New Radnor Boroughs


Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer


10 Nov. 1584HUGH DAVIES
29 Oct. 1588JAMES WALTER

Main Article

The population of New Radnor was very small when it was made the shire town of one of the new counties at the Act of Union. In 1562, with the help of Thomas Hoby, a local man in high favour at court, it acquired a charter of incorporation. Borough government was placed in the hands of a self-perpetuating common council of 25, from whom a bailiff and two aldermen were to be chosen each year. There was also a recorder, a common clerk, two chamberlains and a coroner. A residential qualification was imposed upon all councilmen and officials.1

Several other places in Radnorshire could claim borough status and, with it, the right to participate in the election of a parliamentary burgess. Presteigne, the most important of these, had, according to William Camden, ‘grown to be so great a market town ... that at this day it ... dimmeth the light of Radnor’.2 Cefnllys, Knighton, Knucklas (or Cnwclas) and Rhayader were all royal possessions governed by a bailiff.3 Painscastle and Norton also, apparently, claimed to be contributory boroughs.4

Unlike the practice in some Welsh counties, the county and borough elections in Radnorshire were not always held on the same day. While the county election took place in the county court, held alternately at New Radnor and Presteigne, the borough election may always have been held in the booth hall at Radnor, presided over by the town bailiff. The 1562 charter authorized the bailiff, aldermen and burgesses of New Radnor to elect a borough Member of Parliament, but burgesses from other boroughs were expected, apparently, to take part. At least, the return for the 1589 Parliament records that the ‘bailiffs of every borough within the ... county’ were summoned to the election, and similar phrases appear on the other surviving returns, for 1559, 1584 and 1601.5

Most of the borough Members were either New Radnor burgesses or members of the three leading county families, the Vaughans of Clyro, their allies the Lewises of Harpton and Gladestry, and their political opponents the Prices of Mynachdy and Pilleth. Little is known about the 1559 Member, Robert Vaughan, who had probably sat earlier for the borough. Morgan Price (1563), Rhys Lewis (1571) and Hugh Davies (1584, 1586) were all among the first common councilmen of Radnor named in the 1562 charter: Lewis, related to the Gladestry family, was one of the aldermen. Watkin Vaughan (1572) may have been the same man as ‘Walter Vaughan of Harpton’ also to be found among the original councilmen. For 1589 and 1593 Radnor elected two outsiders: the first, James Walter, from a Shropshire family of lawyers, was the son of a justice whose circuit included Radnorshire; the second was Thomas Crompton II, one of the Earl of Essex’s principal followers. The Earl, who was looking round for parliamentary seats for his followers, was constable of Radnor castle and his Welsh ‘agent’, Gelly Meyrick, had married into the Lewis family and was in possession of Gladestry, one of the largest houses in the county. Essex, surprisingly, did not nominate in 1597. The Member was Edward Lewis, the son of Thomas Lewis, knight of the shire on several occasions and probably the most powerful man in the county. For the last Parliament of the reign the Prices acquired both the county and the borough seat.6

Author: M.R.P.


  • 1. CPR, 1560-3, pp. 343-6; Trans. Rad. Soc. xxiii. 30-35; W. Howse, Radnor, Old and New.
  • 2. W. Howse, Presteigne, Past and Present, 30; J. Williams, Hist. Rad. 149 seq.
  • 3. J. Williams, 167-8, 176, 249, 254, 265; Exchequer, ed. E. G. Jones (Univ. Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law Ser. iv), 318-19; Mont. Colls. xxx. 211.
  • 4. Arch. Camb. (ser. 7), iii. 50.
  • 5. C219/26/171, 29/226, 31/259, 34/206. All the Radnor county election returns are in Latin and all those for the boroughs in English.
  • 6. Devereux mss at Longleat, box V, 76-77.