Papers of Lord Frederick Cavendish (1836-1882)

Scope and Content

This collection consists of the personal papers of Lord Frederick Cavendish, son of William Cavendish, 7th Duke of Devonshire.

The bulk of the collection comprises correspondence, extending to over 220 letters. The family correspondence includes letters from Lord Frederick's father, the 7th Duke of Devonshire; his sister Louisa Egerton and her husband Admiral Francis Egerton; and his brother, Lord Edward Cavendish. Further personal correspondence includes letters sent to Lord Frederick on his engagement to Lucy Lyttelton (including a letter from Joseph Paxton), and letters from the Lyttelton family.

There are political letters from a range of correspondents, most notably Prime Minister William Gladstone (who was also the uncle of Lord Frederick's wife) and Gladstone's private secretary J.A. Godley. Official and business correspondence includes letters concerning Lord Frederick Cavendish's involvement with Giggleswick School in North Yorkshire; the Yorkshire College of Science; and the Halifax vicarage.

A further series of general correspondence contains letters from relatives, politicians and statesmen, writers and others, including: Viscount Althorp (includes a long letter describing his travels in America in 1857); Alice L. Cavendish; George Henry Cavendish; Richard Cavendish; W.E. Gladstone; George G. Glyn, 2nd Baron Wolverton; J.A. Godley; Lord Granville; John Pope Hennessy; T. Jodrell; Italian politician and writer James Lacaita; theologian J.B. Lightfoot; critic and poet F.T. Palgrave (including letters between Lord Granville and Palgrave); Lord Roseberry; Sir Titus Salt; Lord Spencer; G.O. Trevelyan; and Lord Wharncliffe. Topics are wide-ranging and include social issues, business and industrial interests, travel and foreign affairs (including the American Civil War, slavery and unrest in the West Indies). There is also much correspondence on political matters, including the 1867 Reform Act, industrial conditions and the preparation of the 1878 Factory (Consolidation) Act, and the Elementary Education Act of 1872.

There is a grouping of political papers which include Lord Frederick Cavendish's political notes on topics as varied as church rates, the future of the Liberal Party, and slaves. There are also draft letters and speeches, and newspaper cuttings of pieces either written or collected by Lord Frederick.

Aside from an account with a company of furniture makers and decorators, the financial papers largely consist of business-related material; they include abstracts of various company accounts which reflect Lord Frederick's business interests, including the Barrow and Furness Railway and the Barrow Haematite Steel Company. There is also a marriage settlement (between Earl Jermyn and Miss Anson) for which Lord Frederick acted as a trustee.

In addition to some further miscellaneous papers of Lord Frederick (including a handwriting exercise book and a shooting card) there is a box of posthumous material relating to the administration of his estate.

Administrative / Biographical History

Lord Frederick Charles Cavendish (1836-1882), Chief Secretary for Ireland, was the second son of William Cavendish, 7th Duke of Devonshire, and his wife, Blanche Georgiana Howard. His brother was Lord Hartington, the Liberal politician, who later became the 8th Duke of Devonshire. He was born at Compton Place, Eastbourne, on 30 November 1836, and, after being educated at home, matriculated in 1855 from Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated BA in 1858, and then served as a cornet in the Duke of Lancaster's Own yeomanry cavalry. During 1859-1864 he was private secretary to Lord Granville. He travelled in the United States in 1859-60, and in Spain in 1860. He entered parliament as a Liberal for the northern division of the West Riding of Yorkshire on 15 July 1865, and retained that seat until his death. He married Lucy Lyttelton, the second daughter of George William Lyttelton, 4th Baron Lyttelton (1817–1876), and his wife, Mary Glynne, on 7 June 1864.

After serving as private secretary to William Gladstone, his wife's uncle by marriage, from July 1872 to August 1873, Cavendish became a junior lord of the Treasury, and held office until the resignation of the ministry. He was Financial Secretary to the Treasury from April 1880 to May 1882, favouring, but not pressing effectively, a land-purchase plan for Ireland. When W.E. Forster resigned as Irish secretary, Gladstone offered the post to A.M. Porter and, on his declining it, to Cavendish. In company with Earl Spencer, Lord Lieutenant, he proceeded to Dublin, and took the oath as Chief Secretary at Dublin Castle on 6 May 1882; but on the afternoon of the same day, while walking in Phoenix Park in company with Thomas Henry Burke, the Under-Secretary, he was attacked from behind by several men wielding knives, who murdered Burke and himself. His body was brought to England and buried in Edensor churchyard, near Chatsworth, on 11 May, when 300 members of the House of Commons and 30,000 other people made up his cortège. The trial of the murderers in 1883 made it evident that the death of Cavendish was not premeditated, and that he was not recognized by the assassins. The plot was laid against Burke, and Cavendish was murdered because he happened to be in the company of a person who had been marked out for destruction. A window to Cavendish's memory was placed in St Margaret's Church, Westminster, at the cost of the members of the House of Commons. A memorial fountain was also erected by public subscription at the Duke of Devonshire's Bolton Abbey estate in Yorkshire.

Cavendish was known as an industrious administrator, who seldom spoke in the house except upon subjects of which he had official knowledge or special experience, but he took an interest in educational questions and in land purchase for Ireland.

Primary source: G.C. Boase, revised by H.C.G. Matthew, 'Cavendish, Lord Frederick Charles (1836–1882)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). By permission of Oxford University Press.


The collection has been arranged into five sections, as follows:

  • DF23/1: Correspondence of Lord Frederick Cavendish (1856-82)
  • DF23/2: Political Papers of Lord Frederick Cavendish (1850s-82)
  • DF23/3: Financial Papers of Lord Frederick Cavendish (1862-82)
  • DF23/4: Other Papers of Lord Frederick Cavendish [1845-1877]
  • DF23/5 Papers relating to the administration of the estate of Lord Frederick Cavendish ([c.1882-c.1935])

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.

Much 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

Most of the material in the collection was created or accumulated by William Cavendish, although there is a box of posthumous material relating to the administration of his estate. The exact archival history of the collection as a whole is unknown. However, when it was brought together for cataloguing, it was removed from boxes originally intended for inclusion with the 9th Duke of Devonshire's Correspondence Series (CS9), but which did not fit the date range for that collection. It comes from boxes labelled Y, Y1, Y2 and a 'special contents' folder labelled PF. Some of the material (boxes Y1 and Y2) came from packing cases that were transferred to the Devonshire Archives at Chatsworth from Holker Hall, c.2006.

Related Material

There are further papers of or relating to Lord Frederick Cavendish in the following collections also held at Chatsworth: Correspondence of Victor Cavendish, 9th Duke of Devonshire (GB 2495 CS9); Papers of Lord Frederick Cavendish's wife, Lady Frederick Cavendish (Lucy Lyttelton) (GB 2495 DF19); Papers of Lord Frederick's brother, Lord Edward Cavendish (GB 2495 DF18); Corrspondence of Spencer Compton Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire (GB 2495 DF23); and the Second Correspondence Series (GB 2495 CS2).