Montgomery Boroughs

Linked borough

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen of Montgomery, Llanfyllin, Llanidloes and Welshpool

Number of Qualified Electors:

about 700-8001

Number of voters:

71 in 1705


18 Nov. 1691PRICE DEVEREUX  vice Herbert, deceased 
27 Jan. 1701JOHN VAUGHAN 
16 Dec. 1701JOHN VAUGHAN 
25 July 1702JOHN VAUGHAN 
18 May 1705CHARLES MASON41
 John Vaughan30
13 May 1708JOHN PUGH 
16 Oct. 1710JOHN PUGH 
8 Sept. 1713JOHN PUGH 

Main Article

The rivalry between the Herberts of Montgomery Castle, who controlled the county town of Montgomery, and their Catholic cousins the Herberts of Powis Castle, who similarly dominated two of the out-boroughs, Llanfyllin and Welshpool, was effectively ended in 1689 by the outlawry of the Jacobite Marquess of Powis. It is true that influence of Powis Castle could still be felt in Llanfyllin and Welshpool in 1690, and there may have been some electoral significance in the admission of 64 new freemen in Welshpool in that year, but this was the swan-song of the Powis interest. After 1690 admissions of freemen in Welshpool were no longer ratified by the ‘steward of Powis’, and even in the 1690 election the townsmen of Welshpool had applied to Lord Herbert of Chirbury at Montgomery Castle for his recommendation, a submission he accepted by, in his turn, ‘pursuing a complaint of theirs’ against someone ‘who had done ill things in their neighbourhood’. This election was, therefore, orchestrated by Herbert, through his supporters in Montgomery. With an eye to the future, he made some moves to exploit his ascendancy in order to revive a previous claim for the retention of the franchise within Montgomery itself. Several times he suggested to the bailiff of the town that his own nominee, the outgoing Member Charles Herbert, be returned by the freemen of Montgomery alone, or that there be two returns, one from the town and the other from the town and out-boroughs, a proposal the Montgomery ‘brethren’ were to keep to themselves. The ‘out-burgesses’ were equally concerned about this question, and at one point attempted to set up as a rival candidate Herbert’s distant cousin and heir apparent Francis Herbert* of Dolgeiog, but this came to nothing. The return was made by the Montgomery freemen and the ‘out-burgesses’ together, and henceforth the franchise was exercised ‘by the burgesses of Montgomery promiscuously with those of the out-boroughs’.2

The death of Herbert in April 1691, followed by that of Charles Herbert in July, left Montgomery Boroughs elections in the hands of ‘the principal gentlemen of the county’, a clique of Tory squires who were able to secure the return of one of their number at the by-election in 1691 and in the five succeeding general elections. The Powis Castle interest was in abeyance, and the Montgomery Castle interest in the hands of one who did not yet choose to deploy it. Into this temporary void stepped Edward Vaughan* of Llwydiarth, the knight of the shire, who by 1700 had purchased the lordship of Arwystli, and with it control over the borough of Llanidloes. His younger brother John became the Boroughs Member in January 1701, and held the seat unopposed in December, and again in 1702. John was dislodged in 1705 only through sharp practice on the part of the unscrupulous Shropshire Whig Charles Mason, whose candidature, not announced until the day of the poll, and even then kept secret until the last minute (for so bad was Mason’s reputation), caught Vaughan’s supporters unawares. The outgoing Member arrived, in the company of ‘several substantial burgesses’, to find that Mason had already built up a sizable following among ‘some of the poorer sort of the inhabitants’, ‘shoemakers and other mean tradesmen and rabble’, and had also secured the assistance of one of the bailiffs, George Beddoes, ‘a tanner’, who held a snap election and declared Mason returned. Vaughan petitioned against Mason’s election, and his case received support from petitions from a number of Montgomery, Llanfyllin and Llanidloes freemen. However, Mason had enlisted the support of one Montgomery alderman and a few of the more senior townsmen, and he convinced the elections committee that the conduct of the poll was not improper. The committee resolved that Mason had been duly elected, and the Commons upheld this decision without the need for a division.3

This coup was not to be repeated, especially since by the next election Mason’s financial situation was becoming desperate. The Tory grip on the Boroughs, manifested in high-flying addresses, was even further strengthened by a minor revival in the fortunes of the Powis Castle interest. But John Vaughan could not take advantage of the restoration of Tory supremacy. There was ‘a general aversion’ to him in the county, and Mason was replaced in 1708 by another representative of the Tory squirearchy, John Pugh of Mathavarn, who retained the goodwill of ‘the gentlemen of the country’, and the seat, until 1727.4

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. CJ, xv, 94
  • 2. Bull. Bd. of Celtic Studies, xx. 293, 298; CSP Dom. 1689–90, pp. 425–6; 1690–1, p. 46; HMC Finch, ii. 357–8; Mont. Colls. xii. 328–9; xxix. 277; lxviii. 11; Cal. Herbert Corresp. ed. W. J. Smith (Univ. of Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law ser. xxi), 352–5.
  • 3. Bull. Bd. of Celtic Studies, 298; Add. 70206, H. S[parke] to Robert Harley*, 19 Dec. 1701.
  • 4. Mont. Colls. xii. 326, 328–30; London Gazette, 7–11 Oct. 1712; PRO 30/53/8/108; NLW, Chirk Castle mss E980, John Pugh to Sir Richard Myddelton, 3rd Bt.*, 26 Sept. 1710.