Reverend Doctor William Robinson Townsend (6B02)

Date of Birth: 1785
Date of Death: 22 Jun 1866
Generation: 5th
Residence: Aghada, Co Cork
Father: Samuel Philip Townsend [6B00]
Mother: Robinson, Helena
  1. Young, Isabella
  1. Major Samuel Philip [6B09]
  2. Brooke Young [6B10]
  3. Very Reverend William Chambers [6B11]
  4. Katherine [6B12]
  5. Georgina Maria [6B13]
  6. Mary Elizabeth (Minnie) [6B14]
  7. Isabella Anne [6B15]
  8. Helena Katherine [6B16]
See Also: Table VIB ; Scrapbook ; Lineage ; Ancestors' Tree ; Descendents' Tree

Notes for Reverend Doctor William Robinson Townsend

Judge John FitzHenry Townsend [250] shows William's birth as 1748 but this is unlikely as he would have been 118 years old at the time of his death.

Married ca 1810. Isabella Young (1) was the daughter of Major General Brooke Young Royal Artillery.

Alumni Trinity College Dublin from Co Cork and Kerry 1593-1860 in Dr Casey's Collection records that William was taught by Mr Lee before he entered Trinity College, Dublin, on 3 December 1804 aged 19 as a pensioner who paid a fixed sum annually for his studies. Mr Lee also tutored William's brother, Horatio Townsend [6B01], before he entered the University in 1800. The TCD Graduation List records that he qualified BA in Spring 1809 and DD in Summer 1848. John Townsend [318] and Thomas Townsend [6B03] were undergraduates at Trinity at the same time.

Ordained Deacon on 24 September 1809 at Cork and Priest on 8 October 1809 at Cloyne, William was appointed to the Curacy of Inniscarra on 9 October 1809 where his stipend was £75 per annum but his house and the rented farm cost him £92 per annum. Whilst he was at Inniscarra he contributed to the cost of building a new church tower - "A stone over the door of Inniscarra Church bears this inscription- 'This Church Tower was erected in 1819 with a loan from the Board of First Fruits. Right Revd. William Bennett, Lord Bishop of Cloyne; Hon. and Revd. Geo. Delapour Beresford, Rector; Revd. William Townsend, Curate; Sir Nics. Conway Colthurst, Bart., Philip Rubie, Esqr. Churchwardens; G. T. Beale, Architect."(2)

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 “Wm Townsend” planted 13,690 in Coolflugh in 1813. Other members of the family who subscribed to the scheme include Richard Boyle Townsend [219], Rev Richard Boyle Townsend [332], John Townsend [316], Samuel Townsend [412], Samuel Philip Townsend [6A00] and Samuel Philip Townsend [6B03].

Page 70 of ‘The Report of the Select Committee on the Public Income & Expenditure of Ireland’, published in 1815, records that the “Rev W Townsend” was a regular subscriber to the ‘South Cork Infirmary’; his annual subscription of £4 – 11s – 0d was due on 5 January 1814, after which it was discontinued. Other subscribers include William's brother, Horatio Townsend [6B01], Rev John Townsend [309] and Mildred Townsend, wife of his William's uncle, Richard Townsend [6A00].

On 9 February 1828 William was appointed curate of Tracton, with a stipend of £25 per annum, where he remained until 1833 when he was appointed Vicar of Nohoval on 6 April that year. Under the entry for Novohal, 'Lewis' Topographical Dictionary 1837' records that William lived in the glebe house and "The parochial school is endowed with two acres of land by the rector: there are also a private school and a Sunday school, the latter under the superintendence of the Protestant clergyman." William remained at Novohal until 26 April 1837 when he was installed as Rector of Aghada (3) by the Bishop of Cork; he remained there until his death. William’s biographical details can be seen on pages 148/149 in Reverend John Harding Cole's Church and Parish Records of the United Diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, covering the period 1863 to 1903 and published in 1903; they are also reproduced in his 'Scrapbook'. See also pages 8/9 of Brady's Parochial and Clerical Records Volume 2 for a summary of Williams's ministry.

Page 136 of the County and City of Cork Post Office General Directory 1842-43 shows William living at “Aghada Glebe, Cloyne”. Page 287 of Aldwell's General Directory 1844-45 records "Townsend, Rev. Wm. R. Aghada." Robert H Laing’s Cork Mercantile Directory 1863 reflects this on page 157.

Throughout his ministry William devoted his time to relieving the suffering of the poor and destitute in his own and neighbouring parishes (4), particularly during the famines of 1822 and 1846 to 1851, and also during the cholera epidemic whilst he was Curate at Tracton. He was averse to the giving of alms and promoted a range of schemes from drainage of marshland to the making of clogs and clothing in order to give people work. William was also very active in writing letters in the English and Irish newspapers drawing attention to the plight of the poor during the famine and this resulted in many donations of clothing and money. In a letter dated 26 February 1891 to Richard Baxter Townshend [5D15] William's son, William Chambers Townsend [6B11], wrote - " His useful life; his establishing the first dispensary, keeping hundreds of poor people alive during the famine of 1846-47, reclaiming several acres of bog land in his neighbourhood in order to give employment and advancing poor boys of talent to useful positions in life."(5)

William was a keen agriculturalist and wrote several pamphlets on farming under the pseudonym 'Agricola'. The Gardners Magazine Vol XIV of 1838 contains a review on a pamphlet he wrote - 'Directions on Practical Agriculture for the Working Farmers of Ireland' - "A cheap little work calculated to do much good in the locality for which it was intended." Whilst at Novohal he set up a farming society and Lewis' Topographical Dictionary 1837 records that "the Rev. W. R. Townsend, has written a practical treatise on agriculture, which he has gratuitously distributed among the working farmers, hoping to improve the system of husbandry, but hitherto he has not witnessed the desired result, as the old system is everywhere followed."

In a letter dated 24 Juy 1874, William's son in law, Major John Tuckey who married his daughter Mary, wrote of William - "It is possible you may have met with some of his writings in old times. They were chiefly on agricultural subjects; for his hobby was farming and he never made a penny by it: indeed he was such a philanthropist he never could keep a penny: it was at once slobbered away for the good of the public. Taken all in all he was an excellent old man whose equal is rarely to be met. He seemed to live for others and his death at the age of 80 was so joyous and he spoke of it during his last illness with so little reserve that I heard his family say they could scarcely realize the seriousness of it when it took place. He died about 8 years ago. He wrote under the name of Agricola."

Later, in the same letter, John Tuckey records that William "with all his goodness was, I must confess, a slovenly man (that is untidy; for he was a man of a wonderful amount of energy); and her mother, having been accustomed in her younger days to nothing but gaiety in the Army (her father was a General of the name of Young - a Northern family who think a great deal of themselves), had foolish antiquated ideas of this thing and that thing not being a genteel occupation for a lady".

Under the entry for Cork 'Pigot's Provincial Directory 1824' records "Townsend Rev Wm, Coolflough"; modern spelling is Coolflugh, which is about 3km northeast of Inniscarra. Under the entry for the parish of Aghada 'Griffith's Valuation of Ireland 1848 - 1864' shows "Townsend Rev. Wm. Village of Aghada Lower" and the 'Register of Landowners in County Cork 1876' shows that William's estate of 112 acres was valued at £56 - 5s. (2005 equivalent - £3,500) - strange; he died in 1866.

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 'Rev William R Townsend' is shown as the Commissioner for Donaghmore in 1826; this presumably refers to William, who at the time was curate at Inniscarra. In the 1833 entry for the parish, signed by William, his brother Horatio Townsend [6B01] is shown as holding a total of 1669 acres in the parish rated at ££116-18s-110d and his cousin Samuel Philip Townsend [6A03] holding 1468 acres in the parish rated at £92-10s-3d. The 1827 entry for the Parish of Kilnaglory shows William as one of two Commissioners. The 1833 entry for the Parish of Innishannon shows William owning 33 acres with a rateable value of £3-14s-2d.

William is buried in the Aghada graveyard alongside his daughter, Helena; the inscription on their tomb reads - "THE REVEREND WILLIAM ROBINSON TOWNSEND RECTOR OF AGHADA Died June 22nd 1866 Aged eighty one years HELENA CATHARINE TOWNSEND Died August 25th 1865 Aged forty eight years."


Page 332 of the Calender of Wills and Administration 1858-1922 in the National Archives of Ireland records that Letters of Administration on the personal estate of "The Reverend William Robinson Townsend of Aghada Co Cork", who died on 22 June 1866, were granted at the Principal Registry on 13 July 1866 to "Reverend William Chambers Townsend of Ard Cotton Glebe (Ballisodare) County Sligo the Universal Legatee in trust". Effects under £200.

(1) Isabella was born 1792 and died at Summer Cove, Kinsale 11 January 1872. Page 647 of the Calendar of Wills and Administration 1858-1922 in the National Archives of Ireland records that the will of "Isabella Townsend formerly of Clifton Terrace Aghada and late of Summer Cove Kinsale", who died on 11 January 1872, was proved at Cork on 14 February 1872, by "the oath of William Hotham Townsend of Charlotte Quay, Cork Solicitor one of the Executors". Effects under £200. William Hotham Townsend [6B18] was Isabella's nephew.

(2) See page 213 of Reverend John Harding Cole's Church and Parish Records of the United Diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross 1863-1903.

(3) William's nephew, Thomas Townsend [6B19], succeeded him as Rector of Aghada.

(4) Chambre Corker Townsend [5D01] and Richard Boyle Townsend [332], like William, devoted all their energy to helping the poor during the famine 1846-51. Amongst the catalogue of the registered papers of the Office of Chief Secretary of Ireland from 1818 to 1852, in the National Archives of Ireland, there is a paper dated 22 May 1822 entitled 'Resolutions of general relief committee of County Cork' in which William is shown as one of the secretaries to the committee responsible for relieving the suffering of the poor.

(5) RBT Papers 6B02/2.

'An Officer of the Long Parliament' Ch XII of p.272-274 refers.