GRIFFITH, John Wynne (1763-1834), of Garn, Denb.

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

Constituency

Dates

1818 - 1826

Family and Education

b. 1 Apr. 1763, o.s. of John Griffith of Garn and Jane, da. and coh. of John Hughes of Weeg, Caern. and Cae’r Berllan, nr. Llanrwst, Denb. educ. Trinity Hall, Camb. 1781. m. 16 Feb. 1785, Jane da. of Robert Wynne of Garthmeilio, Corwen, Merion. and Plasnewydd, Henllan, Denb., 9s. (5 d.v.p.) 4 da. (3 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1791. d. 13 June 1834.

Offices Held

Burgess, Denbigh 1784, councilman 1794, alderman 1803, 1806, 1819; recorder 1817-d.

Capt. Denb. vols. 1798, maj. 1803; lt.-col. centre regt. Denb. militia 1808.

Biography

Griffith, who regularly served as chairman of the Denbighshire bench, had come in for Denbigh Boroughs in 1818 on the Biddulph interest (then in minority), his candidature having been suggested and endorsed by Denbigh corporation, of which he was recorder, William Shipley, dean of St. Asaph, and William Hughes* of Kinmel Park, and sanctioned by the county Member, Sir Watkin Williams Wynn of Wynnstay.1 He outpolled the 5th Earl De la Warr’s cousin, Frederick West, heir to the rival Llangollen and Ruthin Castle interests, by 131-92, to retain the seat at the general election of 1820. A widower since 1814, his dependence on the widowed Mrs. Biddulph and his votes against the Six Acts were criticized and lampooned during the canvass, and in his victory address he acknowledged his debt to his patron and declared his determination to vote as he saw fit.2

He proved as hitherto to be a staunch member of the Whig opposition ‘Mountain’ to the Liverpool ministry, and also divided unstintingly with Hume until 1824, often in very small minorities.3 He spoke only on issues connected with agriculture, on which he took an independent line. Hunting, agricultural improvements and botany remained his principal interests, and he counted Dr. William Withering and his sister Charlotte Botfield of Norton Hall, Northamptonshire among his closest friends. He visited both in the summer of 1820, and also toured the Wynnes’ Merioneth estates, whose revenues he controlled.4 His son Edward had kept him informed of developments in Denbigh’s contributory borough of Holt, where in July the Wests failed to take control of the corporation; and he attended meetings at Chirk Castle before chairing the Denbigh Michaelmas dinner, where his recent support for the parliamentary campaign on behalf of Queen Caroline was criticized. He refused to be drawn, arguing that his independence dictated that his votes be determined by what he heard in debate.5 He took his daughter Harriet to watch the queen’s procession to St. Paul’s in November, after the case against her was dropped.6

Tierney requested his attendance in the Commons by 25 Jan. 1821. He continued to support the parliamentary campaign on the behalf of the queen, but although present for most of the debate, he apparently left before the division on her allowance, 31 Jan., having received news that his son George had been captured by Neapolitan bandits and held to ransom.7 He divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, but not subsequently. He voted to make Leeds a scot and lot borough if it received Grampound’s seats, 2 Mar., and for parliamentary reform, 10 May 1821, 25 Apr. 1822. The West and Kenyon interests gained control of Holt at Michaelmas 1821 and, concerned with the Morfa Rhuddlan enclosure, the projected route of the Holyhead road through his estates, and Charlotte Botfield’s illness, he delayed his return to London until March 1822, making one of many visits to Norton Hall on the way.8 He had not voted to repeal the agricultural horse tax, 5 Mar., or the additional malt duty, 3 Apr. 1821, and his sons warned him repeatedly in the spring and summer of 1822 that it was politically imperative that he should campaign strenuously for action to combat distress.9 He presented Denbigh’s distress petition, 11 Mar.,10 and endorsed the Ruthin tanners’ petition against the leather tax which he presented, 29 Apr. When the agriculture committee reported, 8 May, he attributed ‘the embarrassments experienced by the agriculturists’ to the ‘change in the value of the currency, and the increased pressure of taxation from the payment of taxes by a medium of increased value’, and, complaining that poor rates fell disproportionately heavily on land compared with other forms of wealth, divided for large tax remissions. He voted in the minorities for a permanent 18s. bounty on wheat exports and against the new corn duties, 9 May, and divided for repeal of the salt duties, 3 June. He voted that day to receive the radical Greenhoe petition linking parliamentary reform and agricultural distress. He voted for a gradual resumption of cash payments, 12 June 1822, and inquiry into the currency, 12 June 1823. Debating the Irish Butter Act, he suggested a tariff of 10s. on imports, 20 June 1822.11

The line of the Holyhead road over Bryn-y-Garn had been settled to his liking, but he was annoyed during the recess to find that the Williams Wynns now denied him the gaming rights he had enjoyed for 40 years over the Llansannan hills. Trusteeship of the Plasnewydd estate, which had formed part of his marriage settlement, involved him in preparations for further chancery litigation early in 1823.12 He was granted a fortnight’s leave, 10 Apr., on account of the death of a near relation. He divided steadily with opposition from May until July. In November 1823, when his son George was comptroller, he attended the Llanrwst hunt.13 Votes to repeal the leather tax, 18 May, and in condemnation of the indictment in Demerara of the Methodist missionary John Smith, 11 June (for which he had introduced a petition, 28 May), and against the Irish insurrection bill, 14 June 1824, are the only records of Griffith’s attendance that session. He joined most of the corporation and county squires at Shrewsbury assizes in August to hear the Jones v. Williams case, which cast doubt on the chartered right of Denbigh magistrates to delegate power; and he was kept busy by Plasnewydd business on account of the ‘violent behaviour’ of his relation William Wynne, who came of age, 9 Oct. 1824.14 Illness, for which he was granted two months’ leave, 15 Feb., and a further month, 14 Apr., delayed Griffith’s return to London in 1825, and he played no part in the passage of the Denbigh-Pentre Foelas road bill. However, he divided against the duke of Cumberland’s annuity bill, 27 May, 2, 6, 10 June, and for inquiries into chancery delays, 7 June, and the Irish church, 14 June. He voted for the St. Olave tithe bill, 6 June, and was probably the B. Griffith in the minority for trial by jury under the combination laws, 27 June 1825. Anticipating a dissolution before Robert Myddelton Biddulph* came of age (26 June 1826), Denbigh corporation met at Mrs. Biddulph’s request, 7 June 1825, and made Griffith ‘the first offer’. There was no guarantee of Chirk Castle funding, and his response is not known.15 He voted against reviewing the Bank Charter Acts in the wake of the 1825-6 crisis, 13 Feb., and to add a clause enforcing payments in specie to the promissory notes bill, 27 Feb. 1826. Although present to vote for reductions in the army estimates, 2 Mar., he failed to divide that day on the Jamaican slave trials, on which opinion in Denbigh was divided. He voted for regulation of the Irish first fruits revenues, 21 Mar. He stood down at the dissolution in June 1826, when Myddelton Biddulph remained marginally under age and Joseph Ablett of Llanbedr Hall represented their interest in a violent and costly contest against West, which produced a double return. ‘After an illiberal attempt to obstruct his purpose, which he repelled with suitable spirit [Griffith] moved a vote of thanks to the assessor’.16

Griffith, whom Lady Delamere described as ‘the greatest bore in England or Wales (with a constant and alternate flow of words out of his mouth and brandy into it)’, remained an active spokesman in county and borough politics.17 He mediated between Chirk Castle and Denbigh corporation over property sales in April 1828 and offered the freedom of Denbigh to the duke of Sussex at the eisteddfod that September (conferring it in 1832).18 At the sessions, 15 July 1829, and county meetings, 22 Sept. 1829, 15 Apr. 1830, he led Denbighshire’s opposition to the justice commission’s proposals to abolish the Welsh judicature and court of great sessions, which threatened the existing county based assize system.19 He nominated Myddelton Biddulph for the Boroughs in 1830 and 1831 and supported him for the county in 1832.20 With John Madocks of Glan-y-wern, who came in for the Boroughs in 1832, he organized and addressed meetings on distress in March 1830 and parliamentary reform in 1831, when he offered to stand for the county himself should Madocks decline. In the event, and much to his sons’ relief, he was persuaded to be content with exacting an election promise from Sir Watkin Williams Wynn to heed his constituents’ support for reform.21 His own support for it was tempered by his fears that Wrexham would dominate the post-reform Denbigh Boroughs constituency, a development he tried to counter by lobbying Welsh pro-reform Members and encouraging Abergele and Llanrwst to petition for contributory borough status.22 He used his standing in the county and connections as a former Member to further his sons’ careers in the law and the church.23 Several months at Leamington Spa in 1832 failed to halt the decline in his health and he died a lingering death at Garn in June 1834.24 His will (proved under £3,000) incorporated complex trust arrangements based on an agreement of April 1833 concerning his Llanfynydd lands, and unresolved Plasnewydd business. Edward Lloyd of Cefn and Robert John Mostyn of Calcot Hall renounced trusteeship and probate was granted to Griffith’s eldest surviving son, George, a barrister on the Chester circuit, who also succeeded to Garn and the recordership of Denbigh. The other main beneficiaries were Harriet, whose husband John Price of Brynbella had recently been bankrupted, and his sons Edward, Frederick and William.25

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott

Notes

  • 1. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 495; iv. 112-13.
  • 2. NLW ms 1498 A, ii. 17; The Times, 15 Apr. 1819, 1 Mar. 1820; NLW, Chirk Castle mss C/78-85; NLW, Garn mss (1956), W. Hughes to Griffith, 19 Feb. 1819, W. Shipley to same, 2 Jan., C. Biddulph to same 4, 22 Feb., G. Griffith to C. Williams, 4 Apr. 1820; Cambrian, 15 Jan.; Chester Chron. 25 Feb., 3, 10, 17 Mar.; N. Wales Gazette, 9, 23 Mar. 1820.
  • 3. HLRO, Hist. Coll. 379, Grey Bennet diary, 11.
  • 4. Garn mss (1956), C. Botfield to Griffith, 26 June, 13, 27 July, 6 Sept. 1820.
  • 5. Chester Chron. 7 Apr., 30 June, 6 Oct. 1820; Garn mss (1956), E. to J.W. Griffith, 25 June, 17 Sept. 1820.
  • 6. T.A. Glenn, Fam. of Griffith of Garn and Plasnewydd, 132.
  • 7. Garn mss (1956), Tierney to Griffith, 4 Jan. 1821; Glenn, 132, 332-42.
  • 8. Chester Chron. 12 Oct. 1821; Garn mss (1956), C. Botfield to Griffith, 5, 27 July, B. Botfield to same, 20, 25 Aug., 1, 10, 26 Sept., 21, 25 Oct. 1821, 5, 14, 15 Jan., 19 Mar., 22 May 1822, H. Stoddart to same, 22 Jan., J.W. to G. Griffith, 27 Feb., 9 Mar. 1822, corresp. with office of woods and forests, Jan. 1822-July 1823, passim.
  • 9. Garn mss (1956), R. to J.W. Griffith, 1 Apr., G. Griffith to same, 20 June, J.W. to G. Griffith, 10 June 1822.
  • 10. The Times, 12 Mar. 1822.
  • 11. Ibid. 21 June 1822.
  • 12. Garn mss (1956), J.W. to G. Griffith, 5, 27, 29 Apr., 16 May, C.W. Williams Wynn to Griffith, 11, 17, 25 Aug. 1822, corresp. with G. Bridges, Frowd, J. Heaton, G. Rose, J. Saul and ‘Richards, Clarke and Nares’, passim.
  • 13. N. Wales Gazette, 4 Dec. 1823.
  • 14. The Times, 29 May, 16 Aug.; NLW ms 14984 A, ii. 25-27; Garn mss (1956), J. Saul to Griffith, 24 Sept, 25 Nov. 1824.
  • 15. Garn mss (1956), J. Copner Williams to Griffith, 7 June 1825.
  • 16. Ibid. J.W. to G. Griffith, 24 June; Chester Courant, 27 June 1826.
  • 17. NLW ms 2796 D, Lady Delamere to H. Williams Wynn, 20 Aug. 1828.
  • 18. Chirk Castle mss E/3487-8; Shrewsbury Chron. 12, 18 Sept. 1828; C.J. Williams, ‘Denbigh Borough Recs.’ Trans. Denb. Hist. Soc. xxv (1976), 185.
  • 19. Garn mss (1956), J. Edwards to Griffith, 11 Sept., J. Copner Williams to same, 13 Sept. 1829; Chester Courant, 22 Sept. 1829, 6, 20 Apr. 1830; Shrewsbury Chron. 25 Sept.; N. Wales Chron. 15 Oct. 1829.
  • 20. Chester Courant, 23 Feb., 3, 10 Aug. 1830, 3 May 1831; N. Wales Chron. 11 Mar., 12 Aug. 1830, 1 Jan. 1833; Caernarvon Herald, 7 May 1831; UCNW, Mostyn of Mostyn mss 7878; NLW ms 2797 D, F. to H. Williams Wynn, 9 May 1831.
  • 21. Chester Courant, 22, 29 Mar., 5 Apr., 10 May 1831; Garn mss (1956), W. Owen to Griffith, 1 Jan., Madocks to same, 4, 7, 9 May, W. to G. Griffith, 5 May 1831.
  • 22. Mostyn of Mostyn mss 7871-2.
  • 23. Garn mss (1956), C.W. Williams Wynn to Griffith, 21