MYDDELTON BIDDULPH, Robert (1805-1872), of Chirk Castle, Denb. and 35 Grosvenor Place, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. 20 June 1805, 1st s. of Robert Myddelton Biddulph† of Burghill and Crofton Hall, Worcs. and Charlotte, da. of Richard Myddelton† of Chirk Castle. educ. Eton 1820; Christ Church, Oxf. 1822. m. 31 May 1832, Frances, da. of William Owen of Woodhouse, Salop, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da. suc. fa. to Burghill 1814; mother to Chirk Castle 1843. d. 21 Mar. 1872.
A.d.c. to Queen Victoria 1869-d.
Ld. lt. Denb. 1841-d.; col. Denb. militia 1840-d.
Myddelton Biddulph’s father, a Foxite Whig, was one of the Biddulphs of Ledbury and had made his fortune, estimated to be worth £70,000 a year, in the service of the East India Company and as a partner in the London bank of Cocks, Biddulph and Company. He had taken the name of Myddelton on his marriage to a co-heiress of the Chirk Castle estate in 1801. Defeated in Herefordshire in 1802, he had used his wealth and the Chirk Castle influence to come in for Denbigh Boroughs, so thwarting the ambitions of his wife’s brother-in-law Frederick West†, and intensifying the sisters’ acrimonious legal battle for control of the estate and the constituency, which their heirs were groomed to represent.1 Despite attempts at containment, dynastic spending in the Boroughs escalated after the tripartite division of the estate in 1819, for the Wests strove to return their son for Denbigh Boroughs before Myddelton Biddulph came of age. His father had died when he was nine, and it fell to his mother to ‘preserve the interest’ without dissipating their fortunes.2 In 1824 he was rumoured to be preparing to raise the Myddelton interest in Denbighshire with William Hughes* of Kinmel Park, but his mother would not spend. He joined Brooks’s, 22 June 1825, proposed by Hughes and Sir Francis Burdett*, and in November announced that he would stand for Denbigh Boroughs at the next election.3 However, when it was called in June 1826, a pro-West returning officer deliberately scheduled the nomination so that he was a week too young to stand, and he spent his 21st birthday campaigning for his nominee Joseph Ablett of Llanbedr Hall in the violent and financially exhausting contest which terminated in a dual return, decided in West’s favour.4 Lord Forester, whose beautiful daughter Isabella he courted in 1828, thought him ‘a very gentlemanlike young man, rather too young to be married’ and noted that although ‘a great gamester’, he was determined to add Chirk Castle and an uncle’s estate to his father’s fortune, of which he was said to have lost £80,000 in 1827 to the Ansons. Lady Williams Wynn, who understood that ‘no more than £2,000 a year’ was to be settled on the couple, predicted that they would go abroad immediately, as ‘many I believe thought her too good for our young Taffy lord of the castle, who is not I think at present very popular’. Nothing came of the proposed match.5 Myddelton Biddulph approved the Chirk Castle property sales, land exchanges and increased coal mining and quarrying, but his mother, besieged by bailiffs in August and September 1829 on account of their debts, had to give up her town house and go abroad, leaving their financial affairs in the capable hands of her brother-in-law, the Ledbury banker John Biddulph.6 He had recently negotiated a marriage settlement between Myddleton Biddulph and Elizabeth Palmer, whose father Captain Palmer now called off the match.7 Myddelton Biddulph threatened another contest in Denbigh in 1830, but in the event West stood down ‘to avoid further ruinous expense’ and he came in unopposed, proposed by their 1818-26 Member, John Wynne Griffith of Garn, and seconded by Ablett.8 At Michaelmas, with his brother Thomas Myddelton Biddulph (1809-78) in attendance, he chaired his first Denbigh corporation dinner.9
The Wellington ministry listed him among their ‘foes’ and he divided against them on the civil list when they were brought down, 15 Nov. 1830. He presented anti-slavery petitions from Denbigh and Holt, 11 Dec. 1830. As a magistrate, he stood joint bail for the Chirk Bridge colliers tried for breaking the peace during the troubles in the North Wales coalfield that month. He also offered to pay for their defence when they were brought to trial.10 After seeing him on 13 Feb. 1831, John Biddulph observed:
I think it a most fortunate circumstance his coming into Parliament. It will in all probability give his mind a new direction and in time throw him into a new class of society. Unfortunately, he has no [London] home.11
He presented a petition from Chirk for the ill-fated Ellesmere and Chirk road bill, 18 Mar. He divided for the Grey ministry’s reform bill at its second reading, 22 Mar., presented favourable petitions from Holt and Denbigh, 28 Mar., and voted against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. In view of his support for reform, which he considered ‘equally indispensable to the future security of the monarchy as it is to the liberty and independence of the subject’, he was acclaimed and returned unopposed for Denbigh at the general election that month.12 He voted for the reintroduced reform bill at its second reading, 6 July, against adjournment, 12 July, and generally for its details, except on the case of Aldborough, 14 Sept. 1831. He divided for the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He apparently did little to assist Griffith and their Denbigh friends, who wanted Abergele and Llanrwst included in the reformed Denbigh Boroughs constituency to offset domination by Wrexham, and declared for the second seat conceded to Denbighshire, 19 Sept., having promised his interest in the Boroughs to John Madocks of Glan-y-wern.13 He did not divide on the revised reform bill at its second reading, 17 Dec. 1831, but he voted against amending it by introducing a £10 urban poor rate franchise, 3 Feb., for its voter registration provisions, 8 Feb., to leave Helston in Schedule B, 23 Feb., and to enfranchise Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb 1832. In common with other Welsh Members, he cast a protest vote to grant Merthyr separate enfranchisement instead of Gateshead, 5 Mar. He divided for the bill’s third reading, 22 Mar., and Ebrington’s motion calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May 1832. He divided with government on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug., the Liverpool writ, 5 Sept. 1831, and the Russian-Dutch loan, 12, 16, 20 July 1832. His marriage in May 1832 strengthened his ties with the politically important Whig families of Lloyd, Owen and Mostyn.
Myddelton Biddulph rarely deigned to acknowledge his Denbighshire friends in London, but he sought them out in the county, where his inability to speak Welsh placed him at a disadvantage with natural Liberal supporters during his canvass, and defeated the Ultra Lloyd Kenyon* to come in with Sir Watkin Williams Wynn* at the December 1832 general election.14 Accused of inactivity, he attributed his inattention to parliamentary duties to ‘inflammation of the eyes’, which frequently confined him to a dark room. He lost to a Conservative at the January 1835 election15 and failed to return Thomas for Denbigh Boroughs in 1837 and 1841. He contested Denbighshire again in 1847 after succeeding Williams Wynn to the lord lieutenancy and as militia commander, and his mother to Chirk Castle and half her £30,000 fortune. Although defeated in 1847, when opposition to the Maynooth grant was the cornerstone of his campaign, he succeeded in 1852, retaining the seat until 1868, when his personal support for the established church, ‘Adullamite Whig’ principles and failure to condemn ‘y sgriw’ (politically motivated evictions) cost him Liberal support.16 He died at his London home in Grosvenor Place in March 1872 and was buried at Chirk.17 He was succeeded there by his eldest son Richard (1837-1913), left his town house to his wife and provided annuities, marriage settlements and life insurance for his remaining children and dependants. His brother Thomas retained a life interest in the Burghill estate which he barred Roman Catholics from inheriting.