Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

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Cardiganshire comprised the hundreds of Genau’r Glyn, Ilar, Moyddyn, Pennardd and Troedyraur, and the chief towns were the boroughs of Aberystwyth, Adpar (Atpar), Cardigan (Aberteifi), Lampeter (Llanbedr-Pont-Steffan), Tregaron, and the centrally situated new town and harbour of Aberaeron, developed under an 1807 Act by the Rev. Alban Thomas Jones Gwynne of Mynachdy. Nominally two-thirds of the county was crown land. Its large (30,000 acre) estates of Gogerddan, Nanteos, Crosswood (Trawsgoed) and Hafod, and the smaller Castle Hill, Llidiardiau and Mabws lay in the north of the county, a hilly, often barren region, rich in lead ore; while south of the River Aeron and in the fertile Teifi Valley were 50 or more squires’ estates linked by a complex web of kinship, social and sporting ties. Politically, the most significant were the Bowens of Llwyngwair and Troedyraur, the Brigstockes of Blaenpant and Gellidywyll, David Saunders Davies of Pentre, Richard Hart Davis* and his successor at Peterwell John Scandrett Harford (of Falcondale), Herbert Evans of Highmead, John Jones of Derry Ormond, the Leweses of Llanllyr and Llysnewydd, James Richard Lewes Lloyd of Dôl-haidd, the Lloyds of Alltyrodyn, Bronwydd, Coedmor, and Kilrhue (Cilrhiw), the Webley Parrys of Noyadd Trefawr and the Williamses and Lloyd Williamses of Gwernant (later anglicized to Alderbrooke). The estates and political affiliations of most of this group transcended county boundaries, and their allegiance to the predominantly Tory West Wales Red or Orange Party of Dynevor and Orielton, or to the Whig Blues led by the 1st Baron Cawdor (of Stackpole Court, Pembrokeshire, and Golden Gove, Carmarthenshire) was considered significant. Cawdor, as John Campbell, the proprietor of his Pryse grandmother’s small Glanfraed estate, had represented Cardigan Boroughs, 1780-96.2

The county had not been polled since 1741 and the representation had become the preserve of the largest estate owners. The sitting Member, the Tory William Edward Powell of Nanteos, was first returned in May 1816, following the death of Thomas Johnes of Hafod, whose estates remained unsettled in chancery until 1832. Powell had secured the seat in the customary way: early and thorough canvassing of the resident and non-resident gentry and freeholders, bearing fruit in a demonstration of support at a pre-poll county meeting and backed by a compromise agreement. That between Powell and the Whig Pryse Pryse* of Gogerddan gave Powell the county unopposed in exchange for his support for Pryse in Cardigan Boroughs, where the impecunious John Vaughan of Trawsgoed was reluctantly obliged to make way for him in 1818.3 Patronage accruing to him as the county’s lord lieutenant and custos rotulorum, his ministerialist sympathies and his willingness to heed requests for assistance from Jones Gwynne of Mynachdy and others who had supported Gogerddan, itself a Tory house in the eighteenth century, made Powell hard to challenge and his deputy lieutenants were almost all Tory Reds.4 There were proportionally more ‘independent’ freeholders in the south-west of the county where Powell had least land. Over 17 per cent of the county electorate held their freeholds in Cardigan and its contributories, copyhold was rare, and tenant farmers were more likely to be enfranchised by their landlords as non-resident freemen in the boroughs than given county votes.5 Pryse-Powell representation endured for over 30 years, but the lack of contests did not denote an absence of political activity and a pre-election flurry to frighten sitting Members was common.

There was sufficient evidence at the dissolution in 1820 to lend credence to rumours that Powell, whose debts, usurpation of newly enclosed land near Nanteos and disputes with Aberystwyth corporation and Cwmystwyth lead mine proprietors now marred his reputation, might lose the county because Pryse was ‘determined’ to have it.6 After consulting his local agents, Adam Armstrong of Ty’n Rhyd, the county clerk John Beynon of Adpar, and the Aberystwyth solicitor John Hughes, whose brother James acted for the county’s major tithe owner, Colonel John Palmer Chichester, he pleaded illness, remained in London pending Pryse’s election for the Boroughs and arrived at Nanteos on the eve of the nomination in Cardigan to find no sign that Pryse sought two returns. His own election passed smoothly.7 There was interest in and support for Queen Caroline’s cause in the towns, but Powell, unlike Pryse, did not join in the parliamentary campaign on her behalf.8 George Bonsall of Fronfraith and Glanrheidol feared in 1821 lest his fellow magistrates at the quarter sessions would approve an address congratulating ministers on their conduct of the affair and was ready to amend it, ‘but nothing was proposed’. He informed Pryse, 28 Jan. 1821, ‘We are not strong enough here to propose an original address without you, but with you we should beat them on the subject ten to one’.9 Local grievances included agricultural distress, the extension of the tithe to goods other than corn, enclosure, and the implementation of the Salmon Fisheries Act on the Teifi, to comply with which commissioners had been appointed at the county sessions in October 1820.10 On 17 and 18 Apr. 1821 the Lords received petitions from freeholders, landowners and occupiers anxious to protect their common rights and complaining of their inability to secure ejection orders following encroachments, and Pryse, who had lowered his own rents, led the campaign against Chichester’s ‘extortionist’ tithe policy until 1823.11 Opposition was also raised in 1823 (as in 1811-13) to the new Genau’r Glyn enclosure bill promoted by Pryse to facilitate the draining of Cors Fochno, the development of Coedybrenin and an expansion of lead mining. It eventually received royal assent, 21 June 1824.12 The diocesan clergy and deaneries of Upper and Lower Sub Aeron and Upper Aeron petitioned the Lords against Catholic relief, 9, 11, 13 Apr. 1821, 18 June 1822, 24 May 1824, and from 15 Apr.-16 May 1825 both Houses received similar petitions from Llangoedmore and neighbouring parishes in the vicinity of Cardigan and the gentry clergy and freeholders of the northern and southern hundreds.13 The northern hundreds also petitioned the Commons for abolition of colonial slavery, 19 May 1826.14

Soldiers had been stationed at Aberystwyth since the 1816 grain riots and popular unrest was endemic, localized and compounded by difficulties in funding the militia.15 The general election of 1826 took place against a background of resentment at the game laws, mob protest at Augustus Brackenbury’s enclosure of Myfenydd and gentry concern at the changes in the corn laws, which Powell had opposed.16 J.P.A. Lloyd Philipps of Dale Castle and Mabws and John Lloyd of Alltyrodyn (both descendants of eighteenth century Cardiganshire Members) had come of age, and William Lewes of Llanaeron had urged his kinsman Powell to spend more time in the county, for ‘though high in popular favour it is better by personal courtesy to "nip in the bud" any political coalition in persons who would be great men’.17 In a pre-election flurry of activity and trial of strength, there occurred a county coroner’s election in which the late coroner’s son John Howell Thomas of Lampeter, backed by Lloyd Williams of Gwernant and George Price of Pigeonsford, defeated Lewes Lloyd of Dôlhaidd and Philipps of Aberglasney’s nominee, David Lewis of Newcastle Emlyn. Powell was afterwards returned unopposed, nominated by William Henry Webley Parry of Noyadd Trefawr, with Thomas Lloyd of Cilrhiw seconding. He confirmed his anti-Catholic views and thanked his constituents for showing their confidence in the Liverpool administration by electing him.18

The coroner joined those of Devon, Lincolnshire and Norfolk in petitioning for further remuneration, 4 May 1827.19 Dissenters, ‘friends of religious liberty’ and Nonconformist congregations throughout the county contributed to the 1827 and 1828 petitioning campaigns for repeal of the Test Acts, to which Powell lent his support.20 Cardiganshire’s Anglican clergy, led initially by the Rev. Benjamin Millingchamp of Llangoedmor, organized petitioning against Catholic relief at parish and archdeaconry levels, and Powell, to whom and Lord Eldon the petitions were entrusted, remained committed to the anti-Catholic cause. Petitioning was strongest in the Sub Aeron deaneries and Teifi valley, but many came from parishes with no history of petitioning and were attacked as the products of inflammatory propaganda and anti-Irish feeling.21 Lloyd Philipps of Mabws was among the gentry who shared Powell’s fears that Catholic emancipation threatened the security of the state.22 Only the Unitarians of Capel y Groes, Ystrad, petitioned for Catholic relief.23

Proposals by John Frederick Campbell* (later 2nd Baron Cawdor) to abolish the Welsh judicature and incorporate the Welsh counties into the English circuits had been opposed since at least 1817 by the Reds, who advocated reform rather than abolition of the courts of great sessions. Their champion John Jones’s 1824 Act enlarging and extending the powers of judges of the courts of great sessions, for which the magistrates had petitioned, 18 Apr. 1823, was considered a great boon despite the need for further improvements.24 When Cawdor revived his proposals in 1828 in an open letter to lord chancellor Lyndhurst, they found favour with the commission on the administration of justice and were supported in testimony from Evans of Highmead and a memorial from the gentry, proprietors and freeholders signed by Evans’s brother-in-law Lloyd of Alltyrodyn, and their own and Cawdor’s Cardiganshire tenantry. (William Owen Brigstocke, Thomas Beynon, archdeacon of Cardiganshire, and Lewes Lloyd of Dôl-haidd supported a similar memorial from Carmarthenshire.)25 Submissions from and on behalf of the chairman of Cardiganshire quarter sessions David Saunders Davies failed to endorse abolition.26 The commissioners favoured proposals to amalgamate counties and incorporate North and South Wales into the Lancashire, Oxford or south-western circuits and their report backed Cawdor’s suggestion that the county be split: cases from the hundreds of Ilar and Genau’r Glyn, Merioneth and western Montgomeryshire would be heard at Dolgellau, and those from the southern hundreds in Carmarthen, with Pembrokeshire and Carmarthen business.27 The gentry and professional men were furious at the prospect of a divided county. The magistrates at the Easter sessions memorialized the home secretary Peel in protest and Powell, whose brother Richard was the chamberlain and chancellor of the court in Carmarthen and the counties of Cardigan, Carmarthen and Pembroke, was cheered when he chaired the assizes in September 1829, at which the presiding judge, Edward Goulburn, advised the magistrates to consider the proposals carefully.28 In Aberaeron on 18 Nov., addressing the largest county meeting in memory, Lewes of Llanaeron objected to the ‘planned disfranchisement and dismemberment of the county’, compared Cardiganshire favourably in area and population with Huntingdonshire and Rutland which had their own assizes, and proposed petitioning to retain them. He also referred to the relatively low social standing of most of the signatories to Cardiganshire’s pro-abolition memorial; but this charge could not be levied against Lewes Lloyd of Dôl-haidd, Brigstocke and Jones Gwynne, whose object in attending the meeting was to confine hostile petitioning to the proposed county division. Urging unity, Saunders Davies used his legal expertise to persuade Lewes Lloyd to withdraw his amendment and a memorial and petitions against change were carried without division. Pryse, who, like Powell, was present, refused to give the petition his unqualified support and said he remained undecided on the issue. On 25 Nov. 1829 a leading article in The Times, which had sent down a reporter, declared that ‘the Welshmen ... are turning Tories’ and complained that it could ‘neither comprehend their arguments nor in every instance record those antique but unutterable names of places by which the several members of one multitudinous family ... are driven to identify their persons’.29 The petition was presented and defended in the Lords by Dynevor, 25 Feb., and in the Commons by Powell, 9 Mar. 1830.30 Interest in the scheme, which the grand jury petitioned against again, 27 Apr. 1830, remained high. The Welsh judicature and great sessions were abolished under the administration of justice bill which received royal assent, 23 July 1830, but a late government amendment leaving the assize structure almost intact spared Cardiganshire its assizes. Before the dissolution that month magistrates and certain licensees expressed concern at the 1830 sale of beer bill’s provisions for on-consumption. There was a hint of opposition to Powell at the general election from the Blue William Tucker Edwardes, whose father Lord Kensington Powell† had snubbed by supporting Sir John Owen’s* nomination as lord lieutenant of Pembrokeshire in 1823; it was correctly identified by John Hughes as a ‘neat invention of the enemy’. Powell henceforward devoted more time to his Cardiganshire concerns and was returned unopposed, proposed by Saunders Davies and seconded by John Lloyd Williams of Gwernant, whose son Edward had canvassed briefly against Pryse in the Boroughs.31

The campaign for the abolition of colonial slavery gathered momentum after the election and spread from the Boroughs to congregations and parishes countywide. Petitions initiated by Dissenters, Welsh Calvinistic and Wesleyan Methodist congregations, whose monthly Welsh language journals promoted the cause, were received by the Commons in December 1830 and both Houses in April 1831.32 The county reform meeting at Lampeter town hall, 7 Apr. 1831, was a hurriedly convened affair chaired by Chichester as sheriff. The pro-reform Cambrian described it as well supported by magistrates of all parties, but the Leweses and other diehard Tories were conspicuously absent and the platform was dominated by Kensington and the Cardigan reformers. Resolutions supporting the principle of the Grey ministry’s bill were moved by John Lloyd of Alltyrodyn and Lewes Lloyd; and others put by Thomas Lloyd of Coedmor, Thomas Bowen, Charles Longcroft and Arthur Jones of Cardigan expressed confidence in ministers. Kensington, seconded by John Lloyd, moved

that the conduct of the representatives of this county and of the boroughs of Cardigan, Aberystwyth and Lampeter, merits the approbation of their constituents; and should they continue to support the bill in its true principle through the committee, will be entitled to the suffrages of the freeholders and burgesses in the event of a dissolution of Parliament.

However, he left Powell in no doubt that he would have to provide better proof of his conversion to reform than his paired vote for the bill at its second reading, 22 Mar. Thomas Howell of Lampeter and Kensington moved the address to the king and Jones Gwynne and Saunders Davies the petitions in favour of the bill, in which the only point at issue was the choice of the word ‘effectual’ to describe the proposed reforms. Powell, a pragmatic convert to reform, was asked to present it to the Commons, who received it, 20 Apr. Letters of support were read from Evans of Highmead, Pryse and Powell, who voted against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr., and was not opposed at the ensuing general election.33 Welsh language periodicals and local newspapers closely scrutinized his conduct on reform and he divided regularly for the reintroduced and revised reform bills, 1831-2, and for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May 1832.34 Election committees were established at Adpar and Cardigan and the gentry with their agents and attorneys assisted both sides at the hotly contested elections and by-elections in Carmarthen and Pembrokeshire in May, August and October 1831.35 Petitions were forwarded to Parliament urging the enactment of the three commotes road bill, 21, 22 May, against the current tithe system, 3, 16 Mar., and for the abolition of colonial slavery, 27 Jan., 2 July; and the freeholders addressed the king following his escape from an attacker at Ascot, 13 July 1832.36

One-thousand-one-hundred-and-eighty-four electors, no more than five of whom were copyholders, were registered at the new polling towns of Aberaeron, Aberystwyth, Adpar, Cardigan, Lampeter and Tregaron in November 1832 at a cost of almost £300.37 Reports that the Conservative Powell would retire led to speculation that David Saunders Davies would stand; but Powell sought re-election and no opposition was raised to his return in December 1832, when again many squires, agents and freeholders were involved in the contests in Carmarthen and Carmarthenshire. Lampoons in the Carmarthen press accused Saunders Davies, Lewes Lloyd and George Bowen of Llwyngwair and others of backsliding into Conservatism.38 The reformed Cardiganshire constituency was polled five times before 1885. The Powells of Nanteos and Vaughans of Crosswood retained the seat for the Conservatives until 1865, when a Liberal prevailed, and except for the 1880 Parliament, the constituency remained solidly Liberal until 1966 and most contests involved a second Liberal.39

Author: Margaret Escott


Draws also on Card. Co. Hist. iii. ed. G.H. Jenkins and I.G. Jones, ch. 16 and F. Jones, Historic Houses of Cardiganshire and their Families (2000).

  • 1. NLW, Gogerddan mss, Card. freeholders bk. 1823 names 623 freeholders; D.A. Wager, ‘Welsh Politics and Parl. Reform, 1780-1832’ (Univ. of Wales Ph.D. thesis, 1972), 367, estimated the pre-1832 electorate at 750.
  • 2. R.J. Colyer, ‘Gentry and County in 19th. Cent. Card.’ WHR, x (1980-1), 497-535; NLW, Edwinsford mss 3066; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 487-8; iii. 372-3.
  • 3. Carmarthen Jnl. 17 May 1816; NLW, Powis Castle mss 4151, Sheldon to Wilding, 16 May 1816; Spectator, 1 Jan. 1831.
  • 4. NLW, Nanteos mss L115, 662, 675, 741-3, 949-52; D. Gorman, ‘William Edward Powell of Nanteos and Public Affairs in Early 19th Cent. Card.’ NLWJ, xix (1995-6), 119-25.
  • 5. Gogerddan mss, Card. freeholders bk. 1823. The figures per hundred were: 24 in Upper and 70 in Lower Geneu’r Glyn; 67 in Upper and 60 in Lower Ilar; 22 in Upper and 40 in Lower Pennardd; 78 in Upper and 65 in Lower Moyddyn; 60 in Upper and 150 in Lower Troedyraur. Forty-five, 59 and seven freeholders lived in Aberystwyth, Cardigan and Lampeter respectively. See also Gogerddan mss RB55; NLW, Crosswood mss ser. iv, no. 15; Colyer, ‘Nanteos: A Landed Estate in Decline’, Ceredigion, ix (1980-4), 60-68.
  • 6. Colyer, ‘Agriculture and Land Occupation in 18th and 19th Cent. Card.’, Card. Co. Hist. iii. 21; Nanteos mss L362-7, 370, 371, 929, 930, 5338; Nanteos: A Welsh House and its Families ed. G. Morgan, 122-3; Carmarthen Jnl. 18 Mar. 1820.
  • 7. Nanteos mss L368-73, 378, 394, 395, 929, 930; Colyer, Ceredigion, ix (1980-4), 64-66; J. Barber, ‘Tithe Unrest in Card. 1796-1823’, WHR, xvi (1992), 180-90; Cambrian, 26 Feb., 18, 25 Mar. 1820.
  • 8. Nanteos mss L1434; Carmarthen Jnl. 24 Nov., 1, 8 Dec. 1820.
  • 9. Carm. RO, Aberglasney mss 30.
  • 10. Edwinsford mss 3083; Pryse mss (History of Parliament Aspinall transcripts), H. Evans to Pryse, 19 Oct. 1829; D.J.V. Jones, Before Rebecca, 35-66; Carm. RO, Coedmor mss D/DL/850-66.
  • 11. CJ, lxxvi. 278; LJ, liv. 354-5; Barber, WHR, xvi. 189-201.
  • 12. Colyer, ‘The enclosure and drainage of Cors Fochno, 1813-37’, Ceredigion, viii (1977), 181-92; CJ, lxxviii. 54; LJ, lvi. 426; G. Jenkins, ‘Hetwyr Llangynfelyn’, Ceredigion, x (1984-7), 25.
  • 13. LJ, liv. 179, 189, 342; lv. 249; lvi. 260, 426; lvii, 618, 644, 785-6, 808; CJ, lxxx. 320.
  • 14. CJ, lxxxi. 372.
  • 15. Nanteos mss L950.
  • 16. Gogerddan mss, Notice of Lewis Davies and Morgan Richard of Llanychaearn, 19 Dec. 1825; Jones, 35-66; D. Jenkins, ‘Rhyfel y Sais Bach’, Ceredigion, i (1950-1), 199-200; Cambrian, 8 July, 26 Aug., 21 Oct. 1826.
  • 17. Cambrian, 17 July 1824; Nanteos mss L936.
  • 18. Carmarthen Jnl. 19 May, 23 June; Cambrian, 27 May, 10, 24 June 1826; Nanteos mss L1050-8, 5302.
  • 19. CJ, lxxxii. 433.
  • 20. Ibid. 332, 527, 594; lxxxiii. 73-75, 101, 104-5; LJ, lx. 72, 79-81, 86, 177; Carmarthen Jnl. 22, 29 Feb., 1, 8 Mar. 1828.
  • 21. Carmarthen Jnl. 16, 30 Jan., 13, 20 Feb., 20 Mar. 1829; G.I.T. Machin, Catholic Question in English Politics, 144; L. Colley, Britons, 330; CJ, lxxxiv. 41, 89, 121, 177; LJ, lxi. 14, 28, 54, 55, 68, 105, 200, 234, 235, 431, 356 Mirror of Parl. (1829), 393 (John Jones’s speech, 4 Mar.); Cambrian, 21 Feb., 14, 28 Mar. 1829.
  • 22. Nanteos mss L1039.
  • 23. LJ, lxi. 298.
  • 24. CJ, lxxviii. 227-8; lxxix. 536; Carmarthen RO, Cawdor mss 2/219, passim; Add. 40363, f. 144.
  • 25. Cawdor, Letter to Lyndhurst; Carmarthen Jnl. 5, 19 Sept. 1828; Cambrian, 7 Mar. 1829; PP (1829), ix. 385-6, 388, 416.
  • 26. PP (1829), ix. 382-5, 390-2.
  • 27. Carmarthen Jnl. 18 Apr. 1829; PP (1829), ix. 43-44.
  • 28. Cambrian, 2 May; Carmarthen Jnl. 4 Sept. 1829.
  • 29. Cambrian, 14, 21 Nov.; Carmarthen Jnl. 13, 20, 27 Nov.; N. Wales Chron. 26 Nov.; Shrewsbury Chron. 27 Nov. 1829; R.D. Rees, ‘S. Wales and Mon. Newspapers under the Stamp Act’, WHR, i (1960-3), 309-11.
  • 30. LJ, lxii. 39; CJ, lxxxv. 152.
  • 31. Nanteos mss L855-9, 862, 867, 879, 880; CJ, lxxxv. 336; Carmarthen Jnl. 23 July, 13, 20 Aug.; Cambrian, 31 July 1830.
  • 32. CJ, lxxxvi. 188, 465, LJ, lxii. 485-8.
  • 33. Cambrian, 9, 16 Apr., 7, 14 May 1831.
  • 34. Seren Gomer, xiv (1831), 253, 349; xv (1832), 26-27; Greal y Bedyddwyr, vi (1832), 188-9.
  • 35. NLW, Eaton Evans and Williams mss 4551-70, 4593, 5002, 4044-5106, 5133-7, 5141-6, 5172-89, 11990.
  • 36. CJ, lxxxvi. 261; lxxxvii. 323, 327; LJ, liii. 283, 329; lxiv. 30, 343 Seren Gomer, xiv (1831), 27, 154; xv (1832), 26, 27, 218, 251, 252, 282; Greal y Bedyddwyr, v (1831), 93, 94, 124, 188; vi (1832), 221, 222, 252; Carmarthen Jnl. 13 July, 28 Dec. 1832.
  • 37. PP (1834), ix. 593, 641; Carmarthen Jnl. 26 Oct. 1832.
  • 38. Carm. RO, Dynevor mss 160/12; 161/5.
  • 39. R.G. Thorne, ‘Parliamentary Representation: From the First to the Third Reform Acts, 1832-1885’, Card. Co. Hist. iii. 386-406; J. Graham Jones, ‘Card. Politics, 1885-1974’, ibid. 407-430.