Brethren Archive

John Townsend Trench

Born: 17th February 1834
Died: 9th August 1909
Appears in Trench / Anderson / Grimston Family Tree

Intro, Biographical Information, Notes etc:

Evidently Townswend Trench was an evangelistic worker; In Chief Men on John Morley, we have "These remarkable years, '59 to '63, were seasons of gathering in of many men to be afterwards used mightily in the Lord's service, including R . J . Mahony of Dromore Castle, W. T. Crosbie of Tralee, F. C. Bland of Derryquin, Geo. F. Trench, Alfred Trench, Townsend Trench, and T Shuldham Henry, several of whom were afterwards associated with Mr. Morley in work in London."

Townsend Trench is also referenced in "A Caution to the Readers of 'A Caution against the Darbyites.'"

And he contributes here;


From (the rest of the article is worth reading)

In 1862, the year in which he took his degree at Trinity, my father first went on one of these preaching tours in the south of Ireland. George F. Trench, the friend who led him into the work, was a cousin of Townsend Trench, estate agent to the Marquess of Lansdowne. “Towny,” himself one of the best-known men in the south, had recently been converted and was preaching with all the energy and originality of a striking personality. Incidentally, the Trenches were related to my mother, whom in those days my father did not yet know. George Trench was her cousin; in after years he married as his second wife, Edith Lee Anderson, my father’s niece, a fresh link between the families being thus formed. 
An unusual feature of the revival movement in County Kerry was that amongst the first to be influenced were some of the landed gentry. Trench and Anderson were welcomed by them, and life-long friendships were formed by my father with Richard Mahony of Dromore Castle, Lindsay Talbot-Crosbie of Ardfert Abbey, and F. C. Bland of Derryquin Castle. Later on, through the preaching of Thomas Weldon Trench, the revival spread to Sligo, and George Trench went there to carry on the work, again asking my father to join him. The clergy and ministers were unsympathetic. Not only so, but the evangelists were treated to a crusade of abuse and ridicule in a local newspaper which accused them of being impostors preaching for filthy lucre’s sake and getting their salaries from a committee in London. One issue published a letter, said to have been picked up on the road, in which they were taken to task for embezzling the contents of their money-boxes ! Worse still, there appeared a seemingly genuine account of their getting drunk at a picnic


From Beattie,

Recalling the work of the Lord in the early days in Kerry, a brother who visited Townsend Trench in London shortly before his Home-call, told the writer that Mr. Trench, with tears streaming down his handsome face, exclaimed, “There was much sunshine in those wonderful years!” A recollection of happier times, tinged by a note of sadness. Alas, all those assemblies have ceased to exist, and darkness has again settled down where the light and peace and joy of the Gospel of grace once held sway. “The last time the meeting-room at Dromore Castle was used for a Gospel meeting,” writes Mr. Robert Milne, of Aberdeen, “Mr. Archie Bell, of Lurgan, and I preached in it. The castle was empty, and the agent allowed us the use of the building. Kenmare, the last assembly in Kerry, went out of existence only a few years ago, through the death of Mr. A. Mansfield, whose revered father saw the commencement of the testimony in that place.”


From  (best to read the original as it hasn't copied well. Very interesting as has a lot on the difficulties faced during the Famine)

John Townsend Trench was a colourful character in many respects. Lord
Newton best describes him while on a visit to the Luggacurren estate in 1887. Newton
was a young MP who had never been in Ireland before and was naturally fair game for
Trench, whom Newton describes as ‘a volatile gentleman who seemed to have stepped
straight out of Charles Lever’s novels’. Trench ‘flourished revolvers’ and drove him at
break-neck pace over ‘shocking roads’ and predicted that they should be shot at 1 TQ whenever they approached a corner.
John Townsend Trench was also a successful missionary preacher for the Plymouth
Brethren. Although named after the town with the most substantial congregation, the
brethren had its origins in Dublin in the 1820s.140 Its main features were its rigid non-
denominationalism, the absence of any form of ordination, the simple sharing of bread
and wine, preaching by lay ministers and the informal study of the bible. The Brethren
recruited mostly from the social elite of Anglo-Irish landowners, lawyers, academics,
with some members from humbler levels of society.141 The movement received a great
boost by the Ulster religious revival of 1859, a principal feature of which was the
alleged occurrence of ‘unusual physical and psychological phenomena such as visions,
trances, swoons, stigmata, and prophecies, especially among women and children’.142
Joining the brethren for John Townsend Trench, was probably in protest against the
controversial erection of a new Protestant church in Kenmare. A later quarrel with the
Protestant parson was never settled.143 William Steuart Trench was instrumental in
erecting this church in 1858, the third Marquess of Lansdowne providing the site and a
grant of £450.144 In response to charges of allocating far too many pews to the
Lansdowne and Trench families and friends, leaving very little room for the rest of the
congregation, Steuart Trench maintained that only the two front pews, of seven places
each, one for Lord Lansdowne and the other for himself as agent, were allocated by
him, with a third front pew allocated to his cousin Lord Ashtown.145 While regretting
that there should be ‘any distinction of rank in the house of God’, he believed that ‘such
distinctions are universal and inevitable’.146 William Bowen of Cleady, venting his
anger in the Tralee Chronicle, claimed that ‘he and 120 others were crushed into ten
back pews designed to accommodate seventy persons’.147 Townsend Trench had
donated the stained glass windows ‘from his own pocket’,148 but two years later and
possibly as a result of the above controversy, he joined the Plymouth Brethren.
According to Lyne, the Plymouth Brethren first preached in Templenoe in October
I8 60,149 but made little progress in the Kenmare area until Richard Mahony, a landlord
living in Dromore castle joined, with Townsend Trench later becoming a believer.150
Another Protestant landowner, Francis C. Bland, of Dromquinna castle was also an
active member of the Brethren.151 Townsend Trench’s conversion may have come about
as a result of ‘an extraordinary meteorite seen over Kenmare’ on 27 February 1861.
In a newspaper article of May 1887, headed ‘Lord Lansdowne’s agent as a preacher’,
John Townsend Trench is reported as opening a ‘special mission’ in the Christian Union
Buildings, Lower Abbey Street, Dublin.153 Beginning ‘in a loud voice’, he proceeded
with ‘remarkable volubility and rapidity’ and the ‘nasal intonation of Brother Jonathan’,
as well as the continual use of the words ‘well sirs’. The methods he proposed to adopt
to insure a successful mission, were ‘the three old methods of praying, preaching and
singing, all of which were great powers’. During this sermon Trench admitted that he
didn’t shirk from practical difficulties, but preferred to ‘face them as straight as a die’.
On the conversion of sinners he had the following to say:
It awakened a peal of joy in heaven when the angels, who were hovering round their meetings went up and announced the conversion of a sinner, for he believed the angels were with them, but how astonished the angels must be, when they were told that there some who preferred the path of evil to the path of god.154
Consequently the Weekly Freeman of 21 May 1887 issued a satirical caricature of
Trench in the agent’s role of evicting a woman and child from the Lansdowne
Luggacurren estate, alongside his simultaneous religious role of evangelisation at a
meeting in Dublin, as a preacher for the Plymouth Brethren. The caricature is headed:
‘Preaching and practising: Lord Lansdowne’s agent makes a holy show of himself.155
Satirical verses complemented this free special supplement with sentiments such as the
So if you observe inconsistency, say, stay, brethren, warily! Between Luggacurren and Dublin today, stay, brethren, warily! Let this explanation all anger allay: man’s piety must not his ‘business’ betray; Wealth must be acquired in a different way, yea, brethren, verily!
So while elsewhere evicting, sans mercy or ruth, hey, brethren, merrily! I in Dublin shine forth an expounder of Truth, yea, brethren, verily! And though some doubt my fitness for ‘spreading the light’ And e’en hint that my views are not orthodox quite, If the other work suits then I think all is right, yea, brethren, verily!156
In a libel action the following year, taken by William O’Brien against the Cork
Constitution, John Atkinson, council for the defendant, read from an article published in
U nited Ireland, in which Townsend Trench was referred to as ‘a merciless tyrant, a
blasphemous hypocrite and a grim humorist’.157 Although O’Brien claimed that he did
not write the article, the description he felt, probably referred to Trench ‘addressing
religious meetings in Dublin at the same time that he was depopulating five square 158miles in the Queen’s County’.
Trench was interested in painting159 and was responsible for the illustrations in his
father’s book, Realities o f Irish Life printed in London in 1868. He normally resided at
Lansdowne Lodge in Kenmare,160 where he was a J.P. and a highly respected member
of the local community. When Lord Zetland (Lord Lieutenant) visited Kenmare in May
1891 he was addressed by Archdeacon O’Sullivan P.P. and Townsend Trench on behalf
of the inhabitants.161 Trench also had an avid interest in shooting and cycling. On many
occasions he took part in bicycle races and was very competitive. He won the great
bicycle race of Kenmare in June 1893, which consisted of ‘eleven miles - over a very
155 Weekly Freeman, 21 May 1887, hereafter cited as W.F. 156 W. F, 21 May 1887; See appendix 3, ‘Preaching and practicing’ for full text. 157Irish Times, 28 July 1888, hereafter cited as I.T. 158 Ibid. 159 Ramsbottom, p. 3. 160 Kenmare Literary and Historical Society, A bridge to the past, p. 12. 161 K.S., 13 May 1891.
hilly road’. In September of the same year he took part in a ten and a half mile race of
the Kenmare Cycle Club of which he was captain, when the race resulted ‘contrary to
anticipation, when Mr J. Townsend Trench, of fifty-nine summers, first crossed the line
of victory and was loudly cheered’.
Trench pursued his task as agent vigorously. He would come to his rent-office at
Lansdowne Lodge in Luggacurren armed to the teeth. Under Trench’s agency the estate
had been transformed (Appendix 3). Groves were planted and the whole village
practically rebuilt with gates, piers and forge supplied. Drainage and reclamation of land
was also accomplished. Between 1862 and 1887 Lansdowne had laid out £20,000 on
improvements. In fifteen years one tenant only was evicted for non-payment of rent.164
Hoppen in Elections, politics and society 1832-1885, quoting from the sixth Marquess’s
Glanerought and the Petty-Fitzmaurices, gives an excellent summary of the
isiosyncratic oddity that was Townsend Trench who combined the following feats:
[A] sketcher of landscapes, Plymouth Brother, ardent bicyclist, inventor of the
TTT (Trench’s Tubeless Tyre), expert sculler, amateur anatomist and sketeton
owner, and exponent of the art of shooting chine plates with a revolver while
peddlaing at speed down desmesne avenues.16




John Townsend Trench was born on 17 February 1834. He was the second son of William Steuart Trench (1808-1872). His mother, Elizabeth Susanna, was a daughter of John Sealy Townsend, of Myross Wood, Co. Cork. Like his father, John Trench was a land-agent. He became assistant agent to the Lansdowne estates in Co. Kerry at the age of 19. He replaced his father as chairman of the Kenmare Board of Guardians in 1862 and on the death of his father in August 1872 he became sole agent on the Lansdowne estate. He was also agent to the Stradbally estate in Queen's County. While not directly involved in the running of the Digby estate in Geashill he was called upon regularly by his father for advice and is responsible for the many detailed sketches and illustrations sent on an annual basis from the estate to Lord Digby. His talents as an artist are also evident in the first edition of his father’s work 'Realities of Irish Life'.

Not only was Trench a talented artist but he displayed skills in agricultural improvement, accounting, administration, architecture, town planning, while also acting as a judge and amateur physician during his agency on the Lansdowne estate. Known locally as ‘Master Towney’, his time in Kenmare was marked by the transformation of the town, including the regeneration of the Market Square, with the erection of a public clock on the market house. He was also responsible for the establishment of a successful fisheries industry. He was talented as athlete, oarsman and cyclist. He was involved in the invention of a tubeless tyre which resulted in a litigation, and in him borrowing large sums of money to cover his debts.

During the Land war and the agricultural crash of 1879 Trench denied that any problems existed on either the Lansdowne or Luggacurren estates (Queen's County). This led the Marquess of Lansdowne to turn to Townsend’s successor, William Rochfort for advice. He eventually resigned eight years later. He was married twice, firstly to Agnes Merivale (1870), daughter of Herman Merivale, Under Secretary for India, and secondly to Leonora, daughter of George Cecil Gore Wray, of Ardnamona, Co. Donegal (1874). He had five children. He died on 9 August 1909

marg said ...
i Feb 16, 2020 read about Evangelist John Townsend in Our Daily Bread 90 day sample edition year 2020, i never heard about this fine evangelist, and had to search him out. i am so glad i did. Thank you for sharing his Gift of the Lord to me. and others.
Monday, Feb 17, 2020 : 12:39

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