Philobiblon: More on the Wynns of Wynnstay

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

More on the Wynns of Wynnstay

An emailed question from a researcher about my Diaries of a Lady of Quality reminded me that I hadn't posted a block of my research, particularly that drawn from: Wynnstay and the Wynns: A Volume of Varieties (Put Together by the Author of the Gossiping Guide to Wales). The British Library copy has written after that in pencil "Askew Roberts". Published in Oswestery by Woodall and Venables, 1876, it is also available in a 1998 fascimile edition.

They were a family line who seemed to have specialised in marrying well. In the 16th and 17th century, on the Williams side of the family, there is a long list of marriages to "the daughter and heiress of ... "

Sir Watkin, the fourth baronet and MP for Denbighshire, married on August 6th, 1769, Lady Henrietta Somerset, "fifth daughter of Charles, Fourth Duke of Beaufort. She died after a few months, and he married his second wife Charlotte, daughter of the Right Hon. Geo. Greville, Prime Minister of England and sister to the Marquis of Buckinghamshire on December 21, 1771.

There's an anecdote about this: "'How flexible are the affections of some men,' says Mrs Delany, in recording the event. Sir Watkins Wynn is the happiest of men: and so he was not many months before with Lady Hart."

When this Sir WW had come of age in April 1770, he had a banquet at Wynnstay said to have been attended by 15,000 guests. He was a man who liked to be centre stage. "Mr Wright in his Caricature History of the Georges records Sir WW's appearance at Mrs Cornelly's masquerades where he represented a Druid. In 1773, we are told in Leslie's Life of Reynolds 'the jolly Sir Watkin produced great effect (at a masquerade in the Pantheon) by riding in as St David, mounted on a Welsh goat."

In 1775 he was elected member of the Dilettanti Society (which sounds about right), but he died in 1789 aged only 41, and his mother erected a memorial obelisk in Wynnstay Park.

I think it must have been his father whose address to the electors of Denbighshire was preserved in The Gentleman's Magazine of April 1742. The gossiping Welshman says: "had he lived in our days he would doubtless have been claimed as a liberal". His death was caused by a fall from his horse while hunting at Acton in the sumnmer of 1749.

So he wasn't as tough as his second wife, Frances, "daughter of George Shakerley Esq", who when a fire broke out at her family home "was saved with difficulty after clinging for some time to a water-pipe outside her window. She survived her husband many years and lived into the present century." (So my diarist must have known her well.)

And that must be Frances Williams Wynn, my diarist's, grandfather. It was her brother, the fifth baronet (born 1772), who liked playing at least at being a soldier. "After he came of age he raised a regiment of yeomen, gazetted in 1794 as the 'Ancient British Fencibles', and in 1798 assisted in quelling the memorable Irish Rebellion."

In 1814 he established a regiment of militia "and at its head marched to France, arriving just too late for the battle of Toulouse". But they didn't go to Waterloo. (Still this shows why Miss Williams Wynn was so interested in Napoleon.)

But it wasn't all war - in 1810 "when Lancastrian schools were founded", he gave a building in Wrexham "sufficiently large enough to educate 500 poor children", and he also founded a regular agricultural fair. In 1817 he married Lady Henrietta Antonia Clive, and "in autumn 1832 Wynnstay was honoured with a royal visit - Sir Watkin entertained his future queen."

Then, it is with tragedy that my Miss Williams Wynn enters the picture: "In 1840 he died, driving with his sister from Wynnstay to Nat-y-belan. They were thrown out of a pony carriage and Sir Watkins Wynn was picked up insensible. Erysipelas set in and he never recovered. He was buried in Rhiaton Church and the number of persons at the funeral was estimated by newspapers of the time at 10,000."

As I'm not reading ahead as I publish the diary, I don't know if this will be covered by it.


Anonymous Sharon said...

That's the first time I've ever heard the first Sir Watkin WW claimed for a liberal. His own age considered him a Tory through and through - and even a Jacobite. At least, he joined the Jacobite clubs, sang the songs, toasted the Pretender (I've read a juicy bit of gossip from one of his Whig rivals about him having to make an undignified hasty exit from Shrewsbury to avoid being arrested) - but kept clear of the '15 and '45 Risings.

(There's a couple of chapters on him in PDG Thomas's Politics in eighteenth-century Wales.)

11/08/2005 01:40:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

I had a feeling that it might be a slightly tongue-in-cheek comment, meant to be perhaps anti-liberal, although it was hard to be sure.

Thanks for the reference - have to see what it says about Frances.

11/08/2005 01:59:00 pm  
Anonymous sharon said...

The book's highly unlikely to say anything at all about Frances. PDG is a sweet old fellow (he used to teach here at Aber and I bump into him regularly), but not exactly into women's history.

11/08/2005 06:57:00 pm  

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