ORMSBY GORE (formerly GORE), William (1779-1860), of Porkington, Oswestry, Salop and Woodford, co. Leitrim

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



1806 - 1807
1835 - 1857

Family and Education

b. 14 Mar. 1779, 1st s. of William Gore, MP [I], of Woodford and Frances Jane Gorges, da. and h. of Ralph Gore, MP [I], of Barrow Mount, co. Kilkenny, wid. of Sir Haydocke Evans Morres, 2nd bt. educ. Eton 1796; M. Temple 1796; Merton, Oxf. 1797. m. 11 Jan. 1815, Mary Jane, da. and h. of Owen Ormsby of Willowbrook, co. Sligo and Porkington, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. d.v.p. Took name of Ormsby before Gore by royal lic. 14 Oct. 1814; suc. fa. 1815. d. 4 May 1860.

Offices Held

Lt. 1 Drag. Gds. 1800, capt. 1802, maj. 1802, brevet maj. 1813; half-pay 86 Ft. 1815; capt. 88 Ft. 15 Sept., sold out 29 Sept. 1829.

A.d.c. to ld. lt.[I] 1802-6; gent. of privy chamber 1815.

Trustee, linen board [I] 1807.

Sheriff, Salop 1817-18, Caern. 1820-1; mayor, Oswestry 1823-4; hered. mayor Criccieth ?1827.


His marriage in 1815 brought Ormsby Gore, who had lost his county Leitrim seat in 1807 on account of an anti-Catholic backlash, a controlling interest in the Ormsbys’ estates in Ireland, Shropshire and North Wales, where, under a private bill enacted on 8 June 1821, he profited by adopting a policy of judicious land enclosures and exchanges, always paying due attention to quarrying enterprise and mineral rights.1 The 4,000-acre Porkington estate gave him considerable influence in Oswestry and interests in Shropshire and Montgomeryshire. Clenennau, a 3,997-acre estate in Eifionydd, was the former seat of the Owens of Brogyntyn, who had controlled Criccieth, a contributory borough of Caernarvon, and they were the largest landowners in Llanfihangel-y-Pennant and Penmorfa in Caernarvonshire and Llanfihangel-y-Traethau in Merioneth.2 As sheriff of Caernarvonshire, Ormsby Gore presided at the court of great sessions and convened meetings in April and December 1820 to petition for repeal of the coastwise coal duty and adopt a loyal address to George IV, following the withdrawal of the bill of pains and penalties against Queen Caroline. He attended neither meeting, but as an ardent anti-Catholic Tory he joined the Menai Pitt Club and chaired its annual dinner in September 1821.3

Documents from Llŷn had been taken to Porkington, where the Ormsby Gores pursued their interest in genealogy and antiquities and prepared a family pedigree in consultation with Sir Thomas Phillips, who in March 1827 was asked to obtain copies of the charters of Criccieth and of Broniarth, near Welshpool. Brogyntyn had controlled the hereditary mayoralty of Criccieth and Ormsby Gore now assumed it in the right of his wife, making the Dolgellau attorney William Williams his deputy.4 North-west Wales was a hotbed of anti-Catholicism, and in December 1828 Ormsby Gore, who was already a committed Brunswicker in Oswestry and Shropshire, established and presided over a meeting of the club at the White Lion, Criccieth, with the Merioneth Member Sir Robert Williames Vaughan as vice-president.5 Plans were already afoot to oust the Irish lord lieutenant Lord Anglesey’s pro-Catholic son Lord William Paget as Member for Caernarvon Boroughs; and in January 1829 Ormsby Gore created 114 new burgesses at Criccieth (over half of them absentees from Dublin and Oswestry) and pressed his own and the Brunswickers’ cause in the weekly North Wales Chronicle. He was also responsible for forwarding most Caernarvonshire, Denbighshire and Merioneth anti-emancipation petitions to Lords Eldon and Kenyon for presentation.6 In February 1829 he sounded Sir Thomas Mostyn*, as mayor of Pwllheli, about contesting Caernarvon Boroughs, and asked the Pagets’ agents for access to the Caernarvon burgess rolls. He moved the address at a late anti-Catholic meeting in Caernarvon, which urged the king to refuse to sanction emancipation, 11 Apr., when, drawing on his Irish and parliamentary experience, he said that if returned again, he would vote for triennial parliaments, so that ministries which changed their policies, as the duke of Wellington’s had done, could be more readily brought to account.7 He arranged to be gazetted as on full-pay in November 1829 in order to sell his army commission.8 He canvassed Caernarvon Boroughs at the dissolution in 1830. Although initially weak in the Paget stronghold of Caernarvon, his rallying cry of ‘No Popery’ appealed to the lower orders and he was returned unopposed following the late withdrawal of Sir Charles Paget*.9

Ormsby Gore was described on the Wellington ministry’s lists as a ‘moderate Ultra’ who had applied for patronage, and he divided with them on the civil list when they were brought down, 15 Nov. 1830. He presented his constituents’ petitions for the abolition of West Indian slavery, 10 Nov. His speeches on agrarian distress condemned the practice of supplementing agricultural labourers’ wages from the poor rates and drew heavily on his experience as a Shropshire magistrate, 6, 8 Dec. Heeding bipartisan constituency pressure to secure reductions in the duties on slate, coal and culm carried coastwise, he reminded the House when a petition from Boston was brought up of Lord Castlereagh’s* Union Act pledge, and promised to legislate for repeal of this ‘most partial and oppressive tax’ should others fail to do so, 8 Dec. 1830. He attended the Caernarvon meetings in January 1831 which petitioned for their repeal, and was subsequently credited with ensuring that the exemption conceded in April covered slate as well as coal.10 He presented a petition for and brought in a new Ffestiniog railway bill, 7 Mar., but it was opposed locally and by William Bankes, Lord Palmerston and other directors and shareholders of the Welsh Slate Copper and Lead Mining Company in the House, and failed on a technicality.11 He regarded the issue of first fruits in Ireland as one of church disestablishment, 14 Mar., presented a Brechin lawyers’ petition for repeal of the duty on Scottish attorneys’ certificates, 15 Mar., and others from Caernarvon and Oswestry, whose prayer compared the case for reform with that for Catholic emancipation in 1829. He shied from supporting them but conceded that some reform was necessary:

The representation of the country requires some reform ... I am not prepared to say that I can go to the length of the [Grey ministry’s] measure ... [and will feel] at liberty in the course of its progress through its different stages, to adopt any line of conduct which I may consider best calculated to promote the interests of the country.

The bill threatened to disfranchise Criccieth, but it attracted strong popular support in Caernarvon, and Ormsby Gore was well aware of the risk he took by voting against its second reading, 22 Mar.12 Before doing so, he cited Blackstone, Burke and Bacon, and claimed that he was for reform, but not this particular bill, and criticized its dependence on the 1821 census and meagre provision for Glamorgan. He asked why Criccieth, a royalist stronghold during the Civil War with a charter dating from the reign of Edward I, had been singled out for disfranchisement as it had 120 £10 houses, and blamed the Pagets.13 He voted for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831.

Ormsby Gore was narrowly defeated in Caernarvon Boroughs (where his Criccieth voters were rejected) by the reformer Sir Charles Paget at the ensuing election, when he was ridiculed as an Irishman and praised as a good constituency Member.14 His opponents estimated that the election cost him over £10,000, plus £3,000 in stamp duty.15 Almost all the new Criccieth burgesses had been disfranchised by the time the borough was reinstated as a contributory of Caernarvon in the revised reform bill. He maintained a high profile in the constituency, which fêted him at a Caernarvon dinner in July 1832, bought a town house at 66 Portman Place and joined the Carlton Club.16 Abandoning Caernarvon Boroughs, in December 1832 he chose to stand as a second Conservative for Shropshire North, where, amid talk of a coalition, he was nudged into third place by the Liberal John Cotes.17 He declined Thomas Assheton Smith II’s* offer of the Vaynol interest in Caernarvonshire in 1835 and was returned for Shropshire North, holding his seat as a Conservative until his health failed in 1857, when he was succeeded in the representation by his eldest son, John Ralph Ormsby Gore (1816-76), the former Member for Caernarvonshire and future Baron Harlech.18 Ormsby Gore died at Porkington in May 1860 and was buried at Selattyn.19 His will confirmed his marriage settlement of 6 Jan. 1815 and was accordingly administered by his widow (d. 1869) with William Watkin Edward Wynne† of Penniarth and Charles Kynaston Mainwaring as trustees. His second son, William Ormsby Gore (1819-1904), who sat for county Sligo, 1847-1852, and county Leitrim, 1858-1876, succeeded his brother that year as 2nd Baron Harlech.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. HP Commons, 1790-1820, iv. 40-41; LJ, liv. 471.
  • 2. NLW, Aston Hall mss 138-41, 350, 351; NLW, Powis Castle mss 8729; N. Wales Gazette, 21 Dec. 1826.
  • 3. UCNW, Porth-yr-aur mss 229; N. Wales Gazette, 6, 13 Apr., 9, 30 Nov., 7, 21 Dec. 1820, 13 Sept. 1821; Shrewsbury Chron. 14, 28 Apr., 22 Dec. 1820.
  • 4. NLW, Brogyntyn mss 2817; Bodl. Phillips Robinson mss b.115, ff. 123-6; b.121, ff. 214-16; b.124, ff. 96-100; b.127, ff. 99-105; c.417, f. 202; c.422, ff. 16-21; c.425, ff. 186-9; c.440, ff. 139-45; c.452, f. 134; d.117, ff. 134-40; W.O. Gore, Mss at Porkington; PP (1838), xxv. 249-51.
  • 5. Shrewsbury Chron. 21 Nov.; N. Wales Chron. 18, 25 Dec. 1828, 1 Jan. 1829.
  • 6. Brogyntyn mss, uncatalogued 1947 deposit, Criccieth borough recs.; N. Wales Chron. 22 Jan., 12 Feb., 12, 19, 26 Mar. 1829.
  • 7. UCNW, Mostyn of Mostyn mss 7451; UCNW, Plas Newydd mss v. 245; N. Wales Chron. 2, 9, 16 Apr. 1829.
  • 8. Phillips Robinson mss c.425, f. 188.
  • 9. Ll. Jones, ‘Sir Charles Paget and Caernarvon Boroughs, 1830-32’, Trans. Caern. Hist. Soc. xxi (1960), 85-91, 103-112; N. Wales Chron. 8, 15, 22, 29 July, 5 Aug.; Shrewsbury Chron. 6 Aug. 1830; Porth-yr-aur mss 12561.
  • 10. N. Wales Chron. 20 Jan. 1831, 17 July 1832.
  • 11. CJ, lxxxvi. 291, 339, 346, 401, 413, 480, 504-5, 533; J.I.C. Boyd, Ffestiniog Railway, i. 20-25; Caernarvon Herald, 23 Apr. 1831; J. Gordon Jones, ‘Ffestiniog Slate Industry’, Jnl. Merion. Hist. and Rec. Soc. vi (1969-72), 50-54.
  • 12. Caernarvon Herald, 5 Mar. 1831.
  • 13. D.A. Wager, ‘Welsh Politics and Parl. Reform, 1780-1832’, WHR, vii (1974), 437-8.
  • 14. Jones, Trans. Caern. Hist Soc. xxi. 91-94; Plas Newydd mss i. 572, 583, 593, 598, 603-5, 616, 630; N. Wales Chron. 5 Apr., 10, 17 May; Caernarvon Herald, 7, 14 May; Chester Chron. 20 May 1831; Ll. Jones, ‘Edition of Corresp. of 1st mq. of Anglesey relating to General Elections of 1830, 1831 and 1832 in Caern. and Anglesey’ (Univ. of Liverpool M.A. thesis, 1956), 506; K. Evans, ‘Caernarvon Borough’, Trans. Caern. Hist. Soc. viii (1947), 62-63.
  • 15. Plas Newydd mss i. 616, 617, 627.
  • 16. R.G. Thomas, ‘Politics in Anglesey and Caern. 1826-52’ (Univ. of Wales M.A. thesis, 1970), 70; Chester Courant, 11 Oct. 1831; N. Wales Chron. 3, 17 July; Caernarvon Herald, 14 July 1832; Phillips Robinson mss c.440, f. 141.
  • 17. Phillips Robinson mss c.440, ff. 143-5; Plas Newydd mss i. 73, 76; iii. 3564, 3587, 3589, 3734-80; Caernarvon Herald, 4 Aug.; Shrewsbury Chron. 14, 21 Dec. 1832; VCH Salop. iii. 311-12, 319.
  • 18. Brogyntyn mss, uncatalogued 1947 deposit, Assheton Smith-Ormsby Gore corresp. 6, 13 Apr. 1834; uncatalogued 1955 deposit, Ormsby Gore to Lloyd Edwards, 18 Mar., to W. Wynne, 23 Dec. 1836; VCH Salop, iii. 319-21.
  • 19. Oswestry Advertiser, 9 May; Salop Conservative, 12 May 1860.