Papers of William Cavendish (1783-1812), Louisa Cavendish (1779-1863) and family

Scope and Content

This collection primarily consists of the personal papers of William Cavendish and his wife Louisa Cavendish (née O'Callaghan), parents of William Cavendish, 7th Duke of Devonshire; there are also some papers of their children, George Henry Cavendish (1810-1880) and Richard Cavendish (1812-1873).

The largest portion of the collection consists of correspondence, extending to just over 200 letters. These were largely sent to Louisa Cavendish with just one sent to her husband. The letters are primarily from her daughter-in-law, Lady Blanche Cavendish, but there are also letters from Louisa's sons, including William, the future 7th Duke of Devonshire. The letters from William report on his activities, progress and academic achievements at school and subsequently Cambridge University; there are several detailed accounts of the trip he made to Russia in 1826 with the 6th Duke of Devonshire to attend the Coronation of Tsar Nicholas I. Subsequent letters report on the birth and development of William and Blanche's children; family news; the developments undertaken by the 6th Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth House; the first case of cholera in Britain; local and national politics; and the couple's travels – including visits to Italy.

There are also nine letters from Louisa's son, George Cavendish; three letters from her son Richard Cavendish; and three letters from one of her grandsons [possibly Spencer Compton Cavendish, later 8th Duke of Devonshire].

There are also letters sent to Louisa by William Cavendish's tutors at Eton School and Cambridge University and other correspondents sending congratulations to Louisa on William's results at Cambridge.

There is a single cash account book of William Cavendish, containing details of his private expenditure during 1811-12. Other papers of William Cavendish comprise two diaries/commonplace books dating from 1803 and 1806-11; and two annotated lists of pupils at Eton College dating from 1797 and 1800 (attributed to William Cavendish based on date).

There is a small quantity of personal papers of William and Louisa's children, George H. Cavendish (1810-1880) and his wife Louisa (née Lascelles). George Cavendish's papers comprise a list of members of the Bakewell Rifle Company and a drawing album. There is just one item of Louisa Cavendish's: a commemorative volume she was presented with containing signatures of subscribers to a portrait of George Cavendish.

There is also a single sketchbook tentatively attributed to William and Louisa Cavendish's son Richard, dating from 1821. Finally there are some locks of hair of William Cavendish which were kept by his wife after his death in 1812.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Cavendish, nobleman and politician, was born on 10 January 1783; he was the eldest son of Lord George Cavendish, 1st Earl of Burlington of the second creation (brother of the 5th Duke of Devonshire), and Lady Elizabeth Cavendish (née Compton). He was educated at Eton, and studied at Trinity College Cambridge from 1800 to 1803. He undertook a continental Grand Tour during 1803-4 and returned to take up a parliamentary seat for Knaresborough in Yorkshire as a Whig. From July 1804 to 1806 he represented Aylesbury, and from 1806 to 1812 Derby.

On 18 July 1807 he married Hon. Louisa O'Callaghan (1779-1863), daughter of Cornelius O'Callaghan, 1st Baron Lismore of Shanbally, and Frances Ponsonby. They had four children: William Cavendish, who became 7th Duke of Devonshire (1808-1891); Lady Fanny Cavendish (c.1809-1885); Lord George Henry Cavendish (1810-1880); and Lord Richard Cavendish (1812-1873).

William Cavendish died on 14 January 1812 aged 29 as the result of being thrown from his curricle in Holker Park (Lancashire) on his way back from a shooting excursion. His wife outlived him by 51 years. Their son William became Duke of Devonshire in 1858.


The collection has been arranged into seven series, as follows:

  • DF27/1: Correspondence of Louisa Cavendish and William Cavendish (1821-39)
  • DF27/2: Accounts of William Cavendish (1811-1812)
  • DF27/3: Diaries/commonplace books belonging to William Cavendish (1803-1811)
  • DF27/4: Other papers of William Cavendish (1783-1812)
  • DF27/5: Papers of George Henry Cavendish and his wife Louisa (née Lascelles) (1820-81)
  • DF27/6: Papers of Richard Cavendish (1821)
  • DF27/7: Keepsakes of Louisa Cavendish (1812)

Access Information

The collection is open for consultation. Access to the archive at Chatsworth is by appointment only. For more information please visit the website.

Acquisition Information

The material was extant in the Devonshire Collection prior to 1 August 2011.

Other Finding Aids

An item-level catalogue of the collection in PDF format can be found on the Chatsworth website.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study and personal research purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

Some of the material remains in the copyright of Chatsworth House Trust, but much is also subject to third-party copyright. It is the responsibility of researchers to obtain permission both from Chatsworth House Trust, and from the any other rights holders before reproducing material for purposes other than research or private study.

Custodial History

The material in the collection was created or accumulated by William Cavendish, his wife Louisa, and other family members. Its exact archival history is unknown.

Related Material

There are several collections at Chatsworth containing material related to this collection: papers relating to Louisa Cavendish's husband and sons can be found in GB 2495 DF32 (Papers of William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire); further letters sent to Louisa Cavendish are included in GB 2495 DF5 (Papers of William Cavendish, 7th Duke of Devonshire) and GB 2495 CS2 (the Second Correspondence Series); and a journal and correspondence of William Cavendish can also be found in GB 2495 CS2.