PRYSE, Sir Carbery, 4th Bt. (d. 1694), of Gogerddan, Card.

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



1690 - 20 May 1694

Family and Education

o. s. of Carbery Pryse (3rd s. of Sir Richard Pryse, 1st Bt.†, of Gogerddan) by Hester, da. of Bulstrode Whitelocke† of Fawley Court, Bucks., sis. of Sir William Whitelocke*.  m. Elizabeth, da. of Sir Robert Vaughan of Llywdiarth, Mont., 2da.  suc. uncle Sir Thomas Pryse, 3rd Bt., as 4th Bt. May 1682.1

Offices Held


Pryse traced his lineage back to Gwaethfod, an 11th-century lord of Ceredigion. The family, settled at Gogerddan since at least the early 16th century, had regularly provided knights of the shire since 1553. The 1st baronet, Pryse’s grandfather, sat as a recruiter to the Long Parliament until secluded at Pride’s Purge, and the second, also Sir Richard, served in the Convention of 1660 after acting in local government under the Protectorate. Sir Carbery, whose first appearance on the county stage was his appointment to the lieutenancy in February 1688, seems to have been a moderate Tory, to judge by his backing of John Lewis* in the election to the 1689 Convention. When returned to Parliament himself the following year, defeating John Vaughan*, he was included in December in Lord Carmarthen’s (Sir Thomas Osborne†) list of likely supporters, probably in connexion with the projected attack in the Commons on Carmarthen’s ministerial position. The remainder of Pryse’s life was to be dominated by the discovery in March 1690 of extensive veins of lead and silver ore, supposedly ‘unparalleled in any part of the Christian world’, at Esgain Hir, in the parish of Llanfihangel Geneu’r Glynn, a part of his Cardiganshire estate at that time held in trust for his uncle’s widow. Pryse, with his aunt and his ‘uncle’ (second cousin twice removed) and heir-at-law Edward Pryse, ‘confederated’ to exploit the find, but quickly ran up against a counter-claim from the Society of Mines Royal, represented in the first instance by local lessees, who also began removing ore. On 14 May 1690 Pryse alleged breach of privilege against these rivals. In the following October both sides entered privilege complaints: Pryse, on the 24th, in the Commons; the Earl of Suffolk for the society in the Lords, not against Pryse himself but against Lady Pryse and Edward, though it was tacitly assumed that Sir Carbery was the principal. Stalemate was averted by a mutual agreement ‘to try the title at law’, and the two privilege suits were simultaneously dropped. By the time the case was heard in the Exchequer Pryse, largely as a way of protecting his interests in the face of legal expenses, had formed a joint-stock ‘undertaking’ to develop his mine, taking in seven partners along with Edward Pryse. These included Lord Carmarthen’s son the Earl of Danby (Peregrine Osborne†), Philip Bickerstaffe*, (Sir) Stephen Evance* and (Sir) William Scawen*, the last named being a connexion through Pryse’s mother’s second marriage. Pryse retained half the shares himself and thus control of the venture. The Exchequer gave judgment in June 1691 in vindication of Pryse’s contention that the ore raised would not produce a sufficient proportion of silver for Esgain Hir to be accounted a royal mine; and again in the following November Pryse won through, after the society, supported by crown counsel, had obtained a retrial. Still his opponents refused to concede, and, helped by an intervention from the attorney-general (Sir George Treby*), opened proceedings for yet another trial. In April 1691 Pryse had been listed by Robert Harley* as a Country supporter, and when Pryse’s complaint that the information brought against him in the Exchequer amounted to a breach of privilege was presented by Sir Thomas Clarges and heard by the Commons on 26 Nov. 1692, Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt., denounced the repeated retrials as ‘abominable’. In taking this position Seymour and Clarges may have been aware of the rumour that Lord Capell (Hon. Sir Henry Capel*) had been ‘promised’ the mine, should a verdict be procured in favour of the society. Perhaps prompted by the threat of a privilege claim, or because the society and royal officials were tiring of the case, the Treasury had consented just the previous day to a proposal from the new attorney-general, Sir John Somers*, to postpone the third hearing until the following spring. Meanwhile Pryse’s ‘friends’ (Peter Shakerley* in particular) introduced into Parliament a royal mines bill which would have had the effect of protecting mine owners by restricting the rights enjoyed by the society (and by extension, the crown). This passed both Houses only to be refused the Royal Assent. But in May 1693 Pryse was granted a nolle prosequi upon the receipt of which, or so tradition has it, he made the journey home to Wales on horseback in just two days to lead the celebrations. The eventual passage the next session of the reintroduced mines bill confirmed his security.2

Despite establishing title, the partnership of 1691 had not flourished. There had been disputes between the partners, some had defaulted, and for a whole year no stock had been raised. There had even been an attempt, presumably originating with Pryse, to dissolve the undertaking, a rider proposed in vain by Hon. John Granville* at the third reading of the royal mines bill in January 1693 to ‘make void all contracts or promises made by Sir Carbery Pryse of any parts or shares in his lead mine to any persons whatsoever’. Pryse was fully aware of the potential of the mine, so much so that he is said to have rejected an offer of £40,000 for his shares, but fresh capital was desperately needed, and so in July 1693 he and the remaining partners (Evance and Scawen having sold up) agreed to extend the partnership and to divide the existing 24 shares into 4,008. Once more Pryse reserved half the stock for himself, and was made ‘perpetual chairman’ of what was now a joint-stock company. To attract investors, a prospectus had been published privately stating that, with a workforce of 600 men, the mines could reasonably be expected to yield £70,000 clear profit a year. However, weaknesses in management and persistent quarrelling among the partners resulted in debts, not least to the employees, and a failure to clear water from the workings in order to begin full production.3

Pryse died on 20 May 1694. In a deathbed will he left his personal estate and the bulk of his shares in the mines company to Edward Pryse, whom he also appointed as his executor. His mother succeeded in having this set aside in 1696 and secured administration for herself, but Edward Pryse, who inherited Gogerddan under a separate arrangement, had regained control of the mining interests by 1698, when he sold them off to Sir Humphrey Mackworth* for £16,000.4

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Info. from Mr R. G. Thorne.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1687–9, p. 152; Duckett, Penal Laws and Test Act (1882), 258; NLW Jnl. viii. 359–68; The Mine Adventure: or, an Expedient . . . Proposed by Sir Humphrey Mackworth (1698), 2; CJ, x. 413, 451, 514, 714, 759; W. R. Scott, Jt.-Stock Cos. ii. 443–4; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 1460, 1912; Luttrell Diary, 261; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 113–14, 131; HMC Lords, iv. 337; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 57.
  • 3. NLW Jnl. 359–68; Scott, ii. 440–1, 443–4; Luttrell Diary, 389; The Mine Adventure . . ., 3, 5; A Settlement of the Mines Late of Sir Carbery Pryse . . . (1698), 2–4; A Short Acct. of Sir Carbery Pryse’s Lead Works . . . (1693).
  • 4. Wood, Life and Times, iii. 452; PCC 136 Box; PROB. 6/72, f. 91; Nicholas, Co. Fams. of Wales, i. 209; A Short State of the Case and Procs. of Co. of Mine Adventurers (1710), 1.