Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Estimated number qualified to vote:



14 Mar. 1820SIR ROBERT WILLIAMS, bt.
20 June 1826THOMAS JOHN WYNN, Bar. Newborough [I]

Main Article

Caernarvonshire was dominated by the mountains of Snowdonia (Eryri). The main industries were quarrying and mining for slate, lead and copper in the hills above the new town of Porthmadog, in the neighbourhoods of Bethesda, Dolwyddelan, Llanberis and Llanllechid, and at Llanrwst on the Denbighshire border, where the 1812 Enclosure Act had proved impossible to implement and had to be revised in 1821. For administrative purposes the county was divided into ten hundreds: Cymydmaen; Creuddyn; Dinllaen; Eifionydd; Gafflogion; Isaf; Is-Gwyrfai; Uwch-Gwyrfai; Nant Conwy and Uchaf. Elections were held at the assize and county town of Caernarvon, and the other towns were its contributories Criccieth, Conway (Conwy), Pwllheli and Nefyn, and the episcopal city of Bangor.2 Since 1774, the dominant interest in Caernarvonshire politics had been that of the 1st Baron Bulkeley of Baron Hill, Anglesey, the fourth largest landowner (19,465 acres), and from 1781 lord lieutenant. Bulkeley’s power depended upon keeping in check the aspirations of four other major landowners: the Wynns, Barons Newborough of Glynllifon (22,941 acres); the Mostyns of Gloddaeth (18,411 acres); the Owens of Brogyntyn as proprietors of Clennenau (4,000 acres); and John Griffith of Cefnamlwch, whose estates passed in 1794 to the heiresses of John Wynne of Voelas, Denbighshire (4,200 acres), one of whom had married Thomas Assheton Smith I* of Vaenol (Y Faenol) (29,111 acres). In 1784 Bulkeley had consolidated his strength by coming to an arrangement with the Pagets of Plas Newydd, Anglesey, concerning the representation of that county, Beaumaris, Caernarvonshire and Caernarvon Boroughs, where the Pagets had eclipsed the Wynns of Glynllifon. Under it Bulkeley’s half-brother Sir Robert Williams of the Friars, Anglesey, and Plas y Nant, Beddgelert, had been brought in for Caernarvonshire in 1790. In 1796 Williams had defeated the slave owner and developer of Port Penrhyn and its quarries Richard Pennant, Baron Penrhyn (13,406 acres), who had underestimated Bulkeley’s influence, and subsequently sat undisturbed, despite Bulkeley’s fears that ‘three brothers by marriage’ with large possessions in Caernarvonshire (Sir Thomas Mostyn*, Edward Price Lloyd* and Sir Robert Williames Vaughan*) would mount a challenge during the minority of his godson the 2nd Lord Newborough, 1807-23. John Price† of Rhiwlas, Assheton Smith and George Hay Dawkins Pennant* had found seats elsewhere and Caernarvonshire’s largest landowner, Peter Drummond Burrell† (31,604 acres), was an absentee who represented Boston before succeeding to the peerage as 2nd Baron Gwydir in 1820. The Parrys of Madryn (6,200 acres), who through John Parry of Wernfawr had represented the county under the auspices of Baron Hill, 1780-90, had yet to regain their prominence, and the Williams Wynns of Wynnstay, the largest landowners in North Wales, had recently sold some of their Caernarvonshire properties.3

In the absence of the sheriff Dawkins Pennant, Williams, a pro-reform Whig, chaired a county meeting to adopt addresses of condolence and congratulation to George IV, 6 Mar. 1820. He canvassed his constituents, many of whom disapproved of his ‘radicalism’, solely as a long-standing Member anxious to safeguard the constitution and promote public and private interests and was returned unopposed, proposed by Colonel William Williams of the Caernarvonshire militia and seconded by Robert Thomas of Carreg. Reiterating his views at the election dinner, he promised to vote against ‘unnecessary government expenditure’ which fell hard on the poor, to whom he gave £10 as he left the hall.4 After the election the county petitioned for government action to relieve agricultural distress, 9 May, and for an extension of the exemption from duties on coal and culm carried coastwise, 7 June 1820, for the expanding quarrying industry was increasingly dependent on steam power.5 A petition for warning lights for shipping on Bardsey Island was in preparation, and the county also met in 1820 to consider the proposed Conway suspension bridge. Assheton Smith’s campaign against Thomas Telford’s Menai bridge had failed; and the proprietor of Bangor Ferry was awarded £26,394 7s. 6d. to compensate for loss of trade.6 The North Wales Gazette called on the county to join Chester, Durham, Southampton and Worcester in declaring for the ‘king and constitution’, when the Lords considered the case against Queen Caroline. Its withdrawal was celebrated in Bangor and a county meeting presided over by the chairman of quarter sessions, Colonel Richard Edwards of Nanhoron, 11 Dec. 1820, addressed the king. The sheriff, William Ormsby Gore* of Porkington, Shropshire, the manager of his wife’s Brogyntyn interest, complained afterwards that he had been deliberately excluded from the proceedings despite his loyalist views and the use of his name on the notices.7

Assheton Smith, who had resigned his Andover seat in May 1821 in favour of his son Thomas Assheton Smith II*, presided at the coronation celebrations and presented Caernarvonshire’s address to George IV when he visited Plas Newydd in August. As foreman of the grand jury that month, he informed the judges, in response to ministerial inquiries into the courts of great sessions, that Caernarvonshire was ‘perfectly satisfied with the administration of justice ... and with the judicature as it now stands’.8 The county petitioned in February 1822 for further exemption from the coal duties, and in March Williams, who had spent most of the last two sessions in France, requested petitions ‘against the leather tax, and salt tax, anything for the relief of the agricultural interest’. He presented the county tanners’ petition against the leather tax, 29 Apr.9 Bulkeley realized that a contest for Caernarvonshire would put him to ‘great expense’ and be ‘of very doubtful issue’, and although he probably exaggerated the overt hostility provoked by Williams’s vote to relieve Catholic peers, 30 Apr. 1822, Assheton Smith and the bishop of Bangor were strongly against it, and the diocese petitioned accordingly.10 Bulkeley’s death, 3 June 1822, changed the balance of dynastic power, for the lieutenancy passed to Assheton Smith, leaving Williams with little more than his reputation to call on. His son Richard, Bulkeley’s heir, was not of age until September 1822 and could not inherit Baron Hill, which was placed in trust, until his 25th birthday, whereas Newborough would gain control of Glynllifon in April 1823. Dawkins Pennant, an executor of Bulkeley’s will and Glynllifon trustee, had recently courted controversy by thwarting rival interests and developing his own quarries on Llanllechid Common, crown estates to which he had been awarded rights through his contacts in the office of woods and forests. Gwydir, despite its size, remained the poorest of Caernarvonshire’s great estates.11

The future of the Welsh courts and judicature remained under review, and at the 1822 summer assizes the grand jury carried a memorial advocating improvements rather than abolition, and endorsed the principle of John Jones’s draft bill to this effect, which was enacted with amendments, and without its original provision to hear Anglesey assize business in Caernarvon, for the judges’ convenience, 24 June 1824.12 Despite the recent growth of Methodism, there is no record of Caernarvonshire congregations petitioning in condemnation of the indictment in Demerara of the Methodist missionary John Smith, although Williams voted thus, 11 June 1824. Such was the influence of the Pennants that Thomas Clarkson encountered little support when he brought the Anti-Slavery Society’s campaign to Caernarvonshire in August 1824. He commented: ‘The committee must not send papers to Bangor or Caernarvon which contain any defence of Smith. Poor Mr. [William] Wilberforce* is very unpopular here.13 Bangor traders, anxious to recover debts, petitioned for the county courts bill, 19 Apr. 1825, but the main issue was Catholic relief, against which petitions from numerous Caernarvonshire parishes were presented to the Commons that day, and which was opposed in others received by the Lords, 18 Apr. 14 Williams cast an unpopular paired vote for the measure, 10 May 1825.

Bubble companies had encouraged Members to invest in Caernarvonshire quarrying and mining enterprises and local legislation encountered greater parliamentary opposition, making it more expensive to carry. William Alexander Madocks’s* development of Tremadoc and Porth Madog harbour, opened in 1824, had been legislated for under the 1821 Traeth Mawr Act, to which Ormsby Gore and Newborough’s trustees had secured important amendments; and rival schemes for railways linking the port to the Ffestiniog and Diffwys quarries were dropped after the initial petitions for legislation were presented, 18 Feb. 1825. The Glynllifon agent George Bettiss, however, failed to prevent the enactment of the rival Caernarvon-Llanllyfni railway bill, 20 May 1825.15 Newborough’s visits to Glynllifon and coming of age had been celebrated countywide, and he joined the insolvent Madocks in promoting the Moelwyn-Porthmadog railway bill, which failed in April 1826.16 Madocks and the Glynllifon trustees had successfully promoted a new Porthdinllaen turnpike bill, which received royal assent, 9 June 1824, after being entrusted to Williams and Bulkeley’s Member for Beaumaris, Thomas Frankland Lewis.17 A dissolution was expected in the autumn of 1825, and to Williams’s surprise, Newborough, with whose agents he had been preparing legislation to enclose Morfa Dinas Dinlle, declared against him, 21 Sept. According to his advertisement:

Without pledging myself to any party, I shall feel disposed to favour the views of government in all measures which I may conscientiously believe are calculated to promote the welfare of the country. In regard to the great question which has so long arrested public attention, I beg explicitly to state that I am decidedly adverse to any further concessions being made to Roman Catholics. A report having gone abroad, that a pledge had been given by me not to oppose the sitting Member at the next election, I beg directly to assert that no such pledge ever proceeded from me, nor, I believe from anyone connected with me.18

Having been informed in conversation with Newborough’s general agent, William Glynne Griffith of Bodegroes, in June 1823, that Newborough would not be standing ‘at present’, Williams had assumed himself safe at the next election and he made much of Glynllifon’s ‘treachery’ in his correspondence with the 1st marquess of Anglesey and his Plas Newydd agents, who were obliged to support him. He wrote similarly to the North Wales Gazette, where he defended his parliamentary record and justified his pro-Catholic views, ‘the unfortunate opinion which has drawn upon me the displeasure of some of you’, which he attributed to the younger Pitt and Charles James Fox.19 Newborough had already secured the support of Edwards of Nanhoron and Assheton Smith and thereby the Tory ‘No Popery’ vote, and Williams, whose ‘whole reliance for support is founded upon personal esteem ... and has no claim upon public grounds to a seat in Parliament for Caernarvonshire’, well understood how a contest in the county could damage the Pagets in the Boroughs and Anglesey, and so asked the marquess to write to Assheton Smith on his behalf.20 Assheton Smith, however, remained hostile, and Anglesey advised Williams:

Your political line of conduct is very generally disapproved through the county. I would have you ascertain this unequivocally and act accordingly. If after impartial investigation you find it otherwise, why then fight away even upon your stumps, but if my view is the correct one, withdraw. I speak as I would practice ... The representative must act on all public questions upon his own judgement. If that coincides with the opinion of the electors then all is smooth and as it should be. But when the reverse is the case, then the Member is bound to withdraw.21

Apart from attending the Pwllheli and Caernarvon hunts, Williams did little overt canvassing. However, he was determined to fight on, sought advice from his brother-in-law William Lewis Hughes*, and tried to reassure Lord Anglesey that the Plas Newydd interest would not be seriously threatened, despite his son Lord Uxbridge’s shortcomings as Member for Anglesey, and a concerted show of strength by Glynllifon and Vaenol in Caernarvon, where the Plas Newydd interest could no longer match their combined strength.22 Anglesey suggested a compromise, whereby Williams would make way for Newborough during the course of the next Parliament, but it went unheeded.23 By October 1825, the threat of dissolution had lifted, relieving Anglesey of ‘the horrors of Welsh politics’.24

Newborough, as comptroller of the Caernarvon hunt, continued to canvass, deposited £8,000 with the bankers Williams Hughes and Company and retained attorneys. With Glynllifon, Vaenol, Sir David Erskine, Lleyn, the attorneys and the clergy behind him, he seemed certain of success, although Gwydir and Dawkins Pennant had yet to declare. Williams could rely on few except Love Parry Jones Parry† of Madryn and the reluctant Anglesey.25 Canvassing resumed in earnest in March 1826, and in April, at Williams’s behest, negotiations based on Anglesey’s compromise plan took place between William Hughes and Newborough’s former trustee and guardian, Sir Coutts Trotter. Williams thought they ‘failed solely from Newborough being under the thumb of Assheton Smith’.26 Lady Bulkeley’s death in February had given Williams’s son Sir Richard Bulkeley* control of Beaumaris and, although he knew it reduced his chances of winning over ‘the independent gentlemen’ of Caernarvonshire, Williams accepted his offer of a compensatory return. To Plas Newydd’s annoyance, he remained determined to go to Caernarvon on election day

to be proposed and seconded and then to inform my friends that it is quite impossible for me to spend money, but to show them that I do not mean to desert them or fly my colours I will offer the Baron Hill interest which is all that I am in possession of.27

Williams advertised his intention in the North Wales Gazette.28 However, by 15 June the strength of the committee gathered by Newborough at Glynllifon (his brother, Spencer Bulkeley Wynn, their tutor William Phillips, Assheton Smith’s nephew Charles Wynne Griffith Wynne* of Cefnamlwch, Edwards of Nanhoron and his son Lloyd, Nanney of Gwynfryn, and the Tory attorney and banker, Henry Rumsey Williams of Penrhos) dissuaded him from making the attempt and he stayed away from Caernarvon, 20 June.29 The beer and anti-Catholic doggerel which had dominated the popular campaign flowed freely at the election, to which over 200 of the ‘straw boots of Lleyn’ marched from Pwllheli to join the Glynllifon cavalcade at Bont Newydd for the last part of their journey. Newborough was proposed by Griffith Wynne of Cefnamlwch and seconded by Edwards of Nanhoron and returned unopposed. At the election dinner he promised to ‘oppose any measure, which, in my judgement, may appear calculated to endanger the venerable fabric of our constitution in church and state’, adding, ‘the interests of church and state, I consider to be inseparable - the safety of the one is liable to be affected by any encroachment on the security of the other’. When he paid tribute to Assheton Smith’s contribution to securing his return, it was Griffith Wynne who responded.30 Newborough spent at least £5,120 on entertainments, £392 19s. on Rumsey Williams’s services and a further £700 2s. 9d. on lesser attorneys.31 The ‘paper war’ persisted, and Williams now claimed that reports of Newborough’s strength had been exaggerated and that he had secured promises of support from Anglesey, Dawkins Pennant, Sir David Erskine, Richard Garnons of Plas Llanwnda, Gwydir, Madocks’ ally Sir Joseph Huddart of Brynkir, Jones Parry, Sir Edward Price Lloyd, Sir Thomas Mostyn and Sir Watkin Williams Wynn*.32

The election was a prelude to the introduction of further local legislation. Glynllifon’s quarries and farms were the intended beneficiaries of the Llanwnda and Llandwrog enclosure and Nantlle railway bills, for which Newborough presented petitions, 24 Nov. 1826.33 The Nantlle railway bill received royal assent, 21 Mar. 1827, having encountered little opposition, but William Hughes organized a strong parliamentary lobby against the enclosure bill and forced its withdrawal, 21 May 1827, despite counter-lobbying by Bettiss.34 The bill’s defeat was celebrated at a dinner chaired by Hughes at the North and South America Coffee House in London’s Threadneedle Street, 2 June. Meanwhile the plight of the Rhostryfan cottagers and other squatters threatened with eviction had encouraged unrest and attacks against livestock and farm property, particularly on the Glynllifon estate.35 Newborough, Hughes and Sir Thomas Mostyn had co-operated in April to implement changes in the Aberdaron Enclosure Act, and Lloyd Edwards of Nanhoron’s coming of age had been celebrated throughout Lleyn. However, conflicting gentry and local interests were again evident in the anti-Paget campaign spawned by the defeat in May of the Caernarvon improvement bill.36 Bishop Majendie’s name headed the requisition, and Garnons and Jones Parry proposed the petition against Catholic claims adopted at the county meeting, 3 Mar. 1827. Newborough, as expected, voted against relief, 6 Mar., and the Commons received the petition on the 21st.37 Petitioning for the repeal of the Test Acts was strongest among the Dissenters and Methodists in parishes where Newborough, a staunch Anglican, was the major landowner, but he divided with the duke of Wellington’s cabinet against the proposal, 26 Feb. 1828.38 Bethesda, where Dawkins Pennant was developing his quarries, petitioned the Commons against Catholic relief in 1828, when the decision of the Boroughs Member, Lord William Paget, to support the Catholic cause caused uproar and led to the withdrawal of Garnons and the lesser squires from Caernarvon politics.39 Newborough and Assheton Smith II (who had earlier objected to his father’s appointment on the grounds that it would preclude his own) failed to secure the lord lieutenancy following Assheton Smith’s death, 13 May, and it was conferred on Gwydir (shortly before he became Lord Willoughby d’Eresby).40 That Michaelmas Assheton Smith, who, with the other slate owners campaigned avidly for removal of the coastwise slate duties, capitalized on the local unpopularity of the Pagets in Caernarvon, delivered a vitriolic anti-Catholic speech and took his freedom with a view to controlling the future representation. Caernarvon Boroughs, however, could prove costly, and despite his large Hampshire and Caernarvonshire estate, Assheton Smith lacked ready capital, for his father had left the bulk of his fortune to his daughters.41 When in November 1828 Ormsby Gore was ‘anxious to establish a Brunswick Club in Caernarvonshire, the county being so well and publicly known to be attached warmly to the Protestant cause’, he succeeded only in Eifionydd and his stronghold of Criccieth, 31 Dec., whence he forwarded petitions to Lords Eldon and Kenyon for presentation.42 The Bangor Hunt, over which Henry Rumsey Williams and the Caernarvon radical Owen Owen Roberts presided, also served as an anti-Catholic club and directed petitions from Bangor and parishes in Creuddyn and the eastern hundreds to Assheton Smith, Dawkins Pennant and Willoughby for presentation.43 Newborough’s decision to follow the example of Peel and Wellington and accede to emancipation, while insisting on additional securities, was exploited by parties jealous of his power and displeased with his handling of local legislation. Such was the impact of inaccurate newspaper reports of his speeches, votes and the petitions he presented, 12, 17, 18 Feb. 1829 (which the Lords received, 9, 12, 20 Feb.), that Glynllifon ended its subscription to the North Wales Chronicle; and Newborough was called on to relinquish his seat for failing to represent his constituents’ views. His conduct was compared unfavourably with that of Uxbridge and Dawkins Pennant, who divided steadily against emancipation, and likened to that of the disgraced Lord William Paget. Yet Assheton Smith’s failure to vote on the issue attracted little comment.44 Caernarvonshire’s late anti-Catholic meeting, 11 Apr., was one of several in North Wales. It was called for by the lesser gentry and dominated by Ormsby Gore, whose speech proved popular with the ‘Caernarvonites’ present. Sir Robert Williams’s was a lone voice for emancipation, and he bravely countered Gore’s arguments and made much of the absence from the meeting of Newborough and his brother, Sir Robert Williames Vaughan, Edwards of Nanhoron and other declared opponents of emancipation. The resulting 4,000-signature address calling on the king to refuse to sanction the bill was forwarded to Eldon for presentation.45

Responding to the justice commissioners’ questionnaires in December 1828, Edwards of Nanhoron declared that it would be ‘a great boon to the Principality if the legislature will do away with the courts of great session and tack the Welsh counties to the English circuits ... notwithstanding what a few interested professional men may say to the contrary’. Similar sentiments were expressed (as quarter sessions chairman) by the recorder of Pwllheli David Williams.46 However, when the commissioners’ 1829 report recommended moving the assizes from Caernarvon to Bangor, and making it the assize town for Anglesey, Caernarvonshire, and the Denbighshire hundreds of Isdulas and Isaled when the judicature was abolished, the squires, attorneys and circuit judges united in opposition to the scheme and county meetings in November 1829 and April 1830 petitioned and memorialized the home office in protest.47 The home secretary Peel was informed on 4 May that this opposition was got up by Sir Robert Williams and his son, whose Beaumaris property would depreciate in value without the assizes, and that they had carried the petitions at Caernarvon ‘with the interest of the bankers, their relatives, under the impression that the assizes were to be removed a great distance ... and other improbable assertions’. A late government amendment left the existing assize structure virtually intact when the measure was rushed through in the Administration of Justice Act immediately before the dissolution, 23 July, and Caernarvon kept its assizes.48 The Chester Courant of 6 July 1830 had urged the electors of Wales to judge their Members by their votes on Catholic emancipation and the Welsh judicature at the ensuing election; but abolition of the slate duties and Glynllifon’s new proposals to enclose Morfa Dinas Dinlle were the important considerations in Caernarvonshire.49

The ailing Sir Robert Williams and his son, who was abroad, had distanced themselves from Caernarvonshire electoral politics, and Newborough, who they knew to be ‘on the worst of terms’ with Assheton Smith, was in the south of France, in search of a cure for consumption.50 This made the outcome of the election difficult to predict in both the county and the Boroughs, where Assheton Smith declined to nominate or ‘openly support’ the anti-Paget candidate, Ormsby Gore, who had a vested interest in the legislation for enclosing Dolbenmaen, Penmorfa and Llanfihangel-y-Pennant.51 The Plas Newydd agent John Sanderson was informed that ‘from all accounts it seems certain that an opposition to Lord Newborough is in preparation’, but rumours circulated that Dawkins Pennant and Assheton Smith had declined the county nomination and that the Vaenol-Glynllifon coalition endured.52 On 22 June, Garnons advised the likely Plas Newydd candidate Sir Charles Paget:

I have often heard it said that Mr. Smith is known to have urged his relation, Mr. Griffith Wynne of Cefnamlwch, to offer himself for the county, and that he constantly has declined to encounter an expense which might prove irksome to him with so numerous a family. If this be true, may not the threat now offered against your interest grow out of this circumstance? The same interests, which opposed Sir Robert Williams, remain still combined together, and their object now seems to be the removal of the present Member for Mr. Griffith Wynne, and to effect this I suspect it to be their intention to frighten Lord Newborough with their opposition to him, for it is now well known that he will not stand a contest, and thus displease him silently, under the specious appearance of a formidable coalition of borough interests in his favour, which the late menaces that have been displayed in some of the contributories may give a high colouring to, and thus destroy the only opposition that is likely to interfere with the success of their favourite candidate.53

On 7 July, Griffith Wynne, who was backed by Assheton Smith, Edwards of Nanhoron, Ormsby Gore and Rumsey Williams, announced that he would stand in the event of a vacancy and commenced canvassing. Ormsby Gore, who also declared his candidature for the Boroughs that day, relied on the same interests. Assheton Smith’s professed neutrality was not tested at a poll. On 21 July, alongside Griffith Wynne’s canvass address, the North Wales Chronicle printed a letter dated 10 July from Newborough in Marseilles, announcing his retirement through ill health.54 Assheton Smith, who was to offend the gentry by making it known in London that he was responsible for returning Ormsby Gore and Griffith Wynne, nominated the latter and chaired his election dinner. Love Parry Jones Parry of Madryn, a supporter of the Pagets in the Boroughs, seconded him.55 Griffith Wynn had paid £1,200 into Henry Rumsey Williams’s bank account by 11 Aug. 1830, and credited a similar sum to Williams and Hoar’s London bank via Easdail’s.56 According to his pocket book, his election cost him £1,570 10s. However, he endorsed the entry with the comment: ‘N.B. this sum Does not include the whole expense of the election’.57

Griffith Wynne was no orator and attended the House infrequently. Contentious local legislation, such as the Ffestiniog railway bill which Lord Palmerston* and his fellow directors of the rival Welsh Slate Copper and Lead Mining Company, local carriers and Madocks’s son John petitioned successfully against in April 1831, was deliberately entrusted to Ormsby Gore.58 Caernarvonshire congregations, including Baptists and Wesleyan Methodists from Pennant’s strongholds of Aber, Bangor and Llandegai, petitioned both Houses in November and December 1830 and April 1831 for the abolition of colonial slavery.59 The campaign to give the North Wales slate industry the same benefits as those of Lancashire and Westmorland by abolishing duties affecting the coastal trade was universally supported. Ormsby Gore took up the cause in and for the Boroughs, but Glynllifon dominated the Caernarvonshire campaign and although Griffith Wynne was present, it was Newborough, his health somewhat restored, who chaired the county meeting of 15 Jan. 1831, which petitioned both Houses for repeal. Glynllifon, Vaenol and Plas Newydd all claimed the credit for the successful lobbies in 1822, 1827 and 1830.60 Beyond Bangor and the boroughs, there was little enthusiasm for parliamentary reform and the county did not meet to petition. The Pagets, Mostyns, William Hughes and Sir Richard Bulkeley, who had come in for Beaumaris following his father’s death in December 1830, supported the Grey ministry’s bill, and Assheton Smith, Ormsby Gore and Griffith Wynne voted against it. Dawkins Pennant, previously an anti-reformer, stood to gain by the proposed enfranchisement of Bangor as a contributory of Caernarvon; the disfranchisement of Criccieth was expected to destroy the influence of Ormsby Gore; and the Pagets initially predicted that their own interest would be weakened by the extended franchise and that Glynllifon and Vaenol would be the beneficiaries.61 Assheton Smith chose to stand down at the dissolution precipitated by the bill’s defeat, 23 Apr., and directed his cousin Griffith Wynn to hurry back to Caernarvon, which he did that day at a cost of £100.62 The outcome of the bitter contest in the Boroughs, where the reformer Sir Charles Paget narrowly defeated Ormsby Gore and the conduct of Bettiss and Rumsey Williams belied the professed neutrality of Glynllifon and Vaenol, remained undecided when the county returned Griffith Wynne unopposed, sponsored by Lloyd Edwards of Nanhoron and Newborough. Griffith Wynne, who spent £654 11s. 3d. on his election and attending Parliament in 1831, acknowledged that reform was a divisive issue.63

The Lords received a petition from the householders and inhabitants of Bangor urging the reform bill’s passage, 25 June, while the freeholders, farmers, graziers and occupiers of land in Lleyn and Eifionydd (‘the strawboots’) petitioned the Commons for enfranchisement as £10 householders and against increasing Irish representation, 18 July 1831.64 The gentry, ship owners and merchants of Bangor and the coastal boroughs sought reductions in the duties on marine insurance, 13 Aug.; and both Houses received petitions from Bangor in September 1831 requesting urgent action to regulate steam shipping following the wrecking nearby of the Rothsay Castle.65 Griffith Wynne saw the Caernarvonshire roads bill, which improved east-west communications between Conway and Pwllheli, successfully through the Commons despite difficulties caused by the surveyor’s illness, and opposition from Bangor and its tradesmen, innkeepers and coach proprietors, who like others on the Holyhead road feared business losses, and the bill received royal assent, 23 May 1832. Supplementary legislation to finance improvements to the Ffestiniog railway was enacted the same day.66 Petitions for the abolition of capital punishment for non-violent crimes were received by the Lords, 20 June, and Commons, 2 July, from the inhabitants of Bangor.67 Griffith Wynne had divided sparingly against the reintroduced and revised reform bills, by which Criccieth was reprieved, but his views on the locally contentious issue in 1832 of jury composition, especially the inclusion of Welsh speaking jurors on the grand jury at the assizes, are unknown.68 Party men circulated reports of his conscientiousness and deteriorating health throughout the 1831 Parliament, and on 7 Aug. 1832 he announced that illness prevented him seeking re-election.

The Boundary Act added the Denbighshire portions of the hundred of Creuddyn and the townships of Eirias and Maenan to the Caernarvonshire constituency, and in November 1832 1,686 electors were registered in the designated polling places of Caernarvon, Conwy, Capel Currig and Pwllheli. Assheton Smith, who had announced his candidature in August, was returned unopposed as a Conservative at the general election in December 1832, proposed by Spencer Wynne, his brother’s successor the previous month as 3rd Baron Newborough, and Dawkins Pennant.69 The representation remained Conservative, uncontested and aristocratic until 1868, when the Liberal Thomas Love Duncombe Jones Parry defeated George Douglas Pennant. The constituency was contested a further three times, but remained exclusively Liberal until it was divided east-west in 1885.70

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. D.A. Wager, ‘Welsh Politics and Parl. Reform, 1780-1835’ (Univ. of Wales Ph.D. thesis, 1972), 367; N. Wales Gazette, 6 July 1826.
  • 2. Parl. Gazetteer of England and Wales (1844), i. 381-2.; LJ, xlviii. 889; liv. 571; CJ, lxxviii. 56, 232, 411.
  • 3. R.G. Thomas, ‘Politics in Anglesey and Caern. 1826-52’ (Univ. of Wales M.A. thesis, 1970), 2-12, 26-28; P.D.G. Thomas, ‘Parl. Rep. Caern. in 18th Cent.’ WHR, xix (1958), 42-53; xx (1959), 72-86; E.H. Douglas Pennant, ‘The Penrhyn Estate, 1760-1997: The Pennants and Douglas Pennants’, Trans. Caern. Hist. Soc. xlix (1998), 35-55; Devon RO, Earl Fortescue mss FC74a, Bulkeley to Fortescue, 12 Nov. 1807; HP Commons, 1754-90, i. 460; ii. 29; iii. 251, 252, 332; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 483-5; iii. 89, 90, 577, 625, 626, 669-71.
  • 4. N. Wales Gazette, 17, 24 Feb., 2, 9, 16 Mar., 20 Apr. 1820.
  • 5. Ibid. 6, 13 Apr., Shrewsbury Chron. 14, 28 Apr., Cambrian, 22 Apr., 13 May 1820; CJ, lxxv. 165, 286.
  • 6. Shrewsbury Chron. 21 Apr.; Cambrian, 20 May; N. Wales Gazette, 29 June, 20 July 1820; Gwynedd Archives, Caernarfon, Vaynol mss 2596.
  • 7. N. Wales Gazette, 9, 16, 30 Nov., 7, 14, 21 Dec.; Shrewsbury Chron. 22 Dec. 1820.
  • 8. UCNW, Porth yr Aur mss 12484, 12663D; N. Wales Gazette, 26 July, 2, 9 Aug., 6 Sept. 1821.
  • 9. Shrewsbury Chron. 1 Mar. 1822; NLW, Nanhoron mss 823; CJ, lxxvii. 214.
  • 10. Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, i. 334.
  • 11. NLW, Llanfair and Brynodol mss 294; UCNW, Baron Hill mss 3399; A.H. Dodd, Industrial Revolution in N. Wales (1990), 207; PP (1823), xv. 347-429.
  • 12. The Times, 19 Mar.; Shrewsbury Chron. 19 Apr., 15, 31 May, 12 July, 23 Aug. 1823; CJ, lxxviii. 133, 135, 227, 276-8, 379; lxxxix. 536; Cambrian, 26 June 1824; M. Escott, ‘How Wales lost its Judicature: the making of the 1830 Act for the Abolition of the Courts of Great Sessions’, Trans. Hon. Soc. Cymmrodorion (2006), 141-4.
  • 13. Seren Gomer, vii (1824), 224-5; NLW ms 14984 A, ii. 34-45.
  • 14. N. Wales Gazette, 3, 17 Mar. 1825; G.I.T. Machin, Catholic Question in English Politics, 75; CJ, lxxx. 320; LJ, lvii. 567, 576.
  • 15. P.K. Crimmin, `William Alexander Madocks and the Removal of Welsh Coal Duties, Trans. Caern. Hist. Soc. xliii (1982), 123-4; J.I.C. Boyd, Ffestiniog Railway, i. 15-22; NLW, Porthmadoc mss 275, 279, 293, 296, 299, 307, 312, 317-19; CJ, lxxvi. 331, 422; lxxx. 35, 74, 211, 217, 401, 441; LJ, liv. 471; lvii. 815, 854; N. Wales Gazette, 6, 13, 20 Sept., 18 Oct. 1821, 10 Mar. 1825, 2 Mar. 1826; The Times, 13, 14 May 1825.
  • 16. Shrewsbury Chron. 4 Apr. 1823; N. Wales Gazette, 2 Mar. 1826; Gwynedd Archives, Caernarfon XD/8/2/201.
  • 17. CJ, lxxix. 54, 183, 467; LJ, lvi. 328; N. Wales Gazette, 8 Apr. 1824.
  • 18. N. Wales Gazette, 1, 22 Sept. 1825.
  • 19. UCNW, Plas Newydd mss i. 211, 215, 216, 227; N. Wales Gazette, 29 Sept., 6 Oct. 1825.
  • 20. Nanhoron mss 819; Plas Newydd mss i. 213-20, 226.
  • 21. Plas Newydd mss i. 224, 233.
  • 22. Ibid. i. 223, 231, 235, 238, 245-51, 262, 265, 279; Llanfair and Brynodol mss C345.
  • 23. Plas Newydd mss i. 218, 226, 232, 233.
  • 24. Ibid. i. 287.
  • 25. Gwynedd Archives, Caernarfon, Glynllifon mss 4438, 6601; Porth yr Aur mss 12533; Plas Newydd mss i. 224, 229, 235, 241, 250, 265, 279, 281.
  • 26. Vaynol mss 2599; Baron Hill mss 5173.
  • 27. Plas Newydd mss 311-13; Baron Hill mss 5173.
  • 28. N. Wales Gazette, 25 May 1826.
  • 29. Ibid. 1, 8, 15 June 1826; Porth yr Aur mss 1266F.
  • 30. N. Wales Gazette, 22, 29 June; Shrewsbury Chron. 23 June 1826; Glynllifon mss 4238.
  • 31. Glynllifon mss 4240, 4438, 6061; F. O’Gorman, Voters, Patrons, and Parties, 146, n. 100 underestimates the cost.
  • 32. N. Wales Gazette, 6, 13 July 1826.
  • 33. CJ, lxxxii. 30; N. Wales Gazette, 12 Oct., 2 Nov. 1826.
  • 34. CJ, lxxxii. 332, 338, 341, 424, 437, 442, 477; LJ, lix. 114; The Times, 22 May 1827.
  • 35. D.J.V. Jones, Before Rebecca, 50; Dodd, 63; N. Wales Gazette, 26 Apr., 7, 14, 21 June; The Times, 21 May 1827; Glynllifon mss 6063.
  • 36. N. Wales Gazette, 12, 19 Apr., 17, 31 May 1827; Porth yr Aur mss 12497, 12498; CJ, lxxxii. 452.
  • 37. N. Wales Gazette, 1, 8, 22 Mar. 1827; Porth yr Aur mss 12636; LJ, lix. 171.
  • 38. CJ, lxxxiii. 90, 91, 100, 105, 181; LJ, lx. 79, 118.
  • 39. Plas Newydd mss i. 388.
  • 40. Wellington mss WP1/932/9; 935/19-22; 945/17; 967/8; 969/19; 1038/28; Vaynol mss 2600, 2601; N. Wales Chron. 19 Feb. 1829.
  • 41. N. Wales Chron. 22, 29 May, 12 June, 2, 9 Oct. 1828; Plas Newydd mss i. 388; Vaynol mss 2601; CJ, lxxxiii. 456.
  • 42. Nanhoron mss 814; N. Wales Chron. 20 Nov. 1828, 1 Jan. 1829.
  • 43. N. Wales Chron. 20 Nov. 1828, 1 Jan., 12 Mar. 1829; CJ, lxxxiv. 127, 140, 141; LJ, lxi. 15, 68, 237, 238, 270.
  • 44. CJ, lxxxiv. 24; The Times, 14 Feb.; N. Wales Chron. 19, 26 Feb., 12, 19 Mar. 1829; CJ, lxxiv. 15, 41; LJ, lxi. 9, 27, 28.
  • 45. N. Wales Chron. 2, 9, 16 Apr. 1829; LJ, lxi. 232, 238, 270, 313, 335.
  • 46. PP (1829), ix. 409.
  • 47. N. Wales Chron. 23 Apr., 5 Nov., 10 Dec. 1829, 28 Jan., 8, 15 Apr. 1830; Cambrian Quarterly Mag. i (1829), 260; Cambrian, 8 May 1830; CJ, lxxxv. 336.
  • 48. TNA HO44/20, f. 140.
  • 49. Shrewsbury Chron. 22 Jan.; N. Wales Chron. 28 Jan., 4, 18 Feb., 8 Apr. 1830.
  • 50. Gwynedd Archives, Caernarfon, Poole mss 5410.
  • 51. Plas Newydd mss i. 378, 379, 380-3, 403, 404, 410, 423, 479, 484; Poole mss 5434; NLW Annual Report (1955-6), 37.
  • 52. Plas Newydd mss i. 380, 381.
  • 53. Ibid. i. 393.
  • 54. N. Wales Chron. 8, 15, 22 July 1830; Plas Newydd mss i. 436, 461, 475, 479, 486, 490; Poole mss 5473, 5474.
  • 55. N. Wales Chron. 5, 12 Aug. 1830; Plas Newydd mss i. 577.
  • 56. NLW, Voelas and Cefnamlwch mss D20, 16, 17, 21, 31 July, 11 Aug., 16 Oct. 1830.
  • 57. Ibid. expenditure for 1830.
  • 58. Caernarvon Herald, 23 Apr. 1831; NLW, Maybery mss 2316; J Gordon Jones, ‘Ffestiniog Slate Industry’, Jnl. Merion. Hist. and Rec. Soc. vi (1969-72), 50-54, 205-6; CJ, lxxxvi. 339, 346, 401, 413, 480, 504-5, 533; Boyd, 25.
  • 59. CJ, lxxxvi. 59, 157, 435; LJ, lxii. 151, 486, 487, 493.
  • 60. Caernarvon Herald, 1, 8, 15, 22 Jan., 12, 19 Feb., 5, 12 March 1831; LJ, lxiii. 214.
  • 61. D.A. Wager, ‘Welsh Politics and Parl. Reform, 1780-1832’, WHR, vii (1974), 338; Plas Newydd mss i. 551, 554, 567.
  • 62. Vaynol mss 2607; Voelas and Cefnamlwch mss D21, 23 Apr. 1831.
  • 63. Plas Newydd mss i. 577; Voelas and Cefnamlwch mss D21, ‘abstract of accounts’; Caernarvon Herald, 30 Apr., 7 May 1831.
  • 64. LJ, lxiii. 564; CJ, lxxxvi. 667.
  • 65. CJ, lxxxvi. 752, 858; LJ, lxiii. 982.
  • 66. CJ, lxxxvii. 12, 15, 37, 43, 47, 51, 58, 69, 102, 135, 139, 286, 304, 320, 323, 331-2; Vaynol mss 2608.
  • 67. LJ, lxiv. 306; CJ, lxxxvii. 449.
  • 68. Caernarvon Herald, 3, 10 Mar.; N. Wales Chron. 27 Mar. 1832.
  • 69. Caernarvon Herald, 1, 8 Oct. 1831, 14 July, 11, 18 Aug. 1832; Chester Courant, 10 July, 25 Dec.; N. Wales Chron. 12, 17 July, 14 Aug., 25 Dec. 1832; PP (1833), xxvii. 88-89.
  • 70. F. Price Jones, ‘Gwleidyddiaeth Sir Gaernarfon yn y 19ed. Ganrif’, Trans. Caern. Hist. Soc. xxvi (1965), 83-106; T.M. Basset, ‘Y Bedyddwyr yng Ngwleidyddiaeth Sir Gaernarfon, 1832-68’, ibid. xlii (1981), 129-40.