BRERETON, Edward (c.1642-1725), of Borras, Denb.

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



1689 - 1705

Family and Education

b. c.1642, 2nd s. of Edward Brereton (d.v.p. 1st s. of Owen Brereton of Borras) by Jane, da. of John Griffith† of Cefnamwlch, Lleyn, Caern.  educ. Oriel, Oxf. matric. 1659; L. Inn 1660.  m. (1) lic. 22 Nov. 1664 (with £3,500), Elizabeth (d. 1680), da. of Sir Thomas Lake† of Canons Park, Edgware, Mdx., 5s. (4 d.v.p.); (2) lic. 23 Dec. 1703, Elizabeth (d. aft. 1716), da. of Sir Hugh Owen, 2nd Bt.*, wid. of Lewis Anwyl, of Parc, Llanfrothan, Merion., s.psuc. bro. 1657.1

Offices Held

Sheriff, Denb. 1675–6, 1677–8; freeman, Ruthin 1679, alderman 1692–3; mayor, Holt 1681–2, 1710–11; common councilman, Denbigh 1693–d., alderman 1696–7.2

Commr. prizes June 1702–May 1706, salt May 1706–Dec. 1714.3


Although he possessed some influence of his own, deriving from his position as a country gentleman and his personal involvement in the municiple affairs of all three of the corporations which made up the Denbigh Boroughs constituency, Brereton owed his seat chiefly to the recommendation of Sir Richard Myddelton, 3rd Bt.* A decade earlier, in 1679, he had worked against the Myddelton interest in the county, but the 3rd baronet's politics were much closer to his own, and, until taking government office in 1702, he seems to have acted as a loyal dependent of Sir Richard, both nationally and locally. As befitted the stepson of an Anglican bishop (Humphrey Lloyd of Bangor), he was a Tory, voting in the Convention against the transfer of the crown, and he was listed as such in March 1690 by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†), who also marked him as a supporter of the Court. He served twice as teller in May 1690: on the 15th, on the government side, in favour of passing the forfeited estates bill; and the following day, with another Tory, on an amendment to the bill vesting the hereditary revenue of the crown in William and Mary. In December 1690 Carmarthen included him in a list of supporters, probably drawn up in connexion with a projected attack on the Marquess in Parliament, but in April 1691 Robert Harley* classed Brereton as a supporter of the Country party. He was a teller again on 6 Mar. 1693, against a bill introduced on behalf of Lord Pembroke (Thomas Herbert†) to set aside amendments by Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys to the records of a fine and two recoveries in Wales: a party cause for Welsh Tories. Four more tellerships followed in the next session: on the Tory side in the Clitheroe and Worcester election cases (2, 7 Feb. 1694); against an amendment to the London orphans bill intended to safeguard the rights of one Samuel Hutchinson (8 Mar.); and against committing to custody Hugh Fortescue for inattendance at the House (14 Mar.). In the following session he was listed among Henry Guy's* ‘friends’, in connexion with the Commons' attack upon Guy. With Myddelton ‘in the country’, Brereton presented the original petition from the inhabitants of the lordship of Denbigh in April 1695, requesting a hearing at the Treasury against the proposed grants to Lord Portland. He later spoke on the petitioners' behalf to the Treasury board, seconding the objections raised by Sir William Williams, 1st Bt.*, though by all acounts not very effectively, and in January 1696 lent his weight to the petition to the Commons on the same subject. Forecast as likely to oppose the Court in the divisions of 31 Jan. 1696 on the council of trade, he followed Myddelton in refusing the Association and suffered the same retribution as his patron in being removed from the commission of the peace. He subsequently voted against fixing the price of guineas and, on 25 Nov. 1696, against the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. Meanwhile in March and April 1696 he had managed through the Commons a bill to abolish the testamentary ‘custom of Wales’. Given leave of absence for eight days on 5 Apr. 1698, he was back in the House by 26 May, when he told against an amendment to a resolution of the committee of ways and means concerning the establishment of the New East India Company, acting to protect the trading privileges of the Old Company. Further tellerships on the Old Company's behalf, against the second reading of the East India bill on 10 June 1698, against an amendment on 18 June to empower the Treasury to accept bank bills, and in favour of an additional clause on the 23rd, to retain parliamentary supervision of the trade, demonstrate a particular commitment over this issue.4

Re-elected in 1698 after a fierce contest with the son of the Country Whig Sir Robert Cotton, 1st Bt.*, Brereton was classified as a member of the Country party in a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments, and was included upon a forecast of likely opponents of a standing army. In the following three years Brereton closely supported Myddelton in the struggle with Cotton for control of Denigh Boroughs, bringing a successful lawsuit against the pro-Cotton mayor of Holt over the illegal swearing of freemen there, and assisting Myddelton in a counter-active admission of freemen in Denbigh corporation, a controversial tactic which provoked a riot among the townsmen. In the Commons he was a teller once more on 1 Apr. 1700, against receiving a clause on behalf of a Mrs Wandesford as a rider to the land tax and Irish forfeitures resumption bill. The next general election saw another rancorous contest in Denbigh Boroughs, with Brereton winning a decisive victory. Brereton's support for the remodelled ministry was evident from his inclusion in February 1701 in a forecast of those likely to support the Court in the supply committee's resolution to continue the ‘Great Mortgage’. On 11 Apr. Brereton was appointed to draft a bill, initiated following a petition from the brine salt producers of Cheshire, to prevent frauds and abuses in the salt duties. It was, however, the feud between the Myddelton and Cotton interests, fuelled by Brereton's attempt to succeed Cotton as steward of the lordship of Denbigh, which led to Brereton's most notable contribution to this Parliament. On 1 June 1701, in a debate on the land tax, Brereton queried the names of the new commissioners for Denbighshire: these, he said, were men mostly unknown to him, except for one who was Sir Robert Cotton's ‘servant’. Cotton replied that

they were men of account, and recommended to him by men of estates. Sir Robert was very angry, and when the House rose he struck Brereton over the head with a little cane just out of Westminster Hall. Brereton returned the compliment with two hard blows over the face with the head of his great cane.

Brereton was not blacklisted before the second election of 1701 as one who had opposed the preparations for war, but he was listed by Harley with the Tories in the 1701-2 Parliament, and he was listed as having favoured the motion of 26 Feb. 1702 vindicating the Commons' proceedings of the previous Parliament in the impeachments of the four Whig lords.5

Appointment in June 1702 as a commissioner of prizes at a salary of £500 a year, decried as it was by one Whig satirist who recalled Brereton's Country party record, did not at first make much difference to his voting in the Commons. He was a teller, for the last time, on 10 Nov. 1702, against taking into custody the under-sheriff of Merioneth for failure to return the election writ. In March 1704 Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) forecast Brereton as a probable supporter in the proceedings upon the Scotch plot. It was over the Tack, in 1704, that the break came. Forecast in late October as a likely opponent, he was included upon Harley's lobbying list and Lord Godolphin (Sidney†) deputed William Lowndes* to approach all commissioners for prizes, including Brereton, upon this matter. He was subsequently included upon a list, specifically excluding ‘sneakers’, of those who were either absent from the crucial division of 28 Nov., or had voted against this measure. Little is known of his subsequent parliamentary activity, other than that in 1705 he was listed as a placeman, but his failure to support the Tack cost him dear in Denbighshire. His occupancy of office had already raised doubts in the minds of locals as to his qualification to continue as a parliamentary candidate. Now he was informed that ‘the temper and inclinations of the country gentlemen are not so favourable to me’. Such was the general feeling that he was obliged to abandon his campaign for re-election, though not before he had attempted to justify his conduct to Myddelton. ‘I hear that some persons have aspersed me’, he wrote,

and reported that I am turned a Whig. I cannot guess of the reason of it, unless it be that I did not stay in the House to vote for the tacking of the bill against occasional conformity to the land tax bill. I considered that the Lords had formerly published their resolution not to pass any bill that had another tacked to it, and that the former misunderstandings between both Houses were rather increased than diminished, and that it would be a dangerous experiment to try the success of that proposed tack, lest the miscarriage of the land tax bill might bring difficulties upon the nation; and delay the necessary supplies to the fleet and army.

But I must not forget to acquaint you, that I was heartily zealous for the bill itself against occasional conformity; and when the motion was made for leave to bring it into the House ’twas vigorously opposed, and I divided for it; and afterwards I appeared for the bill in all the steps which it made in the House (except in the tacking part) and now you have the history of my fanaticism; and I had rather be called a pickpocket than a Whig.6

Brereton’s change of post in 1706 (which had been rumoured as early as the preceding October) may have been undertaken with an eye to qualifying himself for election again, since commissioners of prizes had been specifically excluded from Parliament under the terms of the recently passed Regency Act, and the commissionership of salt to which he was transferred carried exactly the same salary. However, although he was not on bad terms with Myddelton, joining his former patron in November 1705 in pressing to have a ‘quiet, peaceable’ non-juror excused from serving as sheriff of Denbigh, he does not appear to have been considered ever again as a parliamentary candidate. For the remainder of Anne’s reign he presented a picture of a dutiful administrator, even becoming a voting stockholder in the Bank of England by 1710. But he was still dismissed on the Hanoverian succession.7

Brereton died on 10 Jan. 1725, aged 82, and was buried at Gresford, Denbighshire. His will noted purchases of lands in his home county, and the ownership of a house in St. James’s, Westminster. It also advised the only surviving son to marry off his children to persons of good family and sober education hailing from within 50 miles of ‘his mansion house of Borras’.8

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. J. E. Griffith, Peds. Anglesey and Caern. Fams. 7, 58, 241; London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 177; A. N. Palmer, Country Townships of Wrexham, 164.
  • 2. Trans. Denb. Hist. Soc. x. 37, 47; A. N. Palmer, Town of Holt, 149; J. Williams, Recs. of Denbigh, 142–3, 146.
  • 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. xvii. 250; xx. 647, 650; xxix. 194.
  • 4. Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 582, 1375; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 979; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 123.
  • 5. CJ, xiii. 353-4; A. L. Cust, Chrons. of Erthig, i. 59-61; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 533; Cocks Diary, 158.
  • 6. Cal. Treas. Bks. xvii. 250; Poems on Affairs of State ed. Ellis, vi. 495–6; Bull. IHR, xli. 182; NLW, Chirk Castle mss E4204, Brereton to Myddelton, 3 Mar. 1704[-5]; E1010, 1000, 1012, Robert Wynne to same, 13, 21, 14 Mar. 1705; E6066, Myddelton to Wynne, 29 Mar. 1705; E6064, same to Sir William Williams, 2nd Bt.*, 7 Apr. 1705; E6065, Williams to Myddelton, 13 Apr. 1705; E979, William Robinson* to same, [1705].
  • 7. Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletter 30 Oct. 1705; HMC Portland, iv. 350; viii. 198; Egerton 3359 (unfol.).
  • 8. Palmer, Country Townships of Wrexham, 162, 165.