ADDAMS WILLIAMS, William (1787-1861), of Llangibby Castle, Mon

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



1831 - 1841

Family and Education

b. 10 Aug. 1787, 1st s. of William Addams Williams of Llangibby Castle and Caroline, da. of Samuel Marsh† of Bellemont, Uxbridge, Mdx. m. 17 Aug. 1818, Anna Louisa, da. of Rev. Iltyd Nicholl, DD, of The Ham, Glam., rect. of Tredington, Worcs., 1s. 3da. (1 d.v.p). suc. fa. 1823. d. 5 Sept. 1861.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Mon. 1827.


The Williams family of Llangibby, descendants of Rhys Goch, lord of Ystrad Yw, had not furnished Monmouthshire with a representative since the defeat of this Member’s great-great-grandfather Sir Hopton Williams, 3rd bt., in 1708.1 Their baronetcy, conferred in 1642 on the royalist constable of Monmouth Castle Trevor Williams, had been extinguished by the death without issue of Sir Leonard Williams, 5th bt., in 1758, when the estate, renowned for its hospitality, hounds and deer park, passed to his niece Ellen (this Member’s grandmother), the wife of William Addams of Anchor Hill, Monmouth who, as required, took the name of Williams.2 He died in 1806 having directed, when making over his Monmouth property to his sons, 1 Aug. 1803, that they should also preserve the name of Addams, spelt with a double ‘d’, as he had promised his own parents.3 His eldest son, Addams Williams’s father, inherited the Llangibby Castle estate, which provided church livings at Llangibby and Usk for his brothers John (d. 1821) of Penpark and Thomas (d. 1842), a staunch supporter of the 6th duke of Beaufort’s interest in the corporations of Monmouth and Usk, on which his sons the Rev. Thomas Addams Williams and the attorney William Addams Williams served in the 1820s.4

Addams Williams did not go to Oxford like his father and younger brothers, and may have served in the army. In 1818 he married a niece of his godfather George Avery Hatch, fellow of Exeter College, Oxford and rector of St. Matthew, Friday Street, London. Her brother Iltyd Nicholl had inherited the prestigious Llanmaes estate in the Vale of Glamorgan and Court Blethin near Usk, which further connected them to South Wales gentry.5 They settled near Usk, and Addams Williams attended county meetings and seconded Sir Charles Morgan* of Tredegar’s nomination at the 1820 general election.6 He signed the requisition for a county meeting to petition for relief from distress during the 1822 ‘Scotch cattle’ riots, and supported its resolutions for the abolition of sinecures and unmerited places and pensions, and reductions in taxes affecting agriculture.7 The Llangibby estate he inherited in 1823 was heavily mortgaged and overburdened by settlements, notwithstanding attempts to limit them by an agreement of 13 Apr. 1822. His three youngest siblings, educated by the Rev. Samuel Homfray and at Oxford, had to be provided for, and his mother and wife had jointures of £400 a year.8 Beaufort, as lord lieutenant, accordingly excused him on financial grounds from serving as sheriff until 1827.9 Nothing came of Beaufort’s suggestion that he serve as portreeve of Usk, but he seconded the duke’s son Lord Granville Somerset’s* nomination for Monmouthshire at the 1830 general election.10 He strove to quell riots and incendiarism during the winter of 1830-1, became one of the first major landowners to advocate parliamentary reform, and proposed the loyal address to the king and petitioning in favour of the Grey ministry’s reform bill at the county meeting of 17 Mar. 1831, which resolved to put forward a reformer at the next election. Capel Hanbury Leigh of Pontypool Park declined nomination and Addams Williams was adopted by the gentry at Usk, 11 Apr. He canvassed directly news arrived that Morgan and Somerset had contributed to the reform bill’s defeat, 19 Apr.11 His return at the general election in May 1831 was assured, and he came in unopposed with Somerset after Morgan decided to retire rather than risk defeat.12 His addresses stressed his wholehearted support for the bill, retrenchment, lower taxes and civil and religious liberties and commitment to promoting local interests; and on the hustings he deliberately emphasized his Englishness, high social rank and endorsement by Hanbury Leigh, and claimed that he and Somerset differed ‘on no other point ... than the vital question of reform’. He refused to give pledges and quipped that long speeches were ‘very prejudicial to the country’. 13

Addams Williams took care to inform local and national newspapers whenever his name, which often appeared as ‘J.A.’ and possibly ‘A.W.’ Williams, was omitted from or incorrectly inserted in the published division lists.14 He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, against adjournment, 12 July 1831, and steadily for its details, steering a careful course between unreserved support and constituency interests. He cast a wayward vote for the total disfranchisement of Saltash, which ministers no longer pressed, 26 July. On 2 Aug. he presented a petition supporting the bill from Newport, and another from the county complaining of the delay in its passage. He was against including Merthyr Tydfil in the Cardiff group of boroughs, and argued that it deserved separate representation, 10 Aug., when, despite his unwillingness to obstruct the bill’s progress, he supported the anti-reformer Thomas Wood’s amendment excluding it and endorsed his claim that the South Wales mining districts, of which Merthyr was ‘a sort of capital’, had been unfairly treated in comparison with Staffordshire. His alternative suggestion, that the Cardiff Boroughs constituency be left unchanged, with Merthyr and Aberdare enfranchised separately instead of the Swansea group (in which Beaufort had a vested interest), attracted some support in the House, but strong opposition in Glamorgan, and was soon quashed.15 When Monmouth and its contributories Newport and Usk were considered that day he explained that they had been constituted under the same Act as the Welsh contributory boroughs but with different franchise arrangements, which should now be brought into line. He presented and endorsed Newport’s petition for the same polling town status as the Welsh contributories, 27 Aug. He was erroneously listed in the majority for Lord Chandos’s amendment enfranchising £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug., which he had divided with ministers against, and may have been the ‘A.W. Williams’ added to the majority for the Irish union of parishes bill, 19 Aug.16 He voted for the reform bill’s third reading, 19 Sept., and passage, 21 Sept., and the second reading of the Scottish measure, 23 Sept. On 3 Oct., when the county met to petition the Lords urging the bill’s passage, he expressed his gratitude to the freeholders, detailed the moral effects of electoral abuse, and stressed the punishing schedule Members had endured to carry the bill, which he insisted dealt simply with Members and constituencies and contained ‘nothing to alarm any man’.17 He voted for Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. 1831, and was duly thanked at Monmouthshire reform meetings.18

Addams Williams refused to speculate whether Morgan would stand for the third seat awarded to Monmouthshire under the revised reform bill.19 He divided for its second reading, 17 Dec. 1831, and generally for its details. He voted for the separate enfranchisement of Merthyr instead of Gateshead, 5 Mar., but not to exchange it with Walsall, 9 Mar., and he deliberately abstained when the House voted through an amendment taking away Monmouthshire’s third seat to award it to Merthyr, 14 Mar. 1832. Later he maintained that few were interested in a third county seat.20 He divided for the bill’s third reading, 22 Mar., but was out of town when a ministry headed by the duke of Wellington was in contemplation and did not vote on the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May. His letter informing his constituents that the Grey ministry and the bill had been saved was printed in the Monmouthshire Merlin, 19 May, in time for most Monmouthshire petitions urging that supplies be withheld pending its enactment to be held back. He presented those from Abergavenny and the West Monmouthshire Political Union, 23 May.21 He divided for the Irish reform bill at its second reading, 25 May, and against a Conservative amendment to the Scottish measure, 1 June. He may also have been the ‘A.W. Williams’ who voted to extend the franchise to 40s. Irish freeholders, 18 June, and for changes to the proposed boundaries of Stamford and Whitehaven, 22 June 1832. He divided with government on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug., the Liverpool writ, 5 Sept. 1831, and disfranchisement bill, 23 May 1832, and on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16, 20 July, relations with Portugal, 9 Feb., and the navy civil departments bill, 6 Apr. 1832. He probably (as A.W. Williams) voted in the minorities for the Vestry Act amendment bill, 23 Jan., information on military punishments, 16 Feb., and the Irish registry of deeds bill, 9 Apr., and divided to make coroners’ inquests public, 20 June 1832.

He co-operated with Somerset to oppose the truck bill, 12 Sept. 1831, took charge of the Llanfabon and Pontymoil roads bills, and although some were angered by his continued association with Morgan’s former agent Thomas Protheroe of Malpas Court, whom he addressed as ‘my dear prize fighter’, he felt he had fulfilled his promises to his constituents, and promptly contradicted reports circulating in June 1832 that he would not seek re-election.22 He had presented and endorsed petitions praising the government’s Irish education policy from the Baptists of Mynyddislwyn and Abergavenny, 5 July, and the Nonconformists assisted his cause by adopting a resolution thanking him for supporting the abolition of slavery, 12 Dec. 1832.23 Sir Thomas Salusbury of Llanwern headed his election committee, and he was returned unopposed on the 18th, nominated by Hanbury Leigh and the Roman Catholic squire William Jones of Llanarth.24 Williams patronised the Cymreigyddion and retained strong Nonconformist support despite his high church principles, and kept his seat until his retirement in 1841, following a period of ill health and great labour during the Chartist riots. A plan to bring in Hanbury Leigh’s nephew Thomas Charles Leigh* in his place at the ensuing by-election misfired.25 He seconded Lord Granville Somerset’s nomination and secured him the support of Liberal free traders in 1847, when the Beaufort interest was denied him. He died at Llangibby Castle in September 1861, a few days after his wife, having left almost everything to his only son William Addams Williams (1820-85).26

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. HP Commons, 1690-1715, iv. 866-7.
  • 2. W.T. Morgan, ‘Co. Elections Mon. 1705-1847’, NLWJ, x (1957-8), 167-8.
  • 3. NLW, Llangibby Castle mss A574.
  • 4. J. Bradney, Mon. Co. Hist. iii (1), 102; PROB 11/1258/194; see MONMOUTH; Burke LG erroneously states that Williams’s father sat for Chippenham.
  • 5. NLW ms 17104 D [Llangibby Castle Letters] A227.
  • 6. Cambrian, 23, 30 Oct.; Seren Gomer, ii (1819), 348; NLW, Tredegar mss 45/1478; Keenes’ Bath Jnl. 14 Feb.; Cambrian, 25 Mar. 1820.
  • 7. Bristol Mercury, 20 Oct. 1821, 4, 11, 25 May, 22 June; Cambrian, 4, 18 May 1822.
  • 8. Llangibby Castle mss A444-6; B1571; Bristol Mercury, 10 Mar. 1823; Mon. Co. Hist. iii (1), 99-104; PROB 11/1672/389; IR26/983/503.
  • 9. Gwent RO D.156.31, A. Wyatt to A. Jones, 17 Oct. 1824.
  • 10. Mon. Merlin, 7 Aug. 1830; D. Williams, John Frost (1939), 58.
  • 11. Mon. Merlin, 19, 26 Mar., 23 Apr. 1831; Gwent RO D.749.213-7, 221-6.
  • 12. Llangibby Castle mss A161; Cardiff Pub. Lib. Bute estate letterbks. ii. 273-4; Morgan, 176-7; C. Williams, ‘The Great Hero of the Newport Rising: Thomas Philips, Reform and Chartism’, WHR, xxi (2003), 488-92.
  • 13. Mon. Merlin, 23 Apr., 7 May 1831.
  • 14. The Times, 18 July, 20 Aug; Mon. Merlin, 27 Aug. 1831.
  • 15. Mon. Merlin, 13 Aug. 1831; E. Ball, ‘Glamorgan: A Study of the Co. and the Work of its Members in the Commons, 1825-1835’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1965), 168-71. See CARDIFF BOROUGHS.
  • 16. The Times, 20 Aug.; Mon. Merlin, 27 Aug. 1831; NLW, Sir Leonard Twiston Davies mss 4241.
  • 17. Gwent RO D.749.217, 229-32; Mon. Merlin, 8 Oct.; Cambrian, 8 Oct. 1831.
  • 18. Gwent RO D.749.220; Mon. Merlin, 22, 29 Oct., 5, 12 Nov. 1831.
  • 19. Llangibby Castle mss A162.
  • 20. Mon. Merlin, 22 Dec. 1832.
  • 21. Ibid. 26 May 1832.
  • 22. CJ, lxxxvii. 15, 20, 54, 202, 221, 316, 323, 362; Llangibby Castle mss A161; D. Williams, 24; Mon. Merlin, 16 June 1832.
  • 23. Welshman, 21 Dec. 1832.
  • 24. Mon. Merlin, 8, 15, 22 Dec. 1832.
  • 25. NLW ms 13959 E, f. 28; Mon. Merlin, 27 Dec. 1834; Cambrian, 9 Jan. 1835, 9 Jan.; The Times, 12 Jan., 3, 5, 8, 11 Feb.; Mon. Beacon, 30 Jan. 1841; Tredegar mss 71/90-93; D. Williams, 77, 262; Morgan, 178; I.W.R. David, ‘Pol. and Electioneering Activity in S.E. Wales, 1820-1852’ (Univ. of Wales M.A. thesis, 1959), 100-48; Llangibby Castle mss A439, 442; B1588-92.
  • 26. Morgan, 181-4; Llangibby Castle mss A396, 432-6; Mon. Beacon, 7 Sept.; will proved at Llandaff, 12 Oct. 1861; Mon. Co. Hist. iii (1), 103.