Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the freemen of Montgomery, Llanidloes, Welshpool and Llanfyllin
Number of voters:
over 500 in 1679
|c. Apr. 1660||THOMAS MYDDELTON|
|6 May 1661||JOHN PURCELL|
|May 1661||Double return. PURCELL seated, 31 May 1661|
|c. Oct. 1665||HON. HENRY HERBERT, vice Purcell, deceased|
|18 Feb. 1679||MATTHEW PRYCE|
|Double return. PRYCE seated, 1 Apr. 1679|
|6 Oct. 1679||MATTHEW PRYCE|
|Sir John Trevor|
|15 Mar. 1681||MATTHEW PRYCE|
|Sir John Trevor|
|4 Apr. 1685||WILLIAM WILLIAMS|
|Election declared void, 10 June 1685|
|c. July 1685||CHARLES HERBERT|
|15 Jan. 1689||CHARLES HERBERT|
Unlike the county, political activity was strong in Montgomery Boroughs and marked by contested elections. Only in 1689 was a candidate apparently returned without opposition. The period saw a determined effort by the Herberts of Chirbury, who controlled Montgomery, to disfranchise the out-boroughs. Of these, Welshpool and Llanfyllin were under the influence of their Roman Catholic cousins of Powis Castle, while the Lloyds of Berthllwyd were lords of the manor of Llanidloes. The 3rd Lord Herbert sought to persuade the gentry that: ‘choosing a burgess will not lie in their power unless Montgomery, being county town, may choose their own’. In 1660, Thomas Myddelton was returned on the Herbert interest, and a petition from Charles Lloyd was rejected. In 1661 Myddelton transferred to Denbighshire, and Lord Herbert secured the discreet support of the 2nd Lord Powis for his younger brother, the Hon. Henry Herbert, although he was very much under age. But at the election the Herbert interest was maintained by John Purcell, who had had to yield the county seat to Edward Vaughan I. He was opposed by John Blayney of Gregynog, and a double return resulted. Sir Job Charlton reported from the election committee in Purcell’s favour, because his indenture was signed by the bailiffs of Montgomery, and he was allowed to sit, though only after a division. Blayney, an old man, did not pursue the matter and died soon afterwards. Some years later this election was cited as the solitary precedent for an election by Montgomery voters only, Purcell having ‘got himself elected ... by surprise, without notice to the other boroughs’.1
Purcell’s death caused a by-election in which Herbert, now of age, secured the seat without opposition, his indenture being signed by burgesses of all four boroughs. Herbert, who became a strong Whig, succeeded to the peerage on 9 Dec. 1678. The writ for a by-election was duly issued, but the election was not held until 27 Jan. 1679, three days after the dissolution of the Cavalier Parliament. Of the two candidates at the poll, Matthew Pryce stood on the Herbert interest and Edward Vaughan III, a kinsman of the Lloyds, on the rights of the out-boroughs. The surviving details of the poll give Vaughan a clear majority. In Montgomery itself, Pryce obtained 87 votes to Vaughan’s 27, but in Welshpool and Llanidloes Vaughan secured 251 votes. No poll figure survives for Llanfyllin, but other evidence records 122 names in Vaughan’s interest. Less than a month later Vaughan secured the greater prize of the county seat.
The Exclusion Parliaments saw three contested elections with resort to trickery in each. The rights of the out-boroughs were not denied, but they could not be exercised. Pryce, standing on the Herbert of Chirbury interest, was successful on each occasion. In February 1679 he was opposed by Edward Lloyd. The bailiffs who conducted the poll admitted the votes of the Montgomery burgesses only, 82 for Pryce and 16 for Lloyd, after which they closed the proceedings and returned Pryce as duly elected. Lloyd’s party attempted to continue the poll, obtaining sufficient votes to carry the election if the rights of the out-boroughs could be established. A second indenture was thus returned to the House. On 19 Mar. 1679 each candidate petitioned, Lloyd’s petition being reinforced next day by a complaint from the three out-boroughs that timely notice of the election had not been given; and that the bailiffs, influenced by ‘some great persons of the neighbourhood’, had refused to poll Lloyd’s supporters. Nevertheless, the House allowed Pryce to sit on the merits of the return. His opponent in the next two elections was Sir John Trevor. Arthur Herbert is also said to have been a candidate, but must have stood down in favour of a more prominent Tory. In August 1679 Trevor failed to secure the support of Lord Herbert, who had obtained possession of the writ as soon as it was sealed. Fearing further disfranchisement, the bailiffs of Welshpool wrote to their Montgomery counterparts, asserting their right to timely notice of the election, but though an assurance appears to have been given, it proved worthless, and similar tactics were employed as at the previous election. Pryce was said to have been ‘surreptitiously’ returned by the Montgomery bailiffs alone, only a quarter of an hour’s notice of the poll having been given. Trevor petitioned, but the partisan election committee made no report. The pattern was repeated in 1681 when the Montgomery bailiffs, with about 40 of Pryce’s supporters, suddenly polled at about ten o’clock without notice. Trevor petitioned on 24 Mar. but the dissolution of the Oxford Parliament prevented consideration of his petition.2
In 1685, the battle between Montgomery and the out-boroughs was repeated, but under different circumstances. The Herbert family split, the right of the out-boroughs being upheld by Charles Herbert of Aston, a moderate Tory, while Pryce at Lord Herbert’s instance stood down in favour of a more prominent Whig, William Williams, who had been Speaker in the last two Parliaments. The proceedings of a clandestine election at which Williams was returned on 4 April were described thus:
They so wisely surprised us in by a mock, indeed a private proclaiming the time of election; for those in the next house to the Market House where the fop ceremony passed, nay, and some in the streets heard it not. It was so audibly performed none but the contrivers knowing anything of it till afterward, insomuch they were forced to send notice afterwards to their friends not made privy to this new device.
Petitions to a House now overwhelmingly Tory were sent both by Charles Herbert and by ‘several burgesses of Montgomery and the mayor, bailiffs and burgesses of Llanidloes, Poole and Llanfyllin’. Both claimed that the Montgomery bailiffs had acted under pressure. Herbert stated that the poll had been called at 6 a.m. with only twelve burgesses present and that
the said three other boroughs have not only lost the benefit of their voices in a free election at this time, but the same may be drawn in precedent against them in future elections.
On 10 June 1685, the House decided in favour of the out-boroughs and declared Williams’s election void. On 30 June the sheriff was ordered to deliver the writ immediately to the bailiffs of Montgomery, who were to give notice of the election to the out-boroughs and arrange for a speedy poll. Quo warranto proceedings against Montgomery began in December, but it was not until July 1688 that the corporation agreed to surrender their charter, and no replacement was issued. Charles Herbert was again nominated at a gentry meeting in September, and was returned to the Convention ‘unanimously’.3
Authors: Leonard Naylor / Geoffrey Jaggar
This article is based on P. D. G. Thomas, ‘The Montgomery Borough Constituency, 1660-1728’, Bull. Bd. of Celtic Studies, xx. 293-304.