HALL, Benjamin (1802-1867), of Abercarn and Llanofer Court, Mon.
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Family and Education
b. 8 Nov. 1802, 1st. s. of Benjamin Hall† of Abercarn and Hensol Castle, Glam. and Charlotte, da. of Richard Crawshay, ironmaster, of Cyfarthfa Castle, Glam. educ. Westminster 1814; Christ Church, Oxf. 1820. m. 4 Dec. 1823, Augusta, da. and coh. of Benjamin Waddington of Llanofer, 2s. d.v.p. 1 da. suc. fa. 1817; cr. bt. 16 Aug. 1838; Bar. Llanover 29 June 1859. d. 27 Apr. 1867.
Pres. bd. of health Aug. 1854-July 1855; PC 29 Nov. 1854; first. commr. of works and public buildings July 1855-Feb. 1858.
Sheriff, Mon. 1826-7, ld.-lt. 1861-d.
Hall was the eldest of seven children born to Benjamin Hall, the dean of Llandaff’s barrister son, and the wealthy ironmaster Richard Crawshay’s daughter Charlotte. Until 1808, when Crawshay bought the 3,000-acre Abercarn estate for the family, he was raised in London, where he and his brothers later became townboys at Westminster with their maternal cousin Richard Franklen, whose father managed his kinsmen the Grants’ Glamorgan estate of Gnoll Castle. In 1810 Hall’s father ‘Slender Ben’, then Member for Totnes, inherited an equal share (three eighths) with Crawshay’s son William in the Cyfarthfa works, the remaining two passing to Crawshay’s nephew Joseph Bailey.1 Unlike Bailey, he resisted selling out to Crawshay until 1817, when, dying of consumption and £100,000 in debt after purchasing Hensol Castle, Glamorgan and his election for that county in 1814, he did so for £60,000, with an additional £30,000 for his share in the Hirwaun works.2 His fortune was ‘wholly exhausted’, but Hall’s mother (d. 1839), who in 1821 married Samuel Hawkins of the Court Herbert family, received Abercarn for life and £2,200 a year; and a trust fund provided Hall, who inherited fully at 21, £1,000 a year at 18, and £10,000 for each for his siblings.3
Hall’s relationship with Hawkins was frosty, and after Oxford, where the archbishop of York’s sons, Charles and George Vernon*, became his lifelong friends, he and Franklen toured Wales in 1821 and Scotland and the Lake District in 1822, whence they were summoned back following his brother Henry’s death.4 His marriage to Augusta Waddington, upon whom Llanofer was settled, was planned well before Sir Charles Morgan* of Tredegar presided at his coming of age celebrations in November 1823. They were married by his grandfather the following month and took Nieuport House, Almeley, Herefordshire. At over six foot four, and of the Crawshay build, Hall had already earned the nickname ‘Big Ben’, later given in his honour to Parliament’s clock.5 As sheriff of Monmouthshire in 1826, he sold Hensol to William Crawshay junior for £27,500 and purchased Court Lettice, near Llanofer, and The Mardy prior to returning to Abercarn, which his mother vacated.6 Reports that he would contest Monmouth in the anti-Beaufort interest that year were quickly discounted.7 The Halls joined the Tredegar party at the Brecon eisteddfod that autumn and Augusta, who in 1834 took the bardic name ‘Gwenynen Gwent’, embarked on the passionate promotion of Welsh culture, language, and traditions for which, as Lady Llanover, she became renowned.8 In January 1828 she inherited Llanofer, where Hall engaged Thomas Hopper to build a new mansion.9 William Booth Grey of Dyffryn, Aberdare and Sir Ronald Craufurd Ferguson* sponsored his admission to Brooks’s, 17 Feb. 1829, and in June that year the 6th duke of Beaufort vainly recommended him to the duke of Wellington for a baronetcy, describing him as ‘a young man of considerable fortune in Monmouthshire’, whose father was ‘known to [Lord] Liverpool but died before the honour had been conferred’.10 He and his family spent the next year on the continent, often in the company of his sister-in-law Frances and her husband Christian, Baron Bunsen, the future Prussian ambassador. At the 1830 general election they risked the perils of the revolution in France to return to England, where Hall had directed the London attorney Vizard (who recommended him to the Broughams) to find him a good seat, preparatory to attacking the ‘Beauforts in Monmouthshire next turn’.11
Addressing the Monmouthshire reform meeting he had promoted to the Morgan family’s annoyance, Hall publicized his intention of opposing Beaufort’s sons as anti-reformers at the next opportunity, 17 Mar. 1831.12 He defined himself as ‘a staunch reformer, wholly averse to annual parliaments and still more so to universal suffrage’, and asked:
Are the wishes of those who represent the whole wealth and importance of the county to be spurned and set at naught by the two great houses of Beaufort and Tredegar? ... If the Members do not agree with their constituents they must be ousted in favour of men that will.13
He chaired the meeting at Usk, 11 Apr., that adopted William Addams Williams* of Llangibby Castle as the reform candidate for Monmouthshire and, confirming his candidature for Monmouth afterwards, he pledged support for the Grey ministry’s reform bill, economy, retrenchment and the ‘abolition of all sinecures and ill-merited pensions’. He canvassed the Morgan stronghold of Newport, 20 Apr.14 The Loyal and Patriotic Fund contributed £500 to his costs, and despite concern at his overreliance on Newport and its new freemen, sanctioned by his attorney Thomas Philips, acting for his partner-at-law the town clerk Thomas Prothero, he remained active and confident throughout.15 On the hustings, he reaffirmed his support for reform and retrenchment and appealed to the anti-Beaufort lobby, but denied authorship of a scurrilous attack on Beaufort family sinecures, printed in the Spectator, 30 Apr. 1831. He outpolled the duke’s heir Lord Worcester* by 168-149 and was chaired and fêted.16 Hall presented petitions from the anti-Beaufort parties in Monmouth, Newport and Usk seeking provisions ‘to disqualify persons created burgesses upon no claim of right from hereafter voting’, 4 July 1831. He divided for the reintroduced reform bill at its second reading, 6 July, and against adjournment, 12 July 1831.17 He was unseated on the 18th, after Worcester’s petition challenging the legality of 73 of his Newport votes, alleging bribery, and confirming the rights of the Monmouth and Usk burgesses was upheld.18 He had had no opportunity to demonstrate his considerable debating skills, but authorized the Monmouthshire Merlin to announce that he had been present and voted with ministers in all divisions on the reform bill, and that his attendance had averaged ten hours a day, with one 16-hour session.19
Hall addressed reform meetings in October and December 1831, stewarded at the Monmouthshire assembly at the Angel in Abergavenny, 16 Jan. 1832, and in July announced his candidature as a Liberal for Monmouth Boroughs, where he defeated Worcester at the general election in December, but only narrowly avoided having to defend a petition.20 After another costly contest and petition in Monmouth in 1835, in 1837 he chose to stand for Marylebone, which he represented continuously until raised to the peerage in 1859 on the recommendation of Lord Palmerston*, in whose ministry (as commissioner of works) he had promoted the 1855 Act establishing the metropolitan board of works.21 Though a life-long Anglican, Hall, who died at his London home in Great Stanhope Street in April 1867 after a long and painful illness, championed the cause of ecclesiastical reform, including the use of the Welsh language in the Principality’s churches and the admission of Dissenters to Oxford and Cambridge.22 His sons having predeceased him, the barony was extinguished, and he left everything to his wife, who in 1896 was succeeded by their daughter, Augusta Charlotte, wife of the Catholic squire John Arthur Edward Herbert (formerly Jones) of Llanarth Court, Monmouthshire and mother of Ivor Caradoc Herbert, Liberal Member for Monmouthshire South from 1906 until his elevation to the peerage in 1917 as Baron Treowen.23
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Margaret Escott
A detailed sketch of Hall’s life is available in a series of articles by M. Fraser in NLWJ, xii (1961-2), 1-17, 250-87; xiii (1963-4), 29-47, 209-34, 313-28; xiv (1965-6), 35-52, 194-213, 285-300, 437-50; xv (1967-8), 72-88, 113-26, 310-24, 389-404; xvi (1969-70), 23-42, 105-22, 272-92.
- 1. M.S. Taylor, Crawshays of Cyfarthfa Castle, 26-27; Fraser, NLWJ, xii. 1-9.
- 2. J.P. Addis, Crawshay Dynasty, 40, 158, 173; Fraser, NLWJ, xii. 9-13; HP Commons, 1790-1820, iv. 123-4.
- 3. PROB 11/1596/479; IR26/711/776; Addis, 153.
- 4. Fraser, NLWJ, xii. 252-63.
- 5. J. Bradney, Mon. Co. Hist. i (2b), 386; NLW, Bunsen and Waddington mss 1/78, 119; Fraser, NLWJ, xii. 255, 263-87; xiii. 29-32.
- 6. Taylor, 46; Fraser, NLWJ, xiii. 32; Mon. Co. Hist. ii (2b), 385; Mon. Merlin, 2 Apr. 1831.
- 7. Courier, 5, 15 June; Morning Chron. 10 June; The Times, 10 June 1826; NLW, Tredegar mss 57/45.
- 8. H.M. Vaughan, S. Wales Squires, 128-35; Fraser, ‘Lady Llanover and her Circle’, Trans. Hon. Soc. Cymrodorion (1968), 170-96; Oxford DNB sub Hall, Augusta.
- 9. Fraser, NLWJ, xiii. 35-38.
- 10. Wellington mss WP1/1023/7; 1029/4.
- 11. Fraser, NLWJ, xiii. 40-42; Gwent RO D/43/2358, 2782-6; Bunsen and Waddington mss 2/42; Life and Letters of Baroness Bunsen, i. 342; Brougham mss, J. to H. Brougham, 27 Aug. 1830.
- 12. D. Williams, John Frost, 59-65; Gwent RO D/949/221; The Times, 11 Feb.; Mon. Merlin, 12 Feb., 12, 19, 26 Mar. 1831; Fraser, Presenting Mon. xii (1961), 8-10.
- 13. Mon. Merlin. 26 Mar. 1831.
- 14. Ibid. 9, 16, 23 Apr.; Cambrian, 16, 23 Apr. 1831.
- 15. Mon. Merlin, 7 May 1831; C. Williams, ‘The Great Hero of the Newport Rising: Thomas Philips, Reform and Chartism’, WHR, xxi (2003), 488-92.
- 16. Mon. Merlin, 14 May 1831.
- 17. Ibid. 9 July 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 613.
- 18. Mon. Merlin, 14 May, 16 July; Cambrian, 14 May, 23 July; The Times, 19 July 1831; NLW, Sir Leonard Twiston Davies mss (Twiston Davies mss) 4113, 4137-41, 4169, 4175, 4235, 5294, 5934, 5994; CJ, lxxxvi. 537, 645, 655.
- 19. Mon. Merlin, 23 July 1831.
- 20. Gwent RO D/749/211-35; Mon. Merlin, 1, 8 Oct., 26 Nov., 10 Dec. 1831, 21 Jan., 23 June, 7 July, 24 Nov., 8, 15, 22 Dec. 1832; C. Williams, 492-4; D. Williams, 67-73; Twiston Davies mss 6077.
- 21. C. Williams, 494-7; M. Cragoe, Culture, Politics, and National Identity in Wales, 1832-1886, pp. 126-7; Oxford DNB.
- 22. B. Hall, Letter to Archbishop of Canterbury on State of Church (1850); Letter to Rev. C. Phillips (1852); Illustrated London News, 4 May; Gent Mag. (1867), i. 814; Fraser, NLWJ, xvi. 281-7.
- 23. Oxford DNB.