Available from Cambridge University Press
Number of voters:
|c.14 Mar. 1604||PETER MUTTON|
|c. Mar. 1614||SIMON THELWALL|
|27 Dec. 1620||SIR JOHN TREVOR II|
|21 Jan. 1624||SIR EUBULE THELWALL|
|?Sir John Trevor II|
|11 May 1625||SIR THOMAS MYDDELTON II|
|Sir Eubule Thelwall|
|18 Jan. 1626||SIR EUBULE THELWALL|
|13 Feb. 1628||SIR EUBULE THELWALL|
Denbighshire was created by the 1536 Act of Union, which amalgamated those of the Marcher lordships of North Wales that had not already been assigned to existing shires. However, the lordship of Mold and the parishes of Hawarden and St. Asaph were surrendered to Flintshire only five years later.1 Administrative fiat thus joined a number of disparate regions: the uplands of Rhos and Rhufoniog in the west; the vale of Clwyd in the north-west; mountainous Yale in the centre and Chirkland in the south; and the lowlands of Bromfield in the east. All except the last were upland areas with livestock-based economies: sheep provided wool for the Welsh cloth marketed at Oswestry, and cattle were sold at fairs at Denbigh, Ruthin, Wrexham and Holt to provide leather for Chester and meat for London and the south-east of England. The division of the county by a central range of mountains had a significant impact on local society: quarter sessions, assizes and parliamentary elections were held alternately on either side of the county at Denbigh and Wrexham, and political differences sometimes reflected the geographical split.
Since the conquest of 1282, the lordships of Denbighshire had been held by the Crown and absentee magnates. Under Elizabeth the most influential of these was Robert Dudley†, earl of Leicester, whose vigorous assertion of his feudal rights in the lordships of Denbigh and Chirk created trouble for his local allies, the Salusburys of Lleweni, and frustrated their attempt to secure the return of William Almer† as knight of the shire in 1588. A decade of tension followed, which came to a head at the general election of October 1601, when the rival factions backed Sir John Salusbury† and Sir Richard Trevor†, a client of lord treasurer Buckhurst (Thomas Sackville†), for the county seat. Mutual insults degenerated into swordplay in Wrexham churchyard, and the sheriff, fearing a riot, abandoned the county court; Salusbury was eventually returned at an election held just before the end of the Parliament.2 The protagonists of 1601 apparently fought shy of a fresh contest at the general election of 1604, which saw the return of Peter Mutton of Lleweni, a rising Flintshire lawyer who had inherited a 1,600-acre Denbighshire estate from an uncle in 1601. This was not a particularly large holding by local standards, and he clearly owed his seat to the support of his neighbours, the Salusburys.3
By the 1614 election many of the key players of 1601 were dead, including Sir John Salusbury, Edward Thelwall of Plas y Ward, Sir John Lloyd† of Bodidris and Capt. John Salesbury of Bachymbyd. The heirs of the first two men, Harry Salusbury and Simon Thelwall, contested the shire seat, probably more for reasons of social rivalry than political preferment. The Thelwalls had supported Sir John Salusbury in 1601, and factional alignments within the county underwent some adjustment in the changed circumstances of 1614: Sir Richard Trevor now backed his old rival’s son, whereas his son-in-law Evan Lloyd of Bodidris, whose father had been one of Sir John Salusbury’s opponents, backed Thelwall, his second cousin. William Salesbury* of Bachymbyd and Sir John Wynn† of Gwydir, Caernarvonshire probably promised their voices to Thelwall, a close relative, which left only the Myddeltons of Chirk Castle uncommitted. Andrew Brereton, steward of the Chirk estate, who was related to the Salusburys, assured Sir Thomas Myddleton II* that ‘if it come to election there will be hard tongueing, but it is thought Mr. Salusbury will carry it away’. In the event, Thelwall was returned, which suggests that the Myddeltons either supported him or remained aloof from the contest.4
Sir Richard Trevor may have backed Salusbury in 1614 on the understanding that the favour would be reciprocated at the next election. His was undoubtedly the decisive influence in the return of his nephew Sir John Trevor II in December 1620, as the latter’s main estates lay in Flintshire and Surrey. The election was apparently uncontested, and there was clearly no challenge from Thelwall, whose name headed the list of signatures on the indenture.5 Trevor may have hoped for re-election three years later, but if so, he was to be disappointed; he ultimately secured a seat at the Flintshire by-election of December 1624. The knighthood of Denbighshire went to Sir Eubule Thelwall, a master in Chancery, who required a seat to defend recent increases in Chancery fees, for which offence he had been attacked by the Commons in 1621. He may have requested a letter of nomination from his departmental chief, lord keeper Williams, an active parliamentary patron in North Wales, but his election clearly owed most to the efforts of his immediate relatives: the return was signed by three of his brothers, a nephew and his more distant cousin Simon Thelwall of Plas y Ward.6
The summons of a fresh Parliament in 1625 brought forth an unprecedented number of candidates. Doubtless anticipating that Thelwall would stand again, Sir Thomas Myddelton II appealed to Gwydir for support on 6 Apr., only to find that Wynn had already promised his interest to Sir Thomas Wynne of Melai, then serving as a soldier in the Low Countries. Sir John Wynn excused himself to Myddelton with the explanation that he had undertaken to support his ‘cousin’ of Melai in the aftermath of the 1624 election, ‘else I can assure you there is not anyone within the county of Denbigh that I would more freely and willingly bestow the same [upon] than on yourself’. A week later, Sir Roger Mostyn* approached Wynn (his father-in-law) with a proposal from Williams to nominate (Sir) Peter Mutton for the Denbighshire seat, but the latter, who was presumably aware that he would face at least three challengers, preferred to try his chances against the Cefnamwlch interest in Caernarvonshire.7
All three candidates canvassed the freeholders vigorously, but, as one of Myddelton’s supporters observed, the impact of their efforts was impossible to predict, as ‘many of the freeholders will stay at home for fear of displeasing any man which makes of our part’. Faced with this prospect, Myddelton sent his neighbour Robert Wynn of Maes Mochnant (Sir John Wynn’s younger brother) to Melai at the end of April to seek the support of the Wynnes against Thelwall. Sir Thomas Wynne’s nephew John revealed that he had already been approached by Sir Eubule’s nephew John Thelwall of Plas Einion with a request ‘to slacken in the business’, and made a tentative offer of support for Myddelton if the latter would allow Sir Thomas Wynne to come in for his borough seat at Weymouth and Melcombe Regis. The deal was quickly agreed, and it was apparently also arranged that the freeholders of Melai and Gwydir would still be encouraged to turn out for Wynne rather than Myddelton, so as to maximise the numbers present on the day of the election. Robert Wynn confidently believed that ‘the Thelwalls when all comes to all will not stand for the election’, and claimed that Simon Thelwall had already abandoned all hope of victory and left for London. Myddelton’s plan worked perfectly: on the day of the election, Sir Eubule found himself hopelessly outnumbered, and conceded the election without a fight after Myddelton promised to recommend him for the Weymouth seat, which was no longer reserved for Sir Thomas Wynne, who had been killed in action on 2/12 May.8
Myddelton proved unable to honour his promise to Thelwall, as a local man, Giles Greene, was returned at Weymouth, but this failure may have persuaded him to allow Sir Eubule Thelwall a clear run in Denbighshire at the general elections of 1626 and 1628. The indenture for 1626, which was signed by William Salesbury of Bachymbyd, Simon and Edward Thelwall of Plas y Ward, John Thelwall of Bathafarn Park, John Lloyd of Bodidris and Richard Thelwall of Llanbedr, points to the continuity of at least one of the county’s electoral factions throughout the period.9
Author: Simon Healy
- 1. SR, iii. 568, 849; G. Williams, Recovery, Reorientation and Reformation: Wales c.1415-1642, pp. 268-9.
- 2. Cal. Salusbury Corresp. ed. W.J. Smith (Bd. of Celtic. Studs., Univ. Wales Hist. and Law ser. xiv), 7-9; A.H. Dodd, ‘N. Wales in the Essex Revolt of 1601’, EHR, lix. 348-70; APC, 1601-4, pp. 342-3, 379; STAC 5/T15/33.
- 3. C142/592/81.
- 4. NLW, Chirk F.10751; J.E. Griffith, Peds. Anglesey and Caern. Fams. 7, 59, 222, 274, 280-2; Glynde Place Archives ed. R.F. Dell (Trevor fam. ped.).
- 5. C219/37/348.
- 6. C219/38/319; Griffith, 274, 369; SIR EUBULE THELWALL.
- 7. Procs. 1625, pp. 682, 684; Griffith, 376.
- 8. NLW, Chirk F.12837; NLW Jnl. x. 37; NLW, 9060E/1340; Wentworth Pprs. ed. J.P. Cooper (Cam. Soc. ser. 4. xii), 235.
- 9. C219/40/1/17.