The Lambarts: Earls and their forgotten link to Cavan
The family name Lambart, and their title Earl of Cavan, is certainly not going to be familiar to most Cavan people today, and yet the Lambarts were landholders who once possessed a considerably large estate in the county. Rose Hanbury, Marchioness of Cholmondeley, a former model, and wife of David Cholmondeley, 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley, may not exactly come to mind when we think of people whose ancestry had links to Co Cavan. However, through Rose Hanbury’s maternal grandmother, Lady Elizabeth Lambart there is an ancient connection to the barony of Clonmahon (Clanmahon), for Lady Elizabeth was the daughter of Field Marshal Rudolph Lambart, 10th Earl of Cavan whose predecessors were landowners in Breifne going back to the seventeenth century. Lady Elizabeth Lambart was a childhood friend of the Princess Elizabeth and a bridesmaid at her wedding to the Duke of Edinburgh in 1947.
Born in the 16th century, Oliver Lambart became 1st Baron Lambart of Cavan, and was the son of Walter and Rose Lambart from Preston, Yorkshire. Oliver Lambart and his wife Hester Fleetwood had two sons Charles, who succeeded to the title, and Cary, and three daughters, Jane, Rose, and Lettice. The name Oliver and Rose survives to this day amongst the Lambart family descendants, for example, Rose and David Cholmondeley have a son named Oliver.
A detailed account on the life and times of the 1st Baron, written by Judy Barry, appears in the Dictionary of Irish Biography which informs us he had served in the army in Ireland from the early 1580s and took part in an ‘expedition’ to Scotland under Sir John Perrot to take on the Scots. During the foray, Lambart was seriously wounded and fell into enemy hands before being returned to Dublin to handover a letter to the Lord Deputy. Lambart later developed a close friendship with Lord Deputy Chichester and acted as one of his trusted confidantes. In the early seventeenth century, Lambart received a series of Irish land grants in Wexford, and in the provinces of Connaught and Ulster, where we learn of his participation in the plantation of Ulster where he accepted a land grant of ‘2,000 acres’ of escheated acres in Clonmahon, Co Cavan, where, as Judy Barry pointed out, he already held property. According to ‘Cavan’s Leading Interests,’ a document held in the Johnston Central Library, the Lambart lands in Cavan were at ‘Dronagh, Aghacapple, and Callenagh, and the manors of Carrick and Tullyallen, almost all in the parishes of Ballintemple, Ballymachugh and Kilbride’.
On his new estate, Lambart built a ‘stone mansion and other buildings’ but there seems to have been an issue over the site and an argument ensued with a ‘fellow councillor’ which was settled in a duel between the pair. In 1613, Oliver was elected to parliament as ‘Knight of the shire for Cavan.’ Five years later, he died in 1618. Oliver’s will which was proven in Ireland would have revealed more details about his estates, but in 1922 the document was sadly destroyed in the fire that burned the Four Courts records, held in Dublin.
However, over time, we do know that the Lambart family’s property in Cavan dwindled drastically, with chunks of it handed over in marriage settlements, used in the repayment of debts, and having been mortgaged off. A website for the history of UK parliamentary records, states that the 1641 rebellion saw Oliver’s son and successor, the 2nd Baron Lambart, Charles Lambart, ‘like most Protestant landowners’ lose ‘control of his estates’ at the outbreak of hostilities. On April 15, 1647, he was made 1st Earl of Cavan and ‘sat in the English House of Commons in 1625 and 1627 and became Viscount of Kilcoursie, Offaly, then known as Kings County.
The UK parliamentary website added that Charles ‘would presumably have regained much of his estate at the Restoration, but he had little time to enjoy the prospect, as he died in Dublin on 25 June 1660’. That same year, he had served as high sheriff of County Cavan. Most of the Lambarts’ Cavan estate had all but disappeared by 1786, while Charles descendants are said to have regularly attended the Irish House of Lords but did not go near the English parliament until 1885.
Charles son Richard became the 2nd Earl of Cavan in 1660 and was believed to have suffered with mental health issues for most his adult years. In 1648, he married Rose Ware, the second daughter of Sir James Ware the famous Irish historian and antiquarian; and secondly, following his first wife’s death, he wed Elizabeth Derenzie, a widow. Tragically, the 2nd Earl of Cavan was officially declared insane in 1670 having suffered from a deep melancholy, said to have been brought on by the upset caused by his younger brother Oliver, who had convinced their father to leave him most of his Richard’s inheritance.
The 7th Earl, Richard Ford William Lambart (1763-1837), was a military commander during the Napoleonic era and the 8th Earl of Cavan, Frederick John William Lambart was an evangelical and preached at missions including those famously held on Achill Island, in Co Mayo. According to the landed estates website, the 8th Earl owned a 1,900 acre estate on Achill which in 1888 his wife sold to Mrs Agnes McDonnell.
In 1846, along with Sir Culling Eardley, Frederick John helped found the Evangelical Alliance for the purpose of ‘evangelical Christian beliefs in government, media and society’. For over forty years until his death, Lambart was a member of the Open Plymouth Brethren and whilst on his deathbed, his final words were: ‘we need no more doctors; the Lord standeth at the door’. In Johnston Central Library, there is a rare copy of the 8th Earl of Cavan’s biography which is simply titled ‘Frederick John William, 8th Earl of Cavan: A life sketch. The book was privately produced for private circulation within the Lambart family circle. The present day Earl is Roger Cavan Lambart, 13th Earl of Cavan, who was born in 1944.
History can unearth many unusual things we did not realise. Harry S. Truman may have put it best when he said: ‘There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.’