Montgomery Boroughs


Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the burgesses of Montgomery, Caersws, Llanfyllin, Llanidloes, Newtown and Welshpool.

Number of voters:




Main Article

According to the terms of the 1536 Act of Union, every Welsh county (except Merioneth) was to have an MP returned by the burgesses of all the shire’s chartered boroughs. This enfranchised six towns in the east of Montgomeryshire, along the upper reaches of the Severn valley. Two of these, Llanfyllin and Welshpool, were prosperous market towns with substantial populations of 1,000 each. Montgomery and Llanidloes, each a little over 500 strong, retained a formal corporate structure and were wealthy enough to secure confirmations of their borough charters at the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign, but Newtown and Caersws dwindled into insignificance. Machynlleth, the sole town in the west of the shire, had important cloth and cattle markets but no charter, and its manorial government was extinguished by quo warranto during the 1630s.1

Notwithstanding the legal formula, during the early Stuart period the franchise was apparently confined to the burgesses of Montgomery. As late as 1601, borough and shire elections were held together, alternating between Montgomery and Machynlleth, but by the 1620s the borough elections became fixed at the shire town. At the same time the wording of the returns, which under Elizabeth had generally located the franchise among ‘all the burgesses of the county’, was altered to redefine the electorate as ‘the burgesses of Montgomery’. This distinction was only reversed when three of the other boroughs fought to reassert their voting rights in 1679. The narrowing of the franchise undoubtedly took place with the encouragement of the Herbert family, who dominated the county’s parliamentary representation in the century between the Union and the Civil War: the last thing they would have wanted to see was an influx of voters from Llanfyllin, where their enemies the Vaughans of Llywidiarth had influence, or Newtown, residence of the Price family, who had challenged their authority at the county election of 1588.2

Under Elizabeth the county’s electoral patronage had been dominated by the Herberts of Montgomery, but from 1604 the knighthood of the shire became the exclusive preserve of their kinsman Sir William Herbert of Powis Castle. The Montgomery Herberts’ ownership of 16 burgages in the town of Montgomery gave them an enduring interest in the latter seat, and the return of lesser figures in the four elections between 1593 and 1604 almost certainly owed more to a shortage of adult male Herberts rather than any decline in the family’s electoral influence. Edward Whittingham, the Member returned in 1604, was a minor gentleman resident at Court Culmore, a mile to the west of Montgomery, and a member of the town corporation, but his claim upon the seat was doubtless assisted by the fact that he was a servant of Sir Edward Herbert* of Montgomery.3

Although Whittingham continued to play an active part in the borough’s affairs until the 1630s, he is not known to have sought election to Parliament again. The next five parliaments saw the return of four close relatives of Sir Edward Herbert: Sir John Danvers (1614) was Herbert’s stepfather; Edward Herbert (1621) his cousin; while George and Sir Henry Herbert (1624-6) were his youngest brothers.4 The supply of family candidates dried up once again in 1628, with Danvers and Edward Herbert being provided for elsewhere, George Herbert ineligible since his ordination, and Sir Henry Herbert presumably disinclined to stand following his marriage to a Worcestershire heiress. This left room for a local candidate, Richard Lloyd of Marrington, a small town situated two miles east of Montgomery in Shropshire. Lloyd was a distant cousin of the Herbert family by marriage, and his father, Priamus Lloyd, was one of the witnesses to his return.5

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. SR, iii. 568, 935-6; I. Soulsby, Towns of Medieval Wales, 93-4, 167-8, 170-2, 180-1, 185-7, 209-11, 265-8; Mont. Colls. xxiii. 192-4; lxxviii. 100; lxxix. 11-16; Agrarian Hist. Eng. and Wales ed. J. Thirsk, iv. 535.
  • 2. J.E. Neale, Eliz. House of Commons, 93-104.
  • 3. C142/247/84; PROB 11/90, f. 195; C3/297/34.
  • 4. See ped. at end of Herbert Corresp. ed. W.J. Smith (Univ. Wales Bd. of Celtic Studs., Hist. and Law ser. xxi).
  • 5. RICHARD LLOYD; C219/41B/21.