Captain William Townsend (504)

Date of Birth: 19 Aug 1752
Date of Death: dunm 27 Dec 1816
Generation: 4th
Residence: Derry, (1) Rosscabery, Co Cork
Father: Captain Philip Townsend [500]
Mother: Hungerford, Elizabeth
Spouse: Unmarried
Issue: None
See Also: Table V ; Scrapbook ; Lineage ; Ancestors' Tree ; Descendents' Tree

Notes for Captain William Townsend

William's godparents were Edward Mansel Townsend [401], Very Rev William Meade (husband of Helena Townsend [209]), Barbara Townsend [210] and Mrs Elizabeth Baldwin.

In ‘An Officer of the Long Parliament’ there are two very vague, but rather tantalising, references (2) to William's military service. "While he worked he used to tell endless stories of his adventures by flood and field, how he swam the Rhine with dispatches in his mouth, and had to disguise himself as a peasant to bring them safely across France." And further, on page 257 "...old Spanish dubloons. No doubt they were the relics of some prize money gained in the wars." In terms of his age it is most likely that he would have seen service in North America during the American War of Independence 1775-83 when he would have been in his twenties. However this does not accord with references in ‘An Officer of the Long Parliament’ to the Rhine and France.

When not serving overseas, William appears to have spent most of his life at Derry, with his brother Thomas Townsend [502], where he grew great quantities of flax and employed many women to spin and weave it. Rosscarbery was at that time a centre for the weaving of coarse linen and the 'Spinning Wheel Survey' (3) of 1796 shows a total of 101 wheels for the town. William was also noted for the herbs that he grew which he used as ministrations to the poor, to whom he was very kind. He was also a particularly fine sportsman and was especially renowned for his skill as a fisherman.

In his will, dated 3 June 1781 and proved in Cork on 23 August 1788, William's father left Derry to William's brothers, Thomas Hungerford and Horatio, and legacies to all his other children except William. Apart from a bequest of ten guineas, the only mention of William in the will is - "And whereas I have made ample provision for my son William as my circumstances would admit of".

In 1796 William was a Captain of Yeomanry and commanded the Clonakilty Cavalry; this consisted of 30 horsemen and about 50 infantry (4). During the Rebellion in 1798 Sir John Moore, who commanded the soldiers quartered in Clonakilty, used to ask William to guide him around the local area. During these troubles Derry was the only house in the area that was not attacked by the rebels. The windows and doors were barricaded at night, the lights left burning and William kept guard.

As described on the page ‘Background History’, events in Ireland in the last decade of the 18th century convinced the Prime Minister in Westminster, William Pitt, that the only way to solve unrest in the country was to get the Irish Parliament to pass an Act of Union. He thought that Irish Catholics would be better off as a minority in the United Kingdom, rather than a majority in Ireland. William, and six of his kinsmen (5), supported this and they, along with several hundred fellow landowners in Co Cork, published a proclamation supporting union in The Belfast Newsletter dated Tuesday 30 July 1799. A copy of the proclamation is reproduced in William’s ‘Scrapbook’.

William was a churchwarden at St Fachtna's Cathedral, Ross 1791, 1795, 1803, 1810-16. He moved out of Derry sometime after 1800 and built a house in Rosscarbery where he died.

Catherine Fitzmaurice records in her list of Known Freemen of Bandon Bridge appointed in 1797 William Townsend Esq of Derry, Captain of Clonakilty Cavalry, Rev Horace Townsend of Courtmacsherry ([5D00]) and Richard Townsend of Palace Anne (probably Palllastown) ([6A00]). There is also a reference to Rev Horatio Townsend appointed in 1805 but identification has not been possible.

William's brother, Thomas Hungerford Townsend [502], died of a stroke in early 1799 and his will was proved in Cork on 17 March 1799. All his estate real and personal, goods and chattels he left to his brother Horatio Townsend [5D00], who was the sole executor, except £400 to William, £600 to his brother Dr Richard Townsend [501], £400 to the children of Susannah Townsend [505] and £400 to sister Mary Townsend [506] (6).

An entry in the Church of Ireland Parish Records Ross Cathedral 1690–1823 records on page 66 under the heading ‘Burials’ - "1817 December 28th Captain William Townsend Ross."

An extract from ‘The Munster Volunteer Registry 1782 - Kerry Legion Cavalry January 1779’ shows ‘Woodford Rangers - Colonel William Townsend’. William would have only been 27 at the time. Another Townsend family!

(1) The entry for Derry in the University of Galway Landed Estates Database records "Family records indicate the original house at Derry was bought by Bryan Townsend, son of Richard, the Cromwellian officer, in the 1680s. This house was a short distance from the current house which was built by Reverend Horatio Townsend in the early years of the nineteenth century and was held in fee by Reverend Chambre Townsend in 1851 when it was valued at £44. Earlier, in 1786, Wilson referred to Derry as a Townsend seat. It was substantially damaged when it was burnt in April 1921 during the War of Independence. . At the time it was the residence of Alexander Sullivan, a well-known barrister. In 1944 the Irish Tourist Association Survey noted that it was still derelict following the 1921 burning. The centre portion of the house and a substantial farm still exist at the site."

(2) ‘An Officer of the Long Parliament’ pages 256/7.

(3) Prior to the 1798 Rebellion, the government attempted to boost the linen trade by offering farmers inducements to sow a greater acreage of flax seed. The inducement was a free spinning wheel for every quarter acre, and a free loom for every five acres. The Trustees of the Linen and Hempen Manufactures of Ireland were charged with overseeing the distribution of these inducements, and compiled a list of eligible farmers in 1796.

(4) Hand written note in 'An Officer of the Long Parliament'.

(5) John Townsend [214] shown as ‘John Townfend MP Shepperton’, Rev Richard Townsend [310] shown as ‘Richd Townfend clk Skull’, Thomas Townsend [509] shown as ‘Thos Townfend Mallow’, Rev Horatio Townsend [5D00] shown as ‘Horace Townfend Courtmacsherry’, Richard Townsend [6A00] shown as ‘Richard Townfend Palacetown’, Samuel Philip Townsend [6B00] shown as ‘Samuel T(?) Townfend Firmount’ .

(6). Derry Papers 502/2.

'An Officer of the Long Parliament' Ch XI p. 254-58 and 'Pooles of Mayfield' p.237, where his death is shown as 1821, refer.