Welsh County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of Qualified Electors:

between 700 and 1,0001

Number of voters:

720 in 1708


19 Mar. 1690SIR CARBERY PRYSE, Bt.185
 John Vaughan91
19 Dec. 1694JOHN VAUGHAN vice Pryse, deceased 
20 Nov. 1695JOHN VAUGHAN, Visct. Lisburne [I] 
27 July 1698JOHN LEWIS 
10 Dec. 1701LEWIS PRYSE 
6 June 1705JOHN PUGH 
2 June 1708LEWIS PRYSE383
 Thomas Johnes347
 Lewis Pryse 
16 Sept. 1713THOMAS JOHNES 

Main Article

The Vaughans of Trawscoed (also known as Crosswood) and the Pryses of Gogerddan, Whig and Tory respectively in this period, were traditional rivals in Cardiganshire politics, and in the 1690 general election the master of Gogerddan, Sir Carbery Pryse, 4th Bt., defeated the master of Trawscoed, John Vaughan, through the connivance, or so Vaughan alleged, of the county sheriff. Such considerations may explain the complaint made to the House on 1 Apr. 1690 that the Cardiganshire return had not yet been made to the Crown Office. The sheriff was ordered to be sent for in custody, and three days later the Commons were informed that the return had been made. Vaughan’s petition claimed that on the second day of the election, in the midst of polling a batch of his voters, the sheriff had suddenly and without warning adjourned the court from Aberystwyth to Cardigan, deep into Pryse territory, where he had hurriedly carried out ‘a pretended poll’ and declared Pryse elected. Some 400 of Vaughan’s freeholders, it was said, had been cheated of their franchise. When the case was reported to the Commons, the sheriff’s right of adjournment was confirmed and with it Pryse’s election, albeit by paper-thin majorities in divisions. Meanwhile the discovery of extensive deposits of silver and lead ore on Pryse’s estate had promised to reinforce his interest substantially. But although Pryse established his legal ownership of the mines and set up a joint-stock company to work them, the enterprise floundered, and by the time he died in 1694 little progress had been made. His ‘uncle’ (in fact a distant cousin) and heir Edward Pryse (whose succession to the estate was also at this juncture under challenge) was thus in no position to resist John Vaughan’s candidature at the ensuing by-election. Vaughan was even more strongly placed than before, as a consequence of the exploitation by his kinsman the Earl of Carbery [I] (Hon. John Vaughan†) of the local patronage attaching to his office of custos. In fact the only hindrance Vaughan encountered was a delay in the delivery of the writ, possibly an underhand ploy on the part of Pryse’s allies. At the same time, Vaughan had his own friends in high places, and in June 1695 was raised to an Irish peerage as Viscount Lisburne. Bolstered by this sign of royal favour, he was then re-elected knight of the shire, again without any evidence of opposition.2

The pendulum swung back towards the Tories in 1698, perhaps assisted by a revival of the mining project. Edward Pryse (now secure in his title) sold his interests for some £16,000 to the Tory entrepreneur Sir Humphrey Mackworth, thereby at one blow solving his own problems and introducing a new Tory power into the county. A former Tory knight of the shire, John Lewis, was returned in 1698, but at the next general election in January 1701 Mackworth took over from him, presumably with Lewis’ blessing, for the outgoing Member had, in Mackworth’s words, cultivated ‘a vast interest’ in the constituency. The continuing primacy of the Pryses on the Tory side, was, however, demonstrated by the election the following December of the new owner of Gogerddan, Lewis Pryse, even though still a minor. Shortly beforehand, Carbery had obtained a loyal address from the county and the boroughs of Aberystwyth and Cardigan, abhorring Louis XIV’s recognition of the Pretender, but this Whiggish sentiment was not reflected at the polls and the county address of congratulation on the accession of Queen Anne, presented this time by Lewis Pryse, was extravagant in its compliments and made a point of echoing the Queen’s own reference to her ‘heart . . . truly English’. In April 1702 Pryse was informed of rumours that, as his ‘behaviour [in the Commons] . . . is not at all agreeable to the nice gent[lemen] of Cardiganshire’, it had been suggested that Lisburne would enter the lists at the forthcoming election. However, following Pryse’s withdrawal, which should probably be ascribed to a recurrence of the gout which was to plague him for much of his adult life, it was his fellow Tory Mackworth who stepped in. Mackworth confided to his diary that this was ‘accomplished through the acquiescence of Lord Lisburne’. Mackworth was in turn replaced in 1705 by another High Tory and a crony of Pryse, John Pugh of Mathavarn. At first Pugh was put forward for re-election in 1708, John Lewis supposedly offering £10,000 to the sheriff ‘to indemnify him’ if he returned Pugh. Then a ‘Mr Meyrick’ (probably John*) was said to be the Tory candidate. In the event Lewis Pryse made a reappearance at the hustings and was returned both for the county and the Boroughs. His opponent in the county, Thomas Johnes, was defeated in spite of the backing of the Vaughans and the effects of a recent purge of the Cardiganshire commission of the peace carried out at Lisburne’s insistence. Expecting the favour of the new House, Johnes petitioned. A host of allegations were made against Pryse’s party: ‘menaces’, treating, bribery (including the attempted suborning of a clergyman through a promised increase in his stipend), drunkenness and, against one Tory voter in particular, a notorious non-juror, that he had failed to take the abjuration oath. However, as in 1690, the alleged partiality of the sheriff was central to the case. On this occasion, it would appear that the sheriff concerned had arranged to adjourn on the third day as soon as a batch of Whig freeholders had been polled. When only 19 were brought forward he had seized his chance to go back on this arrangement. On the assumption or pretext that the Whigs were polled out, he had taken the votes of the remaining Tories present and declared the election. Johnes protested that many of his voters, ‘depending on the adjournment’, had departed, but on the eventual hearing of the elections committee’s report in January 1710, the House found against him. Pryse, who had retained the borough seat until this shadow was lifted, now made his choice to sit for the county.3

The by-election for the vacant borough seat in February 1710 led to a reversal of alliances in Cardiganshire and the eclipse of the Pryse interest in the county for the next two general elections. The catalyst was Mackworth who, anxious to return to Parliament to save himself from legal action after the collapse of his Mines Adventurers’ Company, had been busily preparing his candidature for whichever of the two seats might become vacant as a result of the petition. He faced a likely Tory adversary, in all probability John Meyrick, but counted on a previous arrangement with Pryse. When this fell through and Pryse instead recommended (Sir) Simon Harcourt I* to the Boroughs, Mackworth, who had already been making approaches to the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) and Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†), joined forces with Lisburne. This alliance was unsuccessful at the by-election but during the summer Mackworth added first John Lewis (encouraged by the acquisition of an ensign’s commission for his son through Mackworth’s intercession) and then William Powell of Nanteos, hitherto a close ally of Pryse. Mackworth was thus powerful enough to regain the county seat, after a contest, at the 1710 general election. The defeated candidate, Lewis Pryse, explained this set-back to Robert Harley*:

My neighbour Mr Powell . . . has totally deserted his old friends of the Church and joined the contrary interest, by which means he brought in Sir Humphrey Mackworth. The majority was not so great but with a little help we may deal with them well enough again. The Queen has in this county a great many lordships and these have been in the hands of Lord Carbery this ten years or more, who substituted the Lord Lisburne and his friends of the Low Church his stewards. Thus our alienations, mortuaries etc. belonging to those lordships and those (upon the account of interest or some other cause) have not been gathered in this great many years. If some honest gentleman (who you think fit) were nominated steward of these lordships and a commission called to raise the arrears of the perquisites I would engage to bring in any honest gentleman a Member for this county as securely as we can do it now for the borough.

The advice fell on deaf ears. Carbery remained as custos until his death in 1713, and even then, and despite the passage of a High Tory address in favour of the peace that summer, deploring ‘the insidious efforts and mysterious artifices of foreign and domestic factions’, the Whig Thomas Johnes was chosen knight of the shire in place of the now discredited Mackworth. After the Hanoverian succession, however, Gogerddan and Nanteos were reconciled, and in 1715 a united Tory interest was able to reinstate Lewis Pryse in the county election.4

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Ceredigion, xi. 239.
  • 2. Ibid, iii. 303; v. 402–3; CSP Dom. 1689–90, p. 210.
  • 3. NLW, mss 14362D Sir Humphrey Mackworth’s diary, [Dec. 1700], 23 Jan. 1701, 5 Aug. 1702; London Gazette, 5–8 Jan. 1701, 14–18 May 1702; Add. 70283, Lewis Pryse to Mrs Wogan, 9 Apr. 1702 (copy); HMC Portland, iv. 489; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 176–7.
  • 4. Add. 61637, ff. 102, 11, 153; 70205, Pryse to Harley, 21 Nov. 1710; London Gazette, 1–5 Sept. 1713; Ceredigion, v. 404.