Montgomery Boroughs


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

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the mayor, bailiffs and burgesses (resident and non-resident)1

Estimated number qualified to vote:



2,025 (1821); 1,188 (1831)


7 Mar. 1820HENRY CLIVE
9 June 1826HENRY CLIVE
30 July 1830HENRY CLIVE
29 Apr. 1831HENRY CLIVE

Main Article

The castellated Marcher and county town of Montgomery, strategically built overlooking the Severn Valley, lay 21 miles west of Shrewsbury, 23 north-west of Ludlow and 39 south-by-east of Machynlleth, with which it shared the assizes and right to hold county elections.3 The disfranchisement in 1728 of its contributories Llanfyllin, Llanidloes and Welshpool had, as Oldfield lamented, effectively made Montgomery a pocket borough of the largest property owners, the Herberts and Clives of Powis Castle, who controlled its best transport and inns. Their former opponents, the Herberts of Dolforgan, Humphreys of Bodheilyn and Johnes (Jones) of Garthmyl, remained potentially hostile and active in borough politics; but the Corbetts of Leighton had long been co-operative, and the interests of the Devereux family, Viscounts Hereford, and the Williams Wynns of Wynnstay were held in check, largely through Powis Castle-Wynnstay co-operation in the county which, from 1796 was represented by Sir Watkin Williams Wynn’s* younger brother Charles.4 The entitlement of resident burgesses to a share in the rent of land known as The Floss or Caegarw had tended to restrict admissions, but ‘every son of a hereditary burgess’ could take his freedom on reaching the age of 21, on payment of stamp duty and an 11s. fee, and resistance to Powis Castle is reflected in surges of freeman admissions before the 1802 contest and the general elections of 1812 and 1818. The 186 enrolments between 1782 and 1832 show a gradual trend away from gentry admissions: 46 (37 per cent) between 1782 and 1818, and 15 (25 per cent) between 1819 and 1832; and a drop in resident admissions from 53 (42 per cent) between 1782 and 1818 to 22 (36 per cent) between 1819 and 1832. Admissions from Montgomery’s county and Shropshire hinterland remained steady: 56 (45 per cent) between 1782 and 1818, and 26 (43 per cent) between 1819 and 1832. There was a relative increase in admissions from outside the locality: 16 (13 per cent) between 1782 and 1818, and 13 (21 per cent) between 1819 and 1832. Annual bailiwick elections and common halls continued, but, while some of the council of 12, or aldermen, remained independent, the bailiffs, who acted as returning officers, were generally Powis Castle nominees; so too were the recorder, steward and town clerk, who were usually absentees. As at Llanfyllin and Welshpool, where Panton Corbett* was steward, the division between the town and the Powis Castle estate was blurred by placing local administration in the hands of local deputies, notably the attorneys Edward Edye and Joseph Jones.5 Henry Clive, the sitting Member since 1818, was the home office under-secretary in Lord Liverpool’s ministry and a kinsman of Edward Clive†, 1st earl of Powis, whose eldest son Lord Clive* undertook most constituency business as part of his wider Montgomeryshire and Shropshire concerns.

Montgomery, Pool and neighbouring parishes were served by guardians of the poor and a house of industry was established under the 1792 Act. Its renewal, the poor rates and agricultural distress were discussed at a district meeting chaired by John Edwards of Hampton Hall, 4 Feb. 1820, which petitioned for government action.6 A common hall, 29 Feb., adopted the customary addresses of condolence and congratulation to George IV, which Henry Clive (an honorary freeman) was asked to present. There were few pre-election burgess admissions and, as throughout this period, Clive’s return, which may have been by proxy, was scarcely reported in the local press.7 Petitioning and local legislation remained Powis Castle and county affairs in which Montgomery corporation played no part, although the town was directly affected by the 1820 Pool and Oswestry roads bill, 1821 canal legislation, proposals in 1823 and 1825 for a new county gaol at Welshpool, the 1825 poor bill and the 1829 justice commission’s recommendation that the assizes be held at Shrewsbury when the Welsh judicature and courts of great sessions were abolished.8 The House of Lords received a petition against Catholic emancipation from the freeholders and householders of Montgomery, 26 Mar. 1829.9

The Grey ministry’s reform bill of March 1831 proposed a radical change. It restored contributory borough status to Llanfyllin, Llanidloes, Welshpool and the ancient borough of Machynlleth, whose corporations ‘had been functioning normally throughout’, adding to them Newtown, the centre of the mid-Wales flannel and woollen industry. This increased the population almost 14-fold to 15,275 and countered Powis Castle and Wynnstay’s influence in Montgomery, Llanfyllin and Welshpool with the Liberal strongholds of Llanidloes, Machynlleth and Newtown.10 Clive voted against the bill, 22 Mar., 19 Apr. Sluicing by contributories and the erosion of the freeman franchise were popularly resented in Montgomery and Clive was not challenged at the subsequent general election. Afterwards the burgesses met in common hall and petitioned the Commons urging

that if any alteration in the representation of the Commons in Parliament should, on full consideration be deemed necessary ... the utmost attention may be paid to the existing rights and constitution in making it, so as to occasion as little change therein as may be, and particularly that the rights of the petitioners and their successors granted and exercised in times when it was attended with much trouble and expense to their predecessors, and secured to them by the law of the land and the constitution of Parliament, and never yet misused, may not be held and continued sacred and inviolate.11

The boundary commissioners recommended no change in Montgomery, but the limits of the old, essentially rural boroughs of Llanfyllin and Welshpool were contracted, in the latter case by the removal of Cyfronydd, the only township independent of the Clives. All proved difficult to define, making them a ready source of complaint by Williams Wynn in the Commons, 14 Mar. 1832, and of criticism in subsequent municipal corporation reports.12 Llanfyllin petitioned the Commons unsuccessfully for the restoration of its ancient rights, 19 Mar. 1832.13 Although Llanidloes’s enlargement was justified, Wynnstay’s failure to produce its charters caused problems, as did the decision to incorporate land owned by the reformers Sir Edward Pryce Lloyd* (1st Baron Mostyn) and Wythen Jones of Rhiwport in an ‘arbitrary boundary of elaborate description’.14 There was little change at Machynlleth, where a detached part of Isgarreg was added to the town and its liberties; and much agricultural land and at least 55 farmhouses were incorporated at Newtown, where Powis Castle and Wynnstay tried to capitalize on the absence of a suitable official to act as returning officer.15 Some 123 ancient burgesses of Llanidloes, Machynlleth and Welshpool were rejected as voters in the new constituency, whose registered electorate of 723 in October 1832 comprised 66 Montgomery burgesses and 657 £10 householders (44 in Llanfyllin, 72 in Llanidloes, 52 in Machynlleth, 69 in Montgomery, 222 in Newtown and 198 in Welshpool). Landlord interest and electioneering expertise were of paramount importance, and at the first post-reform election Powis Castle’s Conservative candidate, David Pugh of Llanerchudol, topped the poll. He was, however, unseated on petition, and the Liberals captured the seat at the April 1833 by-election. Colonel John Edwards, their candidate at both elections, had estates in Machynlleth and Llanidloes and had married the widow Herbert of Dolforgan.16 Elections remained partisan, dynastic and closely fought until the Boroughs were incorporated in the Montgomeryshire constituency in 1885.17

Author: Margaret Escott


Draws also on Samuel Lewis’s Topographical Dict. of Wales (unpaginated).

  • 1. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 553; P.D.G. Thomas, Politics in 18th Cent. Wales, 30.
  • 2. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 553.
  • 3. Parl. Gazetteer of England and Wales (1844), iii. 443.
  • 4. P.D.G. Thomas, ‘Montgomery Borough Constituency, 1660-1728’, Bull. Bd. of Celtic Studies, xx (1963), 293-304; Oldfield, Rep. Hist. (1816), vi. 83; B. Ellis, ‘Parl. Rep. Mont. 1728-1832’, Mont. Colls. lxiii (1973), 74-95; J.D.K. Lloyd, ‘Borough Recs. of Montgomery’, ibid. xlv (1937-8), 19-43; ‘Royal Borough of Montgomery’, ibid. xlix (1945-6), 195-203.
  • 5. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 554; (1838), xxxv. 307-12, 361-5; Lloyd, Mont. Colls. xlix. 195-203; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 503; Shrewsbury Chron. 5 Nov. 1820.
  • 6. Salopian Jnl. 23 Feb. 1820; CJ, lxxv. 251.
  • 7. Salopian Jnl. 8 Mar.; Shrewsbury Chron. 10 Mar. 1820; Lloyd, Mont. Colls. xlix. 201.
  • 8. CJ, lxxv. 149, 331, 374; lxxvi. 57, 467; lxxix. 72, 217; lxxx. 12, 518; lxxxv. 284, 369; NLW, Glansevern mss 2349, 11901; NLW, Powis Castle mss 6995 (a), 6998, 6999, 7056-8; Cambrian Quarterly Mag. ii (1830), 376-9; M. Henry Jones, ‘Mont. and Abolition of Court of Great Sessions, 1817-1830’, Mont. Colls. lx (1967-8), 85-103.
  • 9. LJ, lxi. 291.
  • 10. D.A. Wager, ‘Welsh Politics and Parl. Reform, 1780-1832’, WHR, vii (1974), 439.
  • 11. CJ, lxxxvi. 613; PP (1838), xxxv. 223.
  • 12. PP (1831-2), xli. 131, 133, 145; (1838), xxxv. 255-65, 307-20, 361-7; The Times, 15 Mar.; Spectator, 4 Aug. 1832.
  • 13. CJ, lxxxvii. 205.
  • 14. PP (1831-2), xli. 137; (1838), xxxv. 267-74; UCNW, Mostyn of Mostyn mss 6238; Spectator, 4 Aug. 1832; M.Ll. Chapman, R. Morgan, E.R. Morris, ‘Hist. Llanidloes Borough Charters’, Mont. Colls. lxxix (1991), 11-27.
  • 15. PP (1831-2), xli. 141-3; (1838), 299-306, 331-6.
  • 16. Ibid. (1834), ix. 591; Ellis, Mont. Colls. lxiii. 84-88; Glansevern mss 2448-54, 4449, 8047, 14028-37; NLW, Coedymaen mss 231; Salopian Jnl. 19, 26 Dec. 1832.
  • 17. M. Cragoe, Culture, Politics, and National Identity in Wales, 1832-1886, pp. 53, 57, 125, 66, 76, 247.