My great great grandfather Wentworth Cavenagh (1822 – 1895) was born 200 years ago on 13 November 1822 at Hythe, Kent, England to James Gordon Cavenagh and Ann Cavenagh nee Coates, the fifth of their eight children. He was baptised on 12 March 1823 at St Leonard’s, Hythe.

Wentworth’s father James Gordon, born Irish, was a surgeon of the Royal Staff Corps, an army engineering corps with its headquarters in Hythe, responsible in part for supervising the construction of static defence measures including the Royal Military Canal against Napoleon’s threatened invasion.

After their marriage in March 1815, the Cavenaghs lived at Hythe. In 1825 Cavenagh retired on half pay.

The Cavenagh family returned to Wexford in Ireland in 1837 and lived at Castle House. Wentworth Cavenagh attended the Ferns Diocesan School. It is believed he began training as a pharmacist in Wexford, but after the potato famine struck in the 1840s the economy was so bad he realised there was no future for him in Ireland and emigrated.

Wentworth Cavenagh emigrated to Canada, hoping to become a farmer there. He later moved to Ceylon to take up coffee-planting, then to Calcutta where he unsuccessfully sought a Government appointment. In 1852 he sailed from Calcutta to Australia and joined the gold rush to Bendigo then moved to South Australia to farm at Peachey Belt some twenty miles north of Adelaide.

Map of Wentworth Cavenagh’s travels

In 1863 Cavenagh was elected to the South Australian House of Assembly for the District of Yatala. He served in the Legislature for nineteen years, including period as Commissioner of Crown Lands from 1868 to 1870 in the Strangways Ministry, and Commissioner of Public Works from 1872 to 1873 in the Administration formed by Sir Henry Ayers. At the time Darwin was surveyed in 1869 Cavenagh was Commissioner of Crown Lands; a main street is named after him.

In 1865 at the age of 42 he married Ellen Mainwaring, the daughter of a neighbouring farmer. They had ten children.

Portrait of Wentworth Cavenagh, from the collection of a cousin

Wentworth Cavenagh returned to England in 1892. On his departure the Adelaide Evening Journal of 27 April 1892 published a brief biography:

PASSENGERS BY THE BALLAARAT.—The following. are the passengers booked to leave Adelaide by the Ballaarat to-day:—For London —Mr. and Mrs. Wentworth Cavenagh-Mainwaring, Misses Eva, May, Kathleen, Helen, Queenie, and Gertrude, and Master Hugh Cavenagh-Mainwaring, and Misses Herring, Schomburgk, and Horn. For Albany—Messrs. Green, Richards, and Radcliffe.

THE HON. WENTWORTH CAVENAGH-MAINWARING.—This gentleman, accompanied by his wife, six daughters, and one son, leaves by the Ballarat to-day for England, where he is about, to take up his residence at Whitmore Hall. He is a son of James Gordon Cavenagh, who was army surgeon in the Royal Staff Corps. He served in the army for thirty-five years, and went all through the Peninsula War. while he was also present at the Battle of Waterloo and the taking of Paris. He was a brother of General Sir Orfeur Cavenagh, K.C.S.I., lately deceased, who served in India in various campaigns, and who, as Town Major of Fort William, is supposed to have saved Calcutta during the mutiny. He was afterwards for several years Governor of the Straits Settlements. Another brother, General Gordon Cavenagh, served in various actions in China and India. The Hon. Wentworth Cavenagh-Mainwaring was born at Hyde, Kent, on November 13, 1822. He was educated at Ferns Diocesan School, County Wexford, Ireland, and when eighteen years of age he left home for Canada, where he was engaged for some years farming. He subsequently relinquished this occupation and started coffee planting in Ceylon. Afterwards he tried to obtain a Government appointment at Calcutta, but was unsuccessful. Attracted by a Government advertisement he came to Australia, arriving in Melbourne in 1852. Thence he went to the Bendigo diggings, and from there he came to South Australia and started farming at Peachy Belt. He stopped there for several years, and in 1863 was elected to Parliament with the late Hon. L. Glyde for the District of Yatala. For nineteen years he remained in the Legislature without a break, and during that period he was Commissioner of Crown Lands in the Strangways Ministry, and Commissioner of Public Works in the Administration formed by Sir Henry Ayers. In the elections of 1881 he was rejected when the Hon. D. Murray and Mr. Gilbert (the present member) were elected On February 16, 1865, he married Ellen Jane, the eldest daughter of Gordon Mainwaring, an officer in the East Indian Civil Service, who was at one time Inspector of Police in the early days of South Australia, and on the death of his father, Admiral Mainwaring, he succeeded to the family estates in Staffordshire. On the death of her brothers without heirs Mrs. Cavenagh-Mainwaring became entitled to the estates and adopted the name and arms of Mainwaring.

Wentworth Cavenagh died at the age of 72 in Southsea. He was buried in Whitmore, Staffordshire.

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Wikitree: Wentworth (Cavenagh) Cavenagh-Mainwaring (1822 – 1895)