the garden. This he superintends himself with care as well as 'con amore', and for, I believe, a smaller expense than that of dogs, hunters, and their appendages."

Writing of Samuel Townsend [6B00] of Firmount, Horatio commented —

"Agriculture was among his favourite pursuits, and, as few understood it better, I may perhaps have additional cause of regret in the loss of that friendly assistance so often heretofore experienced."

However, not all prospered; Cornelius Townsend [139] of Bridgemount tried to improve his land by introducing farming methods he had observed in Sussex and Horatio referred to this as —

"an instance of the unfortunate result of injudicious enterprise…..the result was what might have been expected - ruin to the farmers, and very serious injury to the landlord."

By the latter end of the 19th century the family as a whole owned about 36,600 acres of land in County Cork; the principal owners were Jane, wife of Jonas Morris Townsend [222] 1,500 acres, Geraldine Townshend [252] 8,600 acres, Richard Mellifont Townsend [236] 5,900 acres, John Hancock Townshend [523] 6,000 acres, Horace Payne Townshend [5D12] 1,400 acres, Richard Horatio Townsend [6A10] 3,900 acres and John Crewe Townsend [6B04] 1,200 acres.

Poor markets and other factors meant that deriving an income from land became increasingly difficult over the years, particularly after introduction of the Land Acts in the closing decades of the 19th century. Letters written by Commander John Townsend [622] and his wife Marianne Townsend [5D16] typify the situation faced by many in the family. The letters contain much detail about the financial problems they experienced on account of falling rents from their Irish properties as a result of the rulings by the Land Commissioners.

The Land Acts and the activities of the Irish Land League led to both voluntary and compulsory sale of most of the land owned by the family at the end of the 19th century; part of Derry estate was sold in 1885 and most of the Castletownshend estate in 1897. The remainder of the Derry estate and the Whitehall estate were sold in the early years of the 20th century and the Myross Wood and Garrycloyne estates were sold in 1940.

For those who could not derive an income from land, the options for making a living were limited to the armed forces, the church and the professions. Of the adult sons, about whom something is known, thirty-five joined the Royal Navy or the army, thirty were ordained, seventeen qualified as doctors, thirteen practiced law, eleven were land agents, four were university academics, forty-five emigrated and a very few fell on hard times, such as Bryan Townsend [323] of Crookhaven and his sister Anne Townsend [324] who lived in poverty but were helped out on a regular basis by other members of the family.

The Armed Forces

Of the thirty-five who joined the armed forces, many saw active service between 1750 and 1900 in various wars. During the Seven Years War Lieutenant General Samuel Townsend [403], the second son of Samuel Townsend of Whitehall, served with the Grenadier Company of the 19th Regiment of Foot at the Siege of Belle Isle in 1761; later, he was appointed Inspector General of Recruiting in 1776 and ADC to King George III in 1778. Captain Philip Townsend of Derry, of whom mention is made above, served with the 22nd Regiment of Foot at Louisburg and other battles in North America between 1757 and 1759, and many of his letters from this period are to be found in Chapter XI of An Officer of the Long Parliament.

Commander John Townsend [316] saw action with the Royal Navy during the American War of Independence and was a member of the boarding party that captured the French flagship Ville de Paris at the Battle of the Saintes in 1782. He retired from the navy around 1800 and was appointed Recorder of the Borough of Clonakilty where his kinsman the Rev Horatio Townsend [5D00] was Sovereign at the time.

Aged sixteen, Colonel John Townsend [230] took a commission in the 14th Light Dragoons in 1805 and fought in virtually every action with the regiment during the Peninsular War (1808–1814). He later commanded the regiment in England and India and was appointed ADC to Queen Victoria in 1841.

Three members of the family saw action during the Crimean War. Commander John Townsend [622] was the First Lieutenant on HMS Himalaya escorting reinforcements from England to Sebastopol; shortly afterwards he left the Royal Navy and was appointed Commissioner of Public Works in Weston-Super-Mare. Major Samuel Philip Townsend [6B09] Royal Artillery, commanding a battery of nine-pounder guns attached to the 4th Division under Major General Sir George Cathcart, was killed at the Battle of Inkerman in 1854 and was Mentioned in Despatches posthumously by Lord Raglan. Vice Admiral Sir Samuel Philip Townsend [6C01], then Captain of the gunboat HMS Boxer, was twice Mentioned in Despatches for the part he played in raids at Gheisk and Glorifa. He later served as First Lieutenant on the royal yacht Victoria and Albert and completed his career as Flag Captain to HRH the Duke of Edinburgh on HMS Warrior.

In the closing years of the 19th century Colonel Frederick Trench Townsend [524] 2nd Life Guards was wounded during the 'Moonlight Charge' by the Household Cavalry Regiment at Kassassin during the Egyptian Campaign of 1882 and was awarded the Khedive Star and Order of Osmania. Earlier in his career he travelled widely and wrote a number of books about his experiences in the Eastern Mediterranean, Florida and the mid-west of the United States of America, where he hunted bison.

Major Ernest Townsend [536] Royal Engineers was Mentioned in Despatches during the Ashanti Wars 1894–1896 and six members of the family saw action during the Second Boer War 1899–1902. Of these, Captain Arthur FitzHenry Townsend [267] 4th Bn The Cameronians was Mentioned in Despatches and Captain William Pearson [5D35] was awarded the Royal Humane Society Bronze Medal for trying to rescue a soldier who fell overboard in Capetown in 1900.

Whilst not strictly within the scope of this review of the family, mention must be made of the twenty-four who fought in the Great War 1914–1918. The Reverend Horace Crawford Townsend [643] Chaplain 4th Class and Captain Francis Horatio Townsend [6A26] Royal Engineers were both awarded the MC; Francis was also awarded the Croix de Chevalier and was twice Mentioned in Despatches. Major Edward Neville Townsend [6C19], The Duke of Wellington's Regiment, was awarded the DSO and Captain Cyril Samuel Townsend [6C14] RN was twice Mentioned in Despatches. In his capacity as Chaplain of Christ Church, Brussels, the Reverend Horace Sterling Gahan, son of Frederick Beresford Gahan and Katherine Jane Townsend [638], administered the last rites to Edith Cavell the day before the Germans shot her in October 1915.

Seven members of the family were killed in action during the Great War:

The Church

Most of those in the family who were ordained served in parishes in County Cork, where the Protestant Church was divided into three diocese — Cork, Cloyne and Ross. Many held the living of several parishes concurrently and the number of communicants in each was frequently less than ten.

The Reverend Philip Townsend [106] was the first in the family to take Holy Orders and was the first member of the family to graduate from Trinity College, Dublin, as noted above. Following a short spell in the army as a Captain of Horse, he was ordained in 1706 and appointed Vicar of Holy Trinity in Cork in 1707, on the resignation of the Right Reverend Edward Synge, whose daughter, Mary, married Philip's brother, Colonel Bryan Townsend. Philip's nephew, Horatio Townsend [600] was the second member of the family to be ordained and he served his ministry as Rector of Donoughmore from 1737 until his death in 1772. His eldest son, the Reverend Edward Synge Townsend [601], who served in eight parishes in north County Cork between 1765 and his death in 1819, was the first of eleven of Horatio's descendants to be ordained. This is closely matched by eight of John Townsend's [300] descendants who took Holy Orders.

There were several parishes where the family was represented for many years, the most notable of which was Abbeystrewry, near Skibbereen in the Diocese of Ross, where John Sealy Townsend [507] held the patronage of the living for many years. The Reverend Horatio Townsend [5D00] was Curate from 1770 till 1780 and was succeeded by the Reverend William Robinson who married Mary Townsend [314], the daughter of Horatio's nephew, John Townsend [303]. William, later appointed Vicar of the parish, died in 1819 and the Reverend Richard Boyle Townsend [332] was appointed to the living in his place. Richard died of typhus in 1850 and was succeeded by his brother, the Reverend Horatio Thomas Townsend [334], who remained in the parish until he resigned in 1867 in favour of the parish of Kilcoe & Clear. Following a gap of twenty-nine years without family representation, the Reverend Horace Webb Townsend [634] was appointed Vicar in 1896 and remained in the parish until 1915.

The parish of Aghada, near Cloyne, nearly matches this spell of ninety-seven years continuous family representation in one parish. The Reverend Doctor William Robinson Townsend [6B02] was appointed Rector in 1837 and, when he died in 1866, he was replaced by his nephew, the Reverend Thomas Townsend [6B19], who remained in the parish until 1903.

The Reverend Horatio Townsend [5D00] (mentioned above) is perhaps the most notable of all those in the family who took Holy Orders, for, in addition to his clerical duties and his writing, he was tutor and agent to Richard Boyle second Earl of Shannon, who was the MP for Clonakilty and County Cork. Horatio inherited the Derry estate, built the fine house that still stands there today and had much local influence, which he employed with such benevolence that he was known as 'The Friend of the Poor'. He exercised great authority in Clonakilty, where he was Sovereign for many years, and this helped to save lives during the Great Rebellion in 1798.

Several of those ordained are notable for the good work that they undertook during the course of their ministry, particularly during the terrible potato famine of 1846–1851. Horatio's son, the Reverend Chambre Corker Townsend [5D01], the Reverend Richard Boyle Townsend (mentioned above) and the Reverend William Robinson Townsend (also mentioned above) were all much involved in relieving the suffering of the poor. The Reverend Richard gave evidence before Parliament on the causes of the distress and toured England collecting money for those suffering. He founded a temporary hospital in Skibbereen and spent much of his time personally caring for those with typhus, only to die of that disease in 1850. The Reverend Chambre contracted scarlet fever in 1851 during his ministration and died in his lodgings in Cork, attended by his kinsman Dr Edward Townsend [6C00], whilst the Reverend William, averse to the giving of alms, promoted a range of schemes from drainage of marshland to the making of clogs and clothing in order to give people work.

The Medical Profession

Following graduation from Trinity College, Dublin, Doctor Richard Townsend [501] was the first member of the family to practice medicine. Starting in Cork, where he was also Surgeon to the Cork Union of the Protestant Militia Volunteers in 1778, he later moved to Dublin where he died in 1817. Qualifying at Trinity College in 1822, Doctor Richard's grandson, Doctor Richard Uniacke Townsend [517], followed in his footsteps and established his practice in Cork before moving to Betsborough, near Mallow in 1839, where he died aged forty-three in 1843. In his day he was one of the leading authorities on chest diseases and was described by Robert Graham in his book A Scottish Whig in Ireland 1835–1838 as:

"a very clever and scientific man and in great practice at Cove … Dr Townsend is very keenly engaged in preparations for the scientific meeting in Dublin, being one of the committee. He was in Scotland and Edinburgh several years ago and assisted Sir William Jackson Hooker in discovering a new moss somewhere in the highlands."

His son, Doctor Richard Newman Townsend [530], rowed in the University Boat Race in 1856 and graduated from Pembroke College, Oxford, in 1857. He was the Dispensary Medical Officer of Health in Cobh, Physician to Cobh Hospital, Surgeon Major to the Royal Cork Artillery and died of typhus in 1877, aged forty-two. Richard Newman's first cousin, Doctor Richard Hungerford Townsend [5A02], qualified at Trinity College in 1869 and spent his whole life practicing in Cobh. He was a visiting surgeon at the General Hospital & Dispensary at Spy Hill and Port Officer of Health. In this latter capacity he 'cleared' the Titanic when she called at Cobh on her fateful maiden voyage in 1912. Richard Hungerford's son, Doctor Thomas Henry Denny Townsend [5A10], qualified as an eye surgeon in 1899 and practiced in Cork until his death in 1957.

This strong 'Derry' group of doctors in Cork was matched by another group of doctors from the junior branch of the family — descendants of the Reverend Horatio Townsend [600] of Donoughmore. Aged twenty-five, Doctor Edward Richard Townsend [6C00], the youngest son of Samuel Philip Townsend [6B00], planned to go to India on the East Indiaman Kent in 1825 but nearly lost his life when the ship caught fire and sank in the Bay of Biscay. Instead, he returned to Ireland and qualified at what is now the Royal College of Physicians Ireland in about 1830, after which he established his practice at 13 Morrison's Quay, Cork and spent his whole life there. In addition to his practice he was Surgeon to the County Gaol, President of the Cork Library and President of the Cork Medico-Chirurgical and Pathological Society. His son, Doctor Edward Richard Townsend [6C04], qualified at Trinity College in 1857 and started practicing in Dublin before taking over his father's practice in about 1871. He held several other appointments including that of Professor of Medicine at Queen's College, Cork.

Three of Edward’s seven sons qualified as doctors, but of these only Doctor Norman Ian Townsend [6C18] practiced in Cork, where he remained until 1921 when he emigrated to Shaftesbury, Dorset, on account of the 'troubles'. Norman’s brother, Evelyn Richard Townsend [6C22] served two tours as a civilian surgeon with the army during the Second Boer War in South Africa 1899–1900.

The Law

John Townsend [300] of Skirtagh was the first member of the family to qualify in law in about 1720, but it is thought that he never practiced. His nephew and namesake, John Townsend [214], graduated from Trinity College in 1758 and qualified as a barrister. He was elected MP for Dingle in 1783 and MP for Castlemartyr in 1798, the same year that he was appointed 'Commissioner and Overseer of the Barracks in this Kingdom'. A year later he was appointed a Chief Commissioner of 'His Majesty's Revenues of Excise and Customs in Ireland'.

John's grandson, the Honourable John FitzHenry Townsend [250], graduated from Trinity College in 1829, following which he studied at King's Inn, Dublin, and qualified as a barrister in 1834. Appointed QC in 1865, Judge of the High Court of The Admiralty in Ireland in 1867 and a Bencher in 1877, John enjoyed a very successful career. In addition, he was the most prolific of all the contributors to An Officer of the Long Parliament. Almost his exact contemporary, John Sealy Townsend [333] qualified as a barrister in the same year as John FitzHenry and was also a major contributor to An Officer of the Long Parliament. At the time that these two 'Johns' qualified as barristers their kinsman John Sealy Townsend [507] was at the pinnacle of his career. Having gained a scholarship, he entered Trinity College in 1782 and was called to the Irish Bar in 1787. Appointed QC in 1819 and a Bencher in 1824, John was appointed a Master of the Irish Court of Chancery in 1826. As noted above, he acquired the Myross Estate from Lord Kingston in 1820.

Little is known about the other members of the family who qualified in law but mention must be made of Horatio Townsend [623] and William Richard Townsend [6B31]. Horatio graduated from Trinity College in 1824, practiced in Dublin and was a great authority on the works of George Frederick Handel. William, following graduation from Trinity College in 1893, joined the Colonial Service and enjoyed a successful career in various legal appointments in West Africa. He was Attorney General of the Gold Coast (now Ghana) when he was drowned in 1917 after the Germans torpedoed the ship on which he was travelling in the Irish Sea.

Land Agency

During the second half of the 19th century of the eleven members of the family who were Land Agents, eight were from the 'Derry' branch. Charles Uniacke Townsend [5C00] established a Land Agency business in Dublin that by 1880 was managing substantial estates throughout Ireland. Secretary to the Royal Dublin Society 1887-93 and Vice-President 1893–1907, he was joined by his sons, Charles Loftus Townsend [5C01] and Thomas Loftus Townsend [5C02], who continued to run the business after he retired. Other members of the Derry branch who were Land Agents include —


After attending local schools in Castletownshend and Skibbereen, the Reverend Richard Townsend [337], studied at Trinity College, Dublin and was the first member of the family to become an academic. He graduated in 1742 and spent his whole life teaching at the university: Junior Fellow 1845; Tutor 1847; Professor of Natural Philosophy 1870; Examiner in Mathematics and Mathematical Physics and Senior Fellow 1883. Ordained in 1860, he was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1866. A year after his death in 1885 an exhibition called the 'Townsend Memorial Prize' was established in memory of Richard as an outstanding mathematician and is still extant.

Shortly after Richard was appointed Tutor in 1847, Edward Townsend [6B20] was admitted to Trinity College to study civil engineering. Following his graduation in 1853 and his Masters in Science in 1856, he was appointed Professor of Civil Engineering at Queen's College, Galway. His major legacy is that, in conjunction with John Henry Ryan, he designed the Galway-Clifden Railway.

Edward's son, Sir John Sealy Townsend [6B30], graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1890 with First Class Honours. Disappointed at failing to gain a fellowship at the university, he entered Trinity College, Cambridge in 1895 as a pensioner. Under the guidance of Sir John Joseph Thomson he took up research on gaseous ions and in 1897 he became the first person to measure elementary ionic charge. Assistant Demonstrator at the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge in early 1900, he was appointed Fellow and Wykeham Professor of Experimental Physics, New College, Oxford later that same year. He was admitted to the Royal Society in 1903, appointed a Chevalier de La Legion d'Honneur in 1919 and knighted in 1941.

On John's arrival at New College, Oxford he was no doubt greeted by Richard Baxter Townsend [5D15] who had been appointed Tutor there in 1891. Richard, best known for his editorship of An Officer of the Long Parliament, had a most colourful career prior to his appointment at New College. In 1869, aged twenty-three and knowing that his inheritance would be small, he went to the USA to seek his fortune. He spent the next ten years in Colorado, Texas and New Mexico trying his hand as a cattle rancher, trader and gold prospector; on one occasion he was waylaid by Billy the Kid, but escaped unharmed. He returned to England in 1879 having made some money and, shortly afterwards, met Edward Elgar who, fascinated by the tales that Richard had to tell of his experiences in the West, dedicated the third variation of the 'Enigma Variations' to “RBT”.


Too many to cover in detail the fortunes of some other members of the family are summarized below:


From about 1835, many of the married younger sons in the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th generations of the family found making any sort of a living in Ireland impossible and either emigrated overseas or moved to England (shown in red) as this chart clearly shows. The large increase in the number born outside Ireland (shown in green) in the 8th and 9th generations is mirrored by the decrease of those born in Ireland (shown in blue).

Generations 1 to 9: Adult males Born in Ireland/Emigrated/Born Abroad

The first to emigrate was Jonas Morris Townsend [237] who went to Australia in 1828 with his wife Mary Somerville, his brother John Henry Townsend [238] and assets totalling over £2,000. Their experiences are typical of many others who emigrated; granted 2,000 acres of land in New South Wales and some convicts to help them work it, Jonas and Henry raised cattle and cultivated wheat, maize and tobacco. After Henry sold his share in 1836 and moved to New Zealand, Jonas continued to farm until severe drought struck in 1847. Declared insolvent the following year, he was forced to sell and moved to Laguna where he turned to teaching and journalism.

Over the next seventy years, forty-five other Townsend sons followed the example of Jonas and Henry; twelve emigrated to Australia, five to America/Canada, four to Rhodesia (as it then was) and the balance to England. In addition to the descendants of Jonas, a large number of those living in Australia today derive from Thomas Townsend [339] who emigrated in 1838 and farmed in Tasmania and Victoria for many years before finally settling in Corowa, New South Wales, where his brother Edward James Townsend [340], had settled in 1861. Edward Townsend [445] emigrated about 1850 and settled in New Brighton, near Melbourne, but it is not known what he did. Edward Carr Townsend [5A01] emigrated in 1867 and, after a colourful career with the mounted police in Victoria, finally settled in Sydney.

Most of those in Canada and some in the USA trace themselves to Richard Townsend [335] and his wife Maria who emigrated in 1847 during the famine, having arranged to rent land at a township, near Stratford, Ontario. Richard and Maria were very poor and it was only through the good offices of Commander John Townsend [622] that they were able to pay for their passage. Sadly, they died from typhoid fever shortly after landing in Canada and their eight surviving children were taken into care. Their descendants in Canada derive from their son Henry Edward Townsend [3B05] and those in the USA from their son Thomas [3B09].

By 1901 the number of those in the family in Ireland was much reduced and the Irish Census for that year records only 80 adult Townsends living in the country as a whole, with just thirty-one living in County Cork. The Census of 1911 records only fifty-six living in all of Ireland as a whole, with twenty-one in County Cork. Today in 2012, spread across the world, there are about 115 descendants of Colonel Richard traceable through the male line; twenty live in Ireland and the remainder are spread between the United Kingdom (22), Australia (34) and Canada/USA (39). Sadly it is impossible to trace accurately descent from Colonel Richard through the female line. However, a reasonable assessment can be made from the 9th generation onwards and this effectively doubles the number of his descendants living today.

Trouble and Strife

From the time that Castletownshend was sacked in 1690 until the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, internal disturbance and rebellion were never far from the surface in Ireland. The driving force was Home Rule and freedom from the English yoke and, though this has been largely covered in the page Background History, some repetition is appropriate in order to put this page into context.

After many years of rising unemployment, evictions, deprivation and rack-rents there was an agrarian backlash by the Catholic Irish poor in the second half of the 18th century. The first outbreak occurred in County Limerick in 1761 and escalated over the following years — men wearing white smocks, known as 'Whiteboys', attacked property and cattle by night. Appointed Colonel of County Cork Militia Dragoons in 1756, Richard Townsend [213] and his brother, John Townsend [214], were much involved in suppressing 'Whiteboy' disturbances. A typical incident in 1777 is described in Francis Tucky's The City and County of Cork Remembered:

"Richard Townsend, John Townsend, Samuel Jervois and Daniel Callaghan, magistrates, with several gentlemen of the county and their servants, well mounted and armed, set out at two o clock in the morning to the mountains above Bantry, in the neighbourhood of Murdering Glin and Glanunbannoul, where they apprehended several persons, charged with cutting off the ears of a horse.”

When the French entered the war on the American side during the American War of Independence 1775–1783 British forces in Ireland were much depleted and this left the country open to attack from the French and vulnerable to disturbances from within. Fearful of this, the Anglo-Irish Protestants raised volunteer militias and six members of the family enrolled:

John Townsend [214] — Carberry Independents John Townsend [309] — Hanover Society, Clonakilty
Richard Townsend [501] — Cork Union Edward Townsend [601] — Muskerry Volunteers
Richard Townsend [6A00] — Kinnelea & Kirrech Union Samuel Townsend [6B00] — Blarney Volunteers

The 'Whiteboy' violence came to a head in the Great Rebellion of 1798. Samuel Townsend [405] was High Sheriff of County Cork at the time and a large number of troops and Militia Dragoons were placed at his disposal to maintain order in West Carbery. In his own parish of Aughadown he managed to do this in co-operation with the local Catholic clergy in order to avoid the depredations perpetrated by the militia elsewhere in Munster. Meanwhile, Samuel's cousin, the Reverend Horatio Townsend [5D00] managed to avert an uprising in the Clonakilty area through his influence with the native Irish. His brother, William Townsend [504], was a Captain of Yeomanry and acted as a guide to Major General John Moore (later Lieutenant General Sir John Moore of Corunna fame), commander of the British forces in the Clonakilty area.

Further disturbances broke out in West Carbery during the early years of the 19th century and Samuel, no longer High Sheriff, was instructed to raise a small force of Yeomanry and was appointed Captain Commandant with his second son, Samuel Townsend [412], as his Adjutant. Having pacified the area, the Yeomanry was disbanded and their arms were stored at Whitehall. Fearing that this cache of weapons was an attractive target for would-be rebels, Samuel suggested to the authorities that his eldest son, Edward Townsend [411] should transport the arms to Cobh in his yacht Blonde. He was told that it was prohibited to do this except in a ship of the Royal Navy and that the Blonde would be confiscated if the arms were transported in her. On hearing this, Edward took the arms from Whitehall and dumped them in the sea; nothing was ever asked by the authorities about their whereabouts.

Disturbances during the Land War in the latter years of the 19th century and the 'Troubles' of 1919 – 1921 forced some in the family to leave their homes, whilst others decided to leave Ireland and settle in England. It was a difficult time for everyone and memories are long; perhaps the following account of an incident at Myross Wood is a suitable note on which to conclude:

"During the troubles in Ireland, my mother, her sisters and a governess were alone in the house. Sinn Fein were intent on destroying landlords' houses round about, but spared Myross Wood because of their respect for my grandfather as a good landlord, and confined themselves to burning the stables, having first carefully removed the horses and the car."