HUGHES, William Lewis (1767-1852), of Kinmel Park, Denb.
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Family and Education
b. 10 Nov. 1767, 1st s. of Rev. Edward Hughes of Kinmel Park by Mary, da. and coh. of Robert Lewis of Llysdulas, Anglesey. educ. Felsted; Christ Church, Oxf. 1786. m. (1) 8 Mar. 1804, Charlotte Margaret (d. 21 Jan. 1835), da. of Ralph William Grey of Backworth, Northumb., 2s. 8da.; (2) 11 Feb. 1840, Gertrude, da. of Grice Blakeney Smyth of Ballynatray, co. Waterford, 2da. suc. fa. 1815; cr. Baron Dinorben 10 Sept. 1831.
Militia a.d.c. to Queen Victoria 1840-d.
Capt. (vols.) R. Anglesey militia 1794, maj. 1798, lt.-col. commdt. 1803, col. 1808.
Hughes’s father amassed a fortune as the principal partner in the Parys Mine Company, formed in 1778 with John Dawes and Thomas Williams* to exploit the Parys Mountain copper mine which ran across the Lewis estates in Anglesey. On his father’s death, Hughes became one of the principals in the Chester and North Wales Bank and in 1817 was able to make available £48,000 to tide it over a crisis in its affairs. The following year John Cam Hobhouse noted that he lived ‘in great luxury’.1
By threatening Sir Francis Sykes, who had established a dominant interest in the venal borough of Wallingford, with a wholesale attack on his position, Hughes gained control of one seat and was returned unopposed in 1802. His wealth ensured its retention for the duration of his Commons career. He signified his Foxite sympathies by voting for inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s debts, 4 Mar., and for a council of general officers, 2 Aug. 1803, but no further votes are recorded in his name until 23 and 25 Apr. 1804, when he joined in the decisive attack on Addington. He did not vote against Pitt’s additional force bill in June 1804, but voted regularly against government in the following session, led the opposition to the militia enlistment bill in his maiden and only recorded speech, 26 Mar., and was elected to Brooks’s on 10 Apr. 1805. He supported his Foxite friends in power, but did not vote in the division on the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806.
Hughes was absent from the House early in 1807 because of the ‘alarming indisposition’ of his father, but he came up in time to vote for Brand’s motion condemning the ministerial pledge, 9 Apr. 1807. He remained a loyal Whig in the ensuing years of opposition and in 1817 subscribed £300 to the fund for Brougham’s projected party evening newspaper. He was not, however, the most assiduous of attenders. Between 21 Jan. 1811 and 4 Feb. 1812, for example, no vote is recorded in his name and this lapse into inactivity seems to have raised doubts in Lord Grey’s mind. On 23 Feb. 1812 Hughes excused himself from attendance for the forthcoming motion on the state of the nation because of his father’s illness, but assured Grey of his ‘humble but disinterested support whether in or out of power’ and trusted that his absence would not be ‘construed to convey the opinion you attribute to it’.2 His inactivity in the 1815 session, when his only recorded votes were against the Duke of Cumberland’s grant, 29, 30 June, 3 July, can probably be accounted for by his father’s last illness and death. Thereafter he appears to have been a more regular attender.
Hughes therefore took no part in the opposition to the renewal of war in 1815 and the peace terms early in 1816. He could be relied on, when present, to support economy, retrenchment and reduced taxation. Although he was in the minority of 28 who voted for Folkestone’s amendment to Curwen’s emasculated reform bill, 12 June 1809, he could not be rallied to an extra-parliamentary meeting of Friends to Constitutional Reform in 1811 and, although he was friendly with Burdett and his set,3 his only recorded direct vote for parliamentary reform in this period was on Burdett’s motion, 20 May 1817. He opposed government’s repressive legislation throughout 1817, including the introduction and third reading of the seditious meetings bill, 24 Feb. and 14 Mar., and came up for the emergency session of 1819, but did not prove to be one of the diehard opponents of the Six Acts, voting only for the general censure motions of 24 and 30 Nov. and twice against the seditious meetings bill, 2 and 6 Dec. 1819. He was a consistent supporter of Catholic relief. He died 10 Feb. 1852.