Montgomery 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

Number of voters:

about 100


(1801): 972


 James Cockburn21
17 June 1818HENRY CLIVE 

Main Article

Since 1728 Montgomery had been in the pocket of the Herbert family, earls of Powis, and attempts to oppose them were few and far between. According to a lawyer of local origin, Samuel Humphreys, writing conspiratorially to his brother, 15 Dec. 1788: ‘an opposition to Lord Powis in the borough would succeed if a proper person contended against him and if the persons concerned in it would be regulated by discretion and secrecy’. He added that ‘Mr Goodrich will stand, and any objection to him as a stranger may be answered that he has a good property in Shropshire and therefore [is] more eligible than the present Member’.1 Nothing came of this and George, 5th Earl of Powis (d.s.p. 1801) continued to return his reliable protégé Whitshed Keene. On the earl’s death there was however an interregnum before his brother-in-law, Edward Lord Clive, who was absent in India, succeeded him to the title in 1804: this provided an opportunity for testing the Powis interest, which was again embraced by the Humphreys brothers.

George Devereux, 13th Viscount Hereford (d.1804), a Whig of some standing in the neighbourhood thanks to his Nantcribba estate, put up his son-in-law James Cockburn to ‘establish the independence of the borough’.2 Tom Grenville wrote about it to Lord Grenville, 19 June 1802:

[Sir] Watkin [Williams Wynn] has a serious embarrassment before him in Montgomeryshire. Mr Cockburn has canvassed him for this interest in Montgomery where, under Lord Hereford’s protection, he is going to oppose Lord Clive. Lord Hereford is the old head and leader of Watkin’s friends in the county, and to offend him may be a real difficulty; on the other hand, to assist him would be an open act of hostility to the Powis interest. I am therefore disposed to recommend to Watkin to endeavour to pacify Lord Hereford by the assurance of his taking no part against him, and to satisfy Lady Clive by assuring her that he had directed his agent to take no part in the borough election. This is not good, but I see nothing better to be done. I am, however, much afraid that the Welsh fever of Watkin’s friends will hardly make even this course acceptable to his old connections with Lord Hereford.3

Lt.-Col. Cockburn’s heavy defeat testified to the strength of the Powis interest and nothing could be made of allegations put about both in 1802 and 1812 that Keene paid £3,000 or £2,000 for his seat.4 Control was rendered invincible by the expeditious securing of election writs and clinched by the marriage of Lady Harriet Clive to Sir Watkin Williams Wynn in 1817. In the following year, Keene retired in favour of a member of the Clive family, perhaps because of a threat of opposition if he stood again, but more probably because Henry Clive, Powis’s cousin, had given up his seat to Powis’s son and was being compensated with this one. There was indeed an anonymous canvass in opposition to Clive, but it was scotched by the admission of extra burgesses on the Powis interest.5

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Samuel to Charles Gardiner Humphreys of Montgomery, cited in Mont. Colls. lviii. 158.
  • 2. His son Henry was made a burgess in 1802, Mont. Colls. xlix. 196; NLW, Powis Castle mss 5247, Glansevern mss 4355.
  • 3. HMC Fortescue, vii. 98.
  • 4. B. Ellis, Mont. Colls. lxiii. 74, citing Powis Castle mss 10152, 10176, 10474.
  • 5. Ibid; Salopian Jnl. 7 Jan. 1818.