OWEN, Hugh Owen (1803-1891), of Williamston and Llanstinan, Pemb.
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Family and Educationb. 25 Dec. 1803, 1st s. of Sir John Owen, 1st bt.*, and 1st w. Charlotte, da. of Rev. John Lewes Philipps of Llwyncrwn, Llangynin, Carm. educ. Eton 1817; Christ Church, Oxf. 1822. m. (1) 12 Apr. 1825, Angelina Cecilia (d. 4 Sept. 1844), da. of Sir Charles Morgan*, 2nd. bt., of Tredegar, Mon., 5s. (4 d.v.p.) 4da. (3 d.v.p.); (2) 28 Oct. 1845, Henrietta Fraser, da. of Hon. Edward Rodney, 1s. 3da. suc. fa. as 2nd. bt. 6 Feb. 1861. d. 5 Sept. 1891.
Lt.-col. commdt. Pemb. militia 1830; col. R. Pemb. artillery militia 1872-5; a.d.c. to Queen 1872-d.
Hugh Owen Lord, as he was first known, could trace his descent from the Anglesey nobleman Hwfa ap Cynddelw to the Owens of Orielton, who had a long tradition of parliamentary and military service in Pembrokeshire.1 He was named after his cousin Sir Hugh Owen†, 6th bt., whose estates and political influence his father inherited without the baronetcy in 1809, when they also took the name of Owen. His father came in for Pembroke Boroughs on the Orange Orielton interest that year, and the county in 1812, where he defeated the heir of the county’s leading Whig or Blue, the 1st Baron Cawdor of Stackpole Court.2 A two-election agreement between them gave the Blues the less prestigious Pembroke Boroughs seat, while Owen was under age, and he was raised to assist with estate business and join his father (who was created a baronet in 1813 and county lord lieutenant in 1823) in Parliament.3 In April 1825 he married the youngest daughter of the Monmouthshire Member Sir Charles Morgan, thereafter leasing Williamston and a house in Pall Mall. His income derived mainly from the interest on £10,000 settled on his bride and £10,000 invested in the Morgan estates, including collieries in Monmouthshire.4 In the Pembrokeshire coalfield, the Owens were developing a colliery at Landshipping and the Llandykevan quarry.5 At the 1826 general election he came in unopposed for Pembroke Boroughs, where the 2nd Baron Cawdor refused to back the sitting Blue John Hensleigh Allen in a contest against him.6 He admitted his youth and inexperience and, in his only statement of policy, claimed that he supported religious toleration, but not Catholic relief.7 He voted accordingly, 6 Mar. 1827. His father was ‘mortified’ at his ‘old and constant opponent’ Cawdor’s promotion to an earldom in August 1827, and promised the home secretary Peel his own and Owen’s ‘warm and steady support’ when the duke of Wellington became prime minister in January 1828.8
Owen paired against Catholic relief, 12 May, and his father informed Wellington, 24 May 1828, that they were both ‘constant supporters of ... government in Parliament’.9 In February 1829 the patronage secretary Planta expected them to vote ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation. Owen presented hostile petitions, 13, 16 Mar., and only paired for the measure when his father voted for its third reading, 30 Mar. 1829. Following his mother’s death, 1 Sept. 1829, he deputized for his father at the Pembrokeshire meeting to consider the justice commission’s recommendations for abolition of the Welsh courts of great sessions, which threatened Haverfordwest’s assize town status, 6 Oct. 1829. Disagreeing with Cawdor and Allen’s pro-abolition stance, Owen said that like his father, he was for retaining the separate Welsh jurisdiction, but would represent the views of the meeting, whatever they might be.10 He presented an unfavourable petition from Pembroke, 17 May, and in his father’s absence, 27 May 1830, argued that while there was scope for reform, it was his wish, ‘and the wish of many other gentlemen, that our sessions should be held in future where they are at present held’. He voted against the bill’s recommittal, 18 June (his father was a teller). In August, after the change was enacted, he signed the Pembrokeshire grand jury’s memorial regretting it.11 He voted against Lord Blandford’s parliamentary reform scheme, 18 Feb., and divided against Jewish emancipation, 17 May, and the Galway franchise bill, 25 May 1830. His return at the general election in August was unopposed, and in September he was given the command of the Pembrokeshire militia.12
Ministers listed Owen among their ‘friends’, but, like his father, he did not vote when they were brought down on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830.13 Family finances were precarious, and in November it was decided that Owen should reside at Llanstinan, which his father had been unable to sell or let. The 3,800-acre estate was valued at £12,000 and worth about £1,000 a year.14 Though not involved in Pembrokeshire’s anti-slavery meetings, he presented their petitions, 2, 6 Dec. 1830. Following the death in February 1831 of the Orielton agent, he negotiated post-enclosure land exchanges for Newport common.15 He received ten days’ leave on urgent private business, 7 Mar. Like his father, he divided against the Grey ministry’s reform bill at its second reading, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831.16 Nothing came of rumours that Allen would contest Pembroke Boroughs at the ensuing general election, but the Blues, with Owen’s Eton friend Robert Fulke Greville of Castle Hall as their candidate, challenged his father in the county, where he topped the poll after a long, bitter and expensive contest.17 During it and pending the outcome of Greville’s petition, the local and national press made much of Owen’s inattention to his parliamentary duties and speculated that his father was negotiating to return one of his supporters, John Mirehouse of Brownslade, for Pembroke Boroughs in his place, as a paying guest.18 Toeing his father’s political line, Owen divided for the reintroduced reform bill at its second reading, 6 July, the enfranchisement of Greenwich, 3 Aug., and the bill’s passage, 21 Sept. 1831, but his conversion to reform was said to be ‘cosmetic’ and his votes minimal.19 The Pembrokeshire election was declared void, 23 Sept., and on the 28th Owen was awarded five weeks’ leave ‘on the public service’ to canvass for his father at the second election. Sir John won, but had to sell properties in Pembroke and borrow from Owen to pay his bills.20 Owen divided for the revised reform bill at its second reading, 17 Dec. 1831, the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He was ‘absent in the country’ when the House divided on Lord Ebrington’s motion for an address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the reform bill unimpaired, 10 May 1832.21
From June until September 1832, Owen canvassed Pembroke and Tenby and attended to militia and yeomanry matters. He placed a notice in the Welshman, 13 July, to quash false reports that he was standing down or making way for John Jones*, and nothing came of threatened opposition to his return in December 1832.22 He held the seat until obliged by his father to vacate for Sir James Graham* in 1838.23 He came second to Sir John in a three-man contest in 1841, and afterwards sought refuge abroad from his creditors.24 Hopes of financial recovery were shattered by the 1844 Landshipping colliery disaster.25 Like his father, who sold most of their estates, Owen married twice and had two families to provide for on little more than land settled on his second wife and their children. When his debts permitted, he lived at Cranmore, near Midhurst, Sussex.26 By recourse to chancery proceedings, interdependent conveyances, mortgages, remortgages and life insurance policies, he was able to clear his debts to stand for Pembrokeshire in January 1861, but he was defeated.27 He succeeded his father in the baronetcy and as life-tenant of Orielton, Tasmania, the following month and as Liberal Member for Pembroke Boroughs.28 He lost the seat in 1868. During the 1870s he conveyed their portions under his marriage settlements (some £3,000 each) to his children; and in January 1882 he made a pre-decease tax settlement of £82 4s.5d.29 The Varsity Club raised a subscription for him late in 1890 when, ‘enfeebled’ and after experiencing ‘much variety of fortune’, he gave up Cranmore and moved to Barnes, where he died in September 1891, leaving everything to his widow.30 The baronetcy passed to his son Hugh Charles Owen (1826-1909), of Goodwick, near Fishguard.
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Margaret Escott
- 1. H. Owen, Owen and Perrin Fam. Hist. (1981), 143, 148B.
- 2. NLW ms 1074 C, esp. f. 52.
- 3. Ibid. 6106 D, f. 129; F. Jones, ‘Owen of Orielton’, Pemb. Hist. v (1974), 11-32; R.G. Thorne, ‘Pemb. Elections of 1807 and 1812’, ibid. vi (1979), 13; Add 38297, f. 357; 38298, f. 10; Add 40359, ff. 100, 145, 184-6, 205.
- 4. NLW, Williams and Williams Haverfordwest mss 6133; Gent Mag. (1825), i. 365.
- 5. Bodl. Clarendon dep. 372, bdle. 2, 374 and passim.; Cambrian, 7 Mar., 25 May 1825.
- 6. Carm. RO, Cawdor mss 2/209.
- 7. Cambrian, 3 Dec. 1825, 4, 18 Feb., 9, 16, 23 June; Carmarthen Jnl. 10 Feb., 8, 22 June 1826.
- 8. Add. 40306, f. 284; 40395, f. 92.
- 9. Add. 40307, f. 135.
- 10. PP (1829), ix, passim; Cawdor, Letter to ... Lyndhurst; Carmarthen Jnl. 24 Apr., 11, 25 Sept. 9 Oct.; Cambrian, 10 Oct. 1829.
- 11. Carmarthen Jnl. 3 Sept. 1830.
- 12. Ibid. 9, 16, 23, 30 July, 6 Aug. 1830.
- 13. Carmarthen Jnl. 26 Nov. 1830.
- 14. Clarendon dep. 372, bdle. 5, Harvey to Foster Barham, 26 Aug., 28 Sept., 8 Nov. 1830; Thorne, Pemb. Hist. vi (1979), 13.
- 15. Clarendon dep. 372, bdle. 6, Harvey to Foster Barham, 26 Feb. 1831.
- 16. Carmarthen Jnl. 1, 8, 15 Apr.; Cambrian, 9 Apr.; Seren Gomer, xiv (1831), 155; Clarendon dep. 372, bdle. 6, Harvey to Foster Barham, 23 Apr. 1831.
- 17. D. Williams, ‘Pemb. Elections of 1831’, WHR, i (1960-3), 42-52; Cambrian, 16, 23, 30 Apr.; Carmarthen Jnl., 29 Apr. 1831.
- 18. NLW ms 6099 E; The Times, 3, 10, 14 June; Carmarthen Jnl. 10 June; Cambrian, 11 June 1831.
- 19. Carmarthen Jnl. 23, 30 Sept., 7, 14 Oct.; The Times, 15 Oct. 1831.
- 20. Jones, Pemb. Hist. v. 32.
- 21. Seren Gomer, xv (1832), 26-27, 157, 189.
- 22. NLW, Highmead mss 3154; Carmarthen Jnl. 7, 14, 21 Dec.; Welshman, 14, 21 Dec. 1832.
- 23. NLW, Eaton Evans and Williams mss 289, 5810; Add. 40486, ff. 227-31.
- 24. Carmarthen Jnl. 2, 9 July 1841.
- 25. Welshman, 24 June, 5, 12 Aug., 2 Sept. 1842; D.J.V. Jones, Rebecca’s Children, 90.
- 26. Eaton Evans and Williams mss 9863, 9864; Williams and Williams Haverfordwest mss 6885-7, 9367, 21933-5, 25715, 25716.
- 27. Williams and Williams Haverfordwest mss 1992, 25717, 25718; Welshman, 21 Dec. 1860; Haverfordwest Telegraph, 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 Jan.; Pemb. Herald, 4, 11 Jan. 1861.
- 28. H. Owen, Old Pembroke Fams. 115; Haverfordwest Telegraph, 13, 20, 27 Feb., 6, 13 Mar. 1861; D. Miles, ‘Lord of Orielton, 1781-1852’, Jnl. Pemb. Hist. Soc. xiv (2005), 21-30.
- 29. Williams and Williams Haverfordwest mss 6888, 6889, 17148, 25718-25.
- 30. Pemb. Herald, 2 Jan., 11, 18 Sept. 1891.