Welsh County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of Qualified Electors:

about 1,0001

Number of voters:

rising from 431 in Jan. 1701 to 683 in 1710


18 Mar. 1690SIR HUGH OWEN,  Bt. 
31 Dec. 16952ARTHUR OWEN 
16 Aug. 1698ARTHUR OWEN 
28 Jan. 1701SIR ARTHUR OWEN, Bt.426
 Sir William Wogan5
2 Dec. 1701SIR ARTHUR OWEN,  Bt. 
11 Aug. 1702SIR ARTHUR OWEN,  Bt. 
5 June 1705WIRRIOT OWEN 
1 June 1708WIRRIOT OWEN 
17 Oct. 1710JOHN BARLOW492
 Sir Arthur Owen, Bt.1893
15 Sept. 1713JOHN BARLOW 

Main Article

The Owens of Orielton, who led the Whig interest in Pembrokeshire, held the county seat throughout the period 1660–1727 with two Tory intervals, the first in the 1680s and the second between 1710 and 1715, when the trial of Dr Sacheverell and subsequent Tory resurgence enabled their main rivals, the Barlows of Slebech, to effect an overthrow. Prior to 1701 the Barlow family, formerly recusants and Church papists, had been hamstrung by their Jacobite associations. Sir John Barlow, 1st Bt., had been presented in 1693 as a non-juror, while his brother William, the knight of the shire in 1685, was described at about the same time as ‘a known enemy to their Majesties and their government’. Sir John was succeeded in 1695 by his young grandson George*, who came of age in about 1701. It may be no more than coincidence that the general election in January of that year saw the first Tory challenge since the Revolution. The county was reported to be ‘very much divided’. The outgoing Member, Arthur Owen II, who had himself recently succeeded his father as 3rd Bt., was opposed by the Tory judge Sir William Wogan*. In canvassing, Owen’s agents ‘declared publicly that such as did not vote for him were Jacobites and papists’, offered interest-free loans to some electors and

threatened others that would not comply to put them into all offices and places of expense and trouble. And the more to terrify the freeholders, threatened that such of the justices of the peace or deputy lieutenants as would appear against him would be turned out [of their] commissions.

A petition from some Tory freeholders, headed by one John Barlow, probably Sir George’s younger brother, claimed that Wogan had been deprived of the election solely by the partisan conduct of the sheriff, who had been won over by the Owen faction ‘paying or depositing £500 money or other great sum and by giving him some other ample security for his indemnity’. Knowing that the under-sheriff harboured Tory sympathies, the sheriff arranged for the election writ to be ‘privately delivered’ to three ‘great friends’ of (Sir) Arthur (two of whom were John Laugharne* and John Meyrick*), deputed for the occasion to join the under-sheriff in taking the poll. Again according to the Tories, this triumvirate had ‘controlled’ the under-sheriff, who ‘openly’ denounced ‘their unjust proceedings’. Allegedly refusing to poll Wogan’s freeholders, or to administer ‘the oath’ to Owen’s, they declared Owen elected and denied the defeated candidate a sight of the poll. The petition, however, was not reported, and Wogan did not contest the next election in December.4

Tory hopes that ‘there will be an entire new set [of MPs] for Pembrokeshire’ in the 1702 election, ‘if they are a little animated’, were not fulfilled, and the county address of congratulation on the victory of Blenheim two years later was decidedly Whiggish in tone. Owen stood down at the 1705 election in favour of his younger brother Wirriot. It was reported that ‘the people [are] murmuring strangely at Mr Wirriot Owen’s standing’, but (Sir) Arthur had succeeded in gaining Sir George Barlow’s support for Wirriot’s election. Although Barlow was said to ‘condemn himself’ for entering into this agreement, and despite the suggestion that the prominent Tory Sir John Pakington, 4th Bt.*, who had gained lands in Pembrokeshire by his second marriage, might put up, Owen was returned unopposed in 1705, as he was three years later. In the Sacheverellite fever of 1710 this state of affairs was dramatically altered. Tory, and especially High Church, passions had been aroused by a ‘cross squinting address’ sent up by (Sir) Arthur Owen. This address drew parallels between the Sacheverell affair and the events of the 1640s, when ‘advanced enslaving principles from the pulpit, the supremacy of the Church above that of the crown, and inciting and promoting riotous and tumultuous assemblies for influencing parliamentary justice’ were said to have occurred, and laid the blame for the Sacheverellite disturbances at the door of the French, ‘the papists, non-jurors and divers disaffected’. Such claims were ‘mightily resented’ in Pembrokeshire, and a Tory counter-address, calling for the dissolution of Parliament and condemning the ‘prodigious growth of atheism and blasphemy, vice and immorality’, was presented to the Queen by Pakington. By September Wirriot Owen had made known his intention not to stand at the forthcoming election, and Whig hopes rested upon the candidacy of (Sir) Arthur Owen. However, Owen suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of John Barlow, who did not even need to poll all his voters. ‘Being unwilling to detain the gentlemen’, Barlow ‘dismissed them, well satisfied with the defeat he had given the enemy, without the help of the body of reserve.’ The Post Boy noted that ‘in this election the diligence of the clergy was remarkable, 50 of them polling for Mr Barlow. But there was a Judas among the Apostles; 7 of them polled for Sir Arthur.’ John Meyrick, however, claimed for himself the entire credit for the Tory success. It was his influence, he told (Sir) Thomas Mansel I* (3rd Bt.), which had proved decisive, ‘and Sir Arthur Owen was so sensible of it that he offered me Pembroke [Boroughs] for life if I would join his interest this time’. Whether or not this boost was justified, the ‘Tory party’ in Pembrokeshire was strong enough to carry a loyal address on the peace in 1712 which expressed the hope that now ‘schism and faction, and all irreligion’ would ‘languish and expire’, and Barlow was re-elected in 1713 without opposition. But the Tory high tide ebbed quickly after the Hanoverian succession, and in 1715, despite Barlow’s optimistic forecasts, the Owen ascendancy was resumed.5

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. NLW Jnl. xxx. 3.
  • 2. Election delayed until after the new Parl. had met, because of the death of the sheriff between the delivery and execution of the writ: CJ, xi. 338; HMC Downshire, i. 580; D. Miles, Pemb. Sheriffs, 38.
  • 3. M. E. Jones, ‘Parl. Rep. Pemb. 1536–1761’ (Univ. of Wales M.A. thesis, 1958), 123–4.
  • 4. J. M. Cleary, Catholic Recusancy of Barlow Fam. (Newman Assoc. Cardiff Circle, ppr. 1), 14–16; W. Wales Hist. Recs. iii. 140–8; Trans. Cymmro. Soc. (1947), 219–20; A Chapter in Eng. Church Hist. ed. McClure, 312; Jones, 111–12.
  • 5. Add. 70254, Robert Price* to Robert Harley*, 30 Mar. 1702; 70203, Wirriot Owen to same, 24 Sept. 1710; London Gazette, 14–18 Dec. 1704, 2–5 Aug. 1712; Hereford and Worcester RO (Worcester St. Helen’s), Hampton mss 705:349/BA4657/i/92, 149, Robert Prust to Lady Pakington, 6 Apr. 1705, 3 June 1710; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 57; Add. Ch. 76113; G. Holmes and W. A. Speck, Divided Soc. 71; Jones, 119; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 249–50; Pemb. Life 1572–1843 ed. B. E. and K. A. Howells (Pemb. Rec. Soc. i), 58–59.