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

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freeholders, freemen and inhabitants paying scot and lot

Estimated number qualified to vote:



4,055 (1821); 4,139 (1831)



Main Article

Haverfordwest, the normal venue for Pembrokeshire assizes and county meetings and the centre of hospitality at shire elections, was an incorporated town and a county in its own right that had developed around a Norman castle overlooking the Western Cleddau, eight miles north-north-east of Milford and ten miles north-east of the old county town of Pembroke.2 Its wide franchise had been confirmed by the Commons in 1715 and the key to controlling the borough lay with the corporation, an annually elected mayor or returning officer and sheriff and a co-optive council of 24 (15 aldermen and nine brethren), normally elected for life. A council meeting was only legally constituted when the mayor was present and he could remove a particular councillor at pleasure, provided the majority of the council endorsed his decision. In practice, at mayoral and sheriff’s elections, the freemen (generally called burgesses) merely confirmed the common council’s choice by voting for the last named of three candidates submitted to them.3 It was not, according to Oldfield, ‘a close borough’, but if combined, the influence of two major property owners, the Philippses of Picton Castle and the Edwardes family of Johnston, could not be defeated. Approximately 50 votes could also be commanded through careful management of corporation charities yielding some £620 a year.4 There were approximately 300 freemen, and although there was no formal residence qualification, those who voted generally lived in the town or its immediate neighbourhood. Most of the 67 burgesses admitted between 1820 and 1832 were freemen’s sons, drawn increasingly from the local élite, but there were also artisans, farmers and tradesmen. There were no mass creations such as had occurred between 1810 and 1817, and the 1832 boundary commissioners’ report cast doubt on the legality of ex gratia burgess creation at Haverfordwest.5 Freeholders and tenants enfranchised by scot and lot paid their taxes to the parishes of Prendergast, St. Martin, St. Mary and St. Thomas, as appropriate; only St Mary’s lay entirely within the borough. Assessments had not been revised in living memory and pressure to do so was mounting. The corporation generally granted appeals for reductions, in order to avoid litigation costs.6

Opposition to Sir Richard Philipps†, 1st Baron Milford’s management of the borough and William Edwardes†, 2nd Baron Kensington’s tenure of the seat had been quietened, partly as a result of a coalition agreement of 1816 involving John Campbell†, 1st Baron Cawdor of Stackpole, under which the county Member Sir John Owen of Orielton agreed not to support Orange (Tory) candidates in Haverfordwest and Pembroke Boroughs at the next two elections provided he sat unopposed.7 In 1818, Milford, whose objective was to reserve the representation for his heir, persuaded Kensington to retire and gave the Picton Castle interest to William Henry Scourfield, a well-to-do and well-connected local squire of ancient pedigree, on whom he felt he could depend.8 Scourfield had been elected to the corporation in 1810 and served the Blue interest well at the 1812 election.9 As in 1818, he was returned unopposed in 1820, proposed by Sir Henry Mathias and seconded by the mayor, William Evans, amid ‘much festivity, hilarity and harmony’.10

Corn, coalmining and the ports were vital to the local economy and Haverfordwest, like Pembrokeshire, met to petition for a change in the corn laws to protect agriculture and against the duty on coal transported coastwise, 17 Apr. 1820. The Commons received their petition against the latter, 26 May, and the Lords, 1 June, but the parties disagreed over the corn laws and no petition was carried.11 Haverfordwest did not petition for changes in the administration of justice in Wales, as advocated by Cawdor and John Hensleigh Allen of Cresselly, who sat for the Pembroke Boroughs on his interest, but several common councillors backed the Pembrokeshire petition.12 Allen had been elected to the common council at Haverfordwest in February 1820 and was Milford’s choice as joint-executor of his will and trustee of the Picton Castle estate in the event of a minority.13 Joshua Roch of Butterhill’s nomination to a vacancy on the common council in October 1820 was opposed by the town clerk James Phillips, who threatened to instigate mandamus and quo warranto proceedings. No action was taken, but it was George Roch of Clareston who was admitted to the freedom that month as the mayor’s nominee.14 The town did not petition on Queen Caroline’s case, but news of the abandonment of her prosecution arrived in the bustle of hunt week, 15 Nov. 1820, and was celebrated with illuminations. Any unlit windows were smashed.15 Haverfordwest was also one of several West Wales towns to celebrate the success of John Jones of Ystrad (Owen’s ally and former Member for Pembroke Boroughs) at the Carmarthen by-election, 5 July 1821, caused by John Frederick Campbell’s* succession as 2nd Baron Cawdor.16 Matters of local concern included the town’s inadequate water supply and the lease of the watercourse; conversion of the borough gaol into a county lunatic asylum, as enacted 24 June 1822; taxes on salt and leather, against which Scourfield voted, 28 Feb., and the mayor, James Evans, petitioned, 4 May 1822; fears that the Irish packet service would be lost; the appropriation of a pauper’s body for dissection by a former mayor, George Harries; and the need for a new market house, which was agreed to by the corporation in 1823 and completed in 1825 at a cost of £5,000.17

Milford died on 28 Nov. 1823, having devised the Picton Castle estate to his kinsman Richard Bulkeley Philipps Grant, thus separating it from the baronetcy, which passed to Rowland Philipps Laugharne of the Orlandon branch of the family.18 Grant, who took the surname of Philipps, had been admitted as a burgess by the mayor and elected to the common council soon after coming of age in 1822.19 In December 1823 the government whip William Holmes* informed the home secretary Peel that Scourfield sat ‘in opposition to Lord Milford’s interest’ and that Philipps was well disposed towards the administration and likely to prove useful in Pembroke.20 He was allowed to succeed Milford to the lieutenancy of Haverfordwest, but that of Pembrokeshire was granted to Sir John Owen. Picton Castle remained in the hands of trustees until Philipps became 25 in June 1826.21 During this period Laugharne’s brother and heir, William Philipps Laugharne, who was known to covet a seat in Parliament, became mayor of Haverfordwest, Cawdor took his freedom and was elected to the common council, and there were indications that neither Scourfield nor Allen would give up his seat readily at the next election, when the agreement of 1816 would lapse.22 Petitioning was largely confined to issues promoted by the Blues and Nonconformists: inquiry into the case of John Smith, the Methodist missionary indicted in Demerara, 28 May, and the abolition of colonial slavery, 11 June 1824, 16, 21 Mar. 1826.23 The Lords received a petition against Catholic relief from the burgesses and inhabitants, 4 May 1825.24 Meetings of the county gentry, at which Mathias presided, were called to deal with the collapse of the Haverfordwest bank of S.L. Phillips and Company in December 1825, which, like the dramatic death the previous year of Nathaniel Phillips of Slebech, may have hit the Orange party harder than the Blues.25 Scourfield decided to retire without public protest at the dissolution in 1826 and Philipps, who was nominated by the mayor, Robert Innes Ackland of Boulston, and seconded by Allen, was returned unopposed as Milford had wished. He made no political statements in his election addresses and displayed the Blue and White colours of the Philippses alongside those of ‘various companies in the borough’. Philipps presided over dinner at the Mariners, a Blue inn, and Ackland at the Castle, generally favoured by the Orange party. Eleven lesser inns were opened and ‘cwrw da’ (good beer) flowed freely.26

Unlike Pembrokeshire and the Castlemartin hundred, Haverfordwest did not petition against amending the corn laws in 1827. The borough’s Dissenters petitioned both Houses for repeal of the Test Acts in February 1828, and the Wesleyan Methodists did so against Catholic relief, 2 May. Haverfordwest supported, albeit with little success, Milford Haven’s petition against the removal of the Irish steam packets to Hobbs Point.27 In 1829 attitudes towards Catholic emancipation were coloured by both factional and anti-Catholic sentiments. Philipps, who had been made a baronet in February 1828, remained resolutely against it, and the gentry, clergy and some 860 inhabitants signed a strongly worded petition against further concessions, in which they appealed to the inviolability of the constitution and urged Parliament, in the interests of national security, to take action against the Catholic Association as an illegal and unconstitutional body. It was forwarded to Lord Eldon and Philipps for presentation and received by the Lords, 6 Mar., and the Commons three days later. The county meeting at Haverfordwest, 12 Mar., ended in violence after a pro-emancipation petition was proposed, and although a similar one was reported to be in preparation at Haverfordwest, none was presented. The populace celebrated Philipps’s anti-emancipation votes, the Wesleyan Methodists sent an unfavourable petition to the Lords, 6 Apr., and inhabitants who suffered losses in the disturbances on 12 Mar. were compensated from town stock.28

As on the Catholic question, in September 1829 the Picton Castle Blues and Cawdor’s allies disagreed openly over the justice commission’s proposals for abolition of the Welsh judicature and courts of great session and incorporating the Welsh counties into the English assize court system. Haverfordwest’s status as an assize town was threatened by a proposal Cawdor had suggested, whereby assize business for Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and south Cardiganshire should be dealt with in Carmarthen. Spurning Cawdor and Allen, Scourfield and Philipps, who became mayor in October, took the political line of Orielton and the West Wales Tories and campaigned against the proposed division and consolidation of counties. They highlighted language issues, the increased costs of transporting witnesses and felons, and the social and economic cost to the community if Haverfordwest lost its assizes. The corporation and inhabitants at their meetings on 3 Oct. 1829 and in April 1830, and at the grand jury and inquest at the 1830 spring assizes, adopted resolutions against the change and the administration of justice bill by which it was to be enacted; the resulting petitions were received by the Commons, 9 Mar., 6 May, and the Lords, 25 Mar., 26 Apr., 4 May. The judicature was abolished, but a late government amendment reinstated the Welsh counties (except Brecon and Radnor) as assize districts and Haverfordwest kept its assizes.29 The bankers, Saer and Company, who had survived the 1825-6 crisis, petitioned for mitigation of the death penalty for forgery, 24 May 1830.30 Philipps proved to be a generous patron of local causes and his unopposed return at the 1830 election was never in doubt.31

The anti-slavery campaign was strongly supported in Haverfordwest, and the town and its Wesleyan and Calvinistic Methodists, Baptists and Independents petitioned for abolition, 4, 8, 9, 11, 18 22 Nov., 6 Dec. 1830, as did the female Baptists, 28 Mar. 1831.32 Reform also enjoyed popular support and the freeholders, burgesses and inhabitants petitioned the Commons, 29 Mar., in favour of the Grey ministry’s bill, which then included provision for Fishguard, Milford Haven, Narberth and St. Davids to be made contributory boroughs of Haverfordwest. Newport was originally suggested as one of the group and featured in Prendergast’s petition for contributory borough status, received by the Lords, 28 Mar., and the Commons next day.33 Philipps voted for the bill’s second reading, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. At the dissolution that month he joined Kensington and his son in supporting Robert Fulke Greville of Castle Hall’s candidature for the county against Sir John Owen, a late convert to reform. The Blues of Picton Castle and Stackpole Court united behind Greville but failed to defeat Orielton in both the May and October 1831 elections.34 Some of Greville’s key supporters, Philipps, Kensington, William Edwardes, Allen, Sir Henry Mathias, the Roches of Butterhill, Ackland, the Rev. James Evans, George Harries, Samuel Harries of Trecoon, and the attorney William Evans were Haverfordwest common councillors. Roch of Clareston and Major Bowen of Llwyngwair were the only corporators to sport orange.35 Philipps’s re-election was a formality involving little discussion of policy; but in April 1831 the parish of St. Thomas had addressed a memorial to the mayor calling for inquiry into alleged abuse of Sir John Perrott’s charity, and a campaign for borough reform gained momentum.36 Scourfield appointed a commission of inquiry when he became mayor in November. Cholera now rekindled fears about the water supply: a board of health was established and a new water supply bill authorized.37 When reintroduced in June 1831, the reform bill proposed making Milford Haven a contributory of Pembroke instead of Haverfordwest, a decision reputedly calculated to combat Owen’s interest in Pembroke and the county. The proposal to enfranchise St. Davids was omitted in December 1831 from the revised reform bill. It contributed a little over £158 in assessed taxes in 1830 and the boundary commissioners had recommended confining its franchise to the ‘hamlet of Cylch y Dre’.38 There was great rejoicing in Haverfordwest at the passage of the bill in June 1832, but Picton Castle’s nominees for three vacancies on the common council were opposed in August.39

Under the Boundary Act the borough of Fishguard (old borough population, 1,990 in 1831), where 53 £10 householders were enfranchised, was enlarged to include the lower town but omit Goodwick. The urban part of Prendergast and Catlett became part of Haverfordwest (adding approximately 33 £10 householders to the electorate). Narberth’s incorporation, from which Narberth mountain was excluded, increased the population by over 2,000, but added only 18 £10 householders to the constituency, whose 1832 registered electorate of 723 continued to be dominated by Haverfordwest, where 260 £10 householders were enfranchised and 260 freeholders and ratepayers (scot and lot voters) and 134 freemen (59 of them £10 voters) retained their franchise under the seven-mile rule.40 Philipps, standing as a Liberal, canvassed strenuously to secure an unopposed return at the general election in December 1832, when agricultural protection, tithe commutation and slavery were the main issues. The Carmarthen Journal described his celebration dinner as ‘the work of a Tory corporation ... fearful their conduct should ... be recurred to’.41 The constituency, which acquired a reputation for electoral intimidation, was contested eight times before it was abolished in 1885. Philips vacated to avoid defeat in 1835. Scourfield, whose politics defied classification, defeated a Conservative at the same election, but Philipps beat him in 1837 and sat as a Liberal for the next decade. Conservatives were returned, 1852-9, when Liberals again prevailed in a series of bitterly disputed contests.42

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 530.
  • 2. Parl. Gazetteer of England and Wales (1844), ii. 286; Samuel Lewis’s Topographical Dict. of Wales (unpaginated); R. Lewis, ‘Towns of Pemb. 1815-74’, Pemb. Co. Hist. ed. D. Howell, iv. 42.
  • 3. PP (1831-2), xli. 249-50; (1835), xxiii. 373-9; CJ, xviii. 199; P.D.G. Thomas, Politics in 18th Cent. Wales, 32; R.D. Rees, ‘Parl. Rep. S. Wales, 1790-1830’ (Univ. of Reading Ph.D. thesis, 1962), 308-9; NLW, Picton Castle mss 4810.
  • 4. Oldfield, Rep. Hist. (1816), vi. 101-7; PP (1835), xxiii. 373-9.
  • 5. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 530; xli. 149; (1835), xxiii. 370-3; Pemb. RO D/RTP/HAM/175.
  • 6. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 355-6.
  • 7. Carm. RO, Cawdor mss 1/225.
  • 8. Add 38285, f. 282; Y Cymrodor, xxxxiii. 73.
  • 9. PP (1835), xxiii. 371; R.G. Thorne, ‘Pemb. Elections of 1807 and 1812’, Pemb. Hist. vi (1979), 18.
  • 10. Cambrian, 26 Feb.; Carmarthen Jnl. 10, 17 Mar. 1820.
  • 11. Carmarthen Jnl. 14, 21 Apr. 1820; CJ, lxxv. 241; LJ, liii. 97.
  • 12. Carmarthen Jnl. 19 May, 2, 9 June 1820.
  • 13. Ibid. 26 Feb. 1820; PROB 11/1681/96.
  • 14. NLW, Lucas mss 3083; Pemb. RO D/RTP/HAM/175.
  • 15. Carmarthen Jnl. 17 Nov.; Cambrian, 18, 25 Nov. 1820.
  • 16. Carmarthen Jnl. 6, 13 July 1821.
  • 17. Pemb. RO D/RTP/HAM/176; PP (1835), xxv. 375-9; Seren Gomer, v (1822), 124; CJ, lxxvii. 262; LJ, lv. 263; Add. 40352, f. 74; Carmarthen Jnl. 20 Sept. 1822, 13 June 1823.
  • 18. Carmarthen Jnl. 5, 12 Dec. 1823; PROB 11/1681/96; M. Philipps, Philipps of Picton Castle, 25-27
  • 19. Pemb. RO D/RTP/HAM/175.
  • 20. Add. 40359, f. 184.
  • 21. Ibid. ff. 100, 183-6, 205; Picton Castle mss 4731, 4793.
  • 22. Pemb. RO D/RTP/HAM/175; D.A. Wager, ‘Welsh Politics and Parl. Reform, 1780-1835’ (Univ. of Wales Ph.D. thesis, 1972), 235-6.
  • 23. CJ, lxxix. 430, 482; lxxxi. 193; Seren Gomer, vii (1824), 187; Carmarthen Jnl. 3 Feb. 1826; LJ, lviii. 113.
  • 24. LJ, lvii. 784.
  • 25. Bodl. Clarendon dep. C.372, bdle. 2, Harvey to Foster Barham, 26, 29, 30, 31 Dec. 1825, 2, 11, 21, 26 Jan., 11 Mar. 1826; Lucas mss 1186, 1229-32; Cambrian, 31 Dec. 1825, 7 Jan. 1826.
  • 26. Carmarthen Jnl. 26 May, 2, 16 June; Cambrian, 27 May, 17, 24 June 1826.
  • 27. CJ, lxxxiii. 79, 83, 305; LJ, lx. 51; Carmarthen Jnl. 23 May, 26 Dec. 1828.
  • 28. Carmarthen Jnl., 6, 13, 20, 27 Mar., 20 Apr.; Cambrian, 7, 21 Mar., 11, 25 Apr. 1829; CJ, lxxxiv. 115; LJ, lxi. 132, 354.
  • 29. PP (1829), ix, passim; Cawdor, Letter to Lyndhurst; Cambrian, 10, 17 Oct., 6 Dec. 1829; Carmarthen Jnl. 12 June 1829, 30 Apr., 7 May 1830; CJ, lxxxv. 152, 380; LJ, lxii. 160, 216, 320; The Times, 22 June 1830.
  • 30. CJ, lxxxv. 463.
  • 31. Cambrian, 6 Jan. 1827, 27 Dec. 1828, 3 Jan. 1829; Carmarthen Jnl. 8 Aug. 1828, 12 June 1829, 16, 23 July, 6 Aug. 1830.
  • 32. CJ, lxxxvi. 117, 126, 147, 444; LJ, lxii. 19, 23, 38, 107.
  • 33. CJ, lxxxvi 456-7; LJ, lxii. 352, 385; Wager, thesis, 235-6; Wager, ‘Welsh Politics and Parl. Reform, 1780-1832’, WHR, vii (1974), 440-1.
  • 34. D. Williams, ‘Pemb. Elections of 1831’, WHR, i (1960-3), 37-64.
  • 35. NLW, Eaton Evans and Williams mss 4553-69; PP (1835), xxiii. 371; Pemb. RO D/RTP/HAM/175.
  • 36. Carmarthen Jnl. 22, 29 Apr., 6 May; Cambrian, 23, 30 Apr. 1831.
  • 37. Carmarthen Jnl. 3 Dec. 1831; PP (1835), xxiii. 381.
  • 38. Wager, WHR, vii. 441-2; PP (1831-2), xli. 163-4; 296-7.
  • 39. Carmarthen Jnl. 18 May; Welshman, 8 June, 24 Aug. 1832.
  • 40. PP (1831-2), xli. 249-66; (1835), xxiii. 373.
  • 41. Carmarthen Jnl. 7, 14 Dec.; Welshman, 14 Dec. 1832.
  • 42. I. Matthews, ‘Pemb. Co. Politics, 1860-80’, Pemb. Hist. Soc. Jnl. xii (1989), 39-40; R.G. Thorne, ‘Pemb. and National Politics, 1815-1974’, Pemb. Co. Hist. iv, 237, 249; M. Cragoe, Culture, Politics and National Identity in Wales, 1832-86, pp. 24, 53, 56, 62, 90, 232-3.