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William Cavendish

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Sir William Cavendish (1808-1891) seventh duke of Devonshire (1808–1891), landowner and industrialist


1891 Obituary [1]

HIS GRACE THE DUBE OF DEVONSHIRE, K.G. The Iron and Steel Institute has to deplore the decease of its first President, the seventh Duke of Devonshire, who died at his residence, Holker Hall, Carke-in-Cartmel, on the 21st of December last.

Sir William Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire, Marquis of Hartington, Earl of Devonshire, Earl of Burlington, Baron Cavendish of Hardwicke, and Baron Cavendish of Keighley, was born on the 27th April 1808, being the great-grandson of the fourth Duke, and the grandson of Lord George Augustus Henry Cavendish, who was created in 1831 Earl of Burlington. His father was Mr. William Cavendish, M.P.; and his mother, Louisa, daughter of Cornelius, first Lord Lismore. In the year 1858 the Earldom of Burlington (to which the late Duke had succeeded in 1834) and the Dukedom of Devonshire were united in his own person.

As is generally known, the Cavendishes have for many generations been distinguished alike in politics, in diplomacy, in pure and applied science, and for their social virtues and accomplishments. From the Sir John Cavendish who was Chief-Justice of the Court of King's Bench in 1366, to Henry Cavendish, the eminent chemist and philosopher, and to Sir William Cavendish, seventh Duke of Devonshire, whose death the Institute has now to lament, are long leaps, but the intervening spaces are filled with many names of the same noble family who have done splendid service to their King and Country.

At Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was educated, the late Duke showed a mathematical bias in his studies, and graduated M.A., as Second Wrangler and as first Smith's Prizeman, in 1829, being also eighth in the first class of the Classical Tripos. A keen interest in, and active taste for, engineering and architectural projects distinguished him to the last, and have been illustrated by the stately character of such towns as Eastbourne and Buxton, which he was largely concerned in building up. In 1829, he was returned as one of the members for the University of Cambridge, but lie did not often take part in political debates, and indeed, throughout his long life, he rather refrained from actively engaging in the political arena, although of course, as head of the great Whig house of Cavendish, he exercised much political influence.

In the question of University Reform the late Dulce always took a deep interest, and especially where it concerned the advancement of science. His Grace acted as Chairman of the Royal Commission on Scientific Instruction and the Advancement of Science. This Commission published a full and valuable report on the progress of scientific education and research in the two old Universities, embodying many important proposals and recommendations for the advancement of scientific teaching. The report had due effect, and both Oxford and Cambridge have since taken measures for the development of scientific culture. The Duke himself set a noble example to the Universities by the gift to Cambridge University of the Cavendish Laboratory, in which the study of the physical sciences can be efficiently pursued.

The Duke's appearances as a speaker in the House of Lords were very infrequent; but he was a consistent supporter by his vote of all the great measures brought forward by the Liberal party. With the exception of occasional observations on University measures and cognate subjects, lie only spoke on one occasion, and that was in cordial support of Mr. Gladstone's Irish Church Bill in the session of 1869.

The late Duke was closely associated with, if he did not altogether take the most prominent part in, two events of notable importance in the history of the British Iron and Steel industries—the first being the establishment and subsequent growth of the iron mining and ironand steel-producing industries of the district of Barrow-in-Furness; the second, the origination and earlier development of the Iron and Steel Institute. In this place it will not perhaps be deemed inappropriate that the last should be first in the reference to these two subjects.

The Iron and Steel Institute owes its origin primarily to a proposal made and discussed at a meeting of the northern iron trade, held at Newcastle-on-Tyne on the 29th September 1868. A provisional committee, consisting of representatives of each of the principal iron-making districts, was then formed, and this committee, on canvassing the trade, found so much support for the proposal that, in the following February, at a meeting of the provisional members held in London, the Institute was regularly constituted. On that occasion, the Duke of Devonshire consented to accept the position of first President of the Institute, and on the 23rd June following he delivered, at a meeting held at the Society of Arts, Ade1phi, London, his inaugural address. In this address, the noble President stated the great object of the Institute to be to "give an impulse to the progress and improvement of the manufacture of iron in all its departments," and he dealt with " the rapid strides which have signalised the development of the manufacture of iron during the last century, and more especially during the last twenty years." Among other subjects discussed in his Grace's address were the early history of iron, the use of wood and coal as metallurgical fuel, the supply of ores available for iron-making, the manufacture of malleable iron and Bessemer steel, the development of the iron trade abroad, the methods and cost of manufacturing iron, and the uses of iron and steel. The address showed in a marked manner that the Duke possessed a full comprehension of the technical, as well as of the statistical, part of the subjects with which he dealt. This was recognised, on behalf of a large and appreciative audience, by Mr. Fothergill, M.P., who moved, and by Mr. (now Sir) Lowthian Bell, who seconded, the vote of thanks passed to the President on the occasion.

On the expiry of the term of the Duke's Presidency, it was felt to be desirable to provide a permanent record of his connection with the Institute, and the Council were requested to make arrangements for commemorating in some suitable manner the valuable services that his Grace had rendered to the Institute. It was ultimately resolved that this acknowledgment should take the form of a portrait of the Duke, to be presented to the Institute by the subscribers. Mr. H. T. Wells, R.A., was entrusted with the production of the portrait, which was formally presented at a general meeting held at Willis's Rooms on the 19th March 1872. Mr. (now Sir) Lowthian Bell, in presenting the portrait on behalf of the subscribers, made the following remarks:—

"If they had sought the country through, it would have been impossible to have found a family within which could be ranked a snore illustrious name than that of Cavendish, for, so long as science was venerated in this country and in the world generally, the great name of Cavendish, the chemist, could not and would not be forgotten. But that was not the only reason which guided the founders—if he might so term them—of that Institute in making the selection they did, when they asked Isis Grace the Duke of Devonshire to undertake the office and duties of their first President. His Grace himself, as was well known, ventured of his own free will into an arena where neither ancestors nor lineage could procure any advantage, and then, by the exercise of his own intelligence and industry, he obtained the highest weed of approbation and honour which it was in the power of their Universities to bestow. His colleagues and himself conceived that there was no man in the kingdom, as regarded the scientific view of the question, more fitted to undertake the duty than the Duke of Devonshire. There were many men in the position held by his Grace who preferred learned ease to undertaking the more active and onerous responsibilities of life. His Grace, however, had acted differently. He had not shrunk from undertaking the duties and responsibilities connected with the initiation and development of certain great branches of industry in this country, and in promoting industry. He was sure he was correctly interpreting the sentiments of his Grace when he (Mr. Bell) said that the Duke felt he was adding lustre to his own brilliant name by so doing." The Duke, in acknowledging the compliment paid him, observed that the foundation of the Institute would always be remembered as an important era in the history of the iron trade. His colleagues had co-operated with each other in an enlightened and liberal spirit, and had been influenced by one general desire to add to the common stock of knowledge applicable to the improvement of a great branch of national industry. So long as the same spirit continued to animate those who conducted the proceedings of the Institute, he felt that the organisation would be a powerful instrument for the advancement and progress of the iron and steel-trades of Great Britain.

The growth of Barrow has been one of the most remarkable features of the recent industrial history of England. Within the late Duke's lifetime, as he himself has" stated, it was almost a desert, scarcely accessible from any point except the sea, and, within his recollection, only an insignificant fishing village of about 100 inhabitants. The population in 1847 only numbered 325. Twenty years later, when the Devonshire and Buccleuch docks were opened, it lead become a town of 20,000 inhabitants; and in 1881 its population was 47,259.

Since the latter year its growth appears to have been less rapid, no doubt in consequence of the considerable mercantile depression that prevailed over part of the time, and in 1891 its inhabitants numbered 51,712.

The connection of the Duke of Devonshire with the iron industry of Barrow is an extremely interesting incident in the industrial annals of England. Up to the year 1840 the Furness district was hardly known as a source of metallurgical wealth, except as regards certain copper and lead mines worked in the Coniston and one or two other districts. The Park. mines had been worked for iron ores many years previously, but only to a very limited extent. The late Mr. H. W. Schneider, of Barrow, took a lease of the latter property in 1840. The estate belonged to the late Duke, then Earl of Burlington, who took an interest in Mr. Schneider's explorations, which did not, however, for some time realise the hopes and expectations entertained as to the wealth of iron ore on the property.

After having attempted to work the Park mines with very indifferent success for several years, Mr. Schneider discontinued the enterprise for a time; and as this was contrary to the provisions of his lease, he was called upon either to surrender it altogether, or to make some further trials to tap the ore. As a last resort, he determined, in 1850, to sink a pit on a part of the property near to where there were promising indications, and he struck the large irregular deposit of haematite ore, since known as the Park mine. This mine has really been at the foundation of the subsequent iron industry of the Furness district, inasmuch as it led Mr. Schneider and his partners to erect works at Barrow for smelting the Park ores, which works subsequently developed into the well-known Barrow Haematite Steel Company. The Park deposit was described some years ago, as extending, with various curves, from east to west, upwards of 500 yards in length, and as being 120 to 240 yards wide. It is overlaid by about ten fathoms of drift, and ore has been proved to a depth of seventy fathoms below the surface, the deposit extending to still greater depth. The surrounding walls dip (independently of the dip of the strata) generally towards the interior at angles varying from 40° to 80°; but at some places they are nearly vertical, or the dip has even an outward direction.• It is stated that the average quantity of ore mined from this deposit during the first thirty-five years of regular work, was over 8i millions of tons, and that the amount of royalty paid on the output up to 1886 was not less than £535,000.1The first blast furnaces were built at Barrow, in 1859, by Mr. Schneider, in conjunction with the late Mr. Robert Hannay; and four years afterwards steps were taken by these gentlemen to erect steelworks. The latter project had the support of the late Duke of Buccleuch, Mr. (now Sir) James Ramsden, and the late Duke of Devonshire, who became chairman of the company. The existing works of Messrs. Schneider & Hannay were taken over by the new concern, which, on the 1st of January 1866, was formally constituted as the Barrow Haematite Steel Company. The company secured the valuable services, as general manager, of Mr. Josiah T. Smith, who retained that position until three or four years ago. The works were among the largest, if not absolutely the largest, organised at that comparatively early date for the manufacture of Bessemer steel; and they have probably turned out from first to last a larger quantity of that metal than any works in the United Kingdom. As recently constituted, they embraced fourteen blast furnaces; and, in addition to the Bessemer converting plant, they have a number of open-hearth furnaces, their annual produce of steel being over 200,000 tons. The Furness Railway, now 134 miles long, and carrying five million tons of mineral and goods traffic per annum, also owes its origin mainly to the late Duke and to Sir James Ramsden, its first managing director.

When the works at Barrow were commenced there were only two works of a similar character in the district—those of the Whitehaven Haematite Iron Coy., having three furnaces, and the charcoal ironworks of Messrs. Harrison, Ainslie, & Coy., near Ulverstone. These establishments, in 1854, unitedly worked about 33,000 tons, out of a total of 580,000 tons of haematite ore raised in the district. The remainder of the ore output was shipped at Barrow (332,000 tons); at Whitehaven (261,000 tons); at Baycliffe and Aldingham (3500 tons), and by the Ulverstone Canal (18,500 tons). A proportion was also sent by the Whitehaven Junction Railway for use in the blast-furnaces of Durham and Northumberland. There were then eight mines or groups of mines worked in the Furness district, including those of Messrs. Schneider, Hannay & Coy., and three groups in the Whitehaven district. Since the Barrow works were started in 1859, the local consumption of ore has continued to increase, until the output has reached over 2i millions of tons in West Cumberland and Lancashire together.

The late Duke did not limit his operations to the construction of the Furness Railway, and the consolidation and extension of the Barrow Iron and Steel Works. It became important to have docks provided for the purpose of shipping the produce of those works, and of others either in progress or contemplated; hence, with the co-operation of Sir James Ramsden, who was managing director of the steel works, and the first mayor of the borough, steps were taken by the Duke to have adequate dock accommodation provided. In 1867, the Devonshire and Buccleuch Docks were opened; their area was more than sixty acres, their uniform depth twenty-four feet, the stone quays were a mile and a half long, and the wharves were supplied with hydraulic cranes, one of which was capable of lifting 100 tons--a great tour de force for that period. Subsequently, the Ramsden Dock, with a water-area of 200 acres, was added. The Barrow Docks were expected at one time to compete successfully with Liverpool for a large part of the trade of that coast, but this anticipation has hardly been realised. There are, however, regular passenger services of steamers to Glasgow, Belfast, and the Isle of Man, in addition to the traffic and trade directly connected with the industries of the town and neighbourhood.

On the occasion of the meeting of the Iron and Steel Institute at Barrow, in 1874, a sumptuous luncheon was given to the members by the Barrow Hematite Steel Company, and the Duke of Devonshire presided, as chairman of that Company. Mr. Schneider, whose early and intimate connection with the early development of the trade of Barrow has already been referred to, stated on that occasion that, if it had not been for the policy pursued by his Grace, who had become known as "the Iron Duke," the district would have been in a totally different position to that which it then held. In acknowledging the toast of his health, the Duke stated that "he had seen such marvellous changes in that district (Barrow-in-Furness), that he had almost begun to cease to be surprised at anything which he saw taking place within it. When he remembered that a few years ago that part of the country was the most isolated of any that could be named in England—when, except at low water, it was scarcely possible to get into it—and when he saw the large establishments which had sprung up within the last twenty or thirty years, he felt that it was scarcely possible to limit his speculations as to wheat was about to come next."

Although of recent years the Duke took little public part in politics, he accepted the position of chairman of the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union. He was qualified for that position, says the Times, "as a great Irish landlord, and one whose estates, in spite of his necessary absenteeism, were, by universal consent, admirably managed. The same may be said of his English estates in Derbyshire, Lancashire, and elsewhere. In spite of multifarious interests and occupations, he found time to be a practical agriculturist. He was one of the original founders of the Royal Agricultural Society, and was President in 1869. For fifty years he has been a great breeder of shorthorns, and the Holker herd has a world-wide reputation." The Duke was married, in 1829, to Lady Blanche Georgiana Howard, daughter of the sixth Earl of Carlisle, and by her he had issue three sons and one daughter. The Duchess died in 1840.

He is succeeded in the title and estates by his eldest son, formerly Marquis of Hartington, the distinguished statesman, who is a member of the Iron and Steel Institute, and who is also chairman of the Barrow Steel Company. The Duke's second son was Lord Frederick Cavendish, M.P., whose brutal murder in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, in May 1882, excited a thrill of horror throughout the country and a feeling of profound and universal sympathy with his bereaved relatives. The third son, Lord Edward Cavendish, died last spring. Both Lord Frederick and Lord Edward were members of Council of the Institute. Lady Louisa, the Duke's only daughter, is married to Admiral the Hon. F. Egerton, M.P., son of the second Earl of Ellesmere.

The knighthood of the Garter was conferred upon the late Duke, who was also a Privy Councillor, an LL.D. of Cambridge, and a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was Chancellor of the University of London from 1836 to 1856, and Lord-Lieutenant of Lancashire, 1855-58, when he was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire. He was also high-steward of the boroughs of Derby and Cambridge, and a magistrate for Lancashire and Sussex. On the death of the Prince Consort he was elected Chancellor of the University of Cambridge.

In summing up a long biographical notice of the late Duke, the Times remarks that "in private life he was widely esteemed, though, being of a retiring disposition, he rarely, and of late years almost never, appeared in society in London. He was a liberal patron of the arts, and a supporter of every good measure for the amelioration of the people and the advancement of the claims of education and scientific research."


1892 Obituary [2]

. . . . The Cavendish laboratory for the study of the physical sciences was a gift from him. But of scarcely less import was his liberal support of the Owens College, Manchester. The question of University reform, especially in its relation to the advancement of science, was one in which the Duke of Devonshire always felt great interest; and he acted as Chairman of the Royal Commission on Scientific Instruction and the Advancement of Science. This Commission published a full and valuable report on the progress of scientific education and research in the two old Universities, containing many important proposals and recommendations for the advancement of scientific teaching. The report had due effect, and both Oxford and Cambridge have since done much in that direction. . . .[more]


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