Montgomery Boroughs


Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer


28 Jan. 1559JOHN MAN
1581RICHARD HERBERT I vice Pugh, 'supposed to be dead, but yet known to be in plain life'.1
26 Oct. 1588ROWLAND PUGH
17 Sept. 1597THOMAS JUKES
10 Oct. 1601JOHN HARRIS

Main Article

Montgomery, shire town of one of the new counties created at the Act of Union, had long been an English outpost on the Welsh border. In 1562 Queen Elizabeth confirmed privileges which had been enjoyed since the reign of Henry III, including the right of the burgesses to choose two bailiffs each year. The town’s independence was greatly reduced by the presence in Montgomery castle of the important Herbert family, stewards of the crown lordship of Montgomery and the most powerful influence in Montgomeryshire politics. Their control of parliamentary elections within the county was virtually complete.

The position of the Herberts at Montgomery probably left the contributory boroughs with little more than a nominal role in elections. Caersws, Llanidloes, Llanfyllin, Newtown and Welshpool qualified as ‘ancient boroughs’ under the terms of the Act of Union, but it is unlikely that they all sent representatives. Certainly, a century later the House of Commons ruled that Llanidloes, Llanfyllin and Welshpool only could be regarded as contributory boroughs. It is not known whether the others had even taken part in elections: the Elizabethan returns give no help on this point. Welshpool had received a series of baronial charters. In the Elizabethan period the governing body included two bailiffs, the aldermen (all former bailiffs), a steward and a recorder: in 1570 there were 53 burgesses. In 1587 Edward Herbert II, second son of William, 1st Earl of Pembroke, acquired Powys castle, at Welshpool, and the lordship of Powys. As a result, a second Herbert family began to emerge in the last years of the reign as a force in county politics. Llanfyllin, whose charter was confirmed in 1564, was also within the lordship of Powys: like Llanidloes, Caersws could, apparently, boast a mayor in the reign of Elizabeth. Newtown, a free borough governed by two bailiffs, was the home of the Prices, probably the second most influential family in Montgomeryshire.2

County and borough elections were held in the county court which met alternately at Montgomery and Machynlleth. When the MPs were chosen at Machynlleth, in the far west of the county, as occurred for example in 1584 and 1601, the difficulties of getting there must have been considerable for some burgesses, particularly those from Montgomery and Welshpool. As the returns indicate, the two bailiffs of Montgomery presided over the election even when it took place at Machynlleth. None of the surviving returns lists more than a dozen voters.

Edward Herbert I, head of the Montgomery castle family from 1539 until 1593, during much of which period he occupied the county seat himself, kept a firm grip on borough elections. Matthew Herbert II (1586) was his second son, who founded the Dolguog branch of the family near Machynlleth. The 1584 Member has been identified as one of Edward Herbert’s illegitimate sons, Richard Herbert II, but some uncertainty must remain on account of the number of namesakes in the family. Similarly, the MP who replaced Rowland Pugh—a country gentleman and follower of the Herberts—at a by-election in 1581 has been identified as Edward Herbert’s eldest son, Richard Herbert I, although it is possible that he may have been the 1584 Member. In fact, however, the by-election was disallowed by the House of Commons on 18 Mar. 1581, when it was discovered that Rowland Pugh was not dead, as first supposed, but merely ill. The 1563 and 1571 Members, John Price II and Arthur Price, were from the second most powerful family in the county, allied by marriage to the Herberts. Both MPs were brothers-in-law of Edward Herbert I. By 1588 the relationship between the families had deteriorated and there was a contested county election, at the centre of which the unfortunate Rowland Pugh found himself. He had been put forward to contest the county seat on behalf of the Herberts against Arthur Price, but when it became obvious that he did not have the necessary support to win the election, he stepped down in favour of Edward Herbert I, and was given the borough seat instead.

Richard Morgan (1593) of Fronfraith, Thomas Jukes (1597) of Buttington and John Harris (1601) of Stockton, four miles over the Shropshire border from Montgomery, were all local men no doubt approved by the Herberts for the borough seat. The only MP who was a complete outsider with no obvious links with either the borough or the Herberts was John Man of Bolingbroke, Lincolnshire, who sat in the first Parliament of the reign. The explanation for his return may be found in his duchy of Lancaster connexion with Sir Ambrose Cave, who through contacts at court may have persuaded Edward Herbert I to have him returned at Montgomery.

Author: M.R.P.


  • 1. D'Ewes, 308.
  • 2. CChR, i. 10; Mont. Colls. iii. 51-112; vii. 314 seq.; xiii. 209-39; xxi. passim; xxii. 198-210; xxiii. 70-71; xlviii. 156 seq.; R. Eyton, Antiqs. Salop, xi. 134 seq.; Arch. Camb. civ; C219/26/164, 29/221, 30/144, 31/252, 33/283, 34/199; E. R. Horsfall Turner, Hist. Llanidloes, 34-48; B. B. Rowlands, Hist. Newtown, 47.