Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Number of voters:

over 160 in 1545.1



Main Article

Carmarthenshire antedated the Statute of Rhuddlan (1284) and historically was the area subject to the control of the royal castle at Carmarthen. The union legislation of 1536 added seven outlying lordships to the existing county, but omitted districts immediately west of the town of Carmarthen, which were annexed to Pembrokeshire. This anomalous situation was addressed by statute in 1543, when Llanstephan, Ystlwyf and Laugharne were amalgamated as the new Carmarthenshire hundred of Derllys.2 The county thus became the largest of the Welsh shires, covering a diverse natural environment from the lowland plain of the Towy to the upland pastures of the north and east. Butter, cheese and cloth-making were mainstays of the local economy,3 but contemporary commentators also noted the county’s ‘fruitful’ soils: even in the upland margins, rye, oats and wheat were cultivated, supporting one of the largest populations of any Welsh shire.4 A net exporter of grain, Carmarthenshire, even in the famine years of 1629-31, produced a surplus which was used to alleviate shortfalls in Ireland and the West Country.5 In addition, the south-east of the county, especially the area around Llanelli, had easily accessible coal deposits which had been worked for many decades.6

The site of the Carmarthenshire election was not specified by the statute of enfranchisement, but hustings were held at Carmarthen regularly in the sixteenth century, and the elections of 1624, 1625 and 1626 took place at the town’s guildhall.7 In 1621, however, the election was held in the town of Llandeilofawr, in the north-west of the county, while in 1628 it took place at Pontargothi, four miles east of Carmarthen.8 There does not appear to have been any political motive behind this perambulation, which was also a feature of elections in later years, but the 1628 site was equidistant from Carmarthen and Golden Grove and so may have been conveniently located for the Vaughan family to select one of their number.9

In the Elizabethan period the Jones family of Abermarlais had dominated the county’s parliamentary representation, but the death of Sir Thomas Jones† in 1604 ended their influence. After a brief interlude their place was taken by the Vaughans of Golden Grove. The paterfamilias, Sir John, had won the county seat in 1601, but did not seek the place in the next two elections, perhaps because he desired to maintain a low profile after being implicated in the Essex revolt. This allowed the shire to accommodate the naval official Sir Robert Mansell in 1604 and 1614, a Glamorganshire native who only acquired an estate at Laugharne in south-western Carmarthenshire in 1615.10 Mansell had influential kinsmen within the county including his brother-in-law, Sir Walter Rice* of Newton, who endorsed the 1604 election indenture, and he was presumably on good terms with Rice’s nephew, Sir John Vaughan.11

Mansell subsequently transferred his electoral interests to Glamorgan, and following his departure, the Vaughans of Golden Grove dominated Carmarthenshire’s representation for the remainder of the period. Sir John Vaughan was returned in 1621 with the support of his brothers Henry Vaughan of Derwydd – who was returned for the borough seat – and Walter Vaughan of Llanelli. The endorsement of Sir Henry Jones, head of the Abermarlais clan, testifies to the wide support he enjoyed among the leading gentry of Carmarthenshire.12 Vaughan’s elevation to an Irish peerage in July 1621 raised questions about his eligibility to sit in the Commons, a controversy which may explain why he did not sit again. His heir, Richard, served as knight of the shire in the remaining parliaments of the 1620s.

Authors: Lloyd Bowen / Simon Healy


  • 1. In 1545, the elected Member possessed a majority of 80.
  • 2. Carm. County Hist. ed. J.E. Lloyd, i. 12-13, 207, 264; R.A. Griffiths, Principality of Wales in Later Middle Ages, i. 6-7, 14-17; SR, iii. 936.
  • 3. H.A. Lloyd, The Gentry of S.W. Wales, 1540-1640, pp. 71-2; R.I. Jack, ‘Cloth Manufacture in the Medieval Lordship of Kidwelly’, Carm. Antiquary, xix. 9-15.
  • 4. Carm. ii. 276, 290, 313-15; Progs. of 1st Duke of Beaufort Through Wales ed. T. Dinley, 172; Agrarian Hist. Eng. and Wales ed. J. Thirsk, iv. 121, 143.
  • 5. Carm. ii. 282; APC, 1629, pp. 410-11; 1630-1, pp. 126-7; SP16/175/119.
  • 6. M.V. Symons, Coal Mining in Llanelli Area, i. 26-35.
  • 7. C219/38/314v; 219/39/269; 219/40/10.
  • 8. C219/37/342; 219/41B/12.
  • 9. HP Commons, 1660-90, i. 510
  • 10. S. Thomas, ‘Descent of the Lordships of Laugharne and Eglwyscummin’, Carm. Antiquary, vi. 41-3.
  • 11. C219/35/2/188.
  • 12. C219/37/342.