HALL, Benjamin (1778-1817), of Hensol Castle, Glam.
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Family and Education
b. 29 Sept. 1778, 1st s. of Rev. Benjamin Hall, DD, chancellor of Llandaff, by Elizabeth, da. of Rev. John Grant of Nolton and Roch, Pemb. educ. Westminster 1790; Christ Church, Oxf. 1794; L. Inn 1798, called 1801. m. 16 Dec. 1801, Charlotte, da. of Richard Crawshay, ironmaster, of Cyfarthfa Castle, Glam., 6s. 1da. suc. fa.-in-law 1810.
Hall was descended on both sides from Pembrokeshire families; his father was by reputation, if not in fact, ‘a huge pluralist’.1 He practised on the Oxford circuit, pleading at the Brecon and Gloucester sessions. He made an advantageous marriage in 1801. His wife Charlotte Crawshay brought him £40,000; in 1803 he was made a partner in his father-in-law’s Rhymney iron works and in 1808 the latter bestowed the Abercarn estate on him. In 1810, by Crawshay’s will, thanks to the supposed incapacity for business of his brother-in-law William Crawshay, he received a three-eighths share in the Rhymney works with the Union works, covering 1,112 acres of mines, quarries, houses and land. In 1816 he sold out to William Crawshay for £90,000.2
Hall was still going the Oxford circuit in 1809 and remained nominally on the law lists till 1812. In 1806 he came into Parliament for Totnes on the Bolton interest: his father-in-law bestowed £4,200 on him for the purpose.3 William Henry Fremantle* Fremantle claimed credit for bringing him in ‘at the recommendation of Charles [Williams] Wynn’. In 1807 however he became a friend of the Portland administration, voting against Brand’s motion, 9 Apr., and seconding the address, 26 June. He applauded the King’s opposition to Catholic relief. Fremantle, disgruntled, dismissed him as ‘a lawyer, and a man of no calibre’.4 Hall, on 22 Feb. 1808, opposed any further delay of the charges alleged against Lord Wellesley. He did not anticipate any great saving of public money from sinecure reform, 8 May 1809, and voted against it thereafter. He regarded himself as a particular friend of Perceval,5 supported government on the Scheldt expedition in 1810 and was in that session listed ‘against the Opposition’ by the Whigs. On 21 May 1810 he voted against parliamentary reform. He was also in the minority on Stuart Wortley’s motion for a stronger administration, 21 May 1812. At the ensuing election he came in for Westbury as a guest of (Sir) Manasseh Lopes*.
In 1814 his friends in Glamorgan proposed Hall for the vacant county seat.6 His interests lay in Monmouthshire and he had to refute allegations that his sympathies lay there in the rivalry between the ports of Newport and Swansea: such issues were to him a matter of business and not of local patriotism. He was returned unopposed and fulfilled his promise to buy a residence in Glamorgan when he acquired Hensol for £45,500 in 1815. He had also attempted to strengthen his position by applying to Lord Liverpool, 3 Dec. 1814, to succeed the Marquess of Bute as lord lieutenant of the county, this being, he claimed, the only favour he had asked from government. He was unsuccessful,7 but gained steadily in popularity in the county. He continued to support ministers, except on the renewal of the property tax, 18 Mar. 1816, and in 1813, 1816 and 1817 opposed Catholic relief. His remarks in the debate on agricultural distress, 7 Mar. 1816, were inaudible, but he was heard to support the duty on foreign butter, 29 Mar. In June 1816 he introduced a salmon fisheries bill.8 In October he quelled the industrial disturbances at Merthyr Tydfil, for which the Home secretary thanked him.9 A member of the Poor Law committee, he supported the issue of Exchequer bills for local and temporary relief, 28 Apr. 1817, and gave evidence on the condition of the poor in the part of Wales he knew. When he died v.p. 31 July 1817, the constituency raised a memorial to him. He was the first industrialist to win a seat for a Welsh county. Known as ‘Slender Ben’, from his delicate frame, he was father of ‘Big Ben’, Lord Llanover.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: P. A. Symonds
- 1. Maxwell Fraser, ‘The Halls of Pemb.’, JNLW, xii. 1.
- 2. John Lloyd, Old S. Wales Iron Works, 64-67, 131-3; J. P. Addis, Crawshay Dynasty, passim.
- 3. NLW mss 2873, Crawshay to Hall, 18 Oct. 1806.
- 4. Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, iv. 190.
- 5. Add. 38260, f. 263.
- 6. R. D. Rees, ‘Parl. Rep. S. Wales 1790-1830’ (Reading Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1962), ii. 366.
- 7. Add. 38260, ff. 263, 285.
- 8. Cambrian, 7 June 1816.
- 9. Pellews, Sidmouth, iii. 154.