Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

less than 2,000


6 June 1796SIR CHARLES MORGAN, (Bt.) (formerly GOULD) 
12 July 1802SIR CHARLES MORGAN, (Bt.) 
11 Nov. 1806THOMAS WOOD 
14 May 1807THOMAS WOOD 
19 Oct. 1812THOMAS WOOD 
16 July 1818THOMAS WOOD839
 Charles Morgan Robinson Morgan802

Main Article

County politics were dominated by three estates, Dderw, Gwernyfed and the Priory, all in the possession of absentee families who had inherited them through the female line. Dderw belonged to the Morgans of Tredegar, whose chief interests were in Monmouthshire, and on the death of John Morgan* in 1792 was inherited by his brother-in-law Sir Charles Gould, who took the name of Morgan. Gwernyfed had passed from the Williams family to the Wood family of Littleton in Middlesex, connected by marriage with Lord Camden, who in turn had inherited the Priory from his mother, the heiress of the Jeffreys family. The Duke of Beaufort also had some interest, but his main concerns were in Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire; and he had an electoral compact with the Morgans which pledged him to support them in Breconshire.1

After the contest of 1754, the Morgans held Breconshire unopposed until 1806, when Sir Charles Morgan retired from Parliament. His son and heir, Charles, was sitting Member for Monmouthshire and there was no other member of the family available (unless Sir Robert Salusbury were to transfer from the borough seat) to aspire to Breconshire. Thus the Morgan hold on the county was interrupted and Thomas Wood of Gwernyfed, supported by his uncle Lord Camden, offered himself as a candidate. Samuel Homfray, iron-master of Penydarren and son-in-law of Sir Charles Morgan, began a canvass but soon gave up, and Wood, seconded by Charles Morgan junior, was returned unopposed.2

At the general election of 1812 Wood was again returned without a contest, Sir Charles Morgan proposing him on the hustings. At that election Morgan’s eldest son, Charles Morgan Robinson Morgan, was returned for Brecon borough though under age, and his father let it be known that this was a preliminary step to offering his son for the county. Wood in his address, 28 Oct. 1812, made it clear that he would not give way to Morgan.3 Thus, well in advance of the general election of 1818, a contest for Breconshire was expected and canvassing was begun by the Morgans in 1815. On 4 Dec. 1815 Wood complained to his agent, the Brecon attorney John Jones, that Sir Charles Morgan and his son were behaving ‘as if those two great personages had the county at their feet’. He found that the Morgans were making sure of the Duke of Beaufort’s support, and whatever reservations the latter may have had he felt bound to honour his pact with them. On 19 Jan. 1816 Wood’s friends (headed by Walter Wilkins*) met and pledged themselves publicly to him and the independence of the county against an opposition they regarded as not founded on ‘free and constitutional principles’. Wood was gratified by the respectable attendance at this meeting and took credit for his absence from it because of parliamentary duty. He was informed that the Breconshire Whigs preferred him to Morgan, and his frank criticism of ministers over agricultural distress in the ensuing months was calculated to strengthen that preference. In November 1816 he addressed the ‘friends of the independence of the county’, complaining that Brecon was the only county where a premature canvass was proceeding and that the Morgans were poaching from Monmouthshire. The Cambrian newspaper censured the speech, but Wood’s temperate reply, approved by his friends, prevented mischievous effects. Henceforward he gave publicity to his parliamentary activities, contrasting them with the Morgans’ negligence, and on the strength of a canvass in February 1818 was confident of a majority, though the hundred of Crickhowell (Beaufort territory) was against him 3 to 1.4

The contest of 1818 lasted 15 days, Wood emerging victor by only 37 votes in a poll of 1,641. He did not fear a petition, alleging that Morgan had created questionable copyhold and life leases for election purposes.5 He held on to the county until 1847.

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. R. D. Rees, ‘Parl. Rep. S. Wales 1790-1830’ (Reading Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1962), i. 117.
  • 2. Camden mss C519/1, Wood to Camden, 17 June, reply 21 June; C261, Beaufort to Camden, 6 Aug.; Cambrian, 1 Nov. 1806.
  • 3. Cambrian, 3 Oct. 1812; NLW, Mayberry mss 64654.
  • 4. Brecknock Mus. Wood mss, election corresp. 1815-1818; Mayberry mss 6457, 6459, 6464-6, 6468, 6473-4, 6479, 6493, 6509-12, 6518, 6731, 6889, 6890.
  • 5. Cambrian, 18 July, 1 Aug. 1818; NLW, Tredegar mss 121/856; Mayberry mss 6899.