SCOURFIELD, William Henry (1776-1843), of Robeston Hall, Robeston West and New Moat, Pemb.

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



1818 - 1826
1835 - 1837

Family and Education

b. 1776, o.s. of Henry Scourfield of New Moat and Robeston Hall and Elizabeth, da. of Rt. Rev. John Ewer, DD, bp. of Bangor. educ. New Coll. Oxf. 3 July 1793, aged 17. m. (1) 27 Oct. 1804, Maria (d. 2 Aug. 1835), da. of Lt.-Col. Edward Goate of Brent Eleigh Hall, Suff., 1s. d.v.p.; (2) 28 Dec. 1837, Louisa Sarah, da. of Richard Bowen of Manorowen, Pemb., s.p. suc. fa. 1810. d. 31 Jan. 1843.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Pemb. 1812-13.

Capt. Pemb. militia 1795, maj. 1798, lt-col. 1798; capt.-commdt. Haverfordwest fusiliers 1803.


Scourfields had owned The Moat, near Haverfordwest, since the reign of Edward I and had long participated in the administration of Pembrokeshire, but Scourfield, whose 12,000 acres included valuable coal workings, was the first of the family to sit in Parliament, where his precise political allegiance baffled politicians.1 He owed his return for Haverfordwest in 1818 to the reluctance of its principal patron, the ailing Baron Milford, to see the sitting Whig Lord Kensington make the seat his own, for it was designated for Milford’s heir Richard Bulkeley Philipps Grant, who would not come of age until 1822; and it was on the understanding that ‘any heir to the Picton Castle estate would have prior claim’ that Scourfield was brought in in 1818 and again in 1820.2 Milford claimed in a patronage application to the prime minister Lord Liverpool, 20 June 1820: ‘Although I myself have no seat in either House ... Mr. Scourfield the Member for Haverfordwest (who votes with the administration) owes his election to my support’.3

Scourfield made no reported parliamentary speeches and continued to spend much time in Pembrokeshire, where he patronized local causes and was renowned as a huntsman and for his pack of harriers. His politics, though nominally Blue or Whig, were generally determined by local factors.4 He signed requisitions for the county meeting of 17 Apr. 1820 which petitioned for agricultural protection and repeal of the coastwise coal duties, but he played no part in current petitioning on reform, or on the future of the Welsh judicature and courts of great sessions, which the county’s Blues, led by the 1st Lord Cawdor, wanted to see abolished.5 He received a month’s leave on urgent private business, 28 June 1820. News that Queen Caroline’s prosecution had been abandoned arrived in Haverforwest during the hunt week and Scourfield joined in the town’s celebrations.6 He voted to include her name in the liturgy, 23, 26 Jan., but divided with ministers against censuring their handling of her case, 6 Feb. 1821.7 Seren Gomer criticized his failure to vote for Catholic relief, 28 Feb., repeal of the agricultural horse tax, 5 Mar., economies, 6 Mar., and retrenchment, 27 June; but praised his anti-government votes for repeal of the additional malt duty repeal, 21 Mar., 3 Apr.8 On 12 Apr. he received a fortnight’s leave on account of the tragic death of his young nephew, Henry Joshua Rowley.9 He divided against parliamentary reform, 9 May 1821. Agricultural distress was rife and distraints a problem on his estates, when Scourfield cast a critical vote on the government’s relief proposals, 21 Feb., and voted to reduce the salt duties, 28 Feb., and to abolish one of the joint-postmasterships, 2 May 1822.10 According to Seren Gomer, he also voted against restoring their privileges to Catholic peers, 30 Apr., but he is not included in the usual lists.11 In November, concerned at the implications for Pembrokeshire should the Irish packet service be lost, he joined the Members for the county and Pembroke Boroughs (Sir John Owen and John Hensleigh Allen) in lobbying the home secretary Peel for its continuation.12 Possibly on account of poor health, for which he was granted a fortnight’s leave, 25 Apr. 1823, his parliamentary attendance lapsed.13 He was considered but passed over for the lord lieutenancy of Haverforwest, vacant by Milford’s death in November 1823, in favour of the latter’s heir, who had come of age and taken the name of Philipps.14 Seren Gomer praised his vote in condemnation of the indictment in Demerara of the Methodist minister John Smith, 11 June 1824, but again he is not named in the surviving lists.15 He voted to outlaw the Catholic Association, 25 Feb., and against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and the attendant franchise bill, 21 Apr. 1825. A radical publication that session noted that he ‘attended occasionally and voted sometimes with and sometimes against ministers’.16 He had granted new leases on his estates in 1824, and in March 1825 became a director with Owen and others of the new Pembrokeshire Slate, Lime and Iron Company, an enterprise chaired by John Jones* and persevered in ‘at great expense and without any prospect of success’.17 Reports in October 1825 that he and Philipps were rival bidders for Lord Cawdor’s estate and borough of Wiston, a contributory of Pembroke, were unfounded, and he made way for Philipps as expected at the dissolution in 1826.18

Scourfield remained a prominent figure in Pembrokeshire, where at public and magistrates’ meetings he generally voiced the opinions of the Blues reluctant to toe the political line set by Cawdor and Allen. He remained a committed opponent of Catholic emancipation in 1829 and criticized Cawdor’s proposal for hearing Pembrokeshire cases in Carmarthen, so depriving Haverfordwest of its assize town status, when the courts of great sessions and Welsh judicature were abolished.19 He also addressed the Pembrokeshire reform meeting, 5 Apr. 1831, but his speech that day was inadequately reported.20 He kept a low profile at the general election in May when the Blue nominee, Robert Fulke Greville of Castle Hall, first challenged Owen for the county seat, but he seconded Greville’s nomination at the second election in October and subscribed generously to his cause.21 He was elected mayor of Haverfordwest in November 1831, and was foreman of the special jury which in March 1832 indicted the Carmarthen attorney George Thomas for insulting John Jones at the May 1831 election.22 Scourfield seconded Philipps’s nomination for the new Haverfordwest District of Boroughs in December 1832 and defeated the moderate Conservative Jonathan Peel of Cotts to come in there himself in 1835 when Philipps retired to avoid a poll. 23 Although returned as a Liberal ‘on the reform interest’, he was deemed to be ‘a rank and uncompromising Tory’ and in 1837 he lost his seat to Philipps, who accused him of ‘misrepresenting the opinions of his constituents’.24 His first wife had died in 1835, and in December 1837 he remarried, settling his Dewisland estate on his bride, to whom it reverted on his death in January 1843.25 He also left her the lease of his London house in Charles Street, Berkeley Square, and an annuity. Family heirlooms, however, were entrusted to his brother-in-law, the Rev. Joshua Rowley, and passed with The Moat in 1862 to his nephew John Henry Philipps (1808-76) of Williamston, who assumed the name and arms of Scourfield. He represented Haverfordwest Boroughs as a Conservative, 1852-68, and was created a baronet shortly before his death in 1876.26

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. HP Commons, 1790-1820, v. 115-16; R.G. Thorne, ‘Pemb. and National Politics, 1815-1974’, Pemb. Co. Hist. iv. ed. D. Howell, 233.
  • 2. D.A. Wager, ‘Welsh Politics and Parl. Reform, 1780-1835’ (Univ. of Wales Ph.D. thesis, 1972), 235-6; Carm. RO, Cawdor mss 1/225; Carmarthen Jnl. 10, 17 Mar. 1820.
  • 3. Add. 38285, f. 282.
  • 4. Add. 40359, f. 184; NLW, Lucas mss 1833-8, 3380; Cambrian, 26 June 1824, 2 Feb. 1828; Carmarthen Jnl. 4 Apr. 1823, 1 Feb., 14 Nov. 1828.
  • 5. Carmarthen Jnl. 14 Apr., 19 May 1820.
  • 6. Ibid. 17 Nov. 1820.
  • 7. Seren Gomer, iv (1821), 92-93.
  • 8. Ibid. 124-5, 252.
  • 9. Gent. Mag. (1821), i. 369; Carmarthen Jnl. 20 Apr. 1821.
  • 10. Seren Gomer, v (1822), 124-5; Lucas mss 99, 414-18.
  • 11. Seren Gomer, v. 187.
  • 12. Add. 40352, f. 74.
  • 13. Carmarthen Jnl. 4 Apr. 1823.
  • 14. PROB 11/1681/96; Carmarthen Jnl. 5, 12 Dec. 1823; Add. 40359, ff. 100, 184-6, 205; NLW, Picton Castle mss 4728, 4731, 4793.
  • 15. Seren Gomer, vii (1824), 224.
  • 16. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 484.
  • 17. Lucas mss 3621-3; Cambrian, 26 June 1824, 7 Mar. 1825; Bodl. Clarendon dep. C.372, bdle. 3, Harvey to Foster Barham, 9 June, 7 July 1827; C.374, bdle. 2, passim.
  • 18. Clarendon dep. C.372, bdle. 2, Harvey to Foster Barham, 19 Oct. 1825; Cawdor mss 2/209; Carmarthen Jnl. 26 May, 2 June; Cambrian, 27 May; The Times, 30 May 1826.
  • 19. Carmarthen Jnl. 13 Mar. 18, 25 Sept., 9 Oct.; Cambrian, 21 Mar., 10 Oct. 1829.
  • 20. Carmarthen Jnl. 1, 8 Apr., 27 May, 3 June; Cambrian, 9 Apr. 1831.
  • 21. The Times, 17 Oct. 1831; NLW, Eaton Evans and Williams mss 5121.
  • 22. Carmarthen Jnl. 3 Dec. 1831; Welshman, 16, 23 Mar. 1832.
  • 23. Carmarthen Jnl. 14 Dec. 1832, 12, 19, 26 Dec.; Welshman, 19, 26 Dec. 1834; The Times, 6 Jan. 1835.
  • 24. Pemb. RO D/RTP/5/34; Welshman, 30 June, 7, 14 July; The Times, 5, 12, 13 July 1837; Lucas mss 44-98.
  • 25. Lucas mss 3380; Welshman, 3 Feb. 1843.
  • 26. PROB 11/1980/358; IR26/1657/349; Lucas mss 3301-3; Thorne, 247.