EDWARDS, John (1772-1833), of Rheola, Neath, Glam.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
bap. 29 Mar. 1772, s. of John Edwards of Belvedere House, Lambeth, Surr. by w. Catherine. m. (1) 17 Dec. 1799, Ann (d. 16 Apr. 1807), da. and h. of Thomas Williams of Court Herbert, Glam., s.p.; (2) 26 Nov. 1807, Sarah, da. and h. of Thomas Barwis of The Stock Exchange, London, wid. of John Dalton of Russell Square, Mdx., 1s. 1da. suc. fa. 1818; William Vaughan of Glanelai, Glam. and took additional name of Vaughan 29 July 1829.
Sheriff, Glam. 1823-4.
Edwards, a London Welshman articled to Hugh White of the Inner Temple in 1788, became a prosperous parliamentary solicitor, of 5 New Inn. He was also associated with the architectural ventures of John Nash, who called him his cousin. His father purchased Rheola, part of the Mackworth estate, in 1800; Edwards added to his expectations by marriage to two heiresses and by fruitful speculation.1 When he canvassed Glamorgan on the vacancy of 1817, the county gentry were indignant that a parvenu attorney should aspire so high and combined to exclude him by returning Sir Christopher Cole. Cole, who could not afford a contest with him, was obliged to withdraw in his favour when Edwards returned to the fray at the general election of 1818. One of his local critics claimed that Edwards was ‘an eminent London attorney, but little known to us, except as solicitor to the Regent’s Canal Company, agent to certain noblemen, and the near relative of the Carlton House Mr Nash’. He made himself the champion of the independence of Glamorgan against a clique of landowners, but the latter accused him of corrupting the county by mere wealth and by his dangerous appeal to tenants without reference to their landlords, which earned him the label of Jacobin.2 He was duly snubbed, and in 1820 defeated by a determined organization of the established gentry. He subsequently gave up Glamorgan and concentrated on the borough of Wells.
Edwards was an ambitious opportunist, radical in his election tactics, but not in his politics; he was ridiculed for labelling himself ‘Edwards y Cymro’ 1820, when it was stated that his grandfather came to Glamorgan from Staffordshire, his baptismal certificate from Lambeth was produced and his ‘parrot-like’ Welsh derided.3 The hostile gentry sought to prevent petitions from the county being presented by him; but he managed to petition and speak in Parliament against the coal duties and the import of foreign corn, 26 Feb., 8 Mar. 1819.4 He voted with the minority for the addition of Brougham’s name to the committee on the Bank of England, 8 Feb. 1819, and on the Windsor establishment, 22, 25 Feb., but with government against Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May. A constituent criticized him for voting for the additional malt duty and against the repeal of the salt duty.
The return of a wealthy attorney for a county seat is probably without a parallel in this period and Edwards chose his opportunity well in 1818, the leading interests in Glamorgan lacking an obvious candidate: they treated his return as a piece of effrontery and defeated him in 1820 by subscription. He did however receive support from lesser gentry, industrialists and professional men; and one of them, the barrister William Vaughan of Glanelai, subsequently left him his estate. He also had his name removed from the roll of attorneys, 14 Nov. 1818.
Edwards Vaughan died at the house he shared with John Nash in Regent Street, 16 Aug. 1833. His heir was also Nash’s heir. When George IV wished to have Nash created a baronet in June 1829, he requested the remainder (as Nash had no issue) for Edwards ‘his nephew ... a gentleman of excellent character, large property, who sat in the last Parliament, and who has proved himself a thorough supporter of government, and a most loyal man, besides being well known to me personally’. Nothing came of it.5
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. R. D. Rees, ‘Parl. Rep. S. Wales 1790-1830’ (Reading Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1962), ii. 361; T. Davis, John Nash, 76-77; Carm. RO, Cwmgwili mss 424.
- 2. NLW 6575, ‘A Welshman’ to editor of the Cambrian, 4 July 1818; 6576, election posters 1818.
- 3. Cambrian, 19 Feb. 1820; Cardiff Pub. Lib. mss 163/19, squib by ‘An old Freeholder’.
- 4. Cambrian, 2, 9, 16 Jan.; Morning Chron. 9 Feb. 1819; Add. 38275, f. 216; Merthyr Mawr mss CO 149/12.
- 5. Gent. Mag. (1833), ii. 380; Davis, 97.