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:

about 1,000


29 June 1790THOMAS JOHNES 
15 July 1802WALTER WILKINS578
 John Macnamara57

Main Article

Since 1780 Thomas Johnes, who had succeeded his father to the county seat, had held it without any further opposition from his principal rival, Walter Wilkins, the nabob purchaser of the Maesllwch estate. The fact that the lord lieutenant, Edward Harley, 4th Earl of Oxford, had fallen out with Wilkins reinforced Johnes’s position.1 The only incident in 1790 occurred because Johnes supported Oxford’s nominee for the boroughs seat against Edward Lewis, whose son Percival sought to harass Johnes with a petition (14 Dec. 1790) to the effect that the election should have been held at New Radnor and not at Presteigne. This petition was discharged, 21 Dec. 1792, after being frequently deferred.2 By then Oxford was dead and his young and uncommitted heir did nothing to discourage Walter Wilkins when he was nominated for the county, 14 May 1796, stressing his residence and his independence (Johnes lived in Cardiganshire and usually supported government).3 Johnes fell back on Cardiganshire rather than risk a contest and never intervened in Radnorshire again.

In 1802 Wilkins, who had by now secured the support of the 5th Earl of Oxford, was feebly challenged by John Macnamara of Langoed Castle, a former Pittite MP. He had married a Breconshire heiress, but had little property in Radnor. He knew his chances were slim, for after advertising in January 1802 and canvassing subsequently he withdrew in June. He then stood after all, having failed to persuade Thomas Frankland Lewis* of Harpton, who was then in England, to support him, or stand, with an offer of £2,000 for the purpose; or Percival Lewis to whom he offered £1,000. Macnamara was trounced, blaming his defeat on ‘Asiatic coercion and despotism’, and his petition alleging bribery and corruption failed. It rested on the fact that Wilkins, not expecting opposition, had issued tickets for a treat, which had to be hastily countermanded. Macnamara assured Frankland Lewis that if the election were declared void, he meant to stand again, and he attempted to persuade Lewis that in that case he was under an obligation to support him.4

There was no further opposition to Wilkins, though Percival Lewis was obliged to deny that he contemplated standing in 1807 in reply to an allegation of Sir Harford Jones of Boultibrook, a staunch Whig. In 1812 Thomas Frankland Lewis was prepared to stand, but was prevailed on by his friends not to, they being ‘the three leading persons in Radnorshire’ (probably Richard Price*, Powell Evans of Noyadd and Edward Rogers of Stanage). He came in elsewhere.5 Wilkins, whose ‘whole policy is to be completely independent and he won’t be indebted to any interest’, appeared to be safe for life: in Frankland Lewis’s view, he was forced upon the county by the length of his purse. Even so, he had to court his constituents in a county which from ‘the peculiar division of its property’ remained ‘contentious’:

notwithstanding there is no one who can so well support the expense of a contest as himself, still it is an event which he looks for every election—these circumstances undoubtedly add much to the political importance of the freeholders.6

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Based on D. R. Ll. Adams, ‘Parl. Rep. Rad. 1536-1832’ (Univ. Wales M.A. thesis, 1969).
  • 2. CJ, xlvi. 59, 333, 424; xlvii. 201, 503, 686, 725.
  • 3. Hereford Jnl. 18 May; Glocester Jnl. 23 June 1796.
  • 4. NLW, Harpton court mss C/493, 494, 623, 624; Hereford Jnl. 13, 20 Jan.; Salopian Jnl. 20 Jan.; Glocester Jnl. 21 June; The Times, 4 Aug. 1802; CJ, lviii. 477; R. H. Peckwell, Controverted Elections (1804), ii. 494.
  • 5. Hereford Jnl. 13 May 1807; Harpton court mss C/281, 615, 627.
  • 6. India Office Lib. mss Eur. E. 10, f. 6; NLW, Glansevern mss 2198.