Single Member Welsh County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

about 1,000


7 May 1754Sir Humphrey Howorth 
11 Mar. 1755Howell Gwynne vice Howorth, deceased 
11 Apr. 1761James Brydges, Marquess of Carnarvon 
7 Apr. 1768Chase Price 
25 Oct. 1774Chase Price439
 Thomas Johnes340
29 July 1777Thomas Johnes vice Price, deceased 
26 June 1780Thomas Johnes vice Thomas Johnes sen., deceased521
 Walter Wilkins365
19 Sept. 1780Thomas Johnes 
26 June 1781Johnes re-elected after appointment to office 
10 Apr. 1784Thomas Johnes 

Main Article

Useful, though not disinterested, accounts of the electoral state of Radnorshire were given by Chase Price to the Duke of Portland on 12 and 15 Sept. 1765 when urging him to buy the Maesllwch estate,1 and to the Duke of Grafton on 1 Oct. 1766 when urging him to assume as first lord of the Treasury direct control over the King’s manors in Radnorshire:2 the two, the estate and the stewardship of the manors, ‘grafted one upon t’other’ would determine elections both in the county and the borough.

‘The political power of the estate’, wrote Price, lay in the large number of cottagers ‘who from the necessity and distress of their late landlord Sir Humphrey Howorth became freeholders’, but even so remained ‘subject to the command of their lord’; and were assessed by the commissioners of the land tax, friendly to Howorth, ‘to give them a right of voting and a freehold for ever in the county’. And about the stewardship of the King’s manors, he wrote: ‘The waste lands and manors of the Crown in Radnorshire comprehend two-thirds of the whole county; to this weighty command over a multitude of small tenants and cottagers, the King’s steward joins the exclusive civil jurisdiction’; besides administering justice, he has it in his power to ‘afford protection and assistance to the poor’.

In 1754 the Maesllwch estate was owned by Sir Humphrey Howorth, who had represented Radnorshire since 1722, and the stewardship of the King’s manors was held by Henry Lewis, the brother of Howorth’s friend Thomas Lewis, M.P. for New Radnor: thus the two interests were in harmony. There were no territorial magnates resident in Radnorshire. But the Duke of Chandos, the Earl of Oxford, and Viscount Bateman, all from Herefordshire, and the Earl of Powis from Shropshire, none of whom owned extensive estates in Radnorshire, tried to establish themselves in the county, where, wrote Price, ‘the ignorance of the natives and the poverty of their situation made them continually a prey to their neighbours’.

When Howorth died in 1755 he left Maesllwch encumbered with a mortgage of £26,000, and Radnorshire became the scene of conflict between a host of lesser interests. Sir Richard Chase, uncle of Chase Price, declared his candidature, supported by Lord Oxford and the Tories; while the Whig leaders, Lord Powis, Lord Bateman, and George Rice, put up Howell Gwynne. Thomas Johnes sen. wrote to Newcastle on 14 Feb. 1755:3‘I am afraid if the Tories should succeed this time the Whigs would not be able to turn them out again, as the Whigs have for many years been upon the decline. ... The Herefordshire Tories are very violent against Gwynne.’ But when the Howorth interest, now managed by the Rev. Henry Howorth, was thrown into Gwynne’s scale, Chase gave up the contest.

A dispute now arose over the vacant lord lieutenancy of Radnorshire, which was claimed by Lord Carnarvon, but given to Gwynne. Carnarvon promptly joined the Leicester House group, and on the accession of George III set out to deprive Gwynne both of his seat for Radnorshire and of the lord lieutenancy.4 On 21 Nov. 1760 he informed Newcastle that he had the King’s permission to stand for Radnorshire at the forthcoming general election, and asked for his ‘countenance and assistance’. Newcastle shuffled: declared that he understood the county was engaged to Gwynne, but promised to speak to his Radnorshire friends. Carnarvon, supported by Oxford, pushed by Chase Price, and having won over the Howorth interest, persisted; demanded that Newcastle should secure for him the support of Thomas Lewis and his brother, steward of the King’s manors; or else threatened to raise an opposition against Lewis in the borough. Newcastle tried to settle matters to the satisfaction of both sides, and on 18 Dec. 1760 a compromise proposal was drawn up at Newcastle House by Lord Powis, Gwynne and Thomas Lewis: Carnarvon was to come in for Radnorshire and undertake not to oppose Lewis in the boroughs; Gwynne was to be returned elsewhere without expense; Gwynne was to retain the lord lieutenancy for five years and Lewis the stewardship for the same period. But by 1766 Carnarvon had renounced his pretensions in Radnorshire: Lord Oxford succeeded Gwynne as lord lieutenant, and in 1768, on Henry Lewis’s death, he was also appointed to the stewardship.

At the general election of 1768 Gwynne, though supported by Powis, Oxford, and Bateman, was forced to decline the poll; and Chase Price was returned—no mean feat on his part and one which few could have emulated. In 1774 he retained the seat after a contest against Thomas Johnes, who succeeded on Price’s death in 1777. In June 1780 Thomas Johnes succeeded his father, defeating Walter Wilkins, a nabob who had purchased the Maesllwch estate and who represented the county from 1796 till his death in 1828.

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Portland mss.
  • 2. Chatham mss.
  • 3. Add. 32852, f. 460.
  • 4. Namier, Structure, 268-79.