New Radnor Boroughs

Single Member Borough

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen of New Radnor, Rhayader, Knighton, Knucklas, and Kevenlleece (or Cefnllys)

Number of voters:

about 1,000


16 Apr. 1754Thomas Lewis 
3 Apr. 1761Thomas Lewis 
 Edward Lewis 
 Double return. EDWARD LEWIS declared elected, 28 Nov. 1761 
26 Mar. 1768John Lewis547
 Edward Lewis440
 Edward Lewis vice John Lewis, on petition, 7 Mar. 1769 
15 Oct. 1774John Lewis201
 Edward Lewis619
 Edward Lewis vice John Lewis, on petition, 20 Feb. 1775 
20 Sept. 1780John Lewis 
 Edward Lewis 
 Double return. EDWARD LEWIS declared elected, 1 Feb. 1781 
3 Apr. 1784Edward Lewis 

Main Article

There were three electoral interests in this constituency: the corporation of New Radnor, which controlled the election of its own freemen; the steward of the King’s manors, who controlled the creation of freemen (both resident and non-resident) in Knighton, Rhayader, and Knucklas; and the Price family, who had considerable interest in Knighton and Kevenlleece. The sitting Member at the dissolution in 1754 was Thomas Lewis, who had represented the constituency since 1715 and whose brother was steward of the King’s manors, and he was again returned unopposed at the general election.

From the electoral squabbles which convulsed Radnorshire at the beginning of George III’s reign, Chase Price emerged as the dominant figure. As part of the general agreement concluded in March 1761,1 Thomas Lewis was to be unopposed in the boroughs, but Price disregarded this agreement and set up as his candidate a London merchant, Edward Lewis (no relation of Thomas Lewis). The election resulted in a double return, but Thomas Lewis was compelled to withdraw because of technical mistakes in the registration of his freemen. The rest of his life was spent in trying to recapture New Radnor for his nephew, John Lewis.

In 1768, on Henry Lewis’s death, Lord Oxford, Chase Price’s ally, was appointed steward of the King’s manors, and the balance of power in the constituency turned against Thomas Lewis. Because of the Durham Act, which obliged honorary freemen to hold their freedoms for at least a year before voting in parliamentary elections, Oxford was unable to take full advantage of his new position; and at the general election of 1768 John Lewis beat Edward Lewis. Then it was discovered that Henry Lewis’s patent as steward, which had been renewed on the accession of George III, had not been registered within the six months required by law. All his subsequent creations of freemen were therefore invalid, and on this ground John Lewis was unseated in favour of Edward Lewis.

By creating a large number of honorary freemen for the three boroughs under his control, Oxford hoped to win the general election of 1774. But the returning officer had remained faithful to Thomas Lewis, and, declaring that residence was an essential qualification for freemen, disallowed Edward Lewis’s majority and returned John Lewis. The House of Commons determined that residence was necessary for the freedom of New Radnor and Kevenlleece, but not for the boroughs under the steward’s control; and Edward Lewis was seated on petition.

In 1780 there was another double return and again Edward Lewis was declared duly elected. By now the original combatants, Thomas Lewis and Chase Price, were dead; John Lewis was sick of the struggle; and Lord Oxford was left in complete control.

Author: John Brooke


This account is based upon research by J. B. Owen.