Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freeholders, freemen and inhabitants paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

about 500


(1801): 2,880


24 June 1790WILLIAM EDWARDES, 1st Baron Kensington [I] 
30 May 1796WILLIAM EDWARDES, 1st Baron Kensington [I] 
12 Jan. 1802 WILLIAM EDWARDES, 2nd Baron Kensington [I], vice Kensington, deceased 
12 July 1802WILLIAM EDWARDES, 2nd Baron Kensington [I] 
24 Feb. 1806 KENSINGTON re-elected after appointment to office 
4 Nov. 1806WILLIAM EDWARDES, 2nd Baron Kensington [I] 
8 May 1807WILLIAM EDWARDES, 2nd Baron Kensington [I] 
15 Oct. 1812WILLIAM EDWARDES, 2nd Baron Kensington [I]220
 Nathaniel Phillips98

Main Article

The leader of the Haverfordwest corporation, which had a decisive influence in elections, was Lord Milford, representing the long established interest of the Philipps family of Picton Castle. Since 1747, however, the seat had been held, apart from one break from 1784 to 1786, by the representative of the next strongest interest, William Edwardes, Baron Kensington. This arose from an arrangement whereby Kensington supported the Picton Castle interest for the county against the Owens of Orielton.1 When Milford failed to get the county seat in 1784 he dislodged Kensington at Haverfordwest; but on regaining the county in 1786, he restored him to his seat and Kensington held it, unopposed, until his death. Thomas Knox of Llanstinan was interested in a reshuffle of the Pembrokeshire seats, whereby Milford obtained an English peerage, Kensington the county seat and he himself came in for Haverfordwest, but he admitted that he could not afford a contest any more than Kensington could and nothing came of it, nor of a similar notion of Sir William Hamilton’s†.2

Kensington might not have retained the seat so long had not his heir, the only child of his old age, been a minor. Had Kensington died before his son came of age, Milford planned to offer the seat to a friend of Pitt, to promote his claims to an English peerage: this was the gist of a letter from him to Pitt on 21 Apr. 1797, when Kensington was thought to be at death’s door. In 1795 it had been ‘the common report’ that Milford himself would occupy the seat, because Kensington’s heir, ‘though he gets drunk every day has lost much of his popularity at Haverford’. Yet young Kensington was of age when his father died, and although Milford discounted any obligation to the son because the father had refused to resign the seat at Milford’s request, he found that he was unable to foist Joseph Foster Barham* on the borough. As he informed him: ‘The memory of the old peer and the tears of his widow have made such an impression upon those friends of mine that I thought I could certainly rely upon that I found any opposition to their choice must prove unsuccessful’. He therefore assented to the son’s succeeding the father.3

The 2nd Baron Kensington was not as secure as his father in the seat. There was an abortive opposition to him in 1802 and 1806. That of 1802 was again inspired by Foster Barham, who put pressure on Milford to promote his wishes. Milford insisted on the promise of an English peerage, which Foster Barham was unable to obtain from Addington: had he done so, Kensington would have taken the county seat. Milford compensated Foster Barham with a contribution towards the purchase of a seat, and by January 1806 rejected a further overture from him: ‘it is necessary to support Ld. Kensington ... as his interest is absolutely necessary to ensure me the county’. By canvassing the county on behalf of the indisposed Milford against Sir Hugh Owen of Orielton in 1807, Kensington exposed himself to risks. If Milford withdrew and he stood instead, he had assented to Milford’s plan of substituting William Henry Scourfield for Haverfordwest, to the great indignation of Joseph Foster Barham. In any case he incurred the wrath of the Orange party and they started an opposition to him at Haverfordwest led by Nathaniel Phillips, the West Indian purchaser of the Slebech estate, who had shown an interest in Haverfordwest in 1806. He recorded in his diary, 26 Oct. 1809, ‘the ever memorable day of the first meeting of the Orange party independent interest to assist ... recover the rights ... of Haverfordwest’.4 At a meeting at the Castle inn they planned to secure the admission of Orange freemen against the Blues. Phillips subscribed £500 and John Owen* of Orielton, the same sum. In January 1810 they called a meeting to protest against the enrolment of non-resident freemen by the Blues, a resolution which the latter ignored, since the proposers of it were not even freemen. On 4 Mar. 1810, following a Blue rally, six Blues were elected to the common council, to fill vacancies, against six Orange candidates. The Blues were further successful on another vacancy in October and secured the admission of 33 of their friends as freemen, 24 Orange nominees being rejected. In the same year, the Blues started a run on the Milford Bank, in which Phillips was the sleeping partner. Shortly before the election of 1812, the Orange party won an action in King’s bench to waive the necessity of a month’s notice for candidates for admission, but they were still not strong enough to overthrow the established Blue interest, as the ensuing contest revealed. The contest was regarded by the Orange leader, John Owen of Orielton, as a retaliation for the Blue opposition to him at Pembroke Boroughs: if the Blues poached on his preserve, he would encroach on theirs. Report had it that Sir Thomas Picton* would be the Orange candidate, but it was Nathaniel Phillips who faced defeat.5

Kensington could be shaken only by a disagreement with Milford, and this occurred in 1816 when he broke with Milford over the coalition of the Blue and Orange parties to keep the county quiet: Milford called on Kensington to give up his seat.6 At the time of the election of 1818, Kensington wrote from Italy to say that he had decided to relinquish it for personal reasons and because of diminished support. He could not have afforded to fight for it. Milford named William Henry Scourfield, who in any case had Kensington’s preference, in his place, and Scourfield, making no reference to politics in his address, held the seat until in 1826 Milford’s adoptive heir came of age.7 Before the pact of 1816 became operative, the Orange party were prepared to back Col. John James of Pantsaeson (d.1819) as their candidate; but Sir John Owen was prevailed upon to declare his neutrality and an intrigue on behalf of James carried on by James Thomas, attorney, Sir John’s agent, came to nothing. Col. James formally retired, 12 May 1818, insisting, however, that the borough was ‘as open as the city of Westminster’.8 He could indeed have stirred up ‘the genteelest town in South Wales’9 to an unprecedented extent, for Joseph Foster Barham writing to Lord Cawdor, 12 Aug. 1816, reported:

Haverfordwest is now the scene of an active contest. Both parties very confident and very inveterate. The lower order and the shopkeepers all in arms against those who have created them and who give them food. Many who date their existence from our patronage at the late election are now the leaders of the opposite faction ... the sans culottes have the upper hand on every occasion.10

Foster Barham was, however, an inveterate enemy of Sir John Owen and the latter informed the Blues six days later that he was perfectly satisfied with the pact, had adopted ‘the most decided neutrality’ at Haverfordwest, had received the thanks of Col. Scourfield and the assent of Col. James.11

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. R. D. Rees, ‘Parl. Rep. S. Wales 1790-1830’ (Reading Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1962), i. 306.
  • 2. HMC Var. vi. 212, memo by Knox, c.1791.
  • 3. PRO 30/8/158, f. 151; Carm. RO, 1 Cawdor 129, Mirehouse to Campbell, Wed. 15th [1795]; Bodl. Clarendon dep. C431, bdle. 5, Milford to Foster Barham, 24 Dec. 1801, 30 May 1802.
  • 4. The Times, 28 May 1802; Bodl. C431, bdle. 5, Milford to Foster Barham, 12 Jan.-28 June 1802, 26 Jan. 1806, Kensington to same, 10, 16 May 1807 and draft reply, n.d.; 1 Cawdor 130, Kensington to Cawdor, 25 Oct. 1806; NLW, Slebech mss 4302.
  • 5. NLW, Slebech mss 9530, T. Philipps to N. Phillips, 21 Mar.; Cambrian, 3 Feb., 3, 10 Mar., 6 Oct. 1810, 29 Feb., 2 July; Carm. Jnl. 3, 10, 17 Oct.; 1 Cawdor 132, Campbell to Cawdor, 8 Oct. 1812.
  • 6. Cambrian, 15 June; Carm. Jnl. 21, 28 June 1816.
  • 7. Carm. Jnl. 10 Apr., 12, 19 June; Cambrian, 13, 20 June 1818.
  • 8. 1 Cawdor 225, Mathias to Cawdor, 5 Aug. 1816; Carm. Jnl. 15 May 1818.
  • 9. B. Malkin, South Wales, ii. 293.
  • 10. 1 Cawdor 225.
  • 11. Ibid.