New Radnor Boroughs


Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the resident freemen of New Radnor and in the freemen (resident or non-resident) of Cnwclas, Knighton, Rhayader and Cefnllys1

Number of voters:

about 1,000


(1801): New Radnor 329; Cnwclas [parish of Heyop] 147; Knighton 785; Rhayader 374; Cefnllys 148


24 June 1790DAVID MURRAY609
 Edward Lewis313
21 May 1794 GEORGE CAPEL CONINGSBY, Visct. Malden, vice Murray, deceased 
28 May 1796GEORGE CAPEL CONINGSBY, Visct. Malden 
18 Mar. 1799 RICHARD PRICE vice Malden, called to the Upper House 
14 Oct. 1812RICHARD PRICE154
 Percival Lewis38
17 June 1818RICHARD PRICE 

Main Article

Since 1781 Edward Harley, 4th Earl of Oxford, having routed the rival interest of the Lewis family of Harpton Court after a 20-year struggle, had been unquestioned patron of the boroughs. His nominee Edward Lewis was, however, an opponent of Pitt’s administration, and the earl’s brother Thomas Harley* prevailed on the dying peer to allow him to promote the candidature of his son-in-law Murray, who had in that Parliament supported Pitt and was duly adopted at Presteigne on 6 Apr. 1790. Lewis accused Harley of intriguing on Murray’s behalf beforehand, which Harley denied; he also questioned the legality of the freemen of Cnwclas, which Harley repudiated. Murray, who was also supported by the county Member Thomas Johnes, easily triumphed, and Lewis’s petition, based on an objection to the franchise of those self-same nonresident freemen in the contributory boroughs whose champion he had hitherto been, was unavailing.2

On the death of Lord Oxford in October 1790, his young heir succeeded him as steward of Cantref Maelienydd (with the right to create freemen), but until 1824 took no advantage of it: the family interest continued to be supervised by Thomas Harley, who had succeeded to the lord lieutenancy. With the death of Edward Lewis in 17913 opposition ceased, and Viscount Malden and Richard Price, nephew of a former Harley nominee Chase Pricet, came in successively without difficulty after Murray’s death. Thomas Frankland Lewis* of Harpton thought of reviving his family’s interest before the election of 1802, but was discouraged by Wilkins, the county Member; he nevertheless informed Price of his design, adding that if he could not himself come in, he would rather see Price Member ‘than any man breathing’.4

In 1806 there was a rumour, which proved false, of opposition to Price from a barrister named Watkins,5 and shortly before the election of 1807 Thomas Frankland Lewis’s uncle wrote to Viscount Howick on his behalf, feeling confident that ‘with a little management an active friend instead of a foe might easily be returned’. He explained that Lord Oxford had continued to support Price since his uncle Harley brought him in, but that Price affected to come in on his own interest and opposed his patron’s interest in the county: ‘it seems madness in Lord Oxford to support Mr Price any longer’. He added:

The staunch friend whom I am anxious to see succeed to Mr Price is my nephew ... whose estate (which is the largest in the county) lies contiguous to the borough of Radnor. He has very considerable natural interest in the borough which he has hitherto always given to Mr Price—and, although Mr Price affects to bring himself in on his own separate and independent interest, yet my nephew’s interest united to that of Lord Oxford would command the return. Perhaps however a contest could be avoided. The trouble and expense of this contest my nephew is willing to incur; and also to acknowledge with gratitude that to Lord Oxford’s interest he owes his seat.

Lord Oxford can have no conceivable motive for continuing to support Mr Price, but to avoid trouble and contest. I have good reason to believe from those who best know Lord Oxford’s character that a line from your lordship would induce him to adopt a new line of conduct.6

Nothing came of this and it was Percival Lewis of Downton Hall, the barrister son of the former Member Edward Lewis, who advertised on May 1807, only to decline on 5 May.7 Neither then, nor in 1812, when he offered in exchange to support him for the county, could he secure the support of Frankland Lewis, who was prepared to support and canvass for Price rather than encourage his eponymous rival. Although Percival Lewis went to the poll ‘on the independent interest’ in 1812, he fared badly and dropped a threatened petition.8 In that year Frankland Lewis obtained a safe seat elsewhere and nothing came of a scheme of Percival Lewis’s in 1813 to sell Frankland Lewis his interest in the boroughs.9 Percival Lewis did not effectively renew his challenge to Price until 1820,10 when Price was still too strong for him.

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. See D.R.Ll. Adams, ‘Parl. Rep. Rad. 1536-1832’ (Univ. Wales M.A. thesis, 1969), 44 on which this account is based.
  • 2. Hereford Jnl. 14 Apr., 5 May, 7, 14 July; Glocester Jnl. 12, 19 Apr. 1790.
  • 3. Edward Lewis has now been identified as the son and heir of Percival Lewis, a London merchant, of Putney (d.1762) by his w. Abigail; his wife’s name was Marianne and Percival Lewis (1757-1821) was their only son. Edward Lewis died at Putney 8 June 1791 (Gent. Mag. i. 588), and in his will (PCC 340 Bevor) refers to ‘General and Mrs Stephens’, parents of Edward Stephens, as his ‘brother and sister-in-law’. The will of Mary Stephens of Hampton Court, proved 27 Apr. 1810 in PCC, mentions her sister Marianne Lewis.
  • 4. NLW, Harpton court mss C/626.
  • 5. J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1808), 502. Possibly George Price Watkins, son of Pennoyre Watkins of Brecon.
  • 6. Grey mss, Frankland to Howick, 28 Apr. 1807.
  • 7. Glocester Jnl. 4 May; Hereford Jnl. 13 June 1807.
  • 8. Harpton court mss C/484, 615, 616. Hereford Jnl. 30 Sept., 7 Oct.; Morning Chron. 8 Oct. 1812.
  • 9. Harpton court mss C485.
  • 10. In The Late Elections (1818), 533 it is alleged that Price’s majority was ‘but small’; if this refers to a contest, no other evidence of it has been found.