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Number of voters:
|27 Feb. 1604||ROGER PULESTON|
|c. Mar. 1614||ROBERT RAVENSCROFT|
|c.11 Dec. 1620||SIR ROGER MOSTYN|
|2 Feb. 1624||SIR JOHN HANMER , bt.|
|?Sir Thomas Mostyn|
|6 Dec. 1624||SIR JOHN TREVOR II vice Hanmer, deceased|
|28 Apr. 1625||SIR JOHN TREVOR II|
|1 Feb. 16261||JOHN SALUSBURY|
|Sir Thomas Hanmer† , bt.|
|c.25 Feb. 1628||ROBERT JONES|
Founded in 1284 and enlarged in 1541, Flintshire returned a knight of the shire and a burgess to Parliament from 1542.2 Although one of the smallest counties in Wales, it was among the least mountainous, and its population, perhaps 20,000 in 1600, was larger than that of Merioneth, Anglesey or Radnor.3 While the shire was predominantly agricultural, coal, mined in the north of the county, was sold both locally and shipped to Ireland via Chester: Sir Roger Mostyn* valued his mines at £700 a year in 1620.4
In the last two Elizabethan parliaments Flintshire was represented by William Ravenscroft*, an Exchequer official whose family had considerable local influence: his eldest brother was custos rotulorum, and one of his aunts had been the first wife of lord keeper Sir Thomas Egerton†, whose main estates lay just across the Dee in Cheshire and Shropshire. It was doubtless at Egerton’s behest that Ravenscroft was accommodated at Old Sarum in 1604 and 1614, and it is likely that the return of Ravenscroft’s second cousin Roger Puleston for Flintshire in 1604, and his nephew Robert Ravenscroft in 1614, owed something to Egerton’s influence.5 Egerton died in 1617, and while his son, John Egerton†, earl of Bridgewater, helped to secure the Flintshire boroughs seat for William Ravenscroft at the general election of December 1620, he does not appear to have claimed any interest in the county seat. This therefore went to Sir Roger Mostyn, the greatest landowner in the north of the shire, who had been active in county politics for 20 years, although he only became head of his family in 1618.6
Never truly happy when away from north Wales, Mostyn probably only sought the knighthood of the shire to maintain his family’s prestige. In early December 1623, when the next Parliament was first mooted, his eldest son Sir Thomas, then in London, was encouraged to stand for the county seat by his father-in-law (Sir) James Whitelocke* and his uncle (Sir) Richard Wynn*. However, by Christmas, when his relatives’ letters of recommendation reached Flintshire, the gentry had already decided to return Sir John Hanmer. If Sir Roger Mostyn had wished, he might have been able to persuade Hanmer to stand aside, but he was determined that his eldest son should not be seduced by the delights of the capital, proclaiming ‘had I been a free man to dispose of the place at my pleasure, I would have been well advised before I would have conferred the same upon my son Thomas’. The election indenture eschewed the usual reference to the ‘unanimous assent and consent’ of the freeholders, ascribing Hanmer’s return to ‘maior[em] partem totius com.’ [the greater part of the whole county], which suggests that there was a contest. However, with Mostyn bereft of any local support, Hanmer presumably carried the day with ease.7
Hanmer died on the penultimate day of the 1624 session. The subsequent by-election was held on 6 Dec., in anticipation of a fresh session scheduled for the New Year. It was presumably uncontested, as Sir Thomas Mostyn headed the list of those who returned Sir John Trevor II, a cousin of Hanmer’s widow. In 1621 Trevor had sat for Denbighshire, where his family’s main estates lay, but he was acceptable to the freeholders of Flintshire, as his father held property at Plas Têg in the south of the county.8 King James’s death dissolved the Parliament before Trevor was able to take his seat, but he was the obvious candidate at the general election called within days of Charles’s accession. However, he was challenged by Sir Thomas Mostyn, who wrote to his relative Robert Davies of Gwysaney as soon as news of the election reached north Wales, asking for support for the Flintshire seat ‘if you have not passed your word to another’. Mostyn presumably canvassed others, but he stood no chance of success unless Trevor released his former supporters from their obligations. Furthermore, as in the previous year, Mostyn’s father was reluctant to support his cause, observing that ‘to make a show to seek it [the seat] and fail were a greater disgrace than the benefit thereof would be to him that had it’. Unlike the return for the 1624 general election, that for 1625 provides no evidence of a contest, and it is likely that Sir Thomas Mostyn withdrew before the day of the election.9
Little is known about the background to the next election of 30 Jan. 1626, which was decided by a poll of the voters, who consisted of the supporters of John Salusbury of Bachegraig, head of the Flintshire branch of a powerful Denbighshire family, on the one side and the supporters of Sir Thomas Hanmer†, 2nd Bt., the 13-year old heir to the 1624 Member, on the other. Although the eventual contenders differed from those of 1625, the factional interests at work were largely unaltered. Hanmer was probably a last minute substitute for Sir John Trevor, who had presumably declared his intention to stand again when the Parliament was first summoned. However, whereas Trevor had easily rebuffed the earlier half-hearted challenge from the Mostyns, he now faced Salusbury, a much sterner prospect as an opponent. This was both because of lingering rivalry between the two families – arising from the Denbighshire election of 1601 – and also because Salusbury, unlike Mostyn, could call upon wider support. The Salusbury family’s main estates lay in Denbighshire, but their ally Sir Peter Mutton* was a substantial Flintshire landowner, and Salusbury presumably also obtained the voices of his wife’s family, the Ravenscrofts. Moreover, he would probably not have put himself forward without some indication of support from his immediate neighbours in the north of the shire, although the most important of these, the Mostyns, ultimately seem to have deserted him. While Trevor’s position was not as strong as it had been in 1625, it was hardly desperate, as he could call upon the support of his Hanmer relatives, including the tenants of John Hanmer, bishop of St. Asaph, and he must have hoped to garner voices from the other major families in the south of the county. However, he was open to the criticism that his main interests lay outside the shire, an accusation which could not be brought against Hanmer, the eventual candidate. Furthermore, if Trevor’s prospects looked doubtful, the last-minute substitution of a callow youth, too young to be a credible candidate for the shire seat, saved him from the personal disgrace of a defeat at Salusbury’s hands.10
The election was clearly a disorderly affair. In what was possibly a reference to the Denbighshire election of 1601, Salusbury’s supporters were alleged to have said ‘that their master would have it by the sword if he could not otherwise have it’. Moreover, the sheriff, Thomas Evans, was reported to have excluded many freeholders (presumably Hanmer supporters) and boasted ‘that how many soever here, yet is the election in my power. I may choose whom I will’. Despite Evans’s partiality, the contest went to a poll, following which Salusbury was returned on 1 February. Sir Roger Mostyn was soon reported to be considering a protest, and Hanmer’s supporters ultimately complained to the committee for privileges. On 5 May 1626 William Coryton* reported the petition, and the House summoned Evans to explain his conduct, but his testimony seems not to have been heard before the dissolution on 15 June.11
In the absence of an election indenture the Robert Jones who was returned in 1628 cannot be conclusively identified. It is possible that he was the local landowner who held just under 400 acres in the vicinity of Halkin, but as this man was rated at a mere 30s. in lands in the 1626 subsidy,12 it is much more likely that he was the younger son of the Caernarvonshire landowner (Sir) William Jones I*, a justice of king’s bench. Justice Jones’s son had been returned for Caernarvon Boroughs at by-elections in 1625 and 1626, and on this occasion Sir William Jones presumably asked his fellow judge Sir James Whitelocke to use his connections with the Mostyns in order to arrange a seat for his son in Flintshire. This was a notable break with tradition, as the shire had returned local men since its enfranchisement, but the scars of recent controversies presumably made the gentry more willing to sink their differences by returning an outsider, apparently without a contest.
Author: Simon Healy
- 1. P. Roberts, Y Cwtta Cyfarwydd ed. D.R. Thomas, 111.
- 2. R.R. Davies, The Age of Conquest: Wales 1063-1415, pp. 364-5; SR, iii. 849.
- 3. L.E. Owen, ‘Population of Wales’, Trans. Hon. Soc. Cymmrodorion (1959), pp. 99-113.
- 4. J.U. Nef, Rise of the British Coal Industry, i. 55-6, app. D; UCNW, Mostyn 5486.
- 5. Dwnn, Vis. Wales ed. S.R. Meyrick, ii. 310, 315-16; JPs in Wales and Monm. ed. Phillips, 99.
- 6. NLW, Gwysaney transcript; C142/368/117; SIR ROGER MOSTYN.
- 7. NLW, 9059E/1172, 1177, 1185-7; C219/38/326.
- 8. E. Suss. RO, GLY/554, Richard Prythergh to Sir John Trevor II; C219/38/290.
- 9. Procs. 1625, p. 684; JRL, Ry. Ch. 1200.
- 10. STAC 5/T15/33; NLW, 9061E/1359.
- 11. Roberts, 111; C142/447/45; Procs. 1626, iii. 167, 171, 175.
- 12. Flints. RO, D/LE/780; NLW, Bettisfield 904.