WILLIAMS, Owen (1764-1832), of Temple House, Berks. and Craig-y-Don, Anglesey.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
Receiver-gen. Anglesey to 1796.
Capt. S. Bucks. vols. 1803.
As heir to the ‘copper King’, Williams’s material inheritance was substantial. A partner in the Greenfield copper and brass manufacturing company during his father’s lifetime, he received shares in the reorganized Stanley smelting company shortly before the latter’s death in November 1802, when he succeeded to the family estate worth £10,000 a year and received in trust the copper mills at Temple and Wraysbury. With Pascoe Grenfell* he continued the firm’s London copper office in Upper Thames Street on the same footing as previously, but in 1810 he withdrew from the immediate concerns of the Anglesey mines and in 1825 retired completely from the copper business. On the death of his father, he became one of the principals in the Chester and North Wales Bank.2
Returned by his father for Marlow in 1796, after a contest which placed the borough in the family’s pocket, Williams died in possession of the seat almost 36 years later. He is known to have voted only twice in opposition to Pitt’s first ministry, in support of Whitbread’s motion of censure for the delay in presenting the estimates for an increase in seamen’s pay, 10 May, and Grey’s motion for parliamentary reform, 26 May 1797. He invested £5,000 in the 1797 loyalty loan. There is no evidence of his having opposed Addington’s government. Reckoned ‘doubtful’ by Rose in the list compiled for Pitt in May 1804, he apparently voted against the additional force bill for the first time on 18 June. He was classed as a follower of Fox and Grenville in the government list of September and his continued hostility to Pitt’s second ministry, expressed in votes for an inquiry into the defences of the country, 21 Feb., against the salt tax, 4 Mar., for the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 6 Mar., and against Melville, 8 Apr. and 12 June 1805, led to his inclusion among ‘Opposition’ in the government list of July 1805. Williams, who was elected to Brooks’s on 11 June 1806, supported the ‘Talents’, voting for the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806, and for Brand’s motion of 9 Apr. 1807 condemning the ministerial pledge, and on 4 June 1807 wrote to Lord Howick of his contempt for ‘the base and mischievous means by which the present ministry have sought to consolidate their power’.3
For the rest of the period Williams was a loyal, though not very active Whig. His vote was forthcoming on major issues arising out of the conduct of the war and on the Regency bill in 1811. He voted for the amendment to the address concerning the resumption of hostilities with France, 25 May 1815, and for Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May 1819. His personal qualities impressed Thomas Creevey, who recommended him to Whitbread, 9 Nov. 1809:
I am quite glad that you have asked Owen Williams to Southill and that he is coming to you. I believe he is really a most excellent man and though he has rather a clouded physiognomy, as well as elocution, he is a man of very good sense ... so pray make much of him.4
Williams’s basic political attitudes, however, were emphatically not in accord with those of the ‘Mountain’. He showed relatively little active interest in the cause of economical reform even after 1815 and, although listed among ‘names to be introduced’ at a meeting of ‘friends to the Constitutional Reform of Parliament’ in 1811, cast no known votes in favour of parliamentary reform before 1820 and voted against Burdett’s motion of 20 May 1817. His only recorded vote against the suspension of habeas corpus in 1817 was on the first reading of the bill for its renewal, 23 June; and in the surviving division lists for the emergency session of 1819, only one vote against the government’s repressive legislation is attributed to him, on the motion to limit the operation of the seditious meetings bill to three years, 6 Dec. Williams, who supported Catholic claims, is not known to have spoken in the House before 1820. He died 23 Feb. 1832.