OWEN, Arthur II (c.1674-1753), of Orielton, Pemb.
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Family and Education
b. c.1674, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of Sir Hugh Owen, 2nd Bt.*, by his 1st w.; bro. of Wirriot Owen*. m. by 1697 (with £7,000), Emma (d. 1724), da. of Sir William Williams, 1st Bt.*, sis. of Sir William Williams, 2nd Bt.*, 6s. (3 d.v.p.) 6da. (3 d.v.p.). suc. fa. as 3rd Bt. 13 Jan. 1699.1
?Capt. 2nd Marine regt. Jan.–Dec. 1690.2
Member, SPCK 1701, SPG 1701.3
Mayor, Pembroke 1704–6, 1724–5, 1727; sheriff, Pemb. 1707–8; ld. lt. and custos rot. Pemb. and Haverfordwest 1715–d.; v.-adm. N. Wales 1716.4
Owen succeeded his father as knight of the shire in 1695 without opposition, and at first seems to have followed the family pattern of moderate, or independent, Whiggery. He was forecast as likely to vote against the Court in the divisions of 31 Jan. 1696 on the proposed council of trade, and after signing the Association was classed in September 1698, in a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments, as a supporter of the Country party. He was not, however, a particularly active Member: in the forecast for the council of trade vote he was originally marked down as a probable absentee, and he was granted an unlimited leave of absence on 16 Feb. 1697. Most of his time was spent in pursuing his claims upon the estate of Sir William Williams, 6th Bt.*, to whom he ‘pretended to be a remote heir at law’. Williams, who had died in December 1696, had left his property at Vaynol in Caernarvonshire to the sons of his friend Sir Bourchier Wrey, 4th Bt.*, for their lives, with a reversion to the crown. Owen, however, quickly descended on Vaynol
with a great number of armed men, forcibly broke open the two capital houses of the said Sir William Williams and drove the servants out of possession, and took and carried away all the plate, furniture, provision, arms and three sacks full of writings, relating to Sir William’s estate; and drove all the cattle from off the highway. They also broke open the houses of several of Sir William’s tenants, and drove their cattle from off their premises, and threaten to serve the rest so, that will not attorn tenants to Mr Owen.
The matter was brought before the Commons in April 1697 by the Wrey faction, responding to a threat from Owen to ‘stand on his privilege’, and on the 14th it was resolved that privilege did not apply. Judgment in court was given to the Wreys in the Michaelmas term, only for Owen to repeat his invasion in December, cut down a sizable quantity of timber, and again claim parliamentary privilege when challenged. This time both parties petitioned the House (8, 27 Jan. 1698), each alleging trespass, illegal distraint of property, and violence, on the part of the other. A witness testified that at one point Owen had been abused as ‘a rebel’. On 3 Mar. the committee of privileges’ report, once more disallowing Owen’s claim, was accepted; and only 11 days later Owen was given a leave of absence. He was granted another leave on 16 Jan. 1699, to attend his ill father. Sir Hugh Owen had in fact died three days previously, but the consequent improvement in Owen’s fortunes occasioned by inheriting the family estates was to some extent balanced when, in June 1699, an Exchequer hearing upheld the Wreys’ right to the Williams estate. As far as is known, Owen made no significant contribution to the 1699–1700 session, and in early 1700 was listed as either doubtful or, perhaps, opposition.5
In common with other Whigs of a Presbyterian background and ‘Country’ cast of mind, Owen was involved in the early activities of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, being appointed a ‘correspondent member’ for Pembrokeshire in March 1701. He was also one of the founder members of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, established the following June. The influence of (Sir) John Philipps (4th Bt.), at this time Member for Pembroke Boroughs, can also be detected here. Owen may well have followed Philipps’ example in March 1702 in refusing to take part in a duel, since a warrant was issued for the arrest of his challenger. A tellership on 10 June 1701, against an additional clause to the accounts commission bill to safeguard the previous Act for taking account of the army and navy debts, is not indicative of any particular political affiliation, and Owen was classed with the doubtfuls in Robert Harley’s* list of the Parliament elected in December 1701. An early example of what was to become an important involvement in Anglesey politics occurred in this Parliament, with Owen’s presentation on 13 Mar. 1702 of a petition on behalf of freeholders in two of the hundreds on the island against unfair assessment by the land tax commissioners. The petition, however, was subsequently withdrawn.6
After Queen Anne’s accession Owen seems to have become more determinedly Whig. Family tradition has it that he ‘galloped . . . to Westminster’ in February 1703 to cast a critical vote against a Tory amendment to the bill for enlarging the time for taking the oath of abjuration, and he was listed as voting to agree with the Lords’ amendments on that measure. He was sent for in custody on 25 Nov. 1704 for defaulting on a call of the House, and, not being released until 8 Dec., was therefore absent from the division of 28 Nov. on the Tack. Possibly because of loss of face in this incident, he stood down in the 1705 general election in favour of his younger brother Wirriot. Certainly it is difficult to explain this temporary retirement in terms of a lack of interest in politics, for at about this time he was devoting considerable attention to the Pembroke Boroughs constituency, and in particular the county town itself, where he had been elected mayor in 1704 and was busy admitting ‘great numbers of his dependants, tenants and servants . . . to be common councilmen and burgesses’. The result of this campaign was an unopposed return for Pembroke Boroughs in 1708. At this election he also made an attempt on the Tory interest of the Bulkeleys in Anglesey. His property at Bodowen gave him influence over the burgesses of Newborough, who for some time had been seeking to establish their right to vote in elections for the borough of Beaumaris. Owen put himself forward as their champion against the outgoing Member for Beaumaris, Henry Bertie II, and when Bertie was returned the mayor and corporation of Newborough petitioned on his behalf. He also joined other Whigs in presenting a memorial to the Treasury in March 1709 accusing the head of the Bulkeley family, Viscount Bulkeley (Richard*), of corruption and partiality in the exercise of his various local offices. Although Owen withdrew his backing for the memorial in the following May after a county meeting had given Bulkeley overwhelming support, the dispute over the Beaumaris election went on, Owen bringing a complaint against the town clerk and one of the bailiffs of the town for denying him access to vital documents, quarrelling with Lord Bulkeley in the elections committee in January 1710 so violently that a duel was only narrowly averted, and eventually losing his case when the committee reported on 18 Feb. At the crucial session of the committee, ten days earlier, Owen had himself proposed an amendment to the resolution, which would have preserved the Newborough burgesses’ claim to the franchise; but, as a Tory gleefully reported, he had found no seconder. In the meantime he had told for the Whig side on an adjournment motion on 3 Mar. 1709, voted in favour of the naturalization of the Palatines, and for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.7
In the 1710 election Owen stood both for Pembrokeshire, where he was heavily defeated by the Tory John Barlow, and in Pembroke Boroughs, where he was victorious. Classed, curiously, as a Tory in one list of the returns to this Parliament, he told on 20 Dec. 1710 for an amendment to the land tax bill and on 13 Feb. 1711 was granted six weeks’ leave of absence. On 7 Dec. he voted for the motion demanding ‘No Peace without Spain’. Having lost his seat on petition in 1712, at the following election he was too despondent to put up at all. The story that after the Hanoverian succession Owen was offered, and declined, an earldom finds no corroboration in contemporary evidence. He did recover his seat as knight of the shire, obtained the county lord lieutenancy, and had the satisfaction of replacing Lord Bulkeley as vice-admiral of North Wales. But his efforts to have his Tory enemies in Pembrokeshire purged from the commission of the peace were frustrated. Owen died on 6 June 1753, and was buried at Monkton, Pembrokeshire. Two of his sons sat in Parliament: the eldest for Pembroke Boroughs (1722–47 and 1761–74), and for the county in the intervening years.8
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. J. E. Griffith, Peds. Anglesey and Caern. Fams. 58; J. R. Phillips, Owens of Orielton, 48–49, 51, 61, 65; NLW, Wynnstay mss L534, acquittance concerning marriage portion, n.d.
- 2. CSP Dom. 1689–90, p. 423; 1690–1, pp. 195, 198.
- 3. Chapter in Eng. Church Hist. ed. McClure, 124; SPCK Corresp. ed. Clement (Univ. of Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies Hist. and Law ser. x), 250.
- 4. Pemb. Life 1572–1843 ed. B. E. and K. A. Howells (Pemb. Rec. Soc. 1972), 56–57; W. Wales Hist. Recs. v. 123–4; D. Miles, Pemb. Sheriffs, 39–40.
- 5. Bull. IHR, sp. supp. 7, p. 9; CSP Dom. 1698, p. 128; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 351, 531.
- 6. CSP Dom. 1700–2, pp. 357, 529.
- 7. Phillips, 58–59; R. Lockley, Orielton (1980), 24–25; CJ, xvi. 277; Pemb. Life, 56–57; Trans. Anglesey Antiq. Soc. (1930), 63; (1962), 40–43; SP 34/37, ff. 62–63; Luttrell, vi. 538; UCNW, Baron Hill mss 6745, William Owen to William Jones, 9 Feb. 1710.
- 8. Phillips, 58–59, 61; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 249–50.