Commander John Townsend FRGS (622)

Date of Birth: 10 Mar 1815
Date of Death: 11 Feb 1884
Generation: 6th
Residence: Weston super Mare & London
Father: Horatio (Horace) Townsend [607]
Mother: Elizabeth Trelawney Townsend [410]
  1. Townsend, Marianne Oliver (Minnie) [5D16]
  1. John Chambre Oliver [629]
  2. Reverend Edward Mansel [630]
  3. Kathleen Synge [631]
  4. Marion Hungerford (May) [632]
See Also: Table VI ; Scrapbook ; Lineage ; Ancestors' Tree ; Descendents' Tree

Notes for Commander John Townsend RN FRGS (1)

John was born in Quebec Street, London and his birth is registered in Marylebone. He was educated at Dr Burney's School in Greenwich, as was his brother Aubrey Townsend [621].

Married 28 April 1857 in Clifton Parish Church which was destroyed by bombing during the Second World War. Marianne Oliver Townsend [5D16] (2) was the eldest daughter of Chambre Corker Townsend [5D01].

O’Byrnes Naval Biographical Dictionary 1849 shows that John entered the Royal Navy on 17 July 1829 and started as a 'volunteer first class' on the 'Britannia' at Plymouth. He served as a midshipman on HMS Druid from 1831 to 1833 in the South Atlantic and was present during the insurrections at Montevideo and Rio de Janeiro. In 1834 he transferred to HMS North Star and completed his cadetship on the Pacific station in 1836. By all accounts the ship suffered great hardships, on account of exceptionally severe weather when rounding Cape Horn.

During the next eight years John served in several ships in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean, where he was present on HMS Revenge (3) at the siege of St John D'Acre on 3 November 1840.

Having passed his Lieutenants Exam in 1837, John was not promoted until February 1844 and his first appointment as First Lieutenant was on HMS Plover, which was engaged on the Chinese Coastal Survey until 1846. In 1848 he was appointed First Lieutenant on HMS Pantaloon, which was involved in the suppression of the slave trade off the west coast of Africa. Following this he moved to Ascension Island as second in command of the Naval Station and remained there until 1853. His last appointment in the Royal Navy was as First Lieutenant on HMS Himalaya in 1855 escorting reinforcements to the Crimea.

Page 29 of the Albus Digital Publishing book 'Victoria on British Stamps' by Terry Baldwin contains an image of the address page of the letter sent to John by his brother Rev Aubrey Townsend [621] in June 1855 when HMS Himalaya was moored in the harbour at Balaclava.

For some years John and Marianne lived at 11 Burlington Street, Bath, before they moved to Lona, Ellenborough Park, Weston-Super-Mare in 1861, having bought the property for £800. After he left the navy John was Commissioner of Public Works in Weston-Super-Mare from 1860 to 1873 and during this time he was responsible for a great many improvements to the town's services. In January 1867 he was promoted to Commander (retired) and was appointed a 'Nautical Assessor for the County of Somerset' on 23 August 1872 (London Gazette 23889).

In about 1873 John was appointed Financial Manager to the Parliamentary Solicitors, Messrs Baxter & Co of 5 Victoria Street, London and he and Marianne took a lease on a house at 12, Macaulay Road, Clapham. Five years later they moved to 3 Spenser Park, Wandsworth where they remained until John had to resign in 1879 through ill health. The subsequent loss of income and the failure of their rental income from Ireland, forced John and Marianne to move to Langdon House, St Ann's Hill, Wandsworth.

Exceptionally strong and a very keen sportsman; John was also an avid collector of art and artefacts, many of which he gave to the museum in Weston Super Mare. He was a Freemason - Knight of the Eagle & Pelican - and member of the St Kew Lodge in Weston in 1871. He was also a Knight Templar of the Order of St John of Malta, which he joined in about 1844.

The Bridgemount estate, including the properties at Mullenroe, Ballymacorcoran and Mount Cross, which was originally purchased by John FitzCornelius Townsend [122] sometime before 1736, passed to John after the death of his father. Throughout their marriage, and particularly in later years, John and Marianne experienced financial problems on account of falling rents from their Irish properties and a vast amount of correspondence (4) about this survives. Unable to meet their financial obligations, they sold off part of their estate in the Land Court established under the Encumbered Estates Acts of 1848 and 1849.(5) The Landlord Index of County Cork Encumbered Estates records "TOWNSEND, John, 13, 258800."

John died at Langdon House and his death was recorded in the diary of Agnes Townsend [334] - "March 1884 Capt J Townsend died - Minnie's husband". The Weston-Super-Mare Gazette of 8 March 1884, contains a very detailed account of John's life and a copy of it can be seen in his scrapbook. He was buried in Lower Norwood Cemetery - now West Norwood Cemetery.

Page 799 of the Calendar of Wills and Administration 1858-1922 in the National Archives of Ireland records "John Townsend late of Langdon House Saint Anne’s Hill Wandsworth County Surrey Esq. Died on 11 February 1884. Probate granted at London 22 May 1884. Resealed at the Principal Registry Dublin on 30 June 1884. Effects in Ireland £344 19s.

(1) Royal Geographical Society.

(2) Marianne was born in 1833 and died at Llanvapley on 15 July 1910. She is buried in the churchyard at St Mapley's Church, Llanvapley.

(3) In his unpublished autobiography, 'A Protestant Auto-Biography', John's son, Edward Mansel Townsend [630], recalls seeing HMS Revenge tied up at Haulbowline (Cobh) when he visited Ireland in about 1880.

(4) Llanvapley Papers. The subject of falling rents and rent in arrears features in much of the correspondence between the family and their agent J Hamilton Bryan of Prospect Hill, Dunmanway. The last mention of Bridgemount was in August 1882 when John wrote to his son Edward Mansel Townsend [630] about visiting the property.

(5) The Encumbered Estates Acts enabled the sale of Irish estates which had been mortgaged and whose owners found themselves in difficult financial circumstances. Unable to meet the demands of their creditors owners sold their estates, or portions of them, to settle their obligations. During and after the potato famine many tenants could not pay their rents, and this left landlords with little choice. However, the sale of land was difficult until the introduction of the Encumbered Estates legislation. Between 1849 and 1857 the Landed Estates Court oversaw the sale of more than 3000 Irish estates. Others in the family who were forced to sell include Jonas Morris Townsend [237], John Henry Townsend [238], Samuel Townsend [412], John Handcock Townsend [523], Samuel Philip Townsend [6A03], Rev Thomas Townsend [6B03], Edward Richard Townsend [6C00].

See also the entry for Marianne Townsend [5D16].

'An Officer of the Long Parliament' Ch XII p. 269-70 refers.