WYNN, Thomas John, 2nd Bar. Newborough [I] (1802-1832), of Glynllifon, Caern.

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



1826 - 1830

Family and Education

b. 3 Apr. 1802, 1st surv. s. of Thomas Wynn†, 1st Bar. Newborough [I], of Glynllifon and 2nd w. Maria Stella Petronilla, da. of Lorenzo Chiappini, constable of Modigliana, styled Marchesina de Modigliana. educ. Rugby 1816-18; Christ Church, Oxf. 1820. unm. suc. fa. as 2nd Baron Newborough [I] 12 Oct. 1807. d. 15 Nov. 1832.

Offices Held

Mayor, Nefyn 1824-d.


Thomas John, the elder of two sons born to the 1st Lord Newborough and his Florentine child bride, was not conceived until his half-brother John, the only child of his father’s marriage to Lady Catherine Perceval, had died without issue. The family’s fortunes had declined and they had lost the Caernarvonshire seat in 1774, the county lieutenancy in 1781 and Caernarvon Boroughs in 1790 to the Bulkeleys of Baron Hill and the Pagets of Plas Newydd.1 They could nevertheless appeal to strong Welsh and parliamentary pedigrees and retained land and influence in 36 Caernarvonshire parishes and the boroughs of Caernarvon, Pwllheli and Nefyn. Indeed, Bulkeley saw fit to compensate Newborough’s father by returning him for Beaumaris from 1796 until he died in 1807, leaving a widow and sons aged five and four.2 His will established a trust administered by Spencer Perceval†, Edward Majoribanks, Thomas Atkinson and Sir Coutts Trotter, and settled the 22,941-acre estates, which included quarries in Dyffryn Nantlle and Ffestiniog, on Thomas John, a godson of Lord Bulkeley, with provision for his minority. Under its terms, Lady Newborough, who married the Russian baron, Ungern Sternberg, 11 Sept. 1810, thereby forfeited the guardianship of her sons to David Hughes, principal of Jesus College, Oxford. He placed them in the care of their cousin Thomas Edward Wynn Belasyse for four years before sending them to Rugby, which Newborough left in March 1818 when the headmaster recommended that the brothers be separated.3 Hughes’s widow subsequently cared for the boys at her home in Whitchurch, near Pangbourne, Berkshire, where their behaviour caused problems. Their tutor John Slater advised Coutts Trotter, 29 Feb. 1819:

From my experience of ... [Newborough’s] opinions and disposition, I cannot but think the most beneficial plan which can be adopted for his future education would be either to send him immediately to Christ Church if possible (and perhaps a single admission for a nobleman might be obtained) or adopt some line of proceeding by which he may be entitled to see more of the world, and thus learn to conform to the practices of society in general.4

He was sent to the continent for a year with the Rev. William Phillips, who became his Oxford tutor. The trustees, whom his mother threatened with prosecution, expended £29,650 during his minority and made several applications to chancery for additional funds.5 Newborough was estimated to be worth £113,000 when he came of age in 1823. Rents on the Abbey, Bodfean and Glynllifon estates grossing £13,718 a year were £20,300 in arrears, and a further £2,500 was outstanding from Denbighshire and Merioneth estates worth £2,156 a year. He had £5,600 in chancery, a £4,000 mortgage, dilapidated mansions, and realizable income of just under £11,000 a year. His visits to Glynllifon, the Caernarvon eisteddfod and Pwllheli hunt in 1821 had attracted much attention, and his coming of age was celebrated with dinners for his tenantry and doles to the poor of Caernarvon, Conway, Ffestiniog, Pwllheli and Nefyn. However, he had little experience of Wales or estate matters.6 Glyn Griffith of Bodegroes, whom he appointed ‘general agent’, let it be known that ‘it was not the intention of Lord Newborough either to disturb the county or borough of Caernarvon ... though he would never lose sight of either’.7

Bulkeley had died in 1822 and his successor as lord lieutenant, Thomas Assheton Smith I* of Vaenol, encouraged Newborough to oppose the return of Bulkeley’s pro-Catholic half-brother Sir Robert Williams for Caernarvonshire at the first opportunity. Disappointed at the failure of the Ffestiniog railway bill and shortcomings in the 1825 Caernarvon-Llanllyfin Railway Act, he announced his candidature when a dissolution was anticipated that September. He denied making any pledge not to oppose Williams and raised the ‘No Popery’ cry. Williams was outraged that after ‘living on the most friendly terms with all my family’, he should behave thus.8 Adopting a high public profile, and with a view to opposing the Pagets in Caernarvon Boroughs, he had also become mayor of Nefyn (11 Sept. 1824), leased Conway corporation farm, and taken his freedom (29 Sept. 1825) at Caernarvon, where he and Assheton Smith were the major property owners and the candidature of his brother Spencer Bulkeley Wynn (1803-88) was mooted.9 Williams’s pre-poll resignation left him unopposed in Caernarvonshire at the general election in June 1826, when his brother refrained from opposition in the Boroughs and spent £5,120. He confirmed his anti-Catholic politics at his election dinner.10 Afterwards, he borrowed £15,000 to cover his costs, improvements at Glynllifon, and land acquired from Richard Garnons of Plas Llanwnda.11

By the time he took his seat in November, his agents and supporters had made the necessary local preparations for bills to fund the Nantlle Railway Company and enclose Landwrog and Llanwnda to further Glynllifon’s agricultural and quarrying interests. Petitions for both bills were presented, 24 Nov. 1826, and Newborough was given leave to bring them in.12 He spent Christmas and New Year hunting in Dorset, returning to London for the duke of York’s funeral, of which he sent a long account to his Pwllheli agent; it was marked by a gun salute and tolling of bells at Glynllifon.13 He secured the enactment of the Nantlle bill, 21 Mar. 1827;14 but the Llanwnda and Llandwrog enclosure was repeatedly postponed and he had to withdraw it, 21 May, after a successful parliamentary campaign against it led by Williams’s brother-in-law, William Hughes of Kinmel. Locally, petitioning was accompanied by organized violence by Rhostryfan cottagers threatened with eviction.15 The contentious Caernarvon improvement bill which failed that month had also been entrusted to him.16 He divided against Catholic relief, 6 Mar., presented Caernarvon’s unfavourable petition, 22 Mar. 1827,17 and voted against repealing the Test Acts, 26 Feb., and Catholic relief, 12 May 1828. His application to the duke of Wellington, 14 May, for the county lieutenancy, vacant through Assheton Smith’s death, was turned down.18 That summer, he and his brother visited Marseilles and stayed briefly in Paris where his mother, who was pursuing her case to prove she was the daughter of Louis Égalité, Comte de Joinville and heiress to the Orléans fortune, had fallen victim to the swindler John Mills. A bishop’s court in Faenza had confirmed her noble parentage in 1824, and she made much of her sons’ physical resemblance to Louis XVI.19 In Caernarvonshire, Newborough faced costly litigation over the Glynrhonwy quarries and Llanberis road, the Llanbeblig evictions and the lease of Caernarvon customs house.20 Ministers considered him as a possible mover or seconder of the 1829 address and expected him to vote with them for Catholic emancipation.21 Reports of proceedings in the House when he presented anti-Catholic petitions from Bangor, Caernarvonshire’s Welsh Calvinistic Methodists, Llannor and Pwllheli, 12 Feb., differed so much that he inserted a an explanatory notice and compilation of newspaper reports in the anti-Catholic North Wales Chronicle, 19 Feb. He claimed he had stated, 12 Feb., that

whatever measures ... ministers may think proper to bring before this House, for securing the peace and happiness of Ireland, for remedying the dreadful evils that now exist - and above all for healing the religious animosities between Catholic and Protestant - I shall give my most cordial support, provided they are accompanied by those solid securities which are likely to tranquillize the just fears of His Majesty’s Protestant subjects. Without those safeguards ... I consider it would be an extravagant extension of confidence to yield anything like unconditional submission to their claims. Should such be attempted by ... ministers, which I am sure they will not do, I shall conceive it my duty to give my most determined opposition to the measure.

The paper’s editor remained dissatisfied.22 Glynllifon withdrew its subscription to the North Wales Chronicle, which published calls for Newborough’s resignation for not adhering to his election pledge. It reported that he had voted for Catholic relief, 6 Mar., when he did not vote at all, and the clamour for his resignation continued at north-west Wales Protestant meetings throughout March.23 He divided against the relief bill, 18 Mar., and presented a hostile petition from Beddgelert, 25 Mar., but did not vote on the bill’s third reading, 30 Mar. 1829. At Shropshire assizes in August, Caernarvon corporation lost their case against him over the customs house lease. His defence cost £347 8s.24 He no longer paid attention to his parliamentary duties. His health problems, a weak lung and skin disorder, were genuine, and he went to the south of France in search of a cure. Work on the mausoleum in which he proposed to be buried had commenced in 1826.25 He was convalescing in Marseilles, and contactable only through Coutts Trotter, when the general election was called in 1830, which made the outcome of a possible contest in Caernarvon Boroughs, where Thomas Assheton Smith II* was invited to stand or nominate, hard to predict.26 ‘Lord Newborough’s absence and silence’ encouraged his agents, particularly Rumsey Williams’s brother-in-law George Bettiss, to support the anti-Paget faction.27 In the county, Assheton Smith hoped to bring in his cousin Charles Wynne Griffith Wynne* of Cefnamlwch, Newborough’s 1826 proposer.28 The slate industry was depressed, and Newborough, who was known not to be ready to stand a contest, adopted a passive approach, making no move to announce his retirement through ill health until 10 July 1830.29

A slight improvement in his condition enabled him to return and campaign actively for repeal of the slate duties in 1831. Presiding at the county meeting, 15 Jan., he condemned that tax which ‘prevents the flow of capital, fetters the spirit of enterprise, and creates distress and dissatisfaction among the industrious and labouring classes of the community’. He also promised ‘to come forward with my heart, as well as my purse, to promote every cause which has for its object the welfare of the town and the county of Caernarvon’.30 Caernarvon harbour trustees had prosecuted him in November 1830 for erecting a wharf on the Seiont, but he staunched opposition by becoming their chairman in February 1831 and appointing his brother a trustee.31 His support was again assiduously cultivated at the 1831 general election, when the reformer Sir Charles Paget narrowly defeated William Ormsby Gore* in Caernarvon Boroughs; and he seconded the nomination of the anti-reformer Griffith Wynne for the county.32 Arguing that the same restrictions applied to Irish as English peers, Paget’s counsel prevented him from voting for Ormsby Gore and had notices informing Glynllifon tenants of their landlord’s allegiance removed.33 Spencer Wynn voted for Paget.34 As a magistrate, Newborough tried those accused of misdemeanour following disturbances at the election.35

Glynllifon’s influence in the Boroughs increased under the Reform Act, but neither Newborough nor his brother agreed to stand for Parliament, and by September 1832 both had declared their support for the Tory candidates in the Boroughs and county.36 Newborough died of consumption in November and was buried with great ceremony and mourning at Llandwrog. His funeral sermon was preached on the text, ‘the liberal deviseth liberal things, and by liberal things shall he stand’. His will, dated 24 Aug. 1830, and proved, 15 Mar. 1833, revoked one he had made in 1822 in favour of his trustees and settled everything on his brother, who also succeeded him as 3rd Baron Newborough.37

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. HP Commons, 1754-90, i. 460-1; iii. 669-71.
  • 2. G. Roberts, Aspects of Welsh Hist. 160-71; Maria Wynn, Mems. of Maria Stella trans. M.H.M. Capes (1914), 88-94; UCNW, Beaumaris mss iv. 318.
  • 3. PROB 11/1471/893; Gwynedd Archives, Caernarfon, Glynllifon mss 4352, 4361, 4367-9, 5725; Mems. of Maria Stella, 97-99; D. Williams, ‘Maria Stella, Lady Newborough’, Trans. Caern. Hist. Soc. xv (1954), 24-48.
  • 4. Glynllifon mss 4665
  • 5. Ibid. 4625, 4654, 4658-71, 4681, 4725, 5724-6.
  • 6. Ibid. 4665, 5736-8, 8360-7; N. Wales Gazette, 6, 13, 20 Sept., 18 Oct. 1821; Shrewsbury Chron. 4 Apr. 1823.
  • 7. UCNW, Plas Coch mss 3770; Plas Newydd mss i. 215.
  • 8. Plas Newydd mss i. 211, 213, 215, 218, 223, 224, 226, 227, 231, 241; J.I.C. Boyd, Ffestiniog Railway, i. 20-22; N. Wales Gazette, 22, 29 Sept., 6, 13 Oct. 1825; UCNW, Porth yr Aur mss 12533, 12663E.
  • 9. N. Wales Gazette, 13 Jan., 1 Sept. 1825; PP (1838), xxxv. 241-2, 324; Plas Newydd mss i. 223, 226, 231, 238, 245, 265, 281; Gwynedd Archives, Caernarfon, Caernarvon borough recs. 12.
  • 10. N. Wales Gazette, 8, 15, 23 June 1826; Glynllifon mss 4238-42, 6061.
  • 11. Glynllifon mss 4440, 4570.
  • 12. N. Wales Gazette, 12 Oct., 2 Nov. 1826; CJ, lxxxii. 30, 46.
  • 13. Gwynedd Archives, Caernarfon XD2/Temp/2139 [Bodfean 36], Newborough to D. Williams, 20 Jan.; N. Wales Gazette, 25 Jan. 1827.
  • 14. CJ, lxxxii. 122, 212, 252, 338.
  • 15. N. Wales Gazette, 26 Apr., 7, 14, 21 June; The Times, 21 May 1827; Glynllifon mss 6063; D.J.V. Jones, Before Rebecca, 50, 63; CJ, lxxxii. 332, 341, 424, 437, 442, 477.
  • 16. CJ, lxxxii. 252; N. Wales Gazette, 12 Apr. 1827.
  • 17. N. Wales Gazette, 8, 22 Mar. 1827.
  • 18. Wellington mss WP1/932/9; 935/22.
  • 19. Mems. of Maria Stella, 16, 230, 236; Glynllifon mss 4156, 4681; Gent. Mag. (1833), i. 82.
  • 20. Glynllifon mss 5891-3; NLW, Henry Rumsey Williams mss 23, 25.
  • 21. Add. 40398, f. 86.
  • 22. The Times; Morning Chronicle; Courier; Morning Herald; Morning Post; Morning Standard; St. James’s Chronicle, 13 Feb.; N. Wales Chron. 19 Feb. 1829.
  • 23. N. Wales Chron. 26 Feb., 12, 26 Mar., 2 Apr. 1829.
  • 24. Glynllifon mss 5897, 6068.
  • 25. Mems. of Maria Stella, 94, 238; Plas Coch mss 3770; Roberts, 175.
  • 26. Glynllifon mss 4883; Plas Newydd mss i. 378, 389, 381-3, 403, 404, 410, 423, 479, 484; Gwynedd Archives, Caernarfon, Poole mss 5434.
  • 27. Plas Newydd mss i. 445, 461, 475, 479.
  • 28. Ibid. i. 380, 383, 393, 486, 490; Poole mss 5459.
  • 29. Plas Newydd mss i. 383, 393, 404, 432; A.H. Dodd. Industrial Revolution in N. Wales (1990), 214-18; N. Wales Chron. 15 July 1830.
  • 30. Caernarvon Herald, 8, 22 Jan., 19 Feb. 1831.
  • 31. Glynllifon mss 5898; Caernarvon Herald, 12 Feb., 5 Mar. 1831.
  • 32. Plas Newydd mss i. 555, 558, 567; Caernarvon Herald, 7, 14 May 1831.
  • 33. Plas Newydd mss i. 604; vii. 291; 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) 508, 512; Porth yr Aur mss 12570, 12577; The Times, 12 May 1831.
  • 34. Plas Newydd mss i. 583; K. Evans, ‘Caernarvon Borough’, Trans. Caern. Hist. Soc. viii (1947), 62.
  • 35. Chester Courant, 5 July 1831.
  • 36. Plas Newydd mss i. 73, 551, 554, 629; iii. 3601, 3602, 3612, 3614-7.
  • 37. Caernarvon Herald, 17 Nov., 1 Dec.; Chester Courant, 4 Dec.; N. Wales Chron. 4 Dec. 1832; PROB 8/226; PROB 11/1813/176; Glynllifon mss 4102, 4371, 4372, 4374, 4443.