LEWIS, Wyndham (1780-1838), of Greenmeadow, Tongwynlais, Glam. and Grosvenor Gate, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. 7 Oct. 1780, 4th but 3rd surv. s. of Rev. Wyndham Lewis (d. 1781), rect. of Newhouse, Glam., and Mary, da. and coh. of Samuel Price of The Park and Coity, Glam. educ. L. Inn 1812, called 1819. m. 22 Dec. 1815, Mary Ann, da. of Capt. John Viney Evans, RN, of Brampford Speke, Devon, s.p.; 1 da. illegit. d. 14 Mar. 1838.
‘A thin, narrow, pale man’ lampooned as Timothy Weasel, Wyndham Lewis was the second son so named of the Rev. Wyndham Lewis. He shared a common ancestry and could draw on family connections with the earls of Plymouth, the Windsor family and the radical Richard Price, while as a direct descendant of the Lewises of Newhouse, Llanishen and Y Fan, he inherited shares in the Dowlais Iron Company and substantial estates in Glamorgan, Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire.1 The estates became his in trust on his father’s death in 1781, but transfer of the six-sixteenth share in the Dowlais works he inherited jointly with his brother, the Rev. William Price Lewis, was delayed until the death in 1810 of their uncle, William Lewis of Pentyrch Forge.2 Lewis was intended to play an active role in the management of the family estate and foundries. The running of the latter was overseen by the other major shareholders, Josiah John Guest* and his brother Thomas Revel Guest; and Lewis, who was credited with ‘acute business acumen’, was primarily concerned with accounts and managing the company’s leases, contracts, property, transport and banking, including the Cardiff and Merthyr Bank.3 This brought him into contact with the 2nd marquess of Bute, whose agent Peter Taylor Walker he regularly accompanied on business to Bristol and London where, in November 1819, after attending the legal proceedings against the town clerk of Cardiff’s sons, Frederick and Nichol Wood, for insulting Walker (as constable of Cardiff Castle), he stayed on to fulfil his ambition of being called to the bar.4 Like other ironmasters and landowners, he had invested in turnpike and canal companies, served in the county militia (as major) and was an active magistrate and deputy lieutenant; while as sheriff of Glamorgan, 1819-20, his partner Josiah Guest officiated at the county’s hard-fought election in 1820.5 Lewis’s late opportunity to contest Cardiff Boroughs in 1820 derived from Walker’s decision to caution Bute against offering his brother, the pro-Catholic Whig Lord James Crichton Stuart*, for re-election there and the marquess’s reluctance to back the 6th duke of Beaufort’s nominee, his agent Ebenezer Ludlow.6 Lewis’s success in the fierce contest has been attributed to the ironmasters, local opposition to representation by ‘an outsider’, the ease with which new voters could be created in Cardiff, Cowbridge and Llantrisant, where Bute was strongest, and the backing of the Margam trustees, whose Kenfig voters turned the election. Margam in return secured county votes for the successful candidate Sir Christopher Cole, whom Lewis had supported since 1817.7 He was, according to another potential candidate, Lewis Weston Dillwyn† of Penlle’rgaer, ‘so obviously under the thumb of the marquess, that I cannot consider him as much more than a locum tenens’.8 He took his seat ‘on the independent benches of the ministerial side’, for he was ‘not determined as to my politics’ and strove to sit unfettered, committed only to opposing Catholic relief and to promoting his commercial interests.9 On the latter, he wrote to Josiah Guest of the proposed curbs on emissions from industrial furnaces, 2 May 1820:
As it may possibly affect the iron works in Wales, I called on Sir Charles Morgan, Lord G. Somerset, Mr. Benett, etc., to apprize them of the great injury which the works would sustain if they were compelled to put up any expensive apparatus for consuming the smoke, and they have all promised to watch the proceedings and oppose any measure which they find may be prejudicial to the ironworks. Will you be good enough to mention the business to the ironmasters that may be prepared to take the necessary steps to oppose it, if it should be considered prudent?10
The ironmasters’ success in restricting the new standards to new furnaces pleased him.11 However, from July 1822, ‘Unus Populi’, writing in the Cambrian, accused him of abusing his membership of the House to procure dockyard contracts for Guest and Dowlais.12
He divided against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 30 Apr. 1822, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and the attendant Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. 1825. A radical publication of that year noted that he ‘appeared to attend frequently and to vote sometimes with, and sometimes against ministers’.13 He divided with them on Queen Caroline’s case, 6 Feb., the additional malt duty, 3 Apr., and the voting rights of civil ordnance officers, 12 Apr., and voted to retain the death penalty for forgery, 23 May 1821.14 He divided against more extensive tax reductions, 21 Feb. 1822. His reports to Bute on constituency issues now became defensive in tone.15 Sir John Nicholl*, observing Lewis’s critical vote on the peacetime appointment of Canning’s ally Beresford as lieutenant-general of the ordnance, 19 Feb. 1823, wrote to his son:
Lewis, the Member for our Boroughs, was inserted in the minority on the ordnance question, and the fact of his having so voted is repeated in the Cambrian. I very much doubt it, but if it is true, he could not have selected a more fortunate occasion for ‘showing his independence’, Mr. Hume’s motion being shown to be so unfounded in allegation, as well as inexpedient in its proposition, that some of the Whigs proposed an amendment to it, and several of them voted against it. Yet this was the motion which a wise and honest Member chooses as the first to support in order to prove that he is not uniform in voting with government.16
He divided with opposition on the Barbados revenues, 17 Mar., but was against repealing the assessed taxes, 18 Mar. 1823. Bute, Dowlais and the Glamorgan Canal Company were in dispute over the extension of the Western Union Canal and the engineer Thomas Telford’s plans for Cardiff when in May 1823 Lewis discussed his political future with Bute, who asked him to vacate in Crichton Stuart’s favour at the dissolution.17 An exchange of letters on 1 Mar. 1824 formalized their breach.18 Lewis voted for the usury laws repeal bill, 8 Apr. 1824. He divided with administration on the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., and the duke of Cumberland’s award, 10 June, but against increasing it, 27 May 1825. He voted against the president of the board of trade’s proposed salary, 10 Apr. 1826.
Assisted by his Cowbridge agent Thomas Williams and by the philanthropy and entertainments showered on constituents by his petite and vivacious wife Mary Ann, he had been canvassing for re-election for Cardiff Boroughs since February 1824, despite strenuous opposition from Bute, with whom he and Dowlais remained in dispute on business matters.19 He reported favourably to his wife and others in July 1824 on his overtures to the Margam trustees and Beaufort, but his inability to get government money for Swansea and the western boroughs during the 1825-6 banking crisis, which his own firm survived, distanced him from Dillwyn and Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot* of Penrice and Margam, who in February 1826 declared for Crichton Stuart.20 He hoped ‘No Popery’ and a thorough canvass of the Bristol and London out-voters would carry him through, but Bute’s manipulation of his erstwhile supporters made his cause hopeless and, after informing Bute, 31 May, he renounced his candidature in an open letter from London, 2 June 1826.21 Although denied Cardiff Boroughs, Lewis’s wealth, anti-Catholicism and professed ‘disposition to support the ministers’ brought him an opportunity to contest Camelford with Sir Henry Frederick Cooke* on the 3rd marquess of Hertford’s interest in a costly close-fought contest at the general election of 1826, when the result, a quadruple return, was settled by a scrutiny in favour of Lord Darlington’s candidates.22 He had also, over an eight-month period, negotiated with the London freemen of Maidstone, where he proposed buying a mansion and the mayor accused him of issuing ‘anonymous addresses’ in a ‘selfish and designing attempt to destroy the ancient rights of this borough’.23 Standing on the ‘Pink’ interest, he polled a poor third there in 1826. On the hustings he described himself as a country gentleman connected with commercial affairs through Dowlais, ‘the largest [iron enterprise] in the world’, said that he supported ministers ‘no further than I considered their measures right’ and claimed that despite his continued opposition to Catholic relief, he was ‘a steady friend to civil and religious liberty, particularly as it respects Protestant Dissenters’.24 By arrangement with Hertford and his man of business John Croker, he was substituted for the latter on a vacancy at Aldeburgh in May 1827. He sat ‘during pleasure’ and his parliamentary conduct was dictated by Croker and the marquess.25 He divided against repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., and Catholic relief, 12 May 1828. In February 1829, ostensibly on account of his opposition to conceding Catholic emancipation, which Hertford instructed his Members to support, Lewis, who did not vote on the issue, 6 Mar., had to make way at Aldeburgh for the duke of Wellington’s heir Lord Douro.26 False reports circulated in Glamorgan that Wellington would compensate him with a baronetcy.27
Despite his retiring nature, Lewis had tried hard while in Parliament to make the most of social and political contacts, who now included the Speaker and his wife, and he and Mary Anne retained these connections following his ‘retirement’.28 He did not stand for Parliament in 1830 or in 1831, when he had misgivings over the Grey ministry’s reform bill; but he worked with Josiah Guest towards securing the enactment in 1830 of the amended Bute canal bill, and also for the separate representation of Merthyr Tydfil under the 1832 Reform Act.29 He was defeated at Maidstone in 1832, when uncertainty concerning his political allegiance and stance on reform and the truck system went against him, but he was returned there as a Conservative in 1835.30 He died suddenly in March 1838, while writing at his desk. In business his most recent concern had been development of the Dyffryn Llynfi and Porthcawl Railway Company. He had formed a close friendship with Benjamin Disraeli†, his colleague at Maidstone since 1837, who, on 28 Aug. 1839 married his widow.31 Mary Ann (d. 1872) retained the Grosvenor Gate mansion and a life interest in Lewis’s Glamorgan, Monmouthshire, Gloucestershire and Somerset estates, which passed to the heirs of his brother William. Lewis also provided for another nephew and niece, his ‘natural daughter Frances’ (Mrs. May), and ‘Thomas the son of Mary Jenkins’ of St. Marylebone, ‘formerly of Cardiff’.32
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Margaret Escott
- 1. NLW ms 6569E; G.T. Clark, Limbus Patrum Morganiae, i. 58.
- 2. PROB 11/1084/530; J. Lloyd, Early Hist. Old S. Wales Iron Works, 33, 45.
- 3. M. Elsas, Iron in the Making, pp. vii, viii.
- 4. TNA IND1/4584, p. 91; J.H. Matthews, Cardiff Recs. ii. 60; iii. 260, 262, 265; v. 503-7; Bodl. Hughenden Dep. D/I/D/39-43; L. Hargest, ‘Cardiff’s "Spasm of Rebellion" in 1818’, Morgannwg, xxi (1977), 69-88.
- 5. R.D. Rees, ‘Parl. Rep. S. Wales, 1790-1830’ (Reading Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1962), ii. 394-5; Hughenden Dep. D/I/D/39-43, 189; D/II/A/21-30; E. Ball, ‘Glam. Members During the Reform Bill Period’, Morgannwg, x (1966), 5-30.
- 6. R. Grant, Parl. Hist. Glam. 1542-1976, p. 250; Glam. RO DA/8/11; Christ Church, Oxf. Phillimore mss, Crichton Stuart to Phillimore, 17 Oct. 1824.
- 7. Glam. RO D/DA12/2/22; NLW, Bute mss L63/20, 25, 26; Diaries of John Bird of Cardiff ed. H.M. Thomas (S. Wales Rec. Soc. v), 38-41.
- 8. Rees, i. 247; NLW, Penllergaer mss B, 11/21, 19/13.
- 9. Grant, 21-22, 34, 148-9; Ball, 6-7.
- 10. Elsas, 216-17.
- 11. Hughenden Dep. D/I/D/190.
- 12. Cambrian, 20 July 1822.
- 13. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 473.
- 14. Seren Gomer, iv (1821), 154.
- 15. Bute mss L64/22, 35, 37.
- 16. Merthyr Mawr mss F/51/4.
- 17. Bute mss L66/2-7, 13, 15-20; L67/22.
- 18. Ibid. L67/11.
- 19. Glam RO D/DA11/2, 8-14, 18, 19, 22, 42; 12/6, 118; Bute mss L67/11, 19, 32-35, 38, 42; Cambrian, 31 Dec. 1825, 11 Mar., 13, 27 May 1826.
- 20. Glam. RO D/DA11/47; 12/35; Hughenden Dep. D/I/D/47, 49, 50, 52-55, 57, 58, 60, 63-67, 70-73; Bute mss L67/23; L68/17; NLW, Penrice and Margam mss 9235, Lewis to T.