Cardigan Boroughs

Linked borough

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen of Cardigan, Aberystwyth, Adpar, Lampeter and Tregaron

Number of voters:

238 in 1710


11 Dec. 1693JOHN LEWIS vice Phillips, deceased 
11 Nov. 1695JOHN LEWIS 
23 Jan. 1701JOHN LEWIS 
15 Dec. 1701HENRY LLOYD 
 Sir Thomas Powys 
12 Aug. 1702HENRY LLOYD 
22 May 1705LEWIS PRYSE 
20 May 1708LEWIS PRYSE 
22 Feb. 1710SIR SIMON HARCOURT vice Pryse, chose to sit for Cardiganshire169
 Sir Humphrey Mackworth691
23 Oct. 1710JOHN MEYRICK 
17 Mar. 1712OWEN BRIGSTOCKE  vice Meyrick, appointed to office 
9 Sept. 1713SIR GEORGE BARLOW, Bt. 

Main Article

Of the Cardiganshire boroughs, the county town itself was easily the most important: the elections were always held there, with the mayor acting as returning officer. Governed by its common council, a self-perpetuating oligarchy responsible for the admission of freemen, Cardigan corporation was controlled by the owner of the priory estate. At the beginning of the period this was the outgoing Whig Member Hector Phillips, who returned himself again in the 1690 election. After his death in 1693 the priory passed to the Pryses, who already dominated the second major borough, Aberystwyth, which lay a mere three miles from their seat at Gogerddan. Phillips’ successor in the borough seat, John Lewis, almost certainly owed his election to Sir Carbery Pryse, 4th Bt.*, who besides Cardigan and Aberystwyth could presumably count on a third borough, Tregaron, where his friend Cornelius Le Brun was lord of the manor. Tregaron and Lampeter were both manorial boroughs, in which freemen were admitted at courts leet, by a jury nominated by the respective seneschal. The fifth borough, Adpar, appears to have been of little significance in elections in this period. It is not clear whether the Pryses maintained their interest intact during their dynastic and financial difficulties in the aftermath of Sir Carbery’s death in 1694: John Lewis was re-elected in 1695, and Sir Charles Lloyd, possibly a Whig but of a Country persuasion, in 1698. By the first general election of 1701 the Gogerddan estate, now free from debts, was in the hands of a forceful young Tory, Lewis Pryse. John Lewis came in once more, and in November was replaced by another High Churchman, Henry Lloyd, who in the first recorded contest in this period defeated an interloping Shropshire barrister, Sir Thomas Powys. The circumstances of this election are obscure. Powys was also a Tory; Lloyd, despite his party politics, had past connexions with the Vaughans of Trawscoed (also known as Crosswood), the leading Whig family in Cardiganshire; and both in November 1701 and again in May 1702, before the election in which Lloyd was chosen a second time, Cardigan borough sent up a Whiggish address to the crown, first a loyal address against Louis XIV’s recognition of the Pretender, and secondly an address of congratulation on the accession of Queen Anne that eschewed the customary Tory excesses in favour of correspondingly extravagant lamentations for the deceased King William. On the other side it should be pointed out that Powys stood against other Tories in Ludlow in November 1701. One historian has identified Lloyd as Pryse’s nominee. The evidence of the returns in 1705 and 1708 is clearer, Lewis Pryse himself being chosen.2

Pryse’s second election, in 1708, was by way of insurance against his ejection as knight of the shire, where he faced a powerful Whig petition. When he eventually won his case in January 1710 he duly opted to sit as the county representative. Meanwhile he had allegedly made an arrangement to back as his successor a fellow Tory, Sir Humphrey Mackworth, now the principal owner of the former Pryse mines, who had been busily preparing his candidature. Among other devices, Mackworth had broadcast promises to ‘bring the white cloth trade from Shrewsbury into Cardiganshire and build them a quay at Aberystwyth’. Mackworth was not, however, the kind of Tory likely to appeal much to Pryse’s taste. He was under considerable pressure because of forthcoming parliamentary inquiries into the affairs of his Mines Adventurers’ Company, and was already paying court to the heads of the ministry, the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) and Lord Godolphin (Sidney†). It soon became clear that Pryse had alternative plans for the borough seat, not necessarily to back Mackworth’s existing Tory rival, John Meyrick, but to use the constituency as a parliamentary bolt-hole for (Sir) Simon Harcourt I. Mackworth takes up the story: ‘Mr Pryse’, he told Marlborough,

knowing that I had formerly expressed an indifferency whether I came into Parliament this session or not, having assurance of his interest for the future, came lately to desire that notwithstanding the late agreement with my friends in the country I would acquiesce for this time, having his interest for all future Parliaments, to which I was not averse, if he made choice of a good man; but when he named Sir Simon Harcourt, and upon the solicitation of Mr [Robert] Harley* and his friends, of which (Sir) Tho[mas] Mansel [I* (5th Bt.)] was one, I told him they were persons I had no good opinion of, and could not consent. He went away dissatisfied but [sic] I have writ to my friends to oppose that design.

Needless to say, Mackworth was able to gain the support of the head of the Vaughan family, Viscount Lisburne [I] (John Vaughan*), but Harcourt was still elected ‘by a great majority’. Mackworth entered a petition (not summarized in the Journals), but probably complaining first and foremost of the conduct of the mayor of Cardigan, who, Mackworth wrote, ‘was engaged to return Sir Simon Harcourt’. The collapse of the Mines Adventurers’ Company, however, seriously weakened Mackworth’s credibility and he prudently withdrew the petition in the belief, well founded as it turned out, that his intrigues would bring him the county seat at the next election. These manoeuvres included winning over a former ally of Pryse, Thomas Powell of Nanteos, who since 1703 had controlled the borough of Tregaron. A blow to Pryse in the county, the loss of Powell did no harm in the Boroughs, and Pryse returned High Tories apparently without opposition in 1710, 1712 and 1713.3

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Post Boy, 2–4 Mar. 1710.
  • 2. Ceredigion, iii. 303–4; v. 402–4; NLW Jnl. viii. 362; London Gazette, 5–8 Jan., 14–18 May 1702.
  • 3. G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 167; Add. 61637, ff. 102, 111, 153; HMC Portland, iv. 533; Ceredigion, v. 404.