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I have mentioned in earlier articles the brief rule in Wrexham of the “committee men” – the supporters of Cromwell. Three of them at least (Hugh Prichard, Edward Taylor and Sir Richard Saltonstall) had close connections with Brymbo,  along with other local supporters such as the younger Samuel Powell of Stansty and the Gyfynys, while the most influential of the lot, John Jones Maesygarnedd, lived not far away. A. H. Dodd, in his history of Wrexham, said that the town gained administrative importance in this period as a stronghold of often English-speaking nonconformity; had the Protectorate continued it might well have become the real centre of power in North Wales. Still, it was not be, and in later years everyone was very eager to prove how few “committee men” had been amongst their number.

Despite this, the noncomformists and Parliamentarians were surprisingly deeply embedded in the social fabric of the area.

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Before the 19th century, in most constituencies, voting was something you did only if you met the appropriate property qualification. This excluded nearly all the working class, much of the middle class, and (in effect) nearly all women. Electors voted very much in the public eye, often sold votes, and were openly courted (or threatened) by candidates.

Wrexham itself had for many years been dominated by a Tory sort of temperament – the ‘old’ establishment, the High Church, a historic tendency towards Jacobitism – despite its large number of nonconformists and tradesmen. Even ordinary residents took part in this; the town was several times overrun by Jacobite rioting in the early 18th century, when even the colliers of the surrounding townships came into town to crack a few windows, or heads. Politically, Denbighshire had for generations been controlled by the Williams-Wynn family of Wynnstay, known Jacobites early on, and later solid Tories. But progressive reform during the 19th century began to nibble away at Wynnstay’s power. The franchise was gradually extended, particularly by the Second Reform Act of 1867 which gave the working class in borough constituencies the vote in large numbers, and the introduction of a secret ballot in 1872 meant that voters would no longer have to vote under the prying eyes of their landlords. Despite this a lot of people still held to traditional loyalties – and those who still did not have enough property to gain a vote could certainly help support the favoured candidate of their employer.

By the time of the 1885 election, however, reform had substantially changed the political landscape. In particular the old Denbighsire constituency, with two MPs, was to be split, and the seat of East Denbighshire was to be contested by Sir Herbert Lloyd Watkin Williams-Wynn, who had very recently become 7th Baronet. The opposing Liberal candidate had an excellent chance of taking the seat away from him, and for a variety of reasons Brymbo was to become a key flashpoint in the electoral battle.

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This is site about Brymbo, a township once part of Denbighshire, and its history. You can read more about the site in general, start with the most recent posts or with the archives listed below.