Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Townsend, Richard (1618?-1692)

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TOWNSEND or TOWNESEND, RICHARD (1618?–1692), parliamentary colonel, born in 1618 or 1619, was descended, according to tradition, from the Townshends of Rainham, Norfolk. He bore the arms of the presbyterian Sir Roger Townshend (1588–1637), the head of that family. On account of similarity in age, he has been doubtfully identified with Richard Townesend, son of John Townsend of Dichford in Warwickshire, who matriculated from Hart Hall, Oxford, on 16 May 1634, aged 19. In 1643 Townsend received the commission of captain in a regiment of ten companies raised to garrison Lyme Regis, Dorset, which was threatened by Prince Maurice [q. v.], then in the midst of his triumphant western campaign. On 3 March 1643–4 he surprised and routed a hundred and fifty royalist horse at Bridport. The siege of Lyme Regis commenced on 20 April, and was raised on 13 June. Blake was in command of the town, and Townsend, distinguishing himself in the defence, was promoted to the rank of major. In the same year he accompanied his colonel, Thomas Ceely, in an expedition against the ‘clubmen’ of Dorset. The ‘clubmen’ were routed at Lyme, and the rising suppressed. In 1645 Ceely was returned to parliament for Bridport, and Townsend succeeded him in command of the regiment with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. In 1646 he assisted in the siege of Pendennis Castle, near Falmouth, and in August in the negotiations for the surrender of the castle. A letter from him to Ceely, apprising him of the capitulation, is preserved in the Bodleian Library (Tanner MS. 59, f. 481).

On 15 June 1647 parliament ordered Townsend and his regiment to proceed to Munster to the assistance of Murrough O'Brien, first earl of Inchiquin [q. v.], the parliamentary commander (Journals of the House of Commons, v. 211). He joined him in September, and on 13 Nov., when Inchiquin defeated Lord Taaffe, the royalist leader, near Mallow, Townsend commanded the English centre [see Taaffe, Theobald, Earl of Carlingford]. Dissatisfied with the treatment accorded to the soldiers in Ireland by the predominant independent party, he joined early in 1648 in presenting a strong remonstrance to the English parliament against their neglect of the welfare of the troops. Failing to obtain redress, he soon afterwards joined Inchiquin, who disliked the independents, in deserting the parliamentary cause, and in coming to an understanding with Lord Taaffe. In a short time, however, his new associates became distasteful to him, and he entered into communications with parliament. In December 1648, in consequence of his endeavour to negotiate the surrender of Munster with parliamentary commissioners, he was compelled to take refuge in England. On the execution of Charles I he returned to Ireland, professing that resentment at the king's death had finally determined him to loyalty. In reality, however, according to Carte, he was sent by Cromwell as a secret agent to corrupt the Munster army. In October 1649 he was arrested and thrown into prison for being concerned in a plot to seize the person of Inchiquin and take possession of Youghal. He was exchanged for an Irish officer, but was no sooner liberated than he engaged in a similar plot, was again taken prisoner, and conveyed to Cork. Inchiquin intended to shoot him as an example, and he was saved only by a timely mutiny of the garrison of Cork, who rose on the night of 16 Oct. and drove the Irish out of the town. Townsend received special praise from Cromwell in a letter to the speaker, William Lenthall [q. v.], as an ‘active instrument for the return of both Cork and Youghal to their obedience’ (Carlyle, Works, 1882, xv. 213). Weary of political and military intrigue, he retired from service shortly after, and before 1654 settled at Castletownshend, near West Carbery, co. Cork. At the Restoration he escaped the forfeitures which overtook many of the Cromwellian soldiers, and had his lands confirmed to him by royal patents in 1666, 1668, and 1680. His good fortune was perhaps owing to a connection with Clarendon through his wife. Townsend sat in the Irish parliament of 1661 as member for Baltimore. In 1666 the apprehension of a French invasion caused the lord lieutenant, Roger Boyle, first earl of Orrery [q. v.], to form the English in Ireland into companies of militia. Townsend was appointed a captain of foot, and in 1671 was appointed high sheriff of the county (Boyle, State Letters, 1742, p. 170).

The accession of James II ushered in a time of anxiety for the protestants of southern Ireland. Many took refuge in the north or crossed the Channel to England. Townsend, however, stood his ground, and organised the protestant defence in the county of Cork. On 18 Oct. 1685 he was appointed ‘sovereign’ or mayor of Clonakilty, in spite of the efforts of James to prevent the election of protestants. In November 1690 Townsend's mansion house of Castletownshend was unsuccessfully besieged by five hundred Irish under Colonel Driscoll, but a little later it was compelled to surrender to MacFineen O'Driscoll. In compensation for his sacrifices and services Townsend received from government a grant of 40,000l.

Townsend died in the latter part of 1692, and was buried in the graveyard of Castlehaven. He was twice married: first, to Hildegardis Hyde, who was not improbably related to Lord Clarendon; and secondly, to Mary, whose parentage is unknown. He had issue by both marriages, leaving seven sons and four daughters. The eldest surviving son, Bryan, who served with the English army at the battle of the Boyne, was ancestor of the family of Townshend of Castletownshend.

[Richard and Dorothea Townshend's Account of Richard Townesend, 1892; Murphy's Cromwell in Ireland, 1883, pp. 196, 197, 398; Prendergast's Cromwellian Settlement in Ireland, 1870, p. 192.]

E. I. C.