Caernarvon Boroughs


Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen of Caernarvon, Conway, Criccieth, Nevin and Pwllheli

Number of voters:

about 700


(1801): Caernarvon 3,626; Conway 889; Criccieth 396; Nevin 1,028; Pwllheli [parish of Denio] 1,166


21 June 1790HENRY WILLIAM PAGET, Lord Paget
4 Feb. 1795 PAGET re-elected after accepting a commission in the army

Main Article

The fratricidal struggle between Thomas Wynn*, 1st Baron Newborough, and Glynn Wynn at the 1784 election marked the eclipse of the supremacy of the Wynns of Glynllifon in the boroughs.1 Glynn Wynn’s victory had been achieved under the aegis of Henry Paget, Earl of Uxbridge, who consolidated his position subsequently by becoming mayor and constable of Caernarvon and by conciliating Thomas James, 1st Baron Bulkeley, his chief rival in the counties of Caernarvon and Anglesey. It does not definitely appear that their compromise covered the boroughs as well as the counties. An analysis of the electors in 1789 shows that Bulkeley, who had agreed to create over 400 freemen at Criccieth before the last election with a view to supporting Newborough, but had not done so owing to a timely profession of allegiance to Pitt’s government by Glynn Wynn, was still in a strong position to challenge Uxbridge. He did not do so, because Uxbridge dropped Wynn, who had been so bold as to oppose Pitt over the Regency question, at the election of 1790, and substituted his heir Lord Paget. Wynn had hoped to be chosen again, but he was induced to stand down peaceably by Uxbridge’s agent, Thomas Williams*. Uxbridge at first thought of putting up a reliable local friend of government, John Griffith of Cefnamlwch (d.1794), but the latter was sure that this would alienate Bulkeley.2

Glynn Wynn’s son’s later version of the story was that, upon his father’s voting with opposition,

Mr Pitt immediately took from him the constableship of the castle of Caernarvon as well as the office of receiver-general in North Wales. Lord Uxbridge was appointed to succeed my father in the constableship, which caused my family’s interest in the borough of Caernarvon, which they had long represented, to be materially injured, and my father in consequence lost his seat for that borough after having represented it for 25 years.3

The writer Thomas Wynn Belasyse, who was hoping to regain the constableship of Caernarvon for his family on the death of Uxbridge in 1812, had a forlorn hope. By then three of Uxbridge’s sons in turn had represented the boroughs unchallenged and there was no contest until 1831.

The increasing security of the Paget interest is illustrated by the fact that while in 1789 there were 502 non-resident and 15 resident burgesses registered at Caernarvon and in 1795 82 non-resident and 13 resident burgesses were admitted, most of them Plas Newydd tenants, from 1804 to 1834 only 31 non-resident burgesses as opposed to 175 residents were admitted, and the non-residents tended to be gentry and not tenants packed in to uphold their patron’s interest.4 Uxbridge had in any case forestalled any possible opposition from the Wynns earlier, when he provided Newborough with a compensatory seat for his borough of Beaumaris in 1796, thereby perfecting the new balance of power in the two counties which the decline of the house of Glynllifon had made inevitable. A Plas Newydd agent, Owen Poole, writing in September 1812, thought that there was nothing to fear, as there was ‘no violent politician in this town’: and the same agent, in April 1818, discounted any opposition, at least during the minority of Lord Newborough, who could create burgesses at Nevin: but so, he added, could Sir Thomas Mostyn at Pwllheli, Mr Ormsby Gore at Criccieth, Mrs Williams at Conway and the mayor at Caernarvon; and ‘until I hear of some hostile proceedings in the other boroughs, I shall not feel much alarm for Captain Paget’s seat at Caernarvon’.5

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. P. D. G. Thomas, Trans. Caern. Hist. Soc. xx. 72; K. Evans, ibid. viii. 60.
  • 2. UCNW, Plas Newydd mss 2/201, 202; 7/634, 637, 642.
  • 3. Geo. IV Letters, i. 34.
  • 4. Evans, loc. cit.
  • 5. Plas Newydd mss 1/200, 201.