Available from Boydell and Brewer
Number of Qualified Electors:
‘not above 500’1
Number of voters:
132 in 1713
|19 Mar. 1690||SIR WILLIAM WILLIAMS, Bt.|
|23 Oct. 1695||SIR WILLIAM WILLIAMS, Bt.|
|10 Feb. 1697||HON. THOMAS BULKELEY vice Williams, deceased|
|27 July 1698||HON. THOMAS BULKELEY|
|18 Jan. 1701||HON. THOMAS BULKELEY|
|3 Dec. 1701||HON. THOMAS BULKELEY|
|5 Aug. 1702||HON. THOMAS BULKELEY|
|6 June 1705||SIR JOHN WYNN, Bt.|
|2 June 1708||SIR JOHN WYNN, Bt.|
|30 Oct. 1710||SIR JOHN WYNN, Bt.|
|16 Sept. 1713||WILLIAM GRIFFITH||128|
|Sir Roger Mostyn, Bt.||42|
Until the last Parliament of Queen Anne, elections in Caernarvonshire were controlled by a nexus of powerful Tory families, among whom the Bulkeleys of Baron Hill, Anglesey, were increasingly prominent. Sir William Williams, 6th Bt., of Vaynol, was re-elected in 1690, probably with Bulkeley support, and after his death in 1697 (which incidentally marked the eclipse of the Vaynol interest), Hon. Thomas Bulkeley, a senior representative of the Baron Hill family and the owner himself of a large Caernarvonshire estate, succeeded without opposition. He was in turn followed by the elderly Sir John Wynn, 5th Bt., formerly the Member for the borough constituency. In the 1710 general election this Tory ascendancy reached its apogee. Wynn was ‘unanimously’ chosen for the third time, and according to Dyer’s newsletter
though there was no opposition expected, the gent[lemen] and freeholders without solicitation came from all parts of the county . . . to attend the election at Caernarvon to show their satisfaction in their choice of so good a patriot, who has served in Parliament for that and the next county near 50 years, and was always an asserter of monarchy and episcopacy.3
Three years later the Tory interest was split and a maverick Tory squire, William Griffith, backed by the Whigs, defeated the candidate favoured by the Bulkeleys and their allies. The origins of this upheaval in Caernarvonshire politics can be traced back to 1708, when two significant new forces had appeared on the scene: Griffith, a young landowner only just come of age; and a nascent Whig faction headed by Thomas Wynn* of Glynnllivon. Encouraged by Sir John Wynn’s advanced age, Griffith had proposed to stand for the county. So too had another Tory, Sir Roger Mostyn, 3rd Bt.*, whose Gloddaeth estate gave him a foothold, and who, as the nephew of the recently deceased former knight of the shire, Thomas Bulkeley, felt himself as he put it, ‘obliged to assert an interest my father had in Caernarvonshire’. The Bulkeley family were divided, the 4th Viscount (Richard Bulkeley*) supporting Griffith, another branch favouring Mostyn. Finally, under Lord Bulkeley’s auspices, ‘a general meeting of the gentlemen of the county’ was held at Caernarvon and ‘all disputes . . . prevented by an amicable agreement’. Mostyn claimed to have got what he wanted:
for it was not so convenient for me at this time to stand for any place as the county of Flint; therefore, I consented that my cousin Griffith should be at this time chosen for the borough[s] of Caernarvon, and he and all the gentlemen obliged themselves by an instrument that whenever there should be a vacancy in that county, by Sir John Wynn’s death or his [Wynn] desisting, I shall succeed, and if that vacancy happens at a time when I am chosen for another place and cannot therefore stand there, I am to have the nomination of a knight of the shire for that time and to be chosen myself afterwards when I am at liberty to serve there.
This right of nomination actually only applied to a by-election, assuming that Mostyn was already sitting for another constituency. At a general election he would be obliged to stand himself. However, not every gentleman present had signed the agreement. Thomas Wynn and several others had refused, and it was reported that Wynn ‘joins with Cad[wallader] Wynne to set up a separate interest and design to oppose the rest of the gentlemen’. This ‘interest’ was not capable of carrying the county, and when Wynn at last made his move in 1713 it was to be in the borough constituency. But by this time he had also been able to detach Griffith from alliance with the Bulkeleys. Probably restive at being excluded from the county representation under the 1708 agreement, and certainly in competition with Lord Bulkeley for the office of constable of Caernarvon Castle, Griffith was wooed by the Whigs and as early as October 1712 was being reproved by angry Tory colleagues at Westminster ‘for his positive opposition of [sic] his friends in favour of good for naught T[homas] W[ynn]’. The postponed confrontation between Griffith and Mostyn took place at the 1713 election, with Griffith, always predicted to prove the stronger, polling 128 freeholders and having a further 300 ‘in and about the hall’, at least according to Whig sources. Such was the disparity between the two sides that the sheriff declared Griffith elected without completing the poll, Mostyn registering four of his votes to give himself the opportunity to appeal to the Commons. His petition began by stating that Griffith had broken the previous agreement, insinuating that this had been done without warning to catch Mostyn unawares, which does not seem to have been true. But since in any case such an argument was unlikely to be admitted by the House, Mostyn took as his ground for disputing the return Griffith’s absence from the poll, and consequent failure to swear the oath prescribed by the Landed Qualification Act. ‘Desiring the sheriff to be satisfied therein’, Mostyn had been ‘answered [that] he [Griffith] had taken the oath that morning’. Given the extent of Griffith’s Caernarvonshire property, the charge was ludicrous, and it is no surprise that the petition was not reported. The Griffith family were to retain the seat for the next 27 years.4
Author: D. W. Hayton
Unless otherwise stated, this article is based on the account of Caernarvonshire elections by P. D. G. Thomas in Trans. Caern. Hist. Soc. xix. 42–46.
- 1. Evening Post, 22–24 Oct. 1713.
- 2. Ibid.
- 3. Flying Post, 20–23 Aug. 1708; Add. 70421, Dyer’s newsletter 9 Nov. 1710.
- 4. Leics. RO, Finch mss box 4950 bdle. 23, Mostyn to [Ld. Nottingham (Daniel Finch†)], 13, 27 Apr. 1708; NLW, Chirk Castle mss F1548, p. 57; UCNW, Baron Hill mss 6772; John Rylands Univ. Lib. Manchester, Legh of Lyme mss corresp. John Ward III* to Peter Legh†, 1 Sept. 1713; Evening Post, 22–24 Oct. 1713.