Richard Townshend, of Castletownshend, born on 15th July 1684, succeeded to the Castletownshend Estates on the death of his father, Bryan, in 1727. It was during this period that Dean Swift spent some time in the area.
In 1706, Richard married his cousin, Mary, daughter of the Rev. Samuel Synge, Dean of Kildare. When she died, he married again, Elizabeth Beecher of Aughadown, about 1725. Richard himself died in 1742, and his second wife died in 1746. They had six children. Their fifth youngest child, Helena, married one of the Herberts of Cahernane House, Killarney, the Rev. Arthur Herbert. He had become vicar of the parish of Myross. The Herbert home in Kerry, on the Muckross Road as one approaches Killarney, is now Cahernane House Hotel. As vicar of Myross, the Rev. Arthur lived at Myross Wood, where he built an elegant and commodious residence of five bays, which now forms the centre of Myross Wood House.
Earl of Kingston
The Rev. Arthur died in 1760, and the property continued in his family for some time. It was later bought by the Earl of Kingston and used as his home during the building of Mitchelstown Castle. Between the death of the Rev. Arthur and the sale of the property by the Earl of Kingston in 1826, some 66 years elapsed. During part of that time, it would seem, according to tradition, that it was occupied by a Coppinger family, of which there is no account. It would seem from a stone in the wall, marked E.K 1819, that the Earl of Kingston extensively enlarged the house around a courtyard, adding two drawing rooms, five family bedrooms, extensive servants’ quarters and utility rooms. He also built 22 slated farm houses and labourers’ cottages.
Philip Townshend of Derry House
The eighth son of Bryan Townshend was Philip (1706-1786), of Derry House, near Rosscarbery. Philip inherited Derry House from his father, who bought it in 1686. Philip married Elizabeth Hungerford, of the Island, Clonakilty, in 1733, in the White Church, Brade. It is said to have been the last wedding performed there.
Philip’s son, Richard, M.D. (1733-1817), who practiced in Dublin, was married three times: to Eleanor, Daughter of Dr. Sealy, Bandon, to Margaret, daughter of Horatio Townshend, Bridgemount, and to Elizabeth Norris. Richard’s son, by his first wife, John Sealy Townshend (1764-1853) was the first Townshend owner of Myross Wood. As a child, John Sealy showed consumptive tendencies, but he was cured by Mrs. Ed. Synge Townshend, who dosed him with slugs, taken fasting, in sugar and honey.
John Sealy Townshend
John Sealy Townshend entered Trinity College in 1779 and was called to the Bar in 1787. He was law adviser to the Castle for twenty years, was made Master of Chancery in 1826 and retired from public life in 1846. He bought the beautiful house of Myross Wood from the Earl of Kingston in 1826.
John Sealy Townshend had four in family: Richard, Elizabeth, Anne and Helena. Richard, the eldest (1800-1839), married Helena, daughter of the Hon. & Rev. Thos. Trench, Dean of Kildare, and lived in Myross Wood.
Richard had four in family: John Handcock (1829-1889), Anna Jane, Helena, Frederick Trench. John Handcock Townshend, the eldest, married Katherine Emma, daughter of the Rev. William Tower Harvey, of How Hatch, and settled at Myross Wood. They had eleven in family, as follows, according to age: Richard Harvey (b.1854), William Tower (b.1855), Ernest, Arthur Edward, Christopher, Caroline Edith, Mildred Louisa, Honora Maria, Mary, Ellen Beatrice, and Alice Catherine.
The eldest, Richard Harvey, inherited Myross Wood. William Tower inherited Derry House, Rosscarbery, from his cousin Charlotte Payne Townshend, wife of George Bernard Shaw.
William Tower Townshend
William was a captain in the Royal West Kent Regiment. On 28th February 1901, he married Geraline Emily, daughter of Baron Scarsdale of Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire, sister of George Marquis Curzon of Kedleston Hall. William started his married life at Derry House, but his oldest brother Richard Harvey of Myross Wood died tragically, aged 47, in 1901, and William Tower inherited Myross Wood. The census of 1901 names Katherine Emma (71), widow of John Handcock Townshend, as head of the family in Myross Wood, where her unmarried son Arthur Edward (38) and daughter Ellen Beatrice (30) still lived. William Tower moved from Derry House to Myross Wood in the early 1900s.
The family lived at Myross Wood until after the First World War. They left for England about 1920, on account of Mrs. Townshend’s asthma, which was always particularly bad in Ireland. From then on, the family came to Myross Wood only on holidays. When they returned to England, they moved about a good deal and lived in different rented houses. At one time, they lived in Malvern, and also at Tunbridge Wells. However, in 1923, Mrs. Townshend’s brother, George Curzon of Kedleston Hall, gave them Bodiam Manor, in Sussex, for their lifetime. Bodiam Manor was trust property, as George Curzon had bequeathed Bodiam Manor and Bodiam Castle to the State.
William Tower Townshend, though he had left Ireland after the First World War, retained Myross Wood until he died in 1943. He loved the place and was heartbroken when he had to leave it. He enjoyed a good reputation as a landlord, and though Derry House, Rosscarbery, was burned down during the Troubles, Myross Wood was spared. According to family legend, the Republicans burned down only the stables, having first removed the horses. The three daughters of the house and their governess were living there at the time. Marjorie spent a lot of time in Ireland and became an Irish citizen. She worked and had many contacts in France and Germany, and as a neutral she could go there during the war, which she could not have done had she been British.
William and his wife Geraline Emily had four in family. Alfred died in infancy at Myross Wood, on 8th July 1903, aged seven days; he is buried at White Church, Brade. Blanche, who died on 13th February 1981, was the only member of the family to get married. Her granddaughter, Mrs. Geraline Arter, had her first baby in June 1988, after waiting a number of years. Her baby is the great-great-grandson of Captain William Townshend of Myross Wood. Marjorie died at Ardagh Cottage on 25th September 1983 and was buried at White Church graveyard, Brade. Eveline died in England on 9th September 1993 and was also buried at White Church graveyard, Brade.
William Tower Townshend was the last Townshend owner of Myross Wood. He died on 6th February 1943. His wife, Geraline, died on 17th May 1940. When he died, the property had to be sold, as it was an entailed estate, that is, it could only pass on to a male heir. It was bought in 1944 by a local fowl merchant, who held it for two years. Marjorie Townshend was still living there.
In 1946, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart bought it from Timothy Cleary for $4,200. Marjorie moved to Ardagh Cottage in the woods, where she died in 1983. The cottage and some hillside property, the property of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, were sold in 1986 to one Robert Kime. a London antiques dealer, as a holiday home. He has restored the cottage beautifully with all modern amenities and has provided extra accommodation at the rear.
The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart first used Myross Wood as a study house for our own young religious, making some adaptations to suit its new purpose. The south wing was totally rebuilt in 1959. The interior of the house has been adapted to the needs of the community over the years. The west wing was reconstructed and refurbished in 1987. But, apart from these relatively small modifications, the house basically remains as it was built by the Rev.Arthur Herbert in the 18th century and extended by the Earl of Kindston in the early 19th century. Since 1970 it has served as a retreat centre.