BULKELEY, Richard, 4th Visct. Bulkeley of Cashel [I] (1682-1724), of Baron Hill, Anglesey

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



30 Nov. 1704 - 1715
1722 - 4 June 1724

Family and Education

b. 19 Sept. 1682, o. s. of Richard Bulkeley*, 3rd Visct. Bulkeley of Cashel [I], by his 1st w.  educ. Christ’s, Camb. 1698–1701, MA 1700.  m. 13 Feb. 1703 (with £8,000), Lady Bridget Bertie (d. 1753), da. of James, 1st Earl of Abingdon, sis. of Hon. Henry Bertie II*, Hon. James Bertie*, Hon. Robert Bertie* and Montagu Venables-Bertie, Lord Norreys*, 2s. 5da.  suc. fa. as 4th Visct. 9 Aug. 1704.1

Offices Held

Constable, Beaumaris Castle and capt. of Beaumaris May 1702–16; chancellor and chamberlain of Anglesey, Caern. and Merion. 1704–Oct. 1715; custos rot. Anglesey 1706–Dec. 1715; v.-adm. N. Wales 1707–10, 1711–15; constable, Caernarvon Castle, chief ranger, forest of Snowdon and steward of the manors of Bardsey monastery, Caern. 1713–Nov. 1714.2


Bulkeley’s father professed himself highly satisfied with his son’s progress when reluctantly ‘taking him from college’ in order to introduce him to some of his responsibilities as heir apparent to the most powerful landed interest in Anglesey and Caernarvonshire. While the 3rd Viscount was still alive, the young man was entrusted with one of the clutch of important local offices under the family’s control, that of constable of Beaumaris Castle, and in due course he succeeded to the rest: chancellor and chamberlain of Anglesey, Caernarvonshire and Merionethshire in 1704; custos of Anglesey in 1706; vice-admiral of North Wales a year later, and this despite his political antipathy to the then ministry. He had been returned unopposed as knight of the shire for Anglesey in his father’s place at a by-election in 1704 and again at the general election in 1705. At first he was taken for a moderate, being listed as having voted against, or having been absent from the division on the Tack on 28 Nov., though he was not actually returned until two days after this division. In consequence he was classed as a ‘Churchman’ rather than as ‘True Church’ in an analysis of the 1705 Parliament. But he voted on 25 Oct. 1705 against the Court candidate for Speaker, and was twice listed as a Tory in 1708.3

This sharpening partisanship may in part have been a reflection of heightening political tension in Anglesey, where the Bulkeley interest was coming under a sustained attack, and partisan and personal antagonisms were spilling over from elections into social and economic relations. A Whig candidate, Owen Meyrick†, had canvassed the county in 1705 but had not pressed his cause so far as a poll. In 1708, however, Meyrick stood against Bulkeley while another Whig, (Sir) Arthur Owen II, (3rd Bt.*), contested Beaumaris against the outgoing Member there, Bulkeley’s brother-in-law Henry Bertie. By this time a series of quarrels had broken out, fuelled by Bulkeley’s own arrogance and violence of temper, between his family and the leading supporters of the Whig interest in Anglesey, in particular Owen Hughes*, a Beaumaris attorney who had been the first to challenge the Bulkeley ascendancy in the borough constituency in 1698, and whose hand was still behind all manoeuvres against the Bulkeley family. When in 1706 Hughes’s application for a renewal of his lease of the Abermenai ferry was disputed by the descendants of the lessees of two rival ferries and by the heir of another who, it was alleged, had been defrauded by Hughes at the original granting of the lease nearly 30 years before, both sets of claimants could count on backing from Baron Hill. Indeed, Bulkeley took a special interest in the latter case, which was to continue for several years beyond Hughes’s death in 1708. The petition to the Treasury over the two rival ferries was decided against Hughes around the time of the 1708 election. Hughes and his friends had retaliated by promoting a complaint against Bulkeley for neglecting the maintenance of Beaumaris Castle and allegedly removing materials from the castle for his own use. This was heard by the Treasury in March 1708 and resulted in a mild reprimand for Bulkeley. At the same time Bulkeley suffered a partial defeat on a complaint he had in turn brought against another of his enemies, Serjeant John Hooke, the chief justice of the North Wales circuit. Long-standing enmity between the Whiggish Hooke and the dominant pro-Bulkeley faction in Beaumaris corporation had come to a head in 1706 when the new mayor, ‘a pragmatical man’ according to Hooke, refused the customary present of coals to the bench and was fined. Bulkeley brought this matter to the attention of the House on 28 Jan. 1708 and it was referred to the ‘grand committee for courts of justice’, meeting for the first time since the days of the Long Parliament. On the report, on 9 Mar., the House agreed only with a general resolution against the practice of judges demanding presents, and after a division threw out the specific censure of Hooke. These setbacks, and the Whig successes in the general election at large, though not in Anglesey itself, encouraged Bulkeley’s opponents to pursue their campaign. A petition over the Beaumaris election was rejected by the Commons in 1710, after a committee hearing in which Bulkeley had come to blows with the Whig petitioner, (Sir) Arthur Owen II; and the charges arising from Bulkeley’s governorship of Beaumaris Castle resurfaced, first in an attempt in April 1708 to secure a presentment against him by the Anglesey grand jury, frustrated amid scenes of considerable disorder, and then in 1709 in a printed ‘memorial’ to Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†), which widened the scope of the attack to take in accusations of corruption and bias on Bulkeley’s part in respect of his other offices, as chancellor, vice-admiral and custos. There were even allegations of misconduct in his capacity as a land tax commissioner, and complaints of the undue influence he exerted over Beaumaris corporation. The memorial, intended to furnish reasons for Bulkeley to be deprived of all these offices, seems to have won little or no serious consideration in ministerial circles, but it did spark off a bitter propaganda war in Anglesey. A display of loyalty to the Bulkeley standard at a county meeting in 1709 intimidated Sir Arthur Owen, a prime mover of the memorial, into an apology, and after the hotter Whigs had in response dispatched a letter to Godolphin reaffirming their previous statements, Bulkeley’s supporters organized a fuller meeting, which produced counter-resolutions. Their published account of the meeting made great play with Owen’s retraction and stigmatized Hooke as the ringleader on the Whig side. Further eruptions ensued, and the ramifications of the affair were to stretch beyond the 1710 election, though without producing any concrete result. Meanwhile, Bulkeley was behaving in the Commons as befitted a high Tory, voting, for example, against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. He was still a far from active Member, however, emulating his father in that regard, and on 17 Mar. 1710 was granted leave of absence on the grounds of ill-health.4

During the ministerial revolution of 1710 Robert Harley* appears to have considered appointing Bulkeley to government office in Ireland, but it appears that no such post was offered. The Tory landslide in the 1710 election, reflected in Anglesey in an election in which Whig opposition was easily shrugged off, left Bulkeley in a position to be revenged on his foes. Hooke, whom Bulkeley considered a malicious ‘fanatic’, and against whom he had for some time been planning retribution, was dismissed; and a new lease of the Abermenai ferry, once the preserve of Owen Hughes and his kinsmen, was granted to Bulkeley through Robert Harley’s* personal intervention. Bulkeley’s only disappointment was the failure of his libel suit against Lloyd Bodvel, Hughes’s nephew by marriage and political heir, and this despite counting once again on Harley’s good offices. Following his election in 1710 Bulkeley had been classed in the ‘Hanover list’ as a Tory, and shortly before the start of the 1710–11 session he attended a meeting of Tory Members at the Fountain, one report stating that he was to be ‘steward’ of the next such meeting. During this session Bulkeley took the part of a typical back-bench Tory, being listed as one of the ‘worthy patriots’ who exposed the mismanagements of the previous ministry, as one of the ‘Tory patriots’ who opposed the continuance of the war, and as a member of the October Club. He was absent from Parliament at the beginning of the 1711–12 session, thus forfeiting, according to one correspondent, his chance to be among Robert Harley’s dozen new peers, although it is unlikely that Harley had seriously considered promoting to the Upper House someone as headstrong and fiery. His Jacobite connexions, most notably via his great-aunt Lady Sophia Bulkeley, one of whose children had married the Duke of Berwick, and his attested Jacobite sentiments in later life, have led to his being cited as a ‘probable Jacobite’ in the years 1710–14. Certainly his enemies thought he was ‘for bringing in the Pretender’, and his private papers contain copies of Jacobite poems and pamphlets dating from 1714 and some unsigned correspondence from 1713 which is pro-Jacobite in tone. Whether as a Jacobite or simply as a ministerial Tory, he voted on 18 June 1713 in favour of the French commerce bill, and not long afterwards was rewarded with a grant of the office of constable of Caernarvon Castle, which he had been soliciting for at least nine months. In the Worsley list he was classed as a Tory.5

Despite appealing to an unnamed intermediary for help in retaining his local ‘honorary’ offices under the new dynasty, Bulkeley lost them all within two years of the Hanoverian succession and was even obliged to acquiesce in the return of a Whig knight of the shire for Anglesey in the 1715 election. His disgruntlement revealed itself in a letter of September 1715 in which he prized ‘retirement into the country’ as ‘the only happiness nowadays’. The recipient of a discreet Jacobite correspondence at the time of the Fifteen, he may have fostered Stuart loyalism in his own locality, for in 1717 informations were laid against several of his servants for drinking the Pretender’s health. His name was one of those sent to the Stuart court in 1721 as a likely sympathizer, and in the following year he and his friend Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, 3rd Bt.†, ‘audaciously burnt the King’s picture and the several pictures of all the royal family’. With Wynn’s help, he regained his parliamentary seat in 1722 but died just over two years later, at Bath, on 4 June 1724.6

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Christ’s Coll. Reg. ii. 144; UCNW, Baron Hill mss 185, 189.
  • 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. xvii. 232; xxvii. 325–7; xxix. 147, 777.
  • 3. Add. 22910, f. 517.
  • 4. Trans. Anglesey Antiq. Soc. (1930), p. 63; (1962), pp. 35–36, 37–44; H. R. Davies, The Conway and Menai Ferries (Univ. of Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law ser. viii), 179–83, 185; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1702–7, pp. 558–9; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxii. 3–4, 9–10; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 48/183, James Vernon I* to Duke of Shrewsbury, 29 Jan. 1707–8; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 343, 359–60; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 538; Add. 61607, ff. 199–203; Baron Hill mss 5529, memorial of Sir Arthur Owen and Bodvel, 21 Mar. 1708–9; 5533, A Memorial to the Lord Treasurer against Lord Bulkeley, 7 June 1709; 5534–5, Owen to Bulkeley, 26, 28 May 1709; 5538, affidavit of William Griffith, 27 Feb. 1710[-11]; 5541, draft memorial to Ld. Godolphin, [1709].
  • 5. Add. 70331, memo., [1710]; Trans. Anglesey Antiq. Soc. (1962), pp. 45–46; Baron Hill mss 5576, case of Ld. Bulkeley, July 1709; 5577, Bulkeley to Robert Price*, 7 July 1709; 5581, 5584, Price to Bulkeley, 1 Aug., 15 Nov. 1709; 6772, [–] to same, 23 Oct. 1712; 6779, ‘A letter by Mr Leslie to a Member of Parliament’, 23 Apr. 1714; 6777, speech given at Plombières by James Stuart, 29 Aug. 1714; 6778, [–] to [–], 3 Jan. 1714[-5]; Baron Hill mss 216; Davies, 185–7, 304; BL, Verney mss mic. 636/54, Ld. Fermanagh (John Verney*) to Ralph Verney†, 30 Nov. 1710; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxv. 80, 82, 156–7, 368; xxvii. 295; Ideology and Conspiracy ed. Cruickshanks, 168; G. V. Bennett, Tory Crisis in Church and State, 303–4; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 90; Szechi thesis, 264; Welsh Hist. Rev. i. 285–6.
  • 6. Baron Hill mss 219; Trans. Anglesey Antiq. Soc. (1930), p. 64; (1962), pp. 46–48; A. Llwyd, Hist. Mona, 158; Welsh Hist. Rev. i. 286, 288–9; Ideology and Conspiracy, 84; P. S. Fritz, Ministers and Jacobitism 1715–45, p. 154; The Gen. n.s. vi. 104.