Reverend Richard Boyle Townsend (332)

Date of Birth: 25 Jan 1795
Date of Death: dsp 7 May 1850
Generation: 6th
Residence: Carrigfadda Glebe, Skibbereen & Point House, Castletownshend
Father: Commander John Townsend [316]
Mother: Eleanor Townsend [510]
  1. Hungerford, Elizabeth
Issue: None
See Also: Table III ; Scrapbook ; Lineage ; Ancestors' Tree ; Descendents' Tree

Notes for Reverend Richard Boyle Townsend

Married 1820. Eliza Anne Hungerford daughter of Richard Hungerford (1 & 1a) of Glandore and his wife Mary Limrick daughter of William Limrick and Elizabeth Somerville.

Alumni Trinity College Dublin from Co Cork and Kerry 1593-1860 in Dr Casey's Collection records that Richard was taught by Mr Armstrong before he entered Trinity College, Dublin, on 2 November 1812 aged 17 as a pensioner who paid a fixed sum annually for his studies. The TCD Graduation List records that he qualified BA in Spring 1817. Richard Townsend [236], Richard Townsend [513] and Chambre Corker Townsend [5D01] were undergraduates at Trinity at the same time.

Ordained Deacon on 1 February 1818 and Priest on 28 February 1819, both at Cork, Richard was Vicar of Abbeystrewry, Skibbereen, from 1819 until his death.(2) In the entry for the parish of Abbeystrewry 'Lewis' Topographical Dictionary 1837' records that "The male and female parochial schools are situated near the church, and were built in 1825, at the expense of the vicar." Lewis also records that "The living is a vicarage, in the diocese of Ross, and in the patronage of J. S. Townsend, Esq., (John Sealy Townsend [507]) the impropriator of the rectory: the tithes amount to £647, of which £200 is payable to the impropriator, £20 to the vicar (under an appropriation grant of the late Earl of Shannon), and the remainder to the lessees of Col. Townsend." (Colonel John Townsend [230]).

The Abstract and Miscellaneous Rolls of Chancery 1830 to 1837 records on page 19 Order in Council for changing the site of the Parish Church of Abbeystrowery, diocese of Ross, to the lands of Mardike a subdenomination of Coronea, granted to the Church Wardens of said parish, by Richard Boyle Townsend, for the purpose of building a new church thereon.--Dated 6th and Inrolled 15th January, 1834.

As explained in the ‘Background History’ page, the Act of Union in 1801 and successive reforming measures in the early years of the century drove the Anglo-Irish Protestant community into a position of permanent political minority. Fearing that their ascendancy was being eroded, meetings were held during the early decades of the century seeking to affirm and uphold the integrity of the ‘Protestant Constitution and State’. Reports of these meetings in County Cork between December 1828 and October 1834 can be seen in the record for John Sealy Townsend [333] and those members of the family who attended them are shown at Footnote 2. In addition to these, the Southern Reporter & Cork Commercial Courier of 20 March 1827 reports that the Bishop and seventy seven members of the clergy including Richard, Chambre Corker Townsend [5D01] and Robert St Lawrence (husband of Elizabeth Townsend [235]), signed a “Petition of the Protestant Clergy of the United Dioceses of Cork & Ross against Catholic Emancipation” which was submitted to the House of Commons on 2 March 1827. The list of signatories also includes a ‘Thomas Townsend, Prebendary of Island’; this is wrong as page 487 of Volume 2 Brady’s Clerical and Parochial Records shows Rev Horatio Townsend [5D00] as the incumbent!

The registered papers of the Office of Chief Secretary of Ireland contain a letter (CSO/RP/1831/3099) from Richard Boyle Townsend [219] dated 19 November 1831 to Edward Geoffrey Smith Stanley, Chief Secretary, enclosing copy of a communication signed by Richard and four other householders of the town of Skibbereen to certain magistrates of County Cork, drawing attention to a local outbreak of typhus and seeking assistance under the relevant statute to prevent the threat of cholera; also enclosing the resolutions of the medical practitioners of Skibereen on the question of the state of health of the neighbourhood; warning that if cholera did make an appearance in the district ‘its ravages would be formidable’ and recommending the formation of a board of health to enforce cleanliness and hygiene in dwellings occupied by the poorer classes. There is an anomaly here as Richard Boyle Townsend died in 1827.

The registered papers also contain a letter CSO/RP/1832/1813) dated 25 April 1832, in which Richard submits the names of men nominated to a board of health for the parish of Castlehaven, to deal with the threat of cholera. The list of names submitted includes Thomas Somerville (eldest son of Elizabeth Henrietta Townsend [225]) and Thomas Townsend [319].

The Cork County Election of 16 July 1841 returned Daniel O’Connell and Edmund Roche as MPs. This result was challenged by Nicholas Leader and Robert Longfield who claimed there were serious irregularities during the election. The Select Committee set up to investigate this published their report 27 May 1842 and found in favour of O’Connell and Roche. The Poll Books, recording how electors had voted, were included with this report and show that John Townsend [316] (entry 48 on page 182), Richard Boyle Townsend [332] (entry 62 on page 183), Thomas Townsend [319] (entry 38 on page 182), Edward Henry Townsend [411] (entry 40 on page 182), Chambre Corker Townsend [5D01] (entry 70 on page 183), Philip Townsend [613] (entry 75 on page 200) and Robert St Lawrence (husband of Elizabeth Townshend [235] {entry 110 on page 183}) all voted for Nicholas Leader and Robert Longfield. The report shows that the value of the Glebe House, where Richard was living, was £50.

Entry number 62 on page 183 of The Poll Book of the Select Committee on Cork County Election of July 1841 records Richard living at Abbeystrewry glebe (value £50).

Page 261 of Reverend John Harding Cole's Church and Parish Records of the United Diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross 1863-1903 records that Richard built a new Glebe House in 1847 - "Abbeystrewry Glebe House was built in 1847, by Revd. R. Boyle Townsend. It stands in about fifteen acres of glebe land , subject to a rent of £14 a year. It has been enlarged by Revd. H. W. Townsend,(2a) at a cost of £200 borrowed from R. C. B."

Until the mid-eighteenth century there was little incentive for tenants to plant trees on the land they leased, for the trees were legally the property of the landlord. However, by 1765, the tenant’s position had changed in that he was entitled to all the trees he had planted, or their value, on the expiry of his lease. To prove ownership tenants had to register the trees they planted and this was eventually published in a register for the particular county in which they lived. Details of the ‘Register of Trees, Co Cork, 1780 - 1860’ are contained in Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society 1976 Vol. 81, Nos 233-234, pages 39-60 and seven members of the family are shown as part of the scheme. Between them they planted 63,500 trees of which the "Rev Rich Boyle Townsend" planted 2,190 in Coronea between 1839 and 1845. Other members of the family who subscribed to the scheme include Richard Boyle Townsend [219], John Townsend [316], Samuel Townsend [412], Samuel Philip Townsend [6A03], Samuel Philip Townsend [6B00] and William Townsend [6B02].

Richard was a saintly man devoted to the care of the poor, particularly during the potato famine of 1846 - 51. During the famine he was "examined 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. He lobbied the Famine Relief Commission (2b) and wrote journals highlighting the plight of those affected by the famine and this attracted a number of visitors to Skibbereen. Amongst these were Lord Dufferin (2c) and the Hon Mr Boyle who were students at Oxford and had collected £50 as a donation to help relieve the suffering of the poor. Richard acted as their guide during the visit and took them to a typical burial scene where the bodies were "emptied into a pit in the ground from a shell coffin which was to be used again....The visitors admitted that they were 'completely sickened' by what they saw and left the following day, although they left an additional donation of £10" (3). Richard also wrote to Lord George Bentick explaining that in one month from the 1st of December to the 1st of January, there were one hundred and forty deaths in the Skibbereen workhouse; the people having entered "that they might be able to die decently under a roof and be sure of a coffin." He also mentioned that in the churchyard of his parish there were, at one time, fourteen funerals waiting, whilst the burial of a fifteenth corpse was being completed. In the next parish to his, there were nine funerals at once in the churchyard, and in two other adjoining ones, there were six together in each.

Richard himself died of typhus and his death was recorded in the diary of Agnes Townsend [334] - 'May 7 1850 RB Townsend died of a fever'.

In a letter, dated December 5th 1854, to his friend Sir Donald McLean in New Zealand Richard's cousin John Henry Townsend [238] describes the horrors of the famine when he returned to Ireland in 1847 - "...a population of eight and a half millions lost their chief supply of food in one week for the potato was the only food that four fifths of the people had to rely on.” He continues by saying that so many died in the famine or emigrated that the survivors can “find employment at double their former wages. In the country pauperism has mainly disappeared and as an illustration of what I tell you we have at present in the Skib workhouse (of which I am the Vice Chairman) 128 inmates and in November 1850 we had 1470.” An article dated November 1 1847 entitled 'State of the Country' in The Cork Examiner further describes the terrible conditions in the Skibbereen Workhouse.

The entries for Richard in the various directories of the period are confusing and contradictory though they do all refer to places in the immediate vicinity of Skibbereen.

The entry for residents of Skibbereen in 'Pigot's Provincial Directory 1824' records "Townsend Rev, Glebe House."

Page 143 of Aldwell's General Directory 1844-45 records - "Abbeystrowry Vicarage.—Incumbent, Richard B. Townsend. Post Town, Skibbereen.; Number of statute acres, 15,165, population, 5,570. One church, capable of accommodating 360 persons; Patron, John S. Townsend, Esq.(4) The Rectorial Tithes of this parish compounded for £699 are impropriate to the Patron."

The entry for Carrigfadda Glebe in the University of Galway Landed Estates Database records “At the time of Griffith's Valuation, Rev. Horace Townsend was leasing this property from The O'Donovan's estate when it was valued at £12 15s. In 1837 Lewis had noted it as the seat of R.B. Townsend. It is still extant and occupied.”

The list of subscribers to 'Samuel Lewis. Topographical Directory 1837' records "Townsend, RB, Esq., JP Point House, Castletownshend co. Cork". Whereas in the entry for the parish of Castlehaven in the Dictionary records "The principal seats are Castle Townsend, the residence of Col. Townsend; Point House, of R. B. Townsend, Esq."

The entry for Skibbereen in 'Slater's Commercial Directory 1846’ records “Townsend Rev Richard Boyle. New Road, Castle Townsend.”

Eliza must have moved into Sion Cottage shortly after Richard died as the entry for it in the University of Galway Landed Estates Database records "At the time of Griffith's Valuation, John Levis was leasing this property to Eliza Townsend when it was valued at £8 5s. This may be Eliza Hungerford, who was married to Rev. Richard Boyle Townsend. A building still exists at the site." The entry for Skibbereen in 'Slater's Commercial Directory 1856' - that is six years after Richard died - records "Townsend, Mrs. Elizabeth (Sion Cottage, New Road)." She died on 19 April 1870 and her death was recorded by Agnes Townsend [334] in her diary - "April 19 Eliza A Townsend Sion Cottage died suddenly."

Page 554 of the Calendar of Wills and Administration 1858-1922 in the National Archives of Ireland records that the will of "Eliza Anne Townsend late of Sion Cottage", who died on 19 April 1870, was proved at the Principal Registry on 1 July 1870, by "the oath of Robert Hungerford of Union Hall Leap". Effects under £600.

'Griffith's Valuation of Ireland 1848 - 1864' records "Townsend Mrs. Eliza. Carrigfadda" owning land in the parish of Abbeystrewry.

Richard was a Freeman of the City of Cork. Between 1710 and 1841, when the power of admitting Freemen only by birth or right ceased, a total of thirty three members of the Townsend family were admitted as Freemen.

The Tithe Applotment Books in the National Archives of Ireland were compiled between 1823 and 1837 in order to determine the amount which occupiers of agricultural holdings over one acre should pay in tithes to the Church of Ireland. The 1835 record for the Townland of Coronea in the Parish of Abbeystrewry show Richard and his kinsman Colonel John Townsend [230] owning very small parcels of land in the Townland.

There is a memorial to Richard in Abbeystrewry Church - “This tablet has been erected by the inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood to the memory of the Rev Richard Boyle Townsend, 32 years Vicar of Abbeystrewry. A faithful and zealous servant of the Lord. The precept of that Gospel which he boldly preached, he constantly practised. During the period of the famine his labours were unceasing; through his advocacy much relief was procured for the famishing poor. This church was enlarged, an organ erected, a school house built and endowed by his zeal and activity. He entered into rest May the 7th 1850 aged 55 years. He died of fever caught in the discharge of duty. The sorrow expressed by all classes of the community was unprecedented. He died as he lived - in faith and prayer.”

(1) 'Protestant Militia and Volunteers 1778. Co. Cork' records "HANOVER SOCIETY, CLOUGHNAKILTY. Enrolled 1778. Force 2 companies. Uniform: scarlet, faced buff. Officers at 1782 - Colonel, Richard Hungerford; Major, Thomas Hungerford; Captains, John Hungerford and Beecher Hungerford; Lieutenant, Swithin White; Adjutant, Richard Bagley; Chaplain, John Townsend; Secretary, Thomas Morgan." There must be a Hungerford connection here - Glandore is just down the road from Clonakilty.

(1a) The entry for Hungerford in the University of Galway Landed Estates Database records "Burke indicates that this family traditionally claimed descent from the Hungerford family of Farley in Somerset. Captain Thomas Hungerford settled in west Cork in the later seventeenth century.The Hungerfords married into many other influential families in the area including Beecher, Jones and Daunt. Both Mary Sandes Hungerford and Francis Hungerford, of The Island House, Inchydoney, were the owners of over 500 acres in county Cork in the 1870s. Thomas Hungerford was among the principal lessors in the parishes of Castleventry, Island and Ross, barony of East Carbery, at the time of Griffith's Valuation. Both Richard and Beecher Hungerford held townlands in the parish of Kinneigh at that time. Much of this land was held on lease from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. In July 1852 over 800 acres in the parish of Kinneigh, barony of East Carbery, the property of Richard Hungerford, deceased, was offered for sale in the Encumbered Estates Court. Over 300 acres, the property of Alexander George Hungerford, was offered for sale in the court in June 1856 while 560 acres of Thomas Hungerford's estate, located in the barony of East Carbery, was offered for sale in the Landed Estates Court in October 1859."

(2) John Sealy Townsend [333] and Samuel Townsend [412] can be positively identified. The other contenders are Samuel Townsend [405] or Samuel Townsend [6A03], Thomas Townsend [319] or Thomas Townsend [509], Thomas Somerville (probably the husband of Henrietta Augusta Townsend [234]) and George Digby Daunt (husband of Helena Herbert Townsend [619]). Not all members of the family shared such views and press cuttings from the Southern Reporter & Cork Commercial Courier and Dublin Evening Packet & Correspondent in 1828 and 1829 respectively show that Horatio Townsend [6B01] and Edward Richard Townsend [6C00] were among the many Protestant Liberals who took a much more conciliatory approach to Roman Catholic emancipation.

(2a) He was preceded in the living at Abbeystrewry by Rev Horatio Townsend [5D00] 1770-1781 and then Rev William Robinson 1781-1819, husband of Mary Townsend [314]. When Richard died in 1850 he was succeeded in the living by his brother Rev Horace Thomas Townsend [334] who remained there until 1867 - in all 96 years of Townsend or Townsend connections with the parish. See page 454 et seq of Brady's Parochial and Clerical Records Volume 2. Rev Horace Webb Townsend [634] was vicar of Abbeystrewry 1896-1915 and extended the Glebe House.

(2b) The National Archives of Ireland contain a letter to the Famine Relief Commission written by Richard on 26 November 1845 “on the need to ensure the wider dissemination among the lower classes of the reports respecting the preservation of the potato crop.”

(2c) He wrote 'Narrative of a Journey from Oxford to Skibbereen in the Year of the Irish Famine (1847).' In it he described how he found Mrs Townsend sewing shrouds with two maidservants lying dead of typhus in the house.

(3) Extract from the book 'This Great Calamity' by Dr Christine Kinealy of the Institute of Irish Studies at Liverpool University.

(4) John Sealy Townsend [507] 'An Officer of the Long Parliament' Ch IX p. 223-24 refers.

Chambre Corker Townsend [5D01] and William Robinson Townsend [6B02], like Richard, devoted all their energy to helping the poor during the famine 1846 - 51.

For other connections with Abbeystrewry see Richard Townsend [310], Mary Townsend [314], Horatio Thomas Townsend [334], Dorothea Townsend [404], Charlotte Frances Townsend [422], Horatio Townsend [5D00], Horace Webb Townsend [634].

For other Hungerford connections see also Barbara Townsend [210], Richard Townsend [315], Philip Townsend [500], Horatio Townsend [600].