WILLIAMS, Owen (1764-1832), of Temple House, Bisham, Berks. and Craig-y-Don, Anglesey
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Family and Educationbap. 19 July 1764,1 1st s. of Thomas Williams† of Llanidan, Anglesey and Temple House and Catherine, da. of John Lloyd, attorney, of Caerwys, Flints. educ. Westminster 1776. m. 18 July 1792, Margaret, da. of Rev. Edward Hughes of Kinmel Park, Denb., 2s. suc. fa. 1802. d. 23 Feb. 1832.
Recvr.-gen. Anglesey to 1796.
Capt. S. Bucks. vols. 1803.
At the general election of 1820 Williams again returned himself on the well-established family interest for Great Marlow, which lay across the Thames from his Berkshire residence. He gave the other seat to his elder son, Thomas Peers Williams, having set aside Pascoe Grenfell*, his colleague of 17 years and his partner in the copper processing business on which his substantial fortune was based. By 1829 he had fallen out with Grenfell and completely withdrawn from the enterprise.2 Williams, who had joined Brooks’s in 1806, began this period as a conservative member of the Whig opposition to the Liverpool ministry; but he was a very poor attender, partly because of worsening health, and by the end of 1830 he had gravitated to the Tories.
He paired with opposition on the Queen Caroline affair, 26 Jan., 6 Feb. 1821. He was given three weeks’ leave on account of illness, 12 Mar., but was in Hume’s minority of 29 for a revision of public salaries, 30 Mar. He got a fortnight’s leave to deal with urgent private business, 7 May. He was present to vote in a minority of 14 against the duke of Clarence’s annuity bill, 25 June, and for Hume’s call for economy and retrenchment, 27 June 1821. He divided for abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar., 2 May, and for inquiries into the board of control, 14 Mar., and the government of the Ionian Islands, 14 May, and was in small minorities to reduce the navy estimates, 18 Mar., and adjourn proceedings on the aliens bill, 14 June 1822. His only recorded votes in the next two sessions were for repeal of the assessed taxes, 18 Mar., in a minority of 37 for the abolition of whipping as a punishment, 30 Apr. 1823, and to postpone consideration of the grant for Windsor Castle repairs, 5 Apr. 1824. He paired on the government side against inquiry into the prosecution of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June 1824. After defaulting on a call of the House, 28 Feb., he voted for Catholic relief, 10 May, and against the duke of Cumberland’s annuity, 10 June 1825. He divided against giving the president of the board of trade a separate ministerial salary, 7 Apr. 1826.
At the general election two months later Williams encountered a challenge to his control of Marlow from resentful independents, who took up James Morrison*, a wealthy London silk merchant of advanced liberal views. He topped the poll and brought his son safely in with him, but Morrison polled respectably, and in 1827 and 1828 Williams vengefully evicted those of his borough tenants who had cast a hostile vote.3 A report in January 1827 that ‘age and infirmities’ had brought him to the verge of retirement came to nothing;4 but his only known vote in the first two sessions of the 1826 Parliament was for the Whig opposition’s motion for a suspension of supply until the ministerial crisis had been resolved, 30 Mar. 1827. Yet his inclusion by Planta, the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary, in a list of Members expected to vote ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation in 1829, indicates that he (and his son) were no longer seen as part of the regular opposition. He apparently broke a 32-year silence in debate to express his ‘entire confidence’ in the government’s decision to concede emancipation, 12 Feb., before voting for it, 6, 30 Mar. On 12 May 1829 he complained of the irresponsible and unchecked expenditure of public money by the office of woods and forests. ‘Severe illness’ prevented him from attending Parliament in the early weeks of the 1830 session, and on 9 Mar. he was given a month’s sick leave.5 He attended to vote against Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May. As the owner of an estate in Anglesey (where he supported the Pagets’ Plas Newydd interest), he condemned the plan to reorganize the Welsh judicial system, 27 Apr.; he voted in a minority of 30 against the measure, 18 June. He divided for a reduction in the grant for public buildings, 3 May, but to pay that for South American missions, 7 June, when he paired against the forgery punishment mitigation bill. He voted against the sale of beer bill, 4 May, 1 July 1830. This added to his increasing unpopularity with a significant portion of his constituents; and at the general election of 1830 he and his son were hard and expensively pressed by the independents, whose new candidate was the son of a Berkshire baronet and former Member for Marlow.6
Williams was initially placed among the ‘good doubtfuls’ by ministers, but he was subsequently deemed to be a ‘friend’; he was in their minority in the decisive division on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He voted against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831, and that month tried unsuccessfully to block a Marlow meeting in its support. At the general election called after the bill’s defeat he and his son were only narrowly returned ahead of their opponent of 1830. Williams was absent throughout ‘in consequence of a dangerous indisposition’, which was thought likely to carry him off.7 He is not known to have voted in the first session of the new Parliament and he defaulted on a call of the House, 10 Oct. 1831. He was able to divide against the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and going into committee on it, 20 Jan., and against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan. 1832; but he died at his London house in Berkeley Square a month later.8 By his brief will, dated 11 Aug. 1825, he left £35,000 to his younger son Owen Edward and all his real estate and the residue (calculated for duty at £25,723) of his personal estate to his elder son. His personalty as a whole was sworn under £120,000.9
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: David R. Fisher
- 1. J.E. Griffith, Peds. Anglesey Fams. 68.
- 2. HP Commons, 1790-1820, v. 541-2, 585-6; J.R. Harris, Copper King, 182-3; Add. 58977, f. 165; NLW, Vivian mss 1120.
- 3. Bucks. Chron. 10, 17 June 1826, 24 Mar., 13 Oct. 1827, 26 Jan. 1828; R.W. Davis, Political Change and Continuity, 25.
- 4. Bucks. Chron. 27 Jan. 1827.
- 5. The Times, 27 Feb. 1830.
- 6. Reading Mercury, 5 July, 9, 16 Aug.; Bucks Gazette, 28 Aug. 1830.
- 7. Reading Mercury, 18 Apr.; The Times, 6, 12 May; Bucks Gazette, 28 May 1831.
- 8. Gent. Mag. (1832), i. 366.
- 9. PROB 11/1800/337; IR26/1307/158.