Welsh County

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

Number of Qualified Electors:

about 1,300 in 1734

Number of voters:



13 Mar. 1695BUSSY MANSEL
20 Dec. 1699THOMAS MANSEL II vice Mansel, deceased
18 July 1711SIR THOMAS MANSEL II re-elected after appointment to office
30 Jan. 1712ROBERT JONES vice Mansel, called to the Upper House
9 Sept. 1713ROBERT JONES

Main Article

Politics in Glamorgan in this period can be understood in terms of the maintenance of the power of the Mansel dynasty, which survived a generational change of partisan allegiance, from Whig to Tory, and was even strengthened in 1706 by the union of its two branches, at Margam and Briton Ferry. Periodic opposition to the Mansels’ ascendancy was concentrated on the Boroughs, where the family was more vulnerable, though in 1705–8 factional conflict overflowed into the shire election. This challenge was withstood, but the crisis perhaps had some lasting effect in inducing in the Mansels a higher degree of circumspection in the exercise of their influence.

The return, without opposition, in 1690 and the two succeeding elections of the outgoing Member, Bussy Mansel, was a tribute to the power of the alliance between Mansel and his kinsman Sir Edward Mansel, 4th Bt.†, of Margam. Their position was strong enough to accommodate sharp differences in political outlook, for although the two senior partners were both Whigs, Sir Edward’s son Thomas I*, who took the Boroughs seat in these three elections, was an outspoken Tory. Yet a county meeting in 1695 ratified the two candidacies without fuss. The possibility of a contest in 1698, when it was rumoured that Sir Charles Kemys, 3rd Bt.*, was canvassing in Glamorgan, called for some management of the electoral process, leading to the exclusion of Kemys from the county meeting by the obvious expedient of not inviting him. Protests from the aggrieved Kemys ensued, but no candidature. Thereafter Sir Charles turned his energies towards undermining the Mansels in the Boroughs, a project in which he was equally unsuccessful. The death of Bussy Mansel in 1699 produced no hiccup in the smooth running of the family interest, his grandson Thomas II succeeding both to the Briton Ferry estate and to his grandfather’s place as knight of the shire. The next election, however, produced some ill-feeling between Briton Ferry and Margam, as Thomas Mansel I, who had resigned his borough seat in 1698 to go travelling on the Continent, had now returned home and entertained ambitions of the county seat. His namesake, embarrassed by the contretemps, offered to withdraw. Apologizing for what seemed to be his presumption, he justified himself by saying that he had seen ‘a great many letters’ to ‘the old gentleman’ (Sir Edward) in which Thomas of Margam had declined thoughts of standing. That he was not held to his offer of resigning in favour of his capricious kinsman may be ascribed to the wiser counsels of Sir Edward, who may also deserve credit for the fact that the Mansel alliance was re-cemented in the December 1701 election with Thomas II replacing Sir Edward Stradling, 5th Bt.*, Thomas I’s brother-in-law, as the borough Member. In time the sacrifice of Stradling would have unfortunate repercussions, but in December 1701 and in 1702 Mansel unity, and dominance, was once more assured. Both Thomases were Tory in their political preferences, and they joined in presenting the county’s address of condolence on the death of King William and congratulation on the accession of Queen Anne, in which the Queen’s ‘entirely English’ heart received notice, as did hopes for the effect of her ‘economy’ in remedying the nation’s ills. Two years later another address, this time on the military achievements of the reign, showed its party colours in lauding Sir George Rooke* as well as the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†).1

The 1705 general election witnessed the first serious challenge to Mansel rule in Glamorgan. It came in the Boroughs constituency where Sir Humphrey Mackworth* proposed to exploit his influence to oppose Thomas Mansel II. He canvassed but did not go to a poll. There was no sign of a contest in the county, but the Mansels were aware that the threat posed by Mackworth had a wider significance: ‘’tis plain’, wrote one of their correspondents, ‘Sir Humphrey Mackworth aims at nothing less than universal monarchy in Glamorganshire’. The rivalry between Mackworth and the Mansels was as much economic as political. Sir Humphrey had since the mid-1690s been developing his collieries at Neath, in conjunction with lead and silver manufacture, and had been drawing trade away from both the Margam and Briton Ferry mines. This competition was to explode in the summer and autumn of 1705 in a series of bitter disputes between the respective owners. It had also been clear for some time that Mackworth intended to use his economic interests to advance his political ambitions: he had, for example, showered country gentlemen with free coal, observing in 1699 that ‘it was by these presents . . . B[ussy] M[ansel] governed Glamorganshire’. Nor did Mackworth constitute the only cloud on the Mansels’ horizon. The Beaufort interest was reviving, under the 2nd Duke, who reached his majority in 1705: like Mackworth, Beaufort represented economic as well as political competition, in the shape of his collieries at Swansea, and although less formidable in the first instance, was ultimately to present a more considerable problem. Lastly there were also signs of a recrudescence in the long dormant Pembroke interest, acquired in 1702 by Lord Windsor (Thomas*), through marriage with the Pembroke heiress. Mackworth was in due course able to woo both Beaufort and Windsor into an anti-Mansel coalition that drew strength from the restiveness some Glamorgan gentlemen were beginning to experience under the Mansels’ monopoly of the parliamentary representation, and also perhaps from resentment felt by some local Tories at Thomas Mansel I’s ‘betrayal’ of the High Church interest in the ministerial reshuffle of 1704. Broadly speaking, the pro-Mansel faction comprised moderate or Court Tories and Whigs; the opposition, Tories of a higher strain. It has been pointed out, however, that there were Whigs and Jacobites on both sides, and that the alignment of forces can better be understood in terms of factional attachments than party sympathies. Conflict broke out in 1706, the year that Thomas Mansel I succeeded his father at Margam, and his namesake Thomas II to control of the Briton Ferry estate. Instead of nominating his brother-in-law Stradling to the vacancy thus created in the Boroughs, he put up a Whig, Sir John Aubrey, 3rd Bt.* Not only was Stradling himself outraged, there was apparently a current of feeling in the county that he had been unfairly treated. By September 1706 Mansel had a fight on his hands. Robert Harley* was informed that

the gentlemen of the country proposed to him [Mansel] some terms of election, that they would agree him to be knight of the shire next Parliament, but would have Sir Edw[ard] Stradling for the borough, which he refusing Captain [Richard] Jenkins has declared he will oppose him for the county, and Sir Edw[ard] Stradling will stand for the borough; and they are now as busy on all sides making of interest and spending of money as if the election was next month. Messengers have been here [Bath] to the Duke of Beaufort for his interest, who told me he had promised them. Lord Leicester [Hon. John Sydney*] and Lord Windsor have done the same. I fear in my heart Mansel will be hard put to it.

That the political struggle did not culminate in a contest for the county in 1708 was due to a last-minute accommodation between Mansel and Beaufort, who agreed to issue a joint letter to ‘the gentlemen’, which ran as follows:

Having with very great concern taken into our consideration the manifold inconveniences and disorders that are like to issue at the next election for the county and town, and knowing what tumults and quarrels must necessarily arise from so great a concourse of people . . . and the great hazard of entailing disputes and animosities on several families of the gentlemen and others concerned in the said elections, we could heartily wish that such a temper and such expedients might be found as might prevent the inconveniences aforesaid and reconcile all differences and for our own parts we will very willingly submit all private considerations of our own to the peace and good neighbourhood of the county.
As we are under engagements on both sides to our friends from which we cannot with honour recede, we hope they will show the same temper and willingness to an accommodation that we do, and we earnestly recommend to the gentlemen in general to meet and interpose their good offices towards the perfecting so good a work, and whatever shall at such a meeting be agreed on we will entirely and without reserve acquiesce in.
We have the same zeal for the support of her Majesty and her government and the same concern for the preservation of our constitution as by law established both in Church and state, and as we agree in the same end [Mansel was now out of office] we hope we shall have no difference about the means of pursuing it.
We heartily wish this may have a good effect towards a reconciliation of all our friends but [if] it should not, we hope at least both elections will be carried on with that decency and good manners that the door may not be shut against a future good understanding and agreement.

Aside from the principals, who were slowest to respond, the body of Glamorgan gentry seem to have been readily persuaded or intimidated by the magnate entente into accepting ‘an accommodation of [their] differences’. The difficulty lay in convincing the two anti-Mansel candidates of the advisability of their withdrawal. A personal appeal from Beaufort to Jenkins was required to browbeat the captain into resigning, after Jenkins had declared that ‘the election was no man’s birthright, and that opposition of this nature was very common in other parts of the kingdom’. As for Stradling, although he was first considered the less resolute of the pair and at one point was reportedly ‘reconciled’ with Mansel, he broke out again nearer the election and almost succeeded in forcing a poll (see CARDIFF BOROUGHS, Glam.). The fruits of the agreement did not fully ripen until 1710, when the Tories were in perfect harmony, aided by their ‘St. Nicholas Club’, which kept Churchmen ‘very tight’ together; ‘the Whig interest’ was ‘very low’; and Mansel and Stradling, no longer at odds, were returned unopposed for county and boroughs respectively. To this end Mansel may have thought it wise to trim his sails to the prevailing High Toryism in the county which might otherwise have looked to Beaufort for leadership. His successor as knight in 1712 was a more extreme partisan, Robert Jones, and the Glamorgan address on the peace that year was uncompromising in its denunciation of the Whigs, ‘a set of men . . . of late sprung up amongst us, who, having no affection for their native country, by whose spoils they are become considerable, would sacrifice its honour and interest to foreigners’.2

Author: D. W. Hayton


Unless otherwise stated, this article is based on the accounts of Glamorgan elections by P. D. G. Thomas in Morgannwg, vi. 53–61 and Glam. Co. Hist. iv. 398–404.

  • 1. NLW, Penrice and Margam mss L355, Sir Charles Kemys, 3rd Bt., to Thomas Mansel I, 28 Oct. 1698; P. Jenkins, Making of a Ruling Class, 147; Welsh Hist. Rev. xii. 184–5; London Gazette, 16–20 Apr. 1702, 19–23 Oct. 1704.
  • 2. Jenkins, 147–52; W. Waller, The Mine-Adventure Laid Open . . . (1710), 81–82; HMC Portland, iv. 329; Beaufort mss at Badminton House, Beaufort and Mansel to the gent. of Glam. 1708, Beaufort to same, [1708], to Capt. Jenkins, [1708], [–] to Beaufort, [1708]; Penrice and Margam mss L522, William Philips to Sir Edward Mansel, 16 June 1705; L1443, Richard Carne to Sir Thomas Mansel, 15 Apr. [1708]; L678, Stradling to same, 17 May 1710; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 315; London Gazette, 29–31 July 1712.