Churchtown, which most likely derives its name from the presence of St Nahi's (Pearson 1998), covers the townlands of Churchtown Upper and Whitehall. The area, as much of the environs of Dundrum, remained a principally rural one into the twentieth century. It is situated beneath the Dublin and Wicklow mountains and the quality of its land ensured that the area was principally characterized by demesne lands in the nineteenth century. As Lewis (1837, 594), in his Topographical dictionary, writes of Taney 'the surrounding scenery is richly diversified, and the parish thickly studded with handsome seats and pleasing villas.' The rural character of the Churchtown area is evident on Rocque's mid-eighteenth-century map of County Dublin, where only four structures, including St Nahi's, are indicated, surrounded by green fields west of the river Slang. Two of these were accessible off Upper Churchtown Road, in the area now occupied by the Notre Dame des Missions Convent. The easternmost structure, opposite St Nahi's church, appears to have an associated garden. In the first quarter of the nineteenth century there were still very few houses in the district, but a few houses did develop around the junction of Beaumont Avenue and Upper Churchtown Road, the closest Churchtown came to ever being a town. The houses, as shown by Taylor, included Belfield and Churchtown, as well as Taney Lodge on the north side of Upper Churchtown Road and Taney on the south side of Upper Churchtown Road. The latter, Taney, may be the unnamed structure indicated by Rocque within the western grounds of the Notre Dame des Missions Convent. Taylor also depicts a stand of trees on the eastern grounds of the convent, opposite St Nahi's church.
Greatest detail regarding the development history of the Notre Dame des Missions Convent is provided by the Ordnance Survey series maps, and the first edition, which was published in 1843, clearly illustrates the concentration of big houses and landscaped demesnes that characterized the Churchtown area in the nineteenth century. The map first shows the early Victorian Wood Ville in the grounds of the Notre Dame des Missions Convent and school, which may be a successor of the structure indicated as Taney by Taylor. Fernbank, which the Notre Dame Sisters purchased shortly after the end of the Second World War (a date of 1953 is indicated above the door to the sisters' residence), dates from the mid-nineteenth century, and is shown on the 1871 Ordnance Survey revision map to the east of Wood Ville. The area of land originally associated with the house extended to 8 acres 1 rood and 22 perches. Representatives of Michael Nolan owned both properties. Fernbank House at that time comprised a 'house, office, gate lodge and land' and had a rateable value of £80 (£58 for the buildings and £22 for the land).