17 September 2020

Two vicars of Cahir,
an MP for Lichfield, and
a scandalous divorce

Inside Saint Paul’s Church, Cahir … who were the Cavendish brothers who became Vicars of Cahir in the 1820s? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The list of Vicars of Cahir in Saint Paul’s Church, the Church of Ireland parish church designed by the Regency architect John Nash in Cahir, Co Tipperary, is an intriguing list of names that asks more questions than it answers.

As I looked last week at the framed list, from the 16th century until Cahir was united with Clonmel parish in 1980, two curious names stood out immediately after Saint Paul’s was built: the Hon Augustus Cavendish (1822) and the Hon Thomas Cavendish (1825).

They came in immediate succession, and their names raised too many questions for an inquisitive historian and genealogist: were they father and son, or a pair of brothers? In the most northerly parish in the Diocese of Lismore, were they there because of links with the Cavendish family of Lismore Castle, Dukes of Devonshire? Had the Butler family of Cahir Castle not provided one of their own members for the parish?

Indeed, there were more questions to be answered. For example, I knew instinctively that the prefix ‘the Hon’ was not the correct style for any son in the Cavendish family from Lismore Castle.

Where did they come from? Where did they move on to?

The list of Vicars of Cahir, including the names of Augustus and Thomas Cavendish (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

As the questions accumulated, one upon another, a family story unfolded that involved a genealogical conceit, a scandalous Regency-era divorce … and even a story of how an Irish aristocrat became the MP for Lichfield, and how members of the family of the Earls of Lichfield became part of a literary circle in west Waterford and showed compassion for homeless people on the streets of pre-war London.

The list was compiled by the Revd Arthur Carter, former principal of Cahir Vocational School, and his wife Hilary. But in my search for more information I turned to the diocesan clergy and succession lists, only to find that these too were unhelpful.

There, the Hon Augustus Cavendish, who became Vicar of Cahir in 1822, is described as a son of the ‘1st Baron of Waterpark’ … although there was no such person as the ‘1st Baron of Waterpark’ and the Hon Augustus Waterford, who was an actual son of the first holder of the Waterpark title, was at the centre of a major and salacious divorce scandal, and ended his days in poverty.

As for his successor, the Hon Thomas Cavendish, who became Vicar of Cahir in 1825, he is described as a ‘member of the Devonshire family.’ Yet, had he been a son of the Duke of Devonshire, he would have been known as Lord Thomas Cavendish.

The name Bradshaw on a stained-glass window in Saint Mary’s Church, Cahir, triggered a hunch that led to a genealogical search (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The fifth duke was the father of only one son, and the sixth duke had no children. Nor were there any contemporaneous sons named Augustus or Thomas in the relevant branches of the Cavendish family from Lismore Castle that could be identified with either of these vicars.

Indeed, the diocesan succession lists do not even indicate that these two Cavendish Vicars of Cahir were brothers, or even from the same family.

The lily was gilded even more richly as I went in pursuit of Cavendishes of Cahir. A stained-glass window in Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Church with the name Bradshaw inspired a hunch that allowed me to search along another path.

Sarah Bradshaw (1740-1807) was a rich heiress from Cork, although I have yet to find out how her father, Richard Bradshaw, made his fortune. In 1757, when she was 17, she married Sir Henry Cavendish (1732-1804), a baronet who sat in the Irish House of Commons as MP for Lismore on three occasions (1766-1768, 1776-1791, 1798-1801). His father, also Sir Henry Cavendish (1707-1768), was also MP for Lismore; yet this Cavendish family was never in line to succeed to Lismore Castle.

Lismore Castle, Co Waterford … the Cavendish brothers were never in the line of succession (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Sarah’s in-laws were descended from the an illegitimate line of the Cavendish family, and the two families had a slim connection that dated back to the 16th century, and came to Ireland in 1743, ten years before his very distant kinsman married into the inheritance of Lismore Castle.

That other Cavendish family had inherited Lismore Castle after Lady Charlotte Boyle, a daughter of the Earl of Cork, married the future fifth Duke of Devonshire in 1753.

Sarah Bradshaw’s father-in-law, the first Sir Henry Cavendish married into his own Irish estate when he married Anne Pyne of Waterpark, daughter of Lord Chief Justice Pyne. Waterpark is a small townland in Co Cork, off the road from Lismore to Fermoy, although the house was already in ruins by 1786.

Waterpark is on the borders of Co Waterford and Co Cork, north of the road between Lismore and Fermoy

Sarah’s husband was such a successful politician – he was noted for his copious transcriptions of debates in both Grattan’s Parliament and the British House of Commons – that he refused to accept a seat in the House of Lords. Instead, Sarah was given a peerage in 1792, with the title of Baroness Waterpark, which was to pass to her male descendants.

When Sarah died in 1807, the title of Lord Waterpark passed to her eldest son, Sir Richard Cavendish (1765-1830), who became the 2nd Lord Waterpark. But her third son, the Hon Augustus Cavendish-Bradshaw – who is the nearest Augustus Cavendish in history to being a son of the ‘1st Baron of Waterpark’ – was at the centre of a major society scandal, and yet, probably, the very reason why the Cavendish brothers came to Cahir Parish later in the 19th century.

The Hon Augustus Cavendish (1768-1832) added the additional name of Bradshaw to comply with the will of his maternal grandfather Richard Bradshaw. He was MP for Carlow (1790-1796) from the age of 21 until scandal forced him to stand down.

George Nugent (1760-1814), 7th Earl of Westmeath, publicly accused Bradshaw of an affair with his wife Maryanne, and sought a divorce on the grounds of adultery. She was described as a young woman of ‘great beauty, education and high accomplishments.’ The allegations were not seriously disputed, and Nugent won his action for criminal conversation – a necessary first step towards obtaining a divorce.

John Philpott Curran, a leading barrister of the day, acted for the defendant. But, while his speech to the jury was praised for its eloquence, he came close to admitting that adultery had been proved.

£10,000 in damages was awarded against Bradshaw, although his chronic lack of funds means it is unlikely that he ever paid up. Lord and Lady Westmeath were divorced by Act of Parliament, and Augustus and Maryanne were married in 1796.

But the gossip could not be silenced. Her daughter-in-law, the former Lady Emily Cecil, once claimed Maryanne had proposed she have an affair with the Duke of Wellington to advance her family fortunes.

Augustus was an MP for English constituencies in 1805-1817, and at times held a lowly position in the royal households of the Prince Regent, later George IV, and William IV. Despite these offices, he was said to have been living ‘hand to mouth’ in his closing years, and was always anxious to return to Ireland. In one letter, he admitted he was ‘completely ruined, and an object of ridicule to the whole world.’

Augustus and Maryanne had no children and he died in 1832. Maryanne died in 1849, aged almost 90.

But Maryanne’s family connections are an important link in the story of the Vicars of Cahir. She was a daughter of Major James St John Jeffreyes of Blarney Castle and Arabella Fitzgibbon, sister of John Fitzgibbon, 1st Earl of Clare. In 1793, three years before her divorce, Maryanne’s sister Emily Jeffreyes, had married Richard Butler (1775-1819), 10th Baron Cahir, who later became Earl of Glengall and who commissioned the Regency architect John Nash to design a number of buildings in Cahir, including the Swiss Cottage and Saint Paul’s Church.

Emily’s brother-in-law, and the eldest brother of Augustus Bradshaw, was Sir Richard Cavendish (1765-1830), who would succeed his mother as 2nd Lord Waterpark in 1807.

It may have been through Emily’s persuasions that her son, Richard Butler (1794-1858), 2nd Earl of Glengall, invited his aunt Maryanne’s nephews by marriage, Augustus and Thomas Cavendish, to become Vicars of Cahir, one after another, in 1822 and 1825. They were the fourth and sixth sons of the 2nd Lord Waterpark, and Augustus clearly had been named after his uncle Augustus Bradshaw, an uncle by marriage of the younger Lord Glengall.

Both vicars moved to England after a short time. Why did they stay in Cahir for such a short time? Perhaps they both expected higher office in the Church of England. Thomas married a niece of Archbishop Richard Robinson of Armagh, and their sister Catherine married Thomas Musgrave, Archbishop of York. Both brothers became vicars in Derbyshire, and there they faded into ecclesiastical obscurity; Thomas died in 1859 and Augustus died in 1863.

How did an Irish aristocrat become MP for Lichfield? … Lord Waterpark was a brother-in-law of the Earl of Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Their eldest brother, however, seems to have had greater acumen in political life than they had in Church life. Henry Cavendish (1793-1856) succeeded their father as 3rd Lord Waterpark in 1830. Because his Irish title gave him no automatic right to sit in the House of Lords, he stood for election in English constituencies and was Whig MP for Knaresborough (1830-1832), South Derbyshire (1832-1835) and Lichfield (1854-1856).

But now, I was wondering how an Irish aristocrat came to be the MP for Lichfield.

In 1837, this Henry Cavendish married the much younger Elizabeth Jane Anson (1816-1894). Her eldest brother was Thomas William Anson (1795-1854), 1st Earl of Lichfield, and her nephew, Bishop Adelbert John Robert Anson (1840-1909), was a later Master of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (1893-1898).

The family links with Cahir, Co Tipperary, continued when her niece, Lady Anne Anson (1823-1896) married Francis Charteris, Earl of Wemyss, whose younger brother, Richard Charteris, married Lady Margaret Butler, daughter of Lord Glengall and the heiress of the Cahir estates.

These connections seem to have attracted other members of the Anson family of Lichfield to Ireland, including Claud Anson (1864-1947). His wife, Lady Clodagh Anson (1879-1957), was part of a literary circle in West Waterford. Her books included Book (1931), Discreet Memoirs (1932), Another Book (1937) and Victorian Days (1957).

She was also known for her voluntary work with homeless people on the streets of pre-war London. They lived at Woodhouse, Stradbally, between Dungarvan and Bunmahon, Ballysaggartmore, about 2.5 km west of Lismore, and Ardmore. Her epitaph in Ardmore says ‘she never failed to help those in need.’

Saint John’s Hospital … Bishop Adelbert Anson was Master in 1893-1898 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

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