Cavendish Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Cavendish Surname Meaning

The surname Cavendish comes from an old place name in Suffolk, Cavendish.  It is believed that Cavendish was so called because a man called Cafa used to own a pasture or “edisc” there, which became known as Cafa’s Edisc and eventually Cavendish.

It was home to Sir John Cavendish, the ancestor of the Dukes of Devonshire who was involved in suppressing the Peasants’ Revolt. The earliest record of the name there was Simon de Cauerndis in 1201.

Cavendish Surname Resources on The Internet

Cavendish Surname Ancestry

  • from England (Suffolk) and Isle of Man
  • to Ireland

England.  London records of the early 1300’s show Cavendish men who had migrated to the capital at a time when surnames were just beginning to be adopted.  Geoffrey de Cavendysh had a  house in St. Lawrence Jewry and his son Geoffrey was a buckle maker there.

Not all of the Cavendishs in London may have originated from Cavendish. Thomas Cavendisshe was an apprentice to a Cavendish and had taken his master’s name and handed it down to his descendants.

It is thought likely, although not proven, that this Thomas Cavendisshe was the forebear of Sir John Cavendish, the chief justice who was murdered in 1381 by a Suffolk mob in the Peasants’ Revolt.

A descendant, Sir William Cavendish, was in the right place at the right time to profit from Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries.  Sir William through his sister was related to the Stuart family in Scotland and the Cavendishes were involved in the scheming to put the Catholic Arabella Stuart on the throne of England.  But they played their politics well and were made Dukes of Devonshire in 1694.

The wealth and political prestige of the Dukes of Devonshire followed, a family who were to remain powerful and influential in English political life until the 20th century.  The marital story of the fourth Duke of Devonshire and his wife Duchess Georgiana was the subject of the 2008 film The Duchess.  The family story was narrated in Francis Bickley’s 1911 book The Cavendish Family. 

Their family seat is at Chatsworth House, first constructed in 1580, in Derbyshire.  Not too far away is Bolsover Castle, acquired and re-built by Charles Cavendish in the early 1600’s.

Ireland.  The Cavendish family estates extended to Ireland in the 18th century, most notably to Lismore in county Waterford.  William H. Cavendish, maybe an illegitimate offspring, left Ireland for America in the 1750’s with his mother and eventually settled in Greenbrier county, West Virginia.  He married three times and has many descendants.

Isle of Man.  Cavendish is also a Manx name.  It comes from the older Manx surname Corjeag.  This apparently sounded like the Manx for “giving dish” and consequently apparently Cavendish emerged.  The cyclist Mark Cavendish is known as the Manx missile.

Cavendish Surname Miscellany

Thomas de Cavendisshe, London Mercer.  Thomas de Cavendisshe, an apprentice of Walter de Cavendisshe in 1312, was in fact “the son of William atte Watre of Ewell.”  He fared well as he was recorded as lending money towards the French war in the 1340’s.

He was a mercer, as was his son John. Another son Thomas was a clothier.  As was Stephen de Cavendisshe, possibly a son or grandson, who became mayor of London in 1362 and died in 1372.  Judge John Cavendish may have been related to this family.

Judge John Cavendish and the Peasants’ Revolt.  Judge John Cavendish was said to have been descended from the Norman Robert de Gernon,  whose son Robert married Mary, the heiress of John Potton of Cavendish in Suffolk, and secured her landed estate. However, the story appears unsubstantiated.  The manor of Cavendish was in fact held by another family until Judge Cavendish acquired it in 1359.

John Cavendish was a lawyer who rose to become Chief Justice.  As Chief Justice he was obliged to suppress the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381. Wat Tyler, the leader of the revolt, was believed to have been killed by his son John while they were negotiating.  As a result of this, the father was pursued by the peasants.  He reached St. Mary’s Church in Cavendish where he pleaded sanctuary by grasping the handle of the church door. This was to no avail and he was taken to the marketplace at Bury St. Edmunds and beheaded by the mob.

One of John’s brothers, Roger Cavendish whose family established themselves at Grimston Hall, was the ancestor of Thomas Cavendish “the Navigator.”

The Cavendishes and the Stuarts.  The Cavendishes were closely involved with Arabella Stuart, the daughter of Charles Stuart, and a woman whom many saw as a Catholic pretender to the throne.  William Cavendish was her uncle and Arabella was in fact born in 1575 in the small village of Edensor in Derbyshire, very close to the Cavendish estate at Chatsworth House.

There were many plots attempted to reinstate the Catholic church on the throne via Arabella, particularly after the death of the childless Elizabeth I in 1603.

In 1610, when she was 35, Arabella made the most dangerous of possible marriages with William Seymour.  With this marriage, the two lines of descendants of the sisters of Henry VIII were united and both Arabella and William were claimants to the throne.  So great was the panic at court at the prospect of a new and threatening dynasty that they were deliberately separated shortly after their marriage.  Arabella was sent to the Tower of London.

William Cavendish’s sister Mary was active in the scheming on behalf of her niece Arabella.  She planned Arabella’s escape from the Tower of London, hoping that Arabella would go abroad and serve as a Catholic pretender to the throne.  Mary was arrested and twice examined by the Privy Council after Arabella’s capture.  She was then fined and confined to the Tower in 1611. Arabella died in 1615 but Mary was held there for another three years.  When her husband fell ill, Mary was able to obtain her release in order to nurse him.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.  Lady Georgiana Spencer married the Duke of Devonshire in 1774 on her 17th birthday.  As Duchess she was a celebrated beauty and socialite of her day who gathered around her a large circle of literary and political figures.  She was famous not just for her beauty and her sense of style, but also for her love of gambling and her catastrophic affairs.

Famously, when she was stepping out of her carriage one day, an Irish dustman exclaimed: “Love and bless you, my lady, let me light my pipe in your eyes!”

This was a compliment which she often recalled whenever others complimented her by retorting: “After the dustman’s compliment, all others are insipid.”

Reader Feedback – William H. Cavendish of Greenbrier County, West Virginia.  I am a descendant of William H. Cavendish and many of us in the family over the years have tried to document when and where he arrived in America.  So far we have had no luck.

The only information I have (as well as many others) is a Cavendish Family History booklet that was published in the 1940’s with a new printing in 1961 (this is the copy I have that belonged to my father).  We can find reference to William Hunter Cavendish in many court records, but the booklet states the William H. Cavendish who came to America was William Henderson Cavendish.

William Hunter Cavendish was an attorney in Greenbrier County as well as several other counties at the time.  I also found an entry in the county court records for Greenbrier County in 1794 that William H. Cavendish was appointed the administrator of the estate of William Cavendish.

You would think that there would be more information available about a person who was such a prominent attorney in Virginia/West Virginia (Greenbrier, Kanawaha and Cabell counties) and the first clerk of Kanawha county.

The early Greenbrier county court records, as transcribed by Helen Stinson, gives much information about the cases he represented and the offices that he held within the county.  There is a reference in an application submitted to the Sons of the Revolution by one of his wife Alice Mann McClintic Cavendish’s descendants that states she married William H. Cavendish who was related to Lord Cavendish.  Another entry in a McClung family history book also states Andrew, his son, and Rebecca, his daughter who both married McClungs, were related to Lord Cavendish.

Judy Cavendish Chamberlain (

Corjeag and Cavendish on the Isle of Man.  The Manx name Corjeag (possibly originally Quartaige) anglicized in a number of cases to Cavendish in the late 1700’s and 1800’s.  These Corjeag/Cavendishes included:

  • Charles Corjeag who was born in Kirk Michael in the Isle of Man sometime in the 1750’s.  He married Esther Qualtrough and three Corjeag children were born to them there.  They moved to Liverpool in the 1790’s and their last two children were born as Cavendish.
  • Thomas Cavendish who was born in Kirk Michael in 1777 and married Margaret Killey.  Their eldest son John Cavendish emigrated to America in the 1830’s and settled in Ohio.
  • Ann Corjeag/Cavendish who appeared in the will of Richard Quirk on the Isle of Man in 1808.
  • John Corjeag/Cavendish who was recorded in the 1830’s in relation to the Primitive Methodist Chapel in Kirk Michael.
  • and John Cavendish, a Wesleyan preacher, who died in Peel on the Isle of Man in 1837 at the age of 88.

Cavendish Names

  • Thomas Cavendish was known as “the Navigator” because he led the third expedition (after Magellan and Drake) to circumnavigate the world.
  • Henry Cavendish, related to the Devonshires, was the 18th century scientist noted for his discovery of the gas hydrogen which he isolated and studied.  The Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge was named after him.
  • Spencer Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire, was a prominent Victorian politician, serving at various times as leader of the Liberal Party, the Liberal Union Party and the Unionist Party (as a Home Rule opponent).
  • Mark Cavendish from the Isle of Man won a record five cycling sprinting stages in the 2009 Tour de France.

Cavendish Numbers Today

  • 2,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)

Cavendish and Like Surnames

Many surnames have come from East Anglia (Norfolk and Suffolk) and surrounding areas in eastern England.  These are some of the noteworthy surnames that you can check out.


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Written by Colin Shelley

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