John FitzHenry Townshend (250)

Date of Birth: 1 Jan 1811
Date of Death: 2 Feb 1893
Generation: 6th
Residence: Seafield, Castletownshend and Dublin
Father: Henry Owen Becher Townsend [223]
Mother: Homan, Anne
  1. Armstrong, Ellen
  1. Lieutenant Colonel Henry FitzJohn [260]
  2. Charlotte Ruth [261]
  3. Jennetta Florence [262]
See Also: Table II ; Scrapbook ; Lineage ; Ancestors' Tree ; Descendents' Tree

Notes for Judge John FitzHenry Townshend LLD

Married 24 March 1840. Ellen Armstrong (1) (2) was the daughter of Rev George Armstrong of Cork and Chancellor of St Fachtna's Cathedral, Ross.(2a)

Alumni Trinity College Dublin from Co Cork and Kerry 1593-1860 in Dr Casey's Collection records that John was taught by Mr Coghlan before he entered Trinity College, Dublin, on 4 July 1825 aged 14 as a fellow commoner paying double fees and enjoying several privileges. Mr Coghlan also tutored John's cousin, John Townsend [318], before he entered the University in 1801.

The TCD Graduation List records that he qualified BA in Summer 1829 and LLD in Spring 1847. John Sealy Townsend [333] and Thomas Townsend [5A00] were undergraduates at Trinity at the same time. Reverend Richard Townsend [337] was appointed a Tutor at the university in the same year that John qualified LLD.

Following his degree John studied at King's Inn, Dublin and qualified as a barrister Trinity 1834 (3). He was appointed QC on 8 February 1865, sworn in as a Judge of the High Court of The Admiralty in Ireland (4) on 4 November 1867 and appointed a Bencher in 1877.

Considering the part that John played in producing the book 'An Officer of the Long Parliament' we know little about him other than what can be deduced from the large collection of family papers and correspondence contained in the Lovera Papers which principally relate to him in his professional capacity. Nevertheless it is clear from the letters in the papers that he had a large circle of family friends. Many frequently sought his opinion on legal matters or were the beneficiaries of trusts of which he was the principal trustee. Sadly however, the letters tell us little about the man himself though those from Frances Townsend [248], Mary Herbert (wife of John Henry Townsend [238]) and Henrietta Gahan (the daughter of Henrietta Townsend [227]) do provide an insight on John and his wife, Ellen.

John was clearly a very kind, conscientious and considerate man and this is reflected in many of the extant letters; two of these in particular stand out. On 19 May 1853 Frances Townsend wrote - “…you are not only my nearest relative, but a person above all others on whose steady principles I can rely…” And on 27 February 1856 she wrote – “You cannot blame me for marrying again when you are aware how utterly friendless and lonely I am in the world. Except yourself, who have been such a true friend to me when most in need, I have not one male relative to whom I could refer anything to.” His obituary in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society throws light on his character and a copy is included in his 'Scrapbook'.

Whilst there is very little personal correspondence surviving, documentary evidence (5) shows that John, Richard Mellifont-Townshend [236] and Horace Payne-Townshend [5D12] were not only very close friends but also business associates. The letters to John from Horace, Frances Townsend and Henrietta Gahan show that John, Richard and Horace visited each other on a fairly regular basis. Typically, in a letter dated 14 September 1874 to John, Henrietta Gahan wrote, “I was very glad to hear of your having your most refreshing trip to Richard MT (in Nice) and that he is so well for his age, the dear old man”. Similarly it is known that Horace visited Richard in Nice in January 1879 and Spring of 1884. Letters from Horace Payne-Townshend to John in the autumn of 1884, shortly after Richard died, speak of Richard visiting him at Derry in 1864. It is also worth noting that, with Horace living at Derry, after John bought Seafield in Castletownshend (see below) in about 1849 and before Richard moved to Nice in about 1864 the three of them owned houses very close together.

During the period 1830 to the time of John’s death in 1893 there were several members of the family living in Dublin; the most notable are – John Sealy Townsend [333] Barrister and an exact contemporary, Richard Townsend [337] Fellow at Trinity College, John Sealy Townsend [507] Barrister with Thomas Townsend [509] as his Examiner, Horatio Townsend [623] Barrister and four Townsends from the Derry branch of the family who were Land Agents. In addition, several other Townsends got married in Dublin or were students at Trinity College during this period. It is inconceivable that John would not have known of them and there is evidence that he had a wide ranging knowledge about the family as a whole. Un-dated notes (6) written by John contain snippets of information about members of the family, the choicest of which is probably "I could tell you many a thing – indeed I could write a book - concerning things I have heard about Morris (Jonas Morris Townsend [237]), Richard’s brother, who was very handsome and an awful scamp. He married Mary Somerville of Drishane.”

Like John Sealy Townsend [333] and John Sealy Townsend [507] (very confusing!), John was a keen and competent genealogist. With his kinsman, close friend and fellow Freemason, John Crewe Townsend [6B04] helping in the initial stages before he died in 1873, John FitzHenry compiled an illustrated pedigree of the family in 1880. This pedigree forms the basis for the genealogical Tables of the family in ‘An Officer of the Long Parliament’. In addition much of the original research on the family was conducted by John. A copy of the pedigree is held by Colonel John Townsend [5A26] and the original was held by Margaret Townsend, wife of Henry Horace Townsend [6B45]; presumably it has been passed on to their son Richard Crispin Townsend [6B51].

Several letters in the Lovera Papers refer to Ellen suffering from ill health. The first mention is in 1849 when Henrietta Gahan wrote “We heard in a roundabout way of her (Ellen) having been seriously ill only the other day”. Letters from various members of the family in 1858, 1860 and 1864 also mention Ellen’s illness, whilst Mary Townsend (wife of John Henry T [238]), writing to John from Shorecliffe on 28 February 1872, said “we were very sorry to hear of your dear wife’s severe accident and hope she does not continue to suffer or feel serious inconvenience from the hurt as well as shock to her system”. In his reply to Mary a day later John wrote "Ellen has been very ill; today much better but yesterday on the point of death; no danger at present." And on 26 March 1874 Henrietta Gahan wrote “I am sincerely glad to hear that Ellen is likely to have some improvement in health. Her illness, poor thing, has been very long and severe.” Four years later Ellen died and it is reasonable to assume that this was brought about by her continual illness.

When Abraham Townsend [224] died in 1830 he devised all his freehold lands of Myross to his brother Henry Owen Townsend [223] and after his death these lands passed to John. The lands of Drishane, Farrendagh and Glannafoyne Abraham devised to his sister “Catherine Townsend [226] (Resident of the City of Cork)” and after her death in 1848 these lands also passed to John. These ‘See Lands’ that John had inherited were transferred to him ‘under and by virtue of a Grant in perpetuity’ made between him, The Archbishop of Dublin and The Ecclesiastical Commission of Ireland on 27 June 1857. In 1858 John conveyed the lands at Drishane and Farrendagh to Thomas Somerville and those of Kilcoe and Myross to his son Henry FitzJohn Townshend [260] in 1881 (7).

It is not known when John became a Freemason, probably shortly after he became a barrister in 1834, but the earliest available reference to his membership is 5 January, 1857 when he gave lecture on ‘The Duty of the Master in the Government of a Masonic Lodge’, at which time he was Deputy Grand Master of Ireland. That same year he also wrote 'Three Masonic Lectures'. An extract from the early history of Masonic Lodge 15 (Skibbereen) records - "At an ordinary Craft meeting held in August 1857 it was unanimously resolved to open an Arch Chapter under No 15 warrant at Castletownshend for to confer the Degree. Brother John FitzHenry Townshend to act as Principal, in or about the first week in September, and the Secretary was directed to communicate with such Masters as are at present fit to receive the Arch Degree, after which the Lodge closed in Harmony." John was Deputy Grand Master, Grand Lodge of Ireland from 1855-68; Grand King, Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter 1875-1891; President, Grand Chapter of Prince Masons 1874-1893 and Sovereign Grand Commander, Supreme Council 33° 1874-1893. He achieved the highest office in every branch of the Order save that of Grand Master of the Grand Lodge which was at that time normally held by a high ranking peer. During his time as Deputy Grand Master, Augustus, 3rd Duke of Leinster was The Grand Master. A fitting tribute to John’s Freemasonry can be seen in Irish Masonic History.

The list of subscribers to 'Samuel Lewis. Topographical Directory 1837', as does the entry in the Directory for Glandore, shows "Townsend, J. FitzHenry, Esq., Glandore Cottage, (8) Rosscarberry, co. Cork" when John would have been 26. In the will of Richard Townsend [221] dated 19 January 1841 John was shown as still living at Glandore Cottage. However, a letter from Henrietta Gahan dated 27 September 1849 indicates that John had acquired Seafield (9) in Castletownshend. Three bills, totaling £312-9s-8d, were paid by John between July and December 1852 "for work executed by me for him pursuant to my contract at his house at Castle Townsend. John Atkins". (10) Family correspondence shows that John frequently went there during the summer months. Rather strangely Frances Townsend wrote two letters to John from Glandore Cottage in June 1854 and in the latter one she said “thank you for your kind wish of seeing me at Seafield”. Whether John still owned Glandore Cottage at the time is not clear.

'Pettigrew & Oultons Dublin Almanac 1842 – ‘Barristers at Law, Commissioners, Attorneys' records "Townsend John Henry. 7 Hatch Street" admitted as a barrister Trinity term 1834. ‘Shaw's Dublin City Directory, 1850’ records “Townsend. John Fitzhenry, 26 Hatch Street; John Sealy Esq, Kilvare, Templeogue [507]; John Sealy, jun, 11 Hardwicke Street” [333]. Thom's Dublin Street Directory 1862 also shows him living there, with a rateable value on the house of 37 shillings. On 15 January 1863 John moved into 30 Upper Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin having bought the property for £450 on a 126 year lease from the Honourable John Plunkett (11). He remained there for the rest of his life. Thom's 1862 Directory shows that No 30 had a rateable value of 85 shillings and some senior neighbours - No 22 John Leahy Q.C. chairman of Quarter Sessions, co. Louth, No 27 James Anthony Lawson, LL.D., Solicitor-General for Ireland and No 32 John Howley, First Sergeant-at-Law.

John was appointed a Justice of the Peace sometime prior to 1875 as Francis Guy’s County & City of Cork Directory 1875-76 records this under the heading ‘Justices of the Peace etc’ in the Castletownshend entry on page 182; it also shows him living at ‘Seafield’. The list of Justices of the Peace on Page 108 of the 1884 Directory records - “Townsend Hon John Fitzhenry, LL.D, (High Court of Admiralty), Dublin” as does Page 125 in the 1891 Directory. Page 113 of the 1891 Directory also shows John as an Ex Officio Poor Law Guardian for Schull (12).

John clearly had an interest in sailing; in a letter (13) dated 4 July 1840 to his sister in law, Isabella [5D08], John Townsend [622] wrote "I was looking over the list of the Royal Cork Yacht Club & I think that there were not less than a dozen Townsends in it; only one however who owned a vessel - namely John FitzHenry Townsend’s 'Growler'". Edward Henry Townsend [411] was Secretary of the Royal Cork Yacht Club for many years.

'Griffith's Valuation of Ireland 1848-1864 records "Townsend John F. Myross".

'Landowners of Ireland Co Cork 1876' records "Townsend, John F.H 217 acres. £176 10s" - 2005 equivalent - £12,724.

‘Slater’s Royal National Directory of Ireland, 1894’ records under the heading ‘Benchers of the Honourable Society of King's Inns, Dublin.’ - “Hon. J. F. Townshend . . . Michaelmas 1877”.

John was executor of Richard Mellifont-Townshend’s will and this was to keep him busy for a long time.

It would appear that John died rather suddenly for his account book for Richard Arthur Herbert Townshend [259] shows that he was still working on January 5th 1893 (13). Probate was granted on 24 March 1893 and John is buried in the Mt Jerome Cemetery. His death was recorded in the diary of Agnes Townsend [334] - 'Feb 2 1893 John FitzHenry - Judge Townshend'. His headstone (No 1094) is inscribed "JOHN FITZHENRY TOWNSHEND | for twenty five years | Judge of the High court of Admiralty Ireland | died 2nd February 1893 | also ELEANOR his wife | died 20th April 1878. | “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord”.

Page 816 of The Calendar of Wills and Administration 1858-1922 in the National Archives of Ireland records that the will of " the Honourable John FitzHenry Townshend late of 30 Upper Fitzwilliam Street Dublin LLD Judge of the High Court of Admiralty Ireland”, who died on 2 February 1893, was proved at the Principal Registry on 24 March 1893 by "Henry FitzJohn Townshend of Seafield Castletownshend County Cork Major 4th Battalion Scottish Rifles and Charlotte Ruth Townshend of 30 Upper Fitzwilliam Street the Executors". Effects £24,012 17s 9d.

The following members of the family were also barristers practicing in Dublin in this period: John Sealy Townsend [333], John Sealy Townsend [507], Richard Townsend [513] and Horatio Townsend [623]. Horace Payne Townshend [5D12] qualified as a barrister but does not appeared to have practiced.

(1) Entry in the diary of Agnes Townsend [334] - 'Apl 20 1878 Mrs FitzHenry Townshend died' in Dublin.

(2) Ellen's brother, Dr Charles Armstrong, supported Bryan Townsend [324] and his sister Anne Townsend [325] whilst they were living in poverty in Crookhaven.

(2a) See page 437 of Brady's Parochial and Clerical Records Volume 2 for a summary of George's ministry.

(3) 'The Register of Admissions to Grays Inn 1521-1889', published in 1889, records "May 2 1831 John FitzHenry TOWNSEND, of Trinity College, Dublin, aged 21, only son of Henry Becher Townsend of Dublin, Esq."

(4) Lovera Papers 250/3. The Admiralty Court had exclusive legal jurisdiction on matters which occurred at sea, including the shore and river estuaries, such as acts of piracy or the condemning of ships taken under letters of marque and reprisal, i.e. by privateers. It had been split off from its parent court in 1784, even though a separate Irish Admiralty did not exist. Prior to that date the court had the status of an Admiralty court sitting in Dublin. This court accepted 'commercial law' which was a commonly accepted international law based on Roman Civil Law. Appeals were made to the Court of Delegates as was appropriate in a Civil Law court.

(5) Lovera Papers 236/5, 250/18 & 250/19.

(6) Lovera Papers 250/19.

(7) Lovera Papers 250/17.

(8) The entry for Glandore Cottage in the University of Galway Landed Estates Database records "Leased by John Allen and others from the Barry estate in 1851 when it was valued at £10. Noted by Lewis as the residence of J.F. Townsend in 1837. James R. Barry also owned an unoccupied hotel at this location in 1851."

(9) The entry for Seafield in the University of Galway Landed Estates Database records "Judge John Fitzhenry Townsend, of Seafield, Castletownsend, owned over 600 acres in county Cork in the 1870s. He was one of the principal lessors in the parish of Kilcoe, barony of West Carbery, at the time of Griffith's Valuation." The entry gives details of Squince House and Roaring Water Cottage both owned by John. In ‘A Guide to Irish Houses’ by M. Bence-jones, London, 1988, Seafield is listed ‘CASTLETOWNSHEND cor Seafield. Townshend 1760+’

(10) Lovera Papers 250/21.

(11) Lovera Papers 250/9.

(12) Poor Law Unions

(13) Llanvapley Papers.

(14) Lovera Papers 259/2.

See John’s entry in The Concise Dictionary of National Biography