Frederick Cavendish
the Irish Riots of 1882


This Foldout looks at the life and murder of Lord Frederick Cavendish, and the aftermath:

Biographical details

He was the second son of the Seventh Duke of Devonshire. His father and brother – Spencer Compton Cavendish – [1858-1891] – were Chancellors of Cambridge University.

In 18??, he married Lucy Caroline Lyttleton.

In 1865, he became the Liberal MP for the North Division of the West Riding, and also for Brighouse. He lived at Holker Hall, Newton in Cartmel [1864]. He was President of Brighouse Horticultural Society.

In 1882, he resigned as MP to become the Chief Secretary to Ireland.

In his new post, he arrived in Dublin on Saturday, 6th May 1882, and – together with the Permanent Under-Secretary, Thomas Henry Burke – travelled by carriage to the Viceroy's Lodge in Phoenix Park to be sworn in. They decided to alight and walk the last few yards to the Viceroy's lodge. As they did, the two men were attacked and stabbed to death by a gang of 9 men, members of an Irish extremist group.

It is likely that Burke was the real target of the attack, and Cavendish was just unfortunate to be there at the time

The murder sparked off the Riots against the Irish Communities in Brighouse.

He was buried at the Church of St Peter, Edensor near the family home at Chatsworth, Derbyshire. Burke was buried in Dublin. After his death, Lady Cavendish worked hard for a variety of causes, including the Girls Public Day School Trust and the Old Vic Theatre. In 1894, she was appointed to the Royal Commission on Secondary Education. In April 1904, she received the first Honorary Degree ever to be conferred by Leeds University.

The attackers

The 9 attackers were members of an Irish extremist group, the Irish Invincibles, a splinter group of the Fenian Movement.

A reward of £10,000 was offered for information about the murders.

One of the gang, James Carey, was a builder and a Dublin Councillor, and may have been the next Mayor of Dublin. 8 people were arrested

After the arrests, Carey was the principal witness and gave evidence against the others. Of those found guilty of the murders, 5 were hanged, and the other 3 were sentenced to penal servitude.

In 1887, the Leader of the Irish National Party, Charles Stewart Parnell, was alleged – by his political enemies – to have been personally involved in the plot. By 1889, his career was at a high point after an attempt to discredit him by means of the Pigott Forgeries failed. Richard Pigott admitted forging the letters which implicated Parnell in the Phoenix Park Murders. In 1890, he was exonerated by a parliamentary commission appointed to investigate the charges.

Carey was allowed to go free, and left Ireland with his wife and children, travelling under the name James Power. The family sailed to Liverpool and then on to South Africa. In November 1883, as they sailed from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, Carey got up early to take a walk on deck, and was shot and killed by Patrick O'Donnell. Carey was buried in Port Elizabeth. O'Donnell was taken back to London where he was tried at the Old Bailey and executed on 17th December 1883.

The riots

After the assassination, there was much unrest and many disturbances were directed at local Irish communities, although – with work being hard to find – it is likely the labour situation also contributed to the riots. In fact, many of those who were protesting about the murder did not yet have the right to vote and – having resigned – Cavendish was not actually their MP.

The unrest came to a head on Thursday, 12th May 1882. Irish workers, and the pubs and rooming houses where the Irish could be found, were the main targets.

One group went to the Sun Dial Inn in Briggate, where William Lawlor, an Irishman, was landlord, demanding that all Irish lodgers be turned out. The mob believed that the Fenians held their secret meetings. Lodger Patrick Jordan hid under a bed, but he was discovered, savagely beaten and thrown down the stairs. The pub was ransacked and looted.

Another group attacked the Wellington, another went to Halifax Road.

A mob smashed all the windows at the Civic Hall as the police were being briefed on handling the riots.

One serious disturbance started at the Prince Albert public house in Zingo Nick, and extra police had to be called in – some from as far as Barnsley! The mob then gathered by the Liberal Club in Bradford Road. This was near Martin Street, which leads to St Joseph's Catholic Church, which the mob intended to attack and burn down. Visiting the Liberal Club at the time, Henry Sugden of Thomas Sugden & Son attempted to calm the crowd, and Arthur Edwards was about to read the Riot Act when the mob dispersed. A group made their way to St Joseph's, and smashed every window in the place, although there was no fire. The priest, Father Morgan, managed to spirit away everything of religious and intrinsic value and brought it back once matters had quietened down.

These riots seem to have been confined to the Brighouse district, but there were repercussions elsewhere. Although the murders were immediately credited to a small number of militant Irish separatists unconnected to the Irish Parliamentary Party, the incident exacerbated anti-Irish racial antagonisms in Britain and immediately crushed the Home Rule bill for Ireland

The people involved

Other people were involved, including

© Malcolm Bull 2022
Revised 21:07 / 25th January 2022 / 11241

Page Ref: MMC48

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