CONWAY, Sir John, 2nd Bt. (c.1663-1721), of Bodrhyddan, Flints.
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Family and Education
b. c.1663, 1st s. of Sir Henry Conway, 1st Bt.†, of Bodrhyddan by Mary, da. and coh. of Sir Richard Lloyd† of Esclus Hall, Denb. educ. Eton 1678; Christ Church, Oxf. matric. 10 June 1679, aged 16, DCL 1683. m. (1) c.1688, Maria Margaretta or Maria Theophila (d. 1690), da. and coh. of John Digby of Gayhurst, Bucks., 1s. d.v.p. 1da.; (2) c.Sept. 1701 (with about £20,000), Penelope (d. 1745), da. of Richard Grenville of Wootton Underwood, Bucks., 2da. suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 4 June 1669.1
Freeman, Denbigh 1679, 1685; sheriff, Flints. Jan.–Nov. 1688.2
As a young man Conway had accompanied the Duke of York to Oxford in 1683, receiving a doctorate as a member of the Duke’s retinue. He sat in the 1685 Parliament as a Tory, but despite marrying into a Catholic family was pricked as sheriff in 1688 so that he could not stand in the projected general election. There was a wild streak in his nature: in 1691 he and some other gentlemen of the town, ‘rambling in the night, fell upon the watch and beat them severely’, while the following year Conway and some friends were reprimanded by the Privy Council for dancing one night ‘in the painted chamber next to the House of Lords’.3
The Flintshire representation rotated between several leading families, and it was not until 1695 that Conway’s turn came again. Chosen knight of the shire without opposition, he was forecast as likely to oppose the Court in the divisions of 31 Jan. 1696 on the proposed council of trade, and, having joined the Welsh petition against the grant to Lord Portland, refused the Association, for which he was subsequently purged from the commission of the peace. He was also listed as having voted against fixing the price of guineas at 22s., and on 4 Apr. 1696 was given leave of absence on health grounds. In the following session he voted, on 25 Nov. 1696, against the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. It is possible that he was already showing signs of the self-assertion that would later cause disruption to the consensus among the Tory interests in Flintshire: in 1697 his kinsman Thomas Ravenscroft* had successfully challenged Sir John Hanmer, 3rd Bt.†, in a by-election for the Boroughs, and at the general election Conway himself was re-elected knight of the shire. A comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments in about September 1698 marked him as a supporter of the Country party, and the following month he was forecast a likely opponent of the standing army. In 1700 Conway joined the Denbighshire Tory Sir Richard Myddelton, 3rd Bt.*, in protesting at the Treasury against a grant to James Isaacson* of all the sea marshes in the counties of Denbigh and Flint. Having secured his return at the first 1701 election, Conway was listed in February 1701 with those likely to support the Court in agreeing with the committee of supply’s resolution to continue the ‘Great Mortgage’. But he was no more active in the Commons than he had been before: he was again granted leave of absence to recover his health, for a term of ten days, on 14 Apr. 1701. He was in all probability in serious financial difficulties, for in 1701 he was busy trying to raise the sum of £15,000 on his estate, to pay his debts and his sister’s marriage portion. His marriage later that year to a Buckinghamshire heiress, a feat regarded in her locality as a considerable coup, proved at best only a temporary relief.4
Conway stood down in the second election of 1701, but in the course of the 1701–2 Parliament he filled a vacancy in the Flint Boroughs constituency, during which he was listed as having favoured the motion of 26 Feb. 1702 vindicating the Commons’ proceedings of the previous Parliament in the impeachments of the four Whig lords. He refused to ‘withdraw’ again at the next election, forcing a contest for the county with (Sir) Thomas Hanmer II* (4th Bt.). The aggrieved Hanmer wrote, ‘if Sir John Conway will not be content to be out of Parliament once in ten years, when other gentlemen require to have their turn of serving, it must be disputed with him’. Defeat presumably brought Conway into line. He was chosen for the county in 1705, for the Boroughs in 1708 after humbly offering to defer to Hanmer, and for the county again at the last two general elections in this period. Classified as a ‘Churchman’ in a list of the 1705 Parliament, he voted against the Court candidate for Speaker in the division of 25 Oct. 1705, was described as a Tory in two lists from 1708 and voted in 1710 against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. In the 1710–11 session he was included among the ‘Tory patriots’ listed as voting for peace, and among the ‘worthy patriots’ who exposed the mismanagements of the previous ministry. By this time, however, Bodrhyddan, which he had earlier rebuilt, was let. Parliamentary bills had been introduced in 1704 and 1706 to allow him to pay off debts by selling his share of his first wife’s estate, and, more specifically, to enable him to settle his Flintshire property (worth £1,200 p.a.) on his son and provide a portion of £3,000 for the daughter of the marriage. These had run into opposition from mortgagors and had failed, giving rise to a court case which went against Conway on appeal in January 1711. By August of the following year he was applying directly to Lord Treasurer Oxford (Robert Harley*) for money to stave off ‘the vexatious clamours . . . every day from my creditors’, a holding operation, he claimed, ‘until I can sell two estates that lie in Rutlandshire and Leicestershire’. He hoped to raise £1,000 by a sale of pictures to the Queen, whose evident lack of interest in these ‘family pieces’ was not communicated by Oxford for some time. Placed in the position of a supplicant, Conway was a weak advocate for the Irish clergyman Francis Higgins (the so-called ‘Irish Sacheverell’), a protégé of his friend Sir William Glynn, 2nd Bt.†, and recommended by Conway and Glynn for an Irish bishopric in November 1712. Nor could he afford to be a ‘whimsical’, voting on 18 June 1713 in favour of the French commercial treaty. Promised £300 from ‘cousin Tom Harley*’ at the Treasury in the autumn of 1713, he was kept waiting for the money for the duration of Oxford’s ministry. The defaulting of a receiver-general for Cheshire and north Wales for whom he had unwisely stood surety also left him owing the crown some £1,600, and here Oxford at least arranged a stay of process. Predictably, Conway had still not paid up by December 1714, pleading disappointment ‘in selling an estate’. Oxford had eventually lent him £100 in November of that year, but the £300 from the Treasury remained unpaid. In the light of these circumstances his political record is interesting: classed as a Tory in the Worsley list and in one list of the Members re-elected in 1715; and as a ‘whimsical Whig’ in another. Nothing further is known of his finances, other than that in his will he was able to leave £2,000 to the daughters of his second marriage, and the remnant of his landed property to the daughter of his first. Under George I he recorded no parliamentary votes. Conway died at Bath 27 Apr. 1721, aged 58, the last of his line, and was buried at Rhuddlan.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. Jnl. Flints. Hist. Soc. xx. 1–5; A. N. Palmer, Country Townships of Wrexham, 4–5; J. E. Griffith, Peds. Anglesey and Caern. Fams. 260; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 92.
- 2. Chirk Castle Accts. 1666–1753 ed. Myddelton, 239; J. Williams, Recs. of Denbigh, 139–41.
- 3. Wood, Life and Times, iii. 46, 54; Luttrell, ii. 238; PRO NI, De Ros mss D683/13/149, John Pulteney* to Thomas Coningsby*, 14 May 1692.
- 4. Chandler, iii. 10; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 122–3, 131; Jnl. Flints. Hist. Soc. 4; Verney Mems. i. 115; Luttrell, iv. 603.
- 5. HMC Kenyon, 428; NLW, Bettisfield mss 81, Conway to [Hanmer], Mar. 1708; Jnl. Flints. Hist. Soc. 4; CJ, xiv. 337, 339, 345, 353, 357, 367; HMC Lords, n.s. vi. 345–8; ix. 12–13; HMC Portland, v. 210; Add. 70219, Conway to [Oxford], ‘Wednesday morning’, ‘Friday noon’, ‘Saturday morning’, 5 Sept. 1713, ‘Monday morning’, 21 Nov. 1714; 70269, same to same, 23 Aug. 1712; HMC Ormonde, n.s. viii. 333–4; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxviii. 329; xxix. 192; Jnl. Flints. Hist. Soc. 5, 35–36; Arch. Camb. (ser. 1), i. 340.