Cardiff Boroughs


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

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen of Cardiff, Swansea, Llantrisant, Kenfig, Aberavon, Neath, Cowbridge and Loughor

Number of voters:

about 500 in 1790 rising to about 850 in 1820


(1801): Cardiff 1,870; Swansea 6,099; Llantrisant 1,715; Kenfig 249; Aberavon 275; Neath 2,502; Cowbridge 700; Loughor 365


19 June 1790HON. JOHN STUART 
4 Feb. 1794 HON. EVELYN JAMES STUART vice Stuart (Visct. Mountstuart), deceased 
7 Nov. 1814 LORD EVELYN JAMES STUART vice Stuart, deceased 
 Frederick Wood17

Main Article

The Cardiff Castle interest was predominant in this period, returning all the Members.1 It was transmitted by the marriage of the heiress of Viscount Windsor in 1766 to John Stuart, 4th Earl and 1st Marquess of Bute (d. 1814), and he returned three of his sons; the 2nd Marquess returned his brother in 1818. It was not all plain sailing: until the Bute heir came of age, the boroughs seat was held by Herbert Mackworth of the Gnoll, who controlled Neath and part of Aberavon, with the concurrence of Cardiff Castle. In 1789 it became clear that young John Stuart was going to be put up by his father, and Mackworth, who voted against government, pushed aside. He disliked this, as he and his father had held the seat since 1739; but the Stuarts created 111 new burgesses at Cardiff and 43 at Llantrisant to reinforce their position, and they gained the support of Thomas Mansel Talbot of Margam, who controlled Kenfig and had a strong interest at Aberavon, in exchange for the security of Thomas Wyndham as county Member; so Mackworth stood no chance. Had the Stuarts persisted in putting up a candidate against Wyndham in the county by-election of 1789, Talbot might have joined forces with Mackworth, who died in 1791.2 There was a token opposition in 1790 from Swansea, the most thriving of the boroughs, nominally controlled like Loughor by the Duke of Beaufort, an ally of the Stuarts. Alderman Gabriel Powell, who led the opposition to Beaufort, was nominated by a group of burgesses who agreed to pay his expenses, but he did not stand. Beaufort was allied to a conservative party in the corporation which contrived to keep the number of burgesses below 50 even in 1820 (when the population was 10,000) and to hinder the expansion of the port by restrictive practices.3

On the death of John Stuart in 1794, he was replaced unopposed by his brother Evelyn, who in 1802 made way for his younger brother William, resuming the seat on the latter’s death. Their father admitted privately in 1810 that the commercial interests of Cardiff were neglected. Neither brother attended with any regularity; both were on active service and Lord Evelyn suffered ill health after 1814. A burgess of Cardiff complained in May 1818: ‘The burgesses want no sons of lords to represent them: they want a man of business to do so, a man on the spot to communicate with and who will be at his post in the House of Commons when duty requires it’.4 An attempt was made to oppose Lord James Stuart, the young marquess’s brother, who offered himself in the place of his uncle in 1818. Lewis Weston Dillwyn of Penlle’rgaer, a respected businessman of impeccable background, was persuaded to offer in opposition. The Wood family of Cardiff, who had fallen out with the marquess’s agent, P.T. Walker, had encouraged Dillwyn to stand in November 1817, but he then declined. In May 1818 he was induced by the Swansea industrialist John Morris of Clasemont to change his mind; to his embarrassment, however, he found that his allies were supporters of John Edwards in the county election against Sir Christopher Cole, who was a friend of his. He at first tried to secure a compromise whereby William Booth Grey of Dyffryn, the third candidate for the county, should obtain the boroughs seat from Bute, he himself and Lord James Stuart standing down in Booth Grey’s favour. The latter, however, refused to participate. Dillwyn’s eventual excuse was that he was named sheriff of the county and found that he could only obtain a supersedeas by agreeing to support government: thereupon he retired, 15 June.5

Opposition was taken up by the Wood family of Cardiff, sons of Bute’s town clerk John Wood senior (d.1817), and one of them, Lt. Frederick Wood of the 11th Dragoons, went to the poll against Stuart. He and his brothers Nicholl and John tried to upset the charter whereby the Bute hold on the corporation of Cardiff was maintained and submitted scot and lot voters, but they were rejected and the issue was too local to endanger Stuart’s return. To an outside observer it looked like ‘a friendly opposition to avoid some other’.6 Stuart was dependent on the support of Talbot of Margam, despite the creation of fresh burgesses at Llantrisant, and when this was withdrawn at the next election he transferred to a safer seat.7 He was the first of his family to attend regularly in support of opposition and was able to make a comeback in 1826.

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Ll. B. John, ‘Parl. Rep. Glam. 1536-1832’ (Cardiff Univ. M.A. thesis, 1934); R. D. Rees, ‘Parl. Rep. S. Wales 1790-1830’ (Reading Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1962), i. 219.
  • 2. J. F. Matthews, Cardiff Recs. iv. 342; R.D. Till, ‘Proprietary politics in Glamorgan’, Morgannwg, xvi. 37; Glam. RO, B/LL, Llantrisant ct. leet adm. 1774-1833; Neath Recs., min. bk. of court baron, 18 June 1790; NLW 6576, ‘A friend to the independence of Glamorgan’ [R. Morris], ‘To the Rt. Hon. Lord C-d-ff, 15 June 1789.
  • 3. Swansea corpn. mss, Hall day min. bks. 17 June 1790; G. Roberts, Munic. Development of Swansea, 15; W.H. Jones, Port of Swansea, 57.
  • 4. Blair Adam mss, Bute to Adam, 29 Oct. 1810; Cambrian, 30 May 1818.
  • 5. NLW, Penlle’rgaer mss, Dillwyn diary, 12 Nov. 1817, 16 May, 26-29 May; Cambrian, 15 June 1818.
  • 6. Cardiff Pub. Lib. mss, Pol. affairs, Cardiff 1815-19; NLW mss 6522-8, 6575-6; Cymru Fu (1887), 348-59; The Late Elections (1818), 60.
  • 7. Cambrian, 27 Nov. 1819, 5, 12 Feb., 4 Mar. 1820.