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

Background Information

Number of voters:

about 1,100


7 June 1796(SIR) ROBERT WILLIAMS I, Bt.690
 Richard Pennant, Baron Penrhyn [I]370
12 July 1802(SIR) ROBERT WILLIAMS I, Bt. 
7 Nov. 1806(SIR) ROBERT WILLIAMS I, Bt. 
14 May 1807(SIR) ROBERT WILLIAMS I, Bt. 
14 Oct. 1812(SIR) ROBERT WILLIAMS I, Bt. 
24 June 1818(SIR) ROBERT WILLIAMS I, Bt. 

Main Article

The dominance of the influence of Thomas James, 1st Baron Bulkeley, of Baron Hill, which had secured the return of John Parry of Wernfawr in 1780 and 1784, was further confirmed in 1790, when Parry made way for Robert Williams, Bulkeley’s uterine brother.1 According to local rumour Parry, who was hard up, received £2,000 in compensation, though there were at first fears that he would not ‘sell out’ and thus endanger the arrangement whereby Bulkeley and Lord Uxbridge proposed to preserve the peace of the counties of Caernarvon and Anglesey by controlling one each.2 The principal victim of this compromise was Thomas Wynn of Glynllifon, 1st Baron Newborough, who had been driven out of his county seat in 1780 and out of the country by his debts subsequently. In 1790 he wrote to Uxbridge from Florence announcing his candidature for the county and asking for support, being confident of ‘the independent interest’. Uxbridge warned him off, and through Thomas Williams* secured the support of Newborough’s brother, Glyn Wynn; Newborough did not in any case return to England for the election. Robert Williams in his canvass reported general support, one exception being Richard Price of Rhiwlas, who ‘expected the county to choose him’. Another threat came from Thomas Assheton Smith* of Vaynol, a former Member who had left the county, and Lord Penrhyn, who had canvassed the county in 1784 and was without a seat in 1790: they tried to ‘make a hue and cry about bargain and sale in the county’, but Williams was returned unopposed. Writing to Pitt with a request for patronage, 14 Nov. 1792, Bulkeley remarked: it is hard if I cannot command such a thing from you after £3,500 spent at the last election to bring my half-brother Captain Williams in for the county of Caernarvon and to keep Mr Assheton Smith out who would have voted with Mr Fox. We who live in Wales or at a great distance from the metropolis have very hard work and a heavy expense to keep up our interests. I have done a great deal more than I can afford.3

Nor was Williams secure in his seat; in 1792 Newborough returned to Glynllifon, and in the following year Assheton Smith came back to the county: it was feared he might ‘molest’ Williams. In August 1795, moreover, Penrhyn announced his candidature. It was understood that he had Assheton Smith’s backing and he gave Bulkeley a fright by securing the support of Sir Roger Mostyn, the Flintshire Member, whom Bulkeley subsequently drove off the scene by raising the phantom of opposition to him in Flintshire. Penrhyn afterwards claimed that he was encouraged by Newborough, but the latter announced his own intention of standing soon after Penrhyn, and contemporary evidence suggests that he was annoyed at Penrhyn’s anticipating him and refused to parley with him, or with Penrhyn’s friend John Warren, bishop of Bangor. The latter, writing to Pitt on 15 Sept. 1795, based his support for Penrhyn not only on his usefulness ‘in improving the agriculture of this county, as well as in promoting its trade and navigation’, but on his objection to Williams’s private character. While Williams’s sexual morals were certainly irregular, the ‘pious prelate’ provoked some indignation by his open hostility towards a man who had ‘bled for his country at Lincelles’, and was attacked for it by a pamphleteer, probably Thomas Williams.4 Samuel Grindley, the Glynllifon agent, who was in collusion with Uxbridge, informed him, 14 Sept. 1795, that he thought Newborough would persevere and gain votes from Penrhyn; Newborough’s brother, Glynn Wynn, would then advise him, when he realized that he could not carry the election, to support Williams. On 25 Sept. Newborough solicited Uxbridge’s support, but declined a meeting; on 3 Oct. he informed him he would go to the poll unless disqualified by an English peerage ... should it take place before the poll, and should your friendship accelerate for me such an event, then my friends will unite with me, in establishing the same unanimity as now happily prevails in Anglesey, likewise in the counties of Caernarvon, Denbigh and Merioneth. Your wishes will then direct me ...He added that he hoped that Bulkeley, with whom he had no intercourse, would concur. Newborough was still waiting for a reply to his application of 23 Aug. to the Duke of Portland for his support, in which he exaggerated his weight in North Wales, and boasted of his attachment to government. Portland’s reply, dated 16 Oct., urged him to give way to Penrhyn, since he would surely be defeated in a contest. The duke discouraged Penrhyn from acting as a broker for Newborough’s English peerage.5

Newborough had thus himself suggested the terms of a concordance which would clinch the new balance of power in the north-western counties created by the decline of his house, but Uxbridge hesitated. He was informed that a rumour of this deal had already got abroad and that it was described as ‘a bad job’; while allowance must be made for the ‘folly, youth and inexperience’ of Williams, he was not as unpopular as Penrhyn, ‘a d—d negro driver’ and his friend the bishop. On 10 Oct. Newborough again pressed his claims on Uxbridge, asking him to support his application to Pitt, penned the next day. On 28 Oct. he again wrote, to say that he knew Williams had ‘a number sufficient and that, my dear lord, you know must be increased by accelerating a certain event’. Uxbridge and Bulkeley now agreed to support Newborough’s pretensions, and after repeated pressure from the latter in the spring of 1796 Uxbridge wrote to Pitt, 10 May, describing this peerage as the best way of preserving the peace of the county. When the plan failed through Pitt’s refusal on 20 May, Bulkeley pacified Newborough by offering him a safe seat for his borough of Beaumaris. Then, to quote Penrhyn, Newborough, who had once assured him that he would ‘always oppose the party of my opponent ... in contradiction to all his professions and declaration ... joined my opponent with all his support and interest’. This, as well as Bulkeley’s territorial superiority, ensured Penrhyn’s defeat. There had allegedly been ‘great bribery on both sides’, but Penrhyn ‘gave up and mounted his horse and galloped off as if he had been crazy’, peeved at the ingratitude of a county where he spent ‘every month, from fifteen to seventeen hundred pounds’.6

Exit Penrhyn, but Bulkeley’s peace of mind was again disturbed, before the election of 1802, by the restiveness of Newborough, who realized his nuisance value and had to be warned off the county, and by the importunity of Assheton Smith and Gwyllym Lloyd Wardle*, both of whom tried to make an issue of the improvement of communications in the county by road and bridge: what Bulkeley called ‘kicking up a dust by land and sea’. To his alarm Williams talked of retirement and had to be persuaded to ‘talk big’ and ‘carry on a dry canvass’ in order to dispel Assheton Smith’s pretensions. Bulkeley, who feared he could not deposit £10,000 in the Caernarvon Bank, which would ‘silence all opposition’, was not prepared to face the expense of a contest at first, thinking ‘£6,000 every seven years’ too much for any county, but he succeeded in keeping the issue of communications out of the election and no opposition materialized.7

There was no further opposition to Williams. Admittedly, on Newborough’s death in 1807, his nephew and delegate trustee, Thomas Wynn Belasyse, disappointed of a seat on Bulkeley’s interest, declared hostility to him in the county, but Bulkeley reinforced his position by obliging Sir Edward Pryce Lloyd* with the seat for Beaumaris, thus securing the support of the latter and his brothers-in-law Sir Thomas Mostyn* and (Sir) Robert Williames Vaughan* to reinforce his position in the county.8

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. P. D. G. Thomas, Trans. Caern. Hist. Soc. xx. 72.
  • 2. UCNW, Porth yr Aur mss 12536; Plas Newydd mss 2/201.
  • 3. Plas Newydd mss 2/200, 203; 7/635, 637; NLW mss 12416, Bulkeley to Lloyd, 20 May [?1790]; PRO 30/8/117, f. 202.
  • 4. UCNW, Penrhos mss 5/58, M. Green to Mrs M. Owen, 29 July 1793; Oracle, 20 Aug. 1795; UCNW, Mostyn mss 7843, 7844; Salopian Jnl. 15 June 1796; Plas Newydd mss 2/205, 215; PRO 30/8/187, f. 65; A. Aspinall, Parl. Affairs, xv. 38; Porth yr Aur mss 12616, Price to Ellis, 17 Aug. 1796; UCNW, Nannau mss 681; H. G. Jones, Trans. Caern. Hist. Soc. ii. 77.
  • 5. Plas Newydd mss 2/204, 206-8; Portland mss PwF9622-3; PwV109.
  • 6. Plas Newydd mss 2/209-14; PRO 30/8/163, f. 152; 185, f. 45; Salopian Jnl. 15 June; Jones, op. cit. ii. 89; NLW mss 12411, Eliza Griffith to Phoebe Lloyd, 13 June 1796.
  • 7. UCNW, Baron Hill mss 6164, 6168, 6170, 6178-80, 6187, 6282, 6283, 6285, 6294.
  • 8. Fortescue mss, Bulkeley to Grenville, 22 Nov. 1807.