Cardigan 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 Cardigan, Aberystwyth and Lampeter

Number of voters:

about 2,500


(1801): Cardigan 1,911; Aberystwyth 1,758; Lampeter 969


18 June 1790JOHN CAMPBELL I 
29 Oct. 1812HON. JOHN VAUGHAN II588
 Herbert Evans508
23 June 1818PRYSE PRYSE 

Main Article

The Cardigan boroughs had been keenly contested throughout the 18th century among the county families but there was no contest in this period until 1812. The control of Cardigan itself was in the hands of Wilmot Vaughan, Lord Lisburne*; Aberystwyth, ‘the Brighton of Wales’, which doubled its population in this period, was controlled by Edward Loveden Loveden* of Gogerddan, supported by his ‘perpetual mayor’ the Scots mines venturer, Job Sheldon; Lampeter was in the hands of a stranger, the attorney Albany Wallis (d.1800), whose heir Col. Lewis Bayly Wallis* sold it in 1807 to Richard Hart Davis*, who was the first of these proprietors to make effective use of his interest. The corporate existence of all three boroughs would have been in abeyance, owing to their relative insignificance, had it not been so closely geared to the exigencies of parliamentary elections, when burgesses were made en masse.1

The Member since 1780 had been John Campbell of Stackpole. While he had from his Pryse grandmother an estate at Glanfraed and his father had held the boroughs seat with the concurrence of his cousin Pryse of Gogerddan, Campbell was primarily indebted to Thomas Johnes* of Hafod for his seat, the latter having a fair amount of interest in Aberystwyth and being allied in county politics with Lisburne. A threat to Campbell, who was expected eventually to transfer his attentions to Pembrokeshire, was made by Edward Loveden Loveden, who in 1788 allied himself with Thomas Powell (d.1797) of Nanteos and thereby reinsured his supremacy at Aberystwyth, where he proceeded to create 1,100 new burgesses at Michaelmas 1788. Soon afterwards he canvassed the boroughs.2 Yet no opposition to Campbell materialized in 1790: Loveden had a seat for Abingdon, his heir Pryse was a minor and Thomas Powell did not come forward. Even in 1796, when Campbell received a peerage and Pryse Loveden was of age, the Gogerddan interest was not successfully exerted either in the county or the boroughs, because of young Loveden’s reluctance to stand and the strength of the pact between Lisburne and Johnes: Lisburne made way for Johnes in the county, for which he was proposed by John Campbell, and in return Lisburne’s son John Vaughan obtained the boroughs seat unopposed.3

Loveden, who chose to regard this arrangement as a bid to ‘monopolize’ the representation by Johnes, reported before the election of 1802 that according to his agent’s account ‘the electors of Cardigan are extremely dissatisfied with their present representative’,4 and that he was sure of the support of Nanteos, where the heir, William Edward Powell, was a minor: but his son Pryse Pryse (as he now was) still hung back. Although Vaughan was known to be hard up, as well as being a negligent Member, he met with no opposition. In 1806 John Lloyd of Dale Castle, Pembrokeshire and Mabws was rumoured to be standing against Vaughan, and Vaughan’s friends in that case wished to avert a contest by offering Lloyd, or even Vaughan, an opening at Carmarthen, but nothing came of it.5 In 1807 two opponents appeared, Adm. George Bowen of Llwyngwair, Pembrokeshire and Adm. Edward Hamilton (d.1851), whose marriage to a daughter of John Macnamara of Llangoed Castle, Breconshire, an inveterate Pittite, gave him Welsh connexions. Bowen, a friend of government, withdrew, and so eventually did Hamilton, who complained that John Vaughan would not let him examine the poll books. Hamilton was allegedly backed by ‘one man of family and fortune but possessing little or no popularity or interest, and two men who in very late years purchased some trifling property in the county of Cardigan, but who ... could not procure 20 votes between them’. Thus Vaughan obtained a walk-over victory.6

In 1812 he was more strongly challenged by a local contender, Maj. Herbert Evans of Highmead, who was supported by Richard Hart Davis, purchaser of Peterwell and patron of Lampeter; Loveden and his son Pryse of Gogerddan, who were encouraged to look to the county rather than the boroughs seat; David Lloyd of Alltyrodyn, and Herbert Lloyd of Carmarthen. Vaughan, though thought unable to afford a contest, was backed by Thomas Johnes of Hafod, Powell of Nanteos, Lloyd of Bronwydd and by Lewes of Llysnewydd. At Aberystwyth 177 burgesses were created on the Gogerddan interest to help Evans, but Vaughan secured the creation of many more at Cardigan and obtained the writ; the returning officer, being mayor of Cardigan, was also his friend. There was some acrimony, Evans being accused by Vaughan’s friends of refusing access to the burgess rolls of Aberystwyth and Lampeter. Evans was also blamed for relying on the support of Hart Davis, who was regarded as an interloper by the native gentry, and of that ‘diabolical character’ Herbert Lloyd of Carmarthen. Job Sheldon of Aberystwyth, a friend of the Gogerddan interest, wrote, 3 Oct. 1812:

In my opinion Col. Vaughan has ocationed the opposession by soporting Mr John’s [Thomas Johnes the county Member] in oposing the road over Ponterw[y]d bridge to Llanidloes—as Mr Pryse was for it.7

Vaughan retained his seat and although Evans and his friends petitioned, alleging partiality and corruption, with financial backing from Hart Davis and Gogerddan, the decision went against them. Hart Davis’s efforts to pack the election committee in his favour failed.8 He proceeded to secure a new charter for Lampeter in 1814 and made up a number of 600 burgesses to continue the fight. Vaughan, who was heavily in debt, was not expected to face another contest and, rather than do so, he retired in 1818. Hart Davis, who knew he stood no chance himself, pressed Evans of Highmead to stand again, but Evans declined in favour of Pryse of Gogerddan. Had Pryse wished to stand in 1812, Evans would probably have given way to him as the heir to the Gogerddan interest in the boroughs, and his readiness to do so now suggests an understanding between them, although there is evidence that Evans thought he had been sacrificed. Pryse had further strengthened his position by yielding the county seat on the vacancy of 1816 to Powell of Nanteos, a gesture sealed by the approval of the county, although Vaughan was neither present nor consulted.9 This compromise was confirmed in 1818. Incidentally, it was a political one, for Powell was a Tory and Pryse a Whig; the snub to Hart Davis, however, was not directed at him as a ministerialist, but as an intruder who attempted to upset the traditions of the county gentry in settling their competition for the representation among themselves. The upshot was that Hart Davis, in financial embarrassment, gave Peterwell and the patronage of Lampeter to his son-in-law John Scandrett Harford ( d.1866)10 and the latter became, in due course, an unsuccessful opponent of Pryse Pryse, who died Member for Cardigan in 1847.

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. D. Williams, Ceredigion, iii. 303; P. D. G. Thomas, ibid. v. 402; R.D. Rees, ‘Parl. Rep. S. Wales 1790-1830’ (Reading Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1962), i. 147.
  • 2. HMC Var. vi. 212; G. Eyre Evans, Aberystwyth and its Court Leet, 143; NLW, Trawsgoed deeds, iii. 62.
  • 3. JNLW, viii. 177; Carm. RO, 1 Cawdor 244, John Campbell diary, 21 May 1796.
  • 4. Carm. RO, Cwmgwili mss 504.
  • 5. 1 Cawdor 133, Jones to Cawdor [Oct. 1806].
  • 6. Glocester Jnl. 4 May; Hereford Jnl. 13 May; Cambrian, 27 June 1807.
  • 7. 1 Cawdor 133, Brigstocke to Cawdor, 2 Sept.; NLW, Nanteos mss, Hughes to Powell, 16, 23 Sept.; Highmead mss, Hart Davis to Evans, 21 Apr., 26 June, 21 July, 12 Aug., 30 Sept.; Powis Castle mss 4218, Sheldon to Wilding, 3 Oct.; Falcondale mss, iv. 47, resolution of Vaughan’s friends at Adpar, 21 Dec. 1812; iv. 48, another, 8 Jan. 1813.
  • 8. Cambrian, 17 Oct., 5, 19 Dec. 1812; Highmead mss, Hart Davis to Evans, 17 Oct. 1812, 18 Feb. 1813; CJ, lxviii. 58, 314, 316, 340.
  • 9. Highmead mss, Hart Davis to Evans, 27 Feb. 1817, 7 Feb. 1818; Nanteos mss, Vaughan to Powell, Fri. [?May 1816].
  • 10. DNB; Ceredigion, i. 134.