GWYN, Francis (c.1648-1734), of Llansannor, Glam.; Forde Abbey, Dorset; and Scotland Yard, London

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



1 - 6 Feb. 1673
11 Feb. 1673 - Jan. 1679
1685 - 1687
1689 - 1695
1695 - 1698
11 Jan. 1699 - Nov. 1701
Dec. 1701 - 1710
1710 - 1715
9 Mar. 1717 - 1722
1722 - 1727

Family and Education

b. c.1648, 1st s. of Edward Gwyn by Eleanor, da. of Sir Francis Popham† of Houndstreet, Som.  educ. Christ Church, Oxf. matric. 1 June 1666, aged 17; M. Temple 1667.  m. 18 Dec. 1690, Margaret (d. 1709), da. and h. of Edmund Prideaux† of Forde Abbey, 4s. 3da.1

Offices Held

Commr. revenue [I] 1676–81; clerk of PC 1679–85; prothonotary and clerk of crown for Glam., Brec. and Rad. 1680–d.; under-sec. of state 1681–3; groom of bedchamber 1683–5; jt. sec. to Treasury 1685–7; chief sec. [I] 1701–3; PC [I] 1701; ld. of trade 1711–13; sec. at war 1713–Sept. 1714; referee, army debts Aug.–Oct. 1714.2

Mayor, Cowbridge, 1677–8, Christchurch 1719–20; chamberlain, Brecon 1681–90; freeman, Portsmouth, 1682, Dublin, 1702, Cardiff by 1706; recorder, Totnes 1708–d.3

Commr. public accts. 1696–7.4

Trustee, linen manufacture in Ire. ?1700–?3.5


Gwyn’s old nickname, according to his own, proudly given, information, was ‘unalterable Gwyn’, and in this period he remained consistently loyal to his party, the Tories, and his patron, the 1st Earl of Rochester (Laurence Hyde†). Gwyn successfully contested Christchurch in 1690 on the Hyde interest and although listed in March by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) as a Tory and probable Court supporter, with Rochester out of favour, Gwyn in fact started the Parliament in opposition. He made few recorded speeches, but was active as a committee man and teller. In the first session he was teller on seven occasions, mainly on partisan issues. He was a teller on the Tory side in three election disputes: Bedford (29 Mar.); Hertfordshire, which made clear his sympathies as his tellership was in favour of the High Tory candidate Ralph Freman I* against the moderate Tory Sir Charles Caesar* (30 Apr.); and New Windsor (17 May). He also told in favour of an amendment to the poll tax (11 Apr.); against recommitting a naturalization bill (14 Apr.); against Hon. Thomas Wharton’s* abjuration bill (26 Apr.); and for the second reading of a clause about mayoral election in the bill reversing the quo warranto against London’s charter (8 May).6

In the next session Gwyn was again classed as a probable Court supporter in two lists, and by Carmarthen as a probable supporter in case an attack was made in the Commons on his ministerial position. Gwyn was named to the drafting committee for the bill for the easier recovery of small tithes on 11 Oct. and acted as a teller on the Tory side in two election disputes; that of Sandwich on 31 Oct., and Cirencester on 25 Nov. He was also involved in several private estate bills. In April 1691 Robert Harley* classed him as a Country supporter. During this session Gwyn considerably improved his prospects by marrying his first cousin once removed, Margaret Prideaux, some 20 years younger than himself, and the sole surviving heiress to a substantial fortune which included the mansion of Forde Abbey, eventually inherited by Gwyn and his wife in 1702.7

Gwyn’s marriage enlarged his sphere of influence in the West country and his new status was reflected in a greater level of parliamentary activity in 1691–2, including appointment to three drafting committees. He was also appointed on 25 Nov. to the committee to consider the charge of the army in Ireland, having protested on the same day against the Court’s interpretation that the 64,924 men voted for the war excluded officers. He was a teller on nine occasions in this session. These included for the motion that Sir Basil Firebrace* had been duly elected for Chippenham (1 Dec.); twice in divisions arising from the dispute between the two Houses over the treason trials bill (11 Dec., 15 Jan. 1692); and twice in support of the East India Company: once for resuming the committee of the whole on the East Indian trade the next day (17 Dec.), and once against a second reading of the bill for establishing a new company (22 Jan. 1692).

On the first day of the next session, 4 Nov. 1692, Gwyn presented John Gardiner’s election petition for Bridgwater against the Court supporter Robert Balch. His importance in the House was recognized with his appointment to an increasing number of inquiry and conference committees. He was a teller in a committee of the whole against the Court motion delaying the provisions of the treason trials bill (28 Nov.), and he told on the motion to put the question that the House agree to a conference on the expedition to St. Malo and Brest (30 Dec.). Meanwhile, on 14 Dec. he and Peter Shakerley moved for the royal mines bill. On 17 Jan. 1693 he presented the petition of Sir Eliab Harvey* against the return for Essex of John Lamotte Honeywood, a Whig, and on 14 Feb. was a teller for declaring Honeywood not duly elected. On 11 Feb. he tendered a clause to the mutiny bill to prevent irregular methods of impressment, which was read once but denied a second reading. His last tellership was on 1 Mar., against hearing the London orphans’ counsel at the bar of the House. From the summer of 1693 he appeared on three lists of placemen, including Grascome’s list of 1693–5, which correctly classed him as a placeman or pensioner but not a Court supporter.8

Although a Tory himself, Gwyn maintained friendly relations with many old Whigs and Dissenting families in Wales and the West and consequently he has been identified as a key figure in the development of a new ‘Country party’ in the 1690s led by Harley and Paul Foley I*. However, the evidence remains circumstantial. Gwyn was on friendly terms with Harley from at least 1692, and in the summer of 1693 he wrote to Harley, exchanging family news and sending his regards to Sir Christopher Musgrave, 4th Bt.*, Sir Thomas Clarges*, Foley, Harley himself and his father, Sir Edward Harley*, requesting that Harley let the ‘old gentleman at Brampton’ know that he ‘has a faithful servant in the West’. Having expressed concern on 24 July for the plight of the merchants after the loss to the French at sea, Gwyn wrote again on 12 Aug., apparently commenting on the political fallout from the disaster and agreeing with Harley’s refusal to be drawn into Sunderland’s schemes for co-operation with a Whig ministry: thus Harley’s letter of the 8th ‘agrees entirely with my thoughts, only helps me to see a little farther’, and

considering the management which was usual on both sides I always think it likely there was a fault on our side. After all this, who the knight errants are that can relieve I am sure I cannot guess; but who pretend to it, that under that notion intend making their own markets, is easier thought of, and for my part I should guess Lord Sunderland, the Amadis de Gaul in that expedition.

Gwyn claimed to be unable to guess who Sunderland’s followers would be and begged Harley for his opinion. The next month, Gwyn informed Harley that he had written to Musgrave to be present at the beginning of the session ‘without fail’.9

In the 1693–4 session Gwyn acted as a teller on 17 Nov. against a motion to let the word ‘treacherous’ stand in a resolution, aimed at the Earl of Nottingham (Daniel Finch†), condemning the management of the navy the previous summer. He was appointed to the drafting committee of a bill to encourage the clothing trade (14 Nov.). He was also a teller for the Tories against the election of Anthony Rowe for Stockbridge (20 Dec.), and in the Clitheroe election dispute (2 Feb. 1694), and again took an interest in the bill for the relief of the London orphans, telling on the Tory side against a second reading of an additional clause (8 Mar.). Gwyn was back at Forde Abbey by May 1694 and again exchanged letters with Harley over the summer. On 12 May he requested any information about a rumoured peace plan, ‘that we may consult about it in the country where the name I assure you begins to be very welcome’. In July he thanked Harley for his letter and added, ‘I find they have constituted the Bank to their purpose very well, by the annotations that you make upon them.’ In September he asked Harley to ensure that Musgrave be reminded to attend the beginning of the next session, ‘for then will be the trial that you hint at’, possibly a reference to forthcoming Tory criticism of the government’s actions over the Lancashire Plot.10

During the last session of this Parliament Gwyn was named to committees for drafting bills for regulating prisons on 4 Dec. 1694 and for encouraging privateers on 21 Dec., presenting the latter on 2 Jan. 1695. On 22 Jan. he told in favour of appointing a further day for hearing petitioners against the Bank of England. In February he told with the Tories for agreeing with one of the Lords’ amendments to the treason trials bill (8th). He was also named to drafting committees for bills to regulate the press (11th) and prevent highway robbery (12th); was appointed to a committee inquiring into abuses in raising army subsistence money and corrupt practices by officers and agents (16th), reporting from this committee (26th); and, in another partisan tellership, told in favour of discharging the mayor of Liverpool from custody (20th). He was named on 2 Apr. to a committee drawing up a clause in the mutiny bill to prevent officers extorting money from proprietors of public houses. Gwyn did not take part in the attack on his former colleague at the Treasury, Henry Guy*, for corruption in this session, being classed by Guy as a ‘friend’ in a list of December 1694–April 1695, and on 17 Apr. telling against putting the question that Guy be expelled from the House. Gwyn had been chosen a commissioner of accounts on 21 Mar. but was declared incapable of serving because of his life tenure of his Welsh office. He took part in the proceedings against the former East India Company governor Sir Thomas Cooke*, being named to two committees for conferences with the Lords and to a balloting committee on the subject (13, 22 Apr., 1 May). On 27 Apr. he was named to the committee preparing the impeachment of the Duke of Leeds (the former Carmarthen), telling on 1 May in favour of a motion to adjourn all committees except that for the impeachment (perhaps reflecting Leeds’s desire for a speedy trial), and on 3 May on a procedural motion during the impeachment proceedings. In the summer of 1695 Gwyn’s time was largely taken up with the general election. He wrote to his friend, the 2nd Marquess of Halifax (William Savile*, Lord Eland) as well as Harley and Hon. Heneage Finch I*, to encourage Musgrave to stand for re-election, and hoped that Philip, 4th Baron Wharton (whom he described as ‘old Volpone’), was mistaken in informing him that Sir Edward Harley would not be standing. Although he apparently believed in September that he would be standing again at Christchurch, in October Gwyn left the borough to make way for Clarendon’s son Lord Cornbury (Edward Hyde*), and was returned instead for the Cornish borough of Callington on the interest of Samuel Rolle I*.11

In the 1695–6 session Gwyn acted as a teller for the Tories in the disputed elections of East Grinstead and Hertford on 9 and 16 Jan. 1696. He was accurately forecast in January as likely to oppose the Court over the proposed council of trade, telling against the imposition of an oath of abjuration on members of the council in a division on 31 Jan. Then, demonstrating his adherence to High Anglican principles, he told on 7 Feb. against bringing in the Quaker affirmation bill. He was again in opposition on 15 Feb., when he told in favour of the motion to fix the maximum price of guineas at 28s. He was a teller in favour of adjourning all committees on 17 Feb., and on 28 Feb. he told for another opposition motion to confirm the 28s. value of the guinea. He was again a teller on 26 Mar. on the bill’s third reading against admitting a Court-inspired clause with a blank for the price, and not surprisingly was listed as voting against the Court on fixing the price of guineas at 22s. After the discovery of the Assassination Plot in late February, Gwyn wrote to Lord Lexington on 13 Mar. condemning this ‘endeavour of some idle dissolute villains’, and he was less than happy with the result: the Association, which he refused to sign for some months. Other important parliamentary matters included reporting from the committee of elections on the Southampton case on 17 Mar., and being named to several committees for conferences with the Lords, including that on the Lords’ amendments to the bill for prohibiting trade with France and encouraging privateers on 27 Mar., reporting on the reasons for disagreeing with the amendments on 3 Apr. and reporting from a further conference on the bill on 6 Apr.12

In February 1696 Gwyn had again been chosen as one of the commissioners of accounts, and although this time he was not disqualified by his Welsh office, he was one of four commissioners who, having refused the Association, declined to act, thereby depriving the commission of a quorum. Throughout May he wrote to his fellow commissioner Harley explaining his position, and also informing him that everyone in his locality had signed. He recognized that signing was politically expedient, but would not be the first to break ranks, and on 4 May he wrote to Harley,

I wish I could attend you at the commission, . . . I am ready to do it on my part if anyone of the other four will act. This I told them before I came out of town, but I also told them that if no one of them would act, I would not be the only man of the four that would leave them . . . My friendship for you alone influenced me to make the first offer to the rest of complying.

He seems to have viewed the appointment itself with some irritation, adding ‘I have of late often admired the wisdom of the government of Amsterdam, who when they had built their Stat house . . . and had expended in it more than was fit . . . burned their accounts, instead of examining, taking, and stating them’. On 11 May he again assured Harley that he would be prepared to act if any of the other three would do so (he had most hopes of William Bromley II and wanted to arrange a meeting with him), continuing,

This is the state of the matter, from which I cannot depart, especially since I may own to you that nobody had a greater hand in preventing the subscriptions than myself, as the only way to put a stop to a proceeding of that sort which was without precedent. That opinion I am the more every day confirmed in, for I cannot think it will stop yet as it is.

He was also pessimistic about the forthcoming session, and flattered Harley that the public good required his action in it. On 27 May he informed Harley:

I am now told in my late letters that the discourse of the town is I am coming up to act, and that they have turned their discourse from threatening, to saying they believed I would not quit the £500 a year. Neither their threatenings or censure have any weight with me, for as I never can please them either full or fasting, so I shall never endeavour it.

On the same day he wrote to his relation Thomas Mansel I*, welcoming his advice on the subject ‘for I am so persecuted on both sides having nobody to advise with’ and ‘I knew yourself would be very impartial, and would friendly [sic] consider my circumstances’. He added that his circumstances were different from those of the other three who had nothing to lose by their refusal but a place on the committee, which he himself ‘would give to the devil if I was sure they would let me alone in the winter’ and ‘you cannot wonder if I have been very much embarrassed in my own thoughts upon these matters’. It may have been Mansel, although he himself did not sign the Association, or another whose advice Gwyn requested in this letter (possibly Thomas Mansel II* or his father, another Thomas Mansel), who convinced Gwyn to sign. On 18 June Luttrell reported that Gwyn ‘has signed the Association upon which these commissioners will now act’. In July Gwyn received a visit from his patron Rochester at Llansannor, and at the beginning of August he made a short visit to London, perhaps in connexion with the political intrigue which surrounded the land bank on which he wrote a long letter to Halifax, although leaving out his part, if any, in the proceedings. Gwyn fixed the blame for the prospective failure of subscriptions to the land bank (he himself had subscribed at least £3,000) on Charles Montagu’s* machinations and wrote that, ‘though the Foleys and Harleys were at the head of it, all the land bank is called a cheat’ and ‘the animosity of land bank and old bank seems to [?turn] almost as high as Jacobite and Williamite’. He predicted this might even result in new plots aimed at getting a new Parliament and ousting Foley from the Speakership.13

In the 1696–7 session Gwyn was active against the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†, telling on 16 Nov. 1696 against reading Goodman’s information, on the 17th against committing the bill of attainder, and voting against the third reading on 25 Nov. His other tellerships were also in opposition to the Court: thus he was a teller on three occasions in favour of the bill to introduce a landed qualification for MPs (27 Nov., 3, 19 Dec.). On 2 Dec. he told against a motion to extend the subsidy on tonnage and poundage to 1 Aug. 1706, and he was a teller again on 7 Jan. 1697, in opposition to the bill to attaint others involved in the Assassination Plot; on 15 Jan. in favour of referring to committee a petition from London merchants relating to the coinage; on 16 Feb. against the Court on the question of going into committee to consider the supply bill; on 17 Feb. for agreeing with the resolution relating to compensation for plate; and on 2 Mar. against a bill for general naturalization. His last important committee in this session was for drafting a bill for preventing the export of wool on 9 Mar. Back at Forde Abbey by May 1697, Gwyn wrote to Halifax of his concern about the burden imposed on the region by the soldiers quartered there and the lack of coin, and in June complained further of both, ‘so that the taxes will go very heavy by Michaelmas, and yet they must be paid, but what will become of us poor landlords, God knows’. He also reported on the summer progress of ‘our master’, Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt.*, and in August observed that the news of the peace was much welcomed but he doubted that a decrease in taxes would materialize as the people hoped.14

In the 1697–8 session Gwyn was again a frequent teller for the opposition Tories. He told on 7 Dec. 1697, in the debate on the King’s Speech, in favour of considering grievances before supply, and on 11 Dec. against a motion to recommit the report of a committee of the whole on disbandment of the army. In the new year he told for the Tories in the Cambridge election dispute (4 Feb.); against the bill for punishing the disgraced Tory, Sir Charles Duncombe* (26 Feb.); for adjourning the House’s consideration of an appropriating clause in the land tax bill (29 Mar.); and against adjourning a debate on a clause broadening the scope of the bill to suppress blasphemy (30 Mar.). He was named to three drafting committees, and was also a teller on a local bill concerning the management of Tiverton workhouse and hospital (22 Feb.). On 19 Apr. Luttrell reported that the House had prevented a duel between Gwyn and Lord William Powlett. Gwyn was granted leave of absence on 21 Apr.

As in other election years, Gwyn was again a Tory activist in the country. On 9 July 1698 he thought ‘we shall have some alterations . . . and not much I believe for the worse; but I fear the consequence of some of our considerable friends giving up’. He attended Henry Portman’s election for Taunton on 10 Aug., but for his own election he wrote to Halifax on 1 Aug. that he relied on Rolle’s declaration that he would nominate him for Callington. However, Gwyn was not chosen. His reputation was such that the Earl of Nottingham enquired of Halifax on 27 Aug. as to Gwyn’s opinion on the new House, as ‘he is so generally acquainted that he will judge better of this Parliament than most men I know’, and was no doubt disappointed to learn that Gwyn himself had not been elected. Gwyn seems not to have bestirred himself over much, writing again on 29 Aug.: ‘I confess I have been very indifferent as to my own part of coming into the House, but since my friends think me more useful than I can persuade myself I am, I will endeavour it.’ By 12 Oct. he was ‘securing’ himself at Totnes, in expectation that Seymour, who had been returned for the borough, would choose to sit for Exeter, although he predicted that he would be ‘pretty late’ in coming up to town. In keeping with his usual behind-the-scenes activity, during the summer he solved an argument over the reversion of the clerkship of the pells by persuading Thomas Strangways I* to quit his claims to the place for £1,000 from Henry Pelham*.15

Listed in a comparison of the old and new Parliaments of about September 1698 as one of those Members of the Country party who had not been re-elected, Gwyn was mistakenly first-named to a committee inquiring into provision for the poor (20 Dec.), though he did not in fact obtain his seat in Parliament until January 1699 when a by-election was held in Totnes. He acted as a teller six times following his return. On 27 Feb. he told in favour of the old East India Company’s petition for a bill to regulate their trade, and on 17 Mar. for the Tories in the disputed election at Tamworth. Having been named on 18 Mar. to the committee for an address against continuing the King’s Dutch guards, he attended a meeting with other members of the committee the next day at Onslow’s house, and then on 20 Mar. told against omitting from the address a reference to the King’s promise to send back all the foreign troops who had come over with him. He told twice on the Tory side in the Malmesbury election dispute (29 Mar., 24 Apr.), and he also told in favour of agreeing with a clause in the land tax bill appointing county sheriffs as receivers-general (18 Apr.). In addition to these tellerships, Gwyn was named to the committee for drafting a bill to regulate the militia on 6 Feb., and managed through the House a bill for encouraging the Newfoundland trade.16

After his usual retreat to the country during the summer, Gwyn was back in London for the 1699–1700 session, in which he was again busy. In December he was one of those Tories who, in the drive for the resumption of Irish grants, attacked the grant which had been made to a fellow Tory, Richard Levinge*. He took an interest in the bill for applying the Irish forfeitures to public use, being named to the committee for balloting trustees for forfeitures (28 Mar. 1700), telling against adding a private estate clause to the bill (1 Apr.), and being named to the committee for a conference with the Lords on the bill (5 Apr.). He served as a teller a further four times, of which the two most important were in favour of condemning the ministers responsible for royal grants during the last war (13 Feb.), and in favour of an address to the King to remove Lord Somers (Sir John*) from his councils for ever (10 Apr.). Gwyn was in the country when he heard ‘the great piece of news’ that Somers had been dismissed on 27 Apr. 1700, and he wrote to Harley that ‘it was a matter of consequence and must have great effects’. One of these ‘effects’ was an apparent rapprochement between Rochester and Harley which was no doubt encouraged by Gwyn, who may have been referring to his patron when he wrote to Harley in July of his satisfaction in hearing ‘you so full of our noble friend. I always told you he deserved it. There is none, or was in the last age, like him. His honour and understanding are both entirely to be trusted.’ Gwyn’s other great confidant, Halifax, died in August that year, naming Gwyn as a trustee for his daughter, Anne. In December, news from Harley prompted Gwyn to reply on the 9th that he was ‘well satisfied’ with the news about Robert Price* (no doubt his appointment as a Welsh judge), and ‘I do not envy Mr Montagu his peerage, but I cannot help begrudging him the title of our poor friend Halifax’.17

Gwyn’s own fortunes continued to rise when, on 12 Dec. 1700, Rochester was appointed viceroy of Ireland in the reconstituted ministry and in turn named Gwyn his chief secretary. This appointment did not prevent Gwyn from playing an active part in the first 1701 Parliament. He was elected again for Totnes with Seymour’s support. His first action in the new Parliament was to vote on 14 Feb. 1701 against a reference in the Address to maintaining ‘the peace of Europe’ (a phrase disliked by the Tories as implying support for war). He took part in the reaction against the New East India Company’s success in the last election, telling on 19 Feb. 1701 in favour of the expulsion of New Company man Sir Henry Furnese, for breaching the Place Act. Also in February he was listed as likely to support the Court over the ‘Great Mortgage’. On 12 Mar. he was named to the committee for drafting a bill to settle the succession, and on 21 Mar. he told against a Court motion to add to an address on the peace negotiations thanks for the King’s care of ‘the peace of Europe’. A further anti-Whig appointment occurred on 1 Apr. when he was named to the committee to draw up the articles of impeachment against Portland, and on 14 Apr. he told in favour of a motion that Somers had been guilty of high crimes and misdemeanours. He was associated with two other measures during the session: a bill to prevent bribery at elections, and a bill for the repair of Minehead harbour in Somerset, the latter of which he managed through the Commons. Not until 17 May were complaints concerning the conduct of the Totnes election considered, and then Gwyn easily survived the challenge as on the 19th the committee dropped the case. Not surprisingly his name appeared on the ‘black list’ of those who in this session had opposed preparations for war.18

In the summer of 1701 Gwyn went to Ireland, returning in December after his election for his former borough of Christchurch. His election was reckoned by Lord Spencer (Charles*) as a ‘loss’ for the Whigs and he was listed by Harley as a Tory. He acted as a teller on 30 Dec. 1701 against the Court candidate for Speaker, Sir Thomas Littleton, 3rd Bt. He was appointed to bring in bills for renewing the public accounts commission (6 Jan.) and to prevent bribery at elections (17 Jan.), and to draw up reasons for disagreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for attainting the Pretender (2 Feb.). He voted on 26 Feb. 1702 for the resolution vindicating the Commons’ proceedings on impeachments of the former Whig ministers. On 8 Mar. he was appointed to the committee for an address of condolence on the death of William, attending the meeting held on the same day to draw it up. Other significant committees were those to draft bills for relieving the Protestant tenants of forfeited Irish estates (16 Apr.) and to apply the forfeitures to building Irish churches (30 Apr.).19

Although Rochester had been dismissed from office on 25 Jan. 1702, he was reappointed by Queen Anne and Gwyn accordingly spent part of the summer in Ireland. As ever, he was involved in electioneering, this time in Dorset, but of necessity was returned in his absence for Christchurch. He arrived back in England in September in time for the opening of Parliament. Gwyn’s parliamentary activity markedly declined under Anne and, following Rochester’s lead, he was again in opposition for much of the reign. In the first session he was appointed to several important committees, including that to redraft the Lords’ amendments to the occasional conformity bill (10 Dec.). He was also named to the drafting committee for a bill for naming the trustees for Irish forfeitures (14 Jan. 1703), and managed from its committee stage a bill explaining legislation concerning linen. On 13 Feb. he voted against agreeing to the Lords’ amendments to the bill extending the time for taking the abjuration oath. In this month Rochester was the first of the High Tory ministers to break away from Court and resign, and Gwyn consequently lost his Irish office. There was a further decrease in Gwyn’s parliamentary activity in the 1703–4 session; however, he was named to some important committees. In December he was first-named to the drafting committee for a bill regulating the press (15th), and was also appointed to draft a bill for extending the time for payment for Irish forfeitures (16th). On 12 Jan. 1704 he was given leave of absence for a month. He was forecast by Nottingham in mid-March 1704 as a probable supporter over the Scotch Plot. Gwyn’s lack of activity may also have reflected divisions within the Tory party: when Harley took office in May 1704 his relationship with Gwyn possibly became more distant, although the latter did write a congratulatory letter and appears to have been keen not to widen the breach. In the next session Gwyn was named to committees for drafting a bill to introduce an alternative to cheek-burning as a punishment for theft (18 Dec.), for inquiring into the Aylesbury dispute and for a conference with the Lords on the case (24, 28 Feb. 1705), and for a conference with the Lords on their amendments to the bill to prevent correspondence with the enemy (6 Mar.). In addition he managed several private estate bills through the House. As might be expected, he was forecast in October 1704 as a supporter of the Tack and duly voted for it on 28 Nov., a vote which led to his designation of ‘True Church’ in a list of about June 1705.20

Gwyn’s activities in the 1705 election, particularly in the West country where he appeared to be taking over Seymour’s role, caused some anxiety to the Harleyite Tories. On 2 May 1705 Lord Poulett wrote:

My duty to my country and my unfeigned respect for Secretary Harley engage me to submit it to him whether Frank Gwyn’s being chosen recorder at Exeter be of any moment or consequence. He has been the firebrand of all this side the kingdom in the elections, and many gentlemen of Dorset, Somerset and Devonshire count him as Lord Rochester’s representative and Sir Edward Seymour’s successor in his western empire, so that he is now respected as the person who can support men in the keeping or obtaining places in the ‘Public of Utopia’. There almost wants nothing but Sir Chuffer’s [Seymour] death for this management of Gwyn’s to take effect at Exeter.

Gwyn’s willingness to take over the management of Tory politics in the western counties, was also satirized by Defoe in July in the Dyet of Poland:

          Ambition now, his ancient thoughts employs,
          And all the little grace he had destroys
          With empty notions occupies his head.
          In Seymskeys [Seymour] western empire to succeed;
          Affects the ancient tyrant’s vilest part.
          To fawn with spleen, and to insult with art.
          In Poland’s western capital [Exeter] he reigns,
          Banters himself at most excessive pains;
          Seeks the recorder’s chair, and fain he would,
          Dispense those laws he never understood.
          A Hackney deputy for every town,
          But soonest chosen where he least was known.
          Full thirty years he did the House molest,
          The Diet’s banter, and the kingdom’s jest:
          In strong assuming nonsense still goes on,
          Railing at places, but forgets his own . . .
          Thus he became the Diet’s daily sport,
          A knave in council, and a boor at court:
          Learn’d without letters, vain without conceit,
          Empty of manners, overgrown in wit:
          Of high tyrannic notions prepossest,
          The fitter to be monarch of the West,
          When Seymskey’s froward spirit’s gone to rest.

Defoe reported to Harley that Gwyn had ‘particularly distinguished himself’ at the Honiton election, but later added that he thought Seymour’s empire ‘may with much ease be overthrown and his successor [Gwyn] defeated’. Gwyn himself was again returned for Christchurch.21

In the new Parliament, Gwyn voted on 25 Oct. 1705 against the Court candidate for the Speakership. He spoke on 4 Dec. against the Court motion to refer to a committee papers on proceedings in Scotland, and on the 8th supported the Tory attempt to refer to a committee the Lords’ resolution on ‘the Church in danger’. He spoke in the regency bill debates four times, the third occasion being on 12 Jan. 1706 in favour of a Tory motion to obstruct the bill by instructing the committee to receive a clause disabling all placemen from sitting in Parliament after the Queen’s death. He was also a teller on 25 Feb. on the Tory side in favour of the third reading of a bill for a further duty on wine and restricting certain imported goods. In the remaining two sessions of the Parliament he was appointed to only a few important committees: these included drafting committees for bills to strengthen the Act to prevent prison escapes (15 Jan. 1707), for the repair of Birmingham parish church (17 Feb.), and to extend the time for the return of clerical certificates (24 Feb. 1708). In February 1708, Gwyn found time to negotiate an agreement between the Tory and Whig candidates for the borough of Shaftesbury, in line with the recent co-operation between Tory leaders in opposition and the Junto. Gwyn was listed as a Tory in early 1708 and campaigned for his party in the elections for Somerset, concerting measures with Viscount Weymouth (Thomas Thynne†) to prevent the Whig John Pigott* from standing.22

In the 1708 Parliament Gwyn again represented Christchurch. He appears to have been inactive in the following two sessions: although involved in several private estate bills, he had few other appointments and, unusually, no tellerships. He was named to the drafting committee for a bill to erect a workhouse in St. Martin-in-the-Fields (13 Dec. 1708). In the next session he was named to committees for drafting bills for vesting certain lands in naval docks in trustees (10 Mar. 1710), and for the relief of creditors and proprietors of the Mine Adventurers Company (13 Mar.). Not surprisingly, he voted against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. In the 1710 election he joined with Thomas Coulson* at Totnes, apparently not being willing to stand aside for (Sir) Edward Seymour I (5th Bt.), who considered the seat his own.23

In the ‘Hanover list’ of the 1710 Parliament Gwyn was classed as ‘doubtful’, possibly because of the continuing division between Harley and the High Tories. However, in a letter of about 12 Dec. Peter Wentworth wrote to his brother Lord Raby: ‘’Tis talked to as if Sir Thomas Frankland [I*] and Mr [John] Evelyn [II*] are to be put out of the Post Office, and Frank Gwyn, Lord Rochester Gwyn as they call him, is to have it to himself.’ Frankland, having ‘been told by so many persons’ of the impending appointment, asked Harley for reassurance that it was not true. This rumour was still current at the beginning of January 1711, but in fact Gwyn did not receive office until after the formal alliance between Harley and Rochester in February, when he was made a commissioner of Trade, with a salary of £1,000 p.a. Despite the reconciliation Gwyn did not recover his former level of activity, although in the first session he was appointed to several address committees, and listed in 1711 as one of the ‘worthy patriots’ who detected the mismanagements of the late ministry.24

After the death of Rochester in May 1711 Gwyn remained a close connexion of the Hydes, being a trustee for the new Lord Rochester (Henry, Lord Hyde*). Living in Whitehall in June and July that year, Gwyn’s socializing with Rochester and the Duke and Duchess of Shrewsbury was noted. In politics, he remained faithful to Harley. In the next session he managed a bill to amend the Minehead Harbour Act, and on 8 Apr. was first-named to a drafting committee for a bill to explain the application of the Elections Act to Hampshire, reporting the resulting bill on 12 Apr. Gwyn’s influence in the country continued to be relied on by the Tories, the Duke of Beaufort requesting that he ‘heartily espouse’ James Gunter* at a by-election for Monmouthshire in February 1712. In the last session he was named to draft a bill to enable the Earl of Arran to take the oaths (8 July), and he voted on 18 June for the bill confirming the French commerce bill.25

Gwyn was re-elected for Totnes in 1713, and wrote to James Grahme* (whom he addressed as ‘worthy friend and old fellow collegiate’), thanking him for his congratulations and describing his visits to the country and to Windsor. As the divisions in the ministry developed, Gwyn remained loyal to Lord Treasurer Oxford (Harley) and in August 1713 was promoted to be secretary at war. In the new Parliament Gwyn was first-named, by virtue of his new office, to draft a bill for regulating the armed forces, which he presented on 19 Apr., and also presented a number of army estimates and reports to the House. He lost his office shortly after George I’s accession. Classed as a Tory in the Worsley list, in the new reign he remained loyal to his party, continuing as an MP until 1727. He died on 14 June 1734, aged 86, described by fellow antiquarian and friend Thomas Hearne as ‘a man of great integrity and of an excellent understanding’.26

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Paula Watson / Sonya Wynne


  • 1. Welsh Hist. Rev. xi. 285; Hutchins, Dorset, iv. 528; HMC Downshire, i. 871; Hearne Colls. xi. 359.
  • 2. Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 27, 325; iv. 224, 718; v. 73; CSP Dom. 1700–2, p. 390; 1702–3, p. 144; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvi. 117; xxix. 123.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1677–8, pp. 38, 357; 1679–80, p. 598; J. F. Mathews, Cardiff Recs. v. 496; R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 366; Cal. Ancient Recs. Dublin ed. Gilbert, vi. 259–60; Univ. Coll. Swansea, Mackworth mss, ‘list of Cardiff burgesses in 1706’; Trans. Devon Assoc. lvi. 222.
  • 4. CJ, xi. 429; Cal. Treas. Bks. xi. 162; xii. 169.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1702–3, pp. 331–2.
  • 6. Add. 46541, f. 67; Wentworth Pprs. 163.
  • 7. C. Prideaux-Brune, Fam. of Prideaux and Brune, 44; Hutchins, 528.
  • 8. Luttrell Diary, 40, 214, 265, 303, 313, 369, 418; Add. 70016, f. 216.
  • 9. Welsh Hist. Rev. 294; Add. 70017, ff. 116, 146, 170; 70294, Gwyn to Harley, 24 July 1693.
  • 10. Add. 70017, ff. 243, 327; 70294, Gwyn to Harley, 23 July 1694; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 135; HMC Portland, iii. 551, 556.
  • 11. BL, Althorp mss, Halifax pprs. box 4, Gwyn to Halifax, 1 July 1695; HMC Portland, iii. 564, 567; Add. 70294, Gwyn to Harley, 14 Aug. 1695; Chatsworth House, Finch–Halifax mss box 2, no.5, Gwyn to [Finch], 7 Oct. 1695.
  • 12. Add. 46541 f. 67.
  • 13. Horwitz, 179, 181–2; HMC Portland, iii. 575–6; Add. 70018, ff. 123, 125–6; NLW, Penrice and Margam mss L314, Gwyn to Mansel, 27 May 1696; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 74; Althorp mss, Halifax pprs. box 4, Gwyn to Halifax, 3 Aug. 1696; NLS, Advocates’ mss, Bank of Eng. pprs. ff. 95–98, subscribers to the land bank, n.d.
  • 14. Althorp mss, Halifax pprs. box 4, Gwyn to Halifax, 22 May, 1, 9 June, 5, 21 July, 2, 9 Aug. 1697.
  • 15. Luttrell, iv. 370; Althorp mss, Halifax pprs. box 4, Gwyn to Halifax, 9 July, 11 Aug. 1698; box 7, 29 Aug., 12 Oct. 1698, Nottingham to Halifax, 27 Aug. 1698; Add. 28086, f. 16.
  • 16. Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 26(1), James Brydges’* diary, 19 Mar. 1699.
  • 17. Cheshire RO, Shakerley mss DSS, Levinge to Shakerley, 16 Jan. 1700[–1]; HMC Portland, iii. 619, 623, 637; Add. 70019, f. 229; Horwitz, 276; Wilts. RO, Ailesbury mss 1300/1317?, C. [?Becher] to [Charles, Ld. Bruce*], 13 Sept. 1705.
  • 18. Luttrell, iv. 718; v. 73; Cocks Diary, 135; Horwitz, 282.
  • 19. Surr. RO (Guildford), Midleton mss 2, f. 43; Add. 7074, ff. 75–76; Stowe mss 26(2), Brydges’ diary, 8 Mar. 1702.
  • 20. Midleton mss 2, f. 72; Add. 28889, f. 204; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 375–6; Welsh Hist. Rev. 298–9.
  • 21. HMC Portland, iv. 176–7; Poems on Affairs of State ed. Ellis, vii. 121–3; Defoe Letters, 95, 100, 109.
  • 22. Cam. Misc. xxiii. 40, 44, 54, 57, 66, 78; PRO 30/24/21, pp. 21–26; Bath mss at Longleat House, Thynne pprs. 25, ff. 441, 443.
  • 23. C115/110/8929.
  • 24. Add. 70227, Frankland to Harley, 7 Dec. 1710; Luttrell, vi. 674; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvi. 117; Holmes, 270–1.
  • 25. Nottingham Univ. Lib. Gifford letterbk. 14, 24, 27, 31, 34; Bodl. MS. Rawl. C.393, f. 27; Beaufort mss at Badminton House, Beaufort to Gwyn, 12 Jan. 1712.
  • 26. Bagot mss at Levens Hall, [Gwyn] to Grahme, 29 Sept. 1713; Holmes, 270; Gent. Mag. 1734, p. 330; Hearne Colls. vi. 336.