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Sir Robert Williames Vaughan, 2nd Bart. (1768-1843)

Lot 42 - 2008 Auction by Tamlyns

A portrait of Robert Williames Vaughan.
Attributed to William Parry.
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Robert Williames Vaughan.
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Image courtesy of the National Museum of Wales

Robert Williames Vaughan was born on March 29th, 1768 and was the first son of the surgeon and apothecary Sir Robert Howell Vaughan who was given a baronetcy for political loyalty to William Pitt ‘The Younger’ in 1791, although he was very ill at the time and died the following year.

Robert Williames was educated at Jesus College, Oxford (1787) and married Anna Maria Mostyn on September 23rd, 1802 (daughter of Sir Roger Mostyn, 5th Baronet, of Mostyn and Gloddaeth).

He inherited Nannau and it’s 12,000 acre estate on his father’s death on October 13th, 1792. A few years after this (around 1794) work started on a new house at Nannau, which is the one we see today. 1794 was also the year the local town of Dolgellau was hit by an outbreak of smallpox, which killed thirty-eight of it’s residents.

He became the Conservative Member of Parliament for Merioneth in January 1792, arriving at Westminster eight years into the premiership of William Pitt ‘The Younger’. He held his seat (without opposition) until ill health forced him to retire in 1836 (which could have been due to Gout which he suffered from). There were few people willing to stand against him, his younger brother Griffith Howell Vaughan was the constable of Harlech Castle (owner of the Hengwrt and Rûg estates). Between the pair, they were Merioneth’s leading land-owners.

While he was a popular and important figure in Merionethshire, especially his tenants around Nannau, he did not make much of an impact in Westminster and had the reputation of being a little uncouth. His head and heart seemed to stay at Nannau, being more interested in spending time in his constituency, farming and building work on his estates. His attendance was poor and he made no reported speeches in his first twenty-eight years as an MP, his first (and only) one being in 1830.

Sydney Smith described him as a “sweet innocent” in 1799; “He sees from his windows Cader Idris and Snowdon, both of them inferior to himself in height and bulk. It was curious and amusing to see the worthy baronet, surrounded by sixteen little men and women who reached up to the waistband of his breeches, and looked like iron rails round a monument”. (A side-note to this description is that Snowdon is in fact twenty-three miles from Nannau and he most likely means Cader Idris).

He had associations with MPs his own Conservative party as well as The Whiggs (the opposition at the time). He found friends on any side that shared his love of the Welsh language, it’s poetry and hunting.

A letter written by Robert Williames Vaughan

A letter written by Sir Robert Williames Vaughan.

Sir Robert Williames Vaughan Signature (Framed)
An address written by Robert Williames Vaughan in 1822

An address written by Sir Robert Williames Vaughan in 1822

An address written by Robert Williames Vaughan in 1822

Another from 1834

In 1820 he announced that he would seek re-election and proposed a county meeting to celebrate the reign of the recently deceased George III. Later in 1820 he had a bilingual tribute to the late George III inscribed on a new extension to Llanfachreth church (these stones can still be seen at the church today). During this time a great deal of building work was carried out at Nannau with arches and lodges dedicated to George III and George IV. Also many of the estate buildings bear the initials “RW V AM” for Robert and his wife Anna Maria from around this period.

He cut a pretty imposing figure. In her visit to Nannau in 1824 Mrs Frances Stackhouse described him as, “about six feet high and rather portly, dressed in a suit of home made grey cloth”. She went on to say, “The only books I ever saw in the house were in Sir Robert’s business room, and consisted of one on gaming and four or five on farming and gardening”. She also described Lady Vaughan, “She had been a handsome woman, and of a good Welsh family… but her education was not what we should call first class in England”.

Robert Williames Vaughan was MP for Merioneth through fourteen Parliaments over forty-four years from January 1792 to June 1836. He was an MP during the premierships of twelve Prime Ministers, including William Pitt ‘The Younger’, Spencer Perceval, Arthur Wellesley (The Duke of Wellington) before retiring at the time of Sir Robert Peel. He was an MP during the reigns of George III, George IV and William IV and sat at Westminster when George Washington became the first President of America.

He was succeeded at Westminster by his chosen nominee Richard Richards of Caerynwch, just three miles away from Nannau.

During his time as an MP, he was instrumental in the building work of nearby Dolgellau, including the Jail in 1811 and the Courthouse in 1825. He is also credited for building more than fifty-five miles of stone walling around his estate, which was needed as a result of the reworked “Enclosures Act”. It is said he maintained nine carters and eighteen horses or mules to carry the stone.

He became the Sheriff of Merionethshire in 1837. This year-long post was (and would be) held by various members of the Nanney and Vaughan families, including his son in 1846 and John Vaughan in 1880.

The 1841 census shows Robert and his wife sharing the house with five male servants (aged between 12 and 30) and eleven female servants (aged between 12 and 65). All born in Merionethshire.

He died on April 22nd, 1843 aged 75.

Taken from various sources, including:
The Story of Two Parishes Dolgelley & Llanelltyd by T.P. Ellis

Sir Robert Williames Vaughan Signature
Lot 47 - 2008 Auction by Chilcotts

A naive oil painting, depicting Sir Robert Williames Vaughan.
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Lot 58 - 2008 Auction by Chilcotts

An engraving of Sir Robert Williames Vaughan.
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The North Wales Chronicle - Tuesday April 25th, 1843.


Our obituary of this day recounts a very mournful event, the demise of Sir Robert Williams Vaughan, Bart., of Nannau. In an affecting letter from the neighbourhood, dated Saturday, the writer thus briefly but feelingly describes it:–

“The worthy Baronet of Nannau is no more! He expired this morning, at 20 minutes past 6 o’clock, seemingly without any pain or emotion whatever. The good Sir Robert had been complaining for these last 10 days, but he appeared to be decidedly convalescent; indeed so much so, that he took his accustomed place at the dinner table yesterday, and was in excellent spirits,–pleasant and cheerful as usual. His family are all in deep affliction; and Nannau is a house of woe! The shock came as a thunderbolt on all, and more especially on those who had seem him so much better, and so much himself again the whole of yesterday.”

The deceased Baronet has left a kind hearted and amiable widow to mourn her irreparable loss, and an excellent son who, together with his father’s honours and estates, we have been assured, inherits also his virtues. But it is no disparagement to him to express our apprehension that, although a worthy scion of an ancient stock, it will be long ere the gap be made up, which that Father’s lamented removal from a sense of usefulness has made in society.

Thos who knew him best will most fully appreciate his loss. For strong common sense, and shrewdness of intellect, as well as real kindness of heart, he was unsurpassed by none of his contemporaries. In the daily practice of unbounded, but unostentatious hospitality, he exhibited a faithful picture of the old country gentleman, a worthy race, which the more artificial state of society, in the present day, is fastsweeping away from amongst us.

His loss will be long and deeply felt by every grade. The lighter ranks will lament his loss as a valuable member of their body, ever ready to contribute an ample share to the cheerful pleasures of the social circles:–attentive, too, on all occasions, to the higher requisites of his high station, the promotion of his country’s good.

He represented in Parliament the county of Merioneth for forty-four years. He was a kind and considerate Landlord, at all times ready to consult the good of a numerous tenantry, and with his valuable advice to further their best interests. To his inferiors he was affable and condescending,–the poor man’s best friend, not so much by indiscriminate almsgiving, as by adopting that course which tends to preserve and foster his independence of character,–by supplying him with work.

This hasty sketch, so unworthy of such a subject, we are now indured(sic) to insert, in default of a more particular and circumstantial account of this estimable character.

The late Baronet succeed his father, Sir Robert Howell in 1790; Married September, 1801, Anna Maria, daughter of the late Sir Roger, and sister of the late Sir Thomas Mostyn, Baronet, and has issue, Robert Williames, born June 25, 1803, Married July 1835, Frances, daughter of Edward Lloyd, Esq. of Rhagatt.

He sat in Parliament for the county of Merioneth from 1792 to June 25th 1836, when he resigned.

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The Funeral of Sir Robert Williames Vaughan

From The North Wales Chronicle on May 9th, 1843


The funeral of this highly respected gentleman took place on Saturday morning, the 29th ult., and will long be held in recollection by all who witnessed the impressive and mournful scene as it at once sufficed to show how deeply he was lamented, and how sincerely he was esteemed by all who knew him.

Into compliance with written directions left by Sir Robert, the funeral procession left Nannau at 10 o’clock on the morning of Saturday, in the following order:–

Deputations from nine clubs in Dolgelley, and immediate neighbourhood, viz:–

1. The Friendly Society, established in 1802, of which the late Baronet was an honorary member.
2. The Female Friendly Society.
3. The Rechabite Female Friendly Society.
4. The Aiding Friendly Society.
5. The Supporting Society.
6. The United Society.
7. The Brotherly Society.
8. The Trawsfynydd Friendly Society.
9. The Llanfachreth Friendly Society.
with black flags and scarfs.

A company of church singers from the adjoining parishes, who sang, in Welsh, Psalms appropriate to the mournful occasion,

The Parish Clerk.

Carriage containing the Rev. George Phillips, P.C. of Llanfachreth, and Mr. John Wynne, Surgeon, Dolgelley.

Eight female domestics, in mourning, two-a-breast.

SIX BEARERS, tenants of the deceased, with black cloth headbands.

THE COFFIN, covered with a handsome black cloth pall, (made expressly for the occasion and directed by the deceased to be afterwards given for the use of the parish) containing THE BODY.

The coffin was placed on a neat platform, swung from the springs of the deceased’s carriage, drawn by four of his own horses, and driven by his own servants, in accordance with the wish of the deceased.

Mourning Coach and four. Containing the deceased’s only son, the present Baronet, accompanied by W. Wynne, Esq., of Peniarth.

Carriage containing Mr. W.P. Jones, Cefn Rug, and Mr. Owen Jones, Carnarvon, Agents; and Mr. Hugh Jones, Butler, outside.

Twenty-four labourers, two a breast, with hatbands, of black cloth.
Eight of the deceased’s servants, two a-breast, with black silk hatbands.
The present Baronet’s Carriage, closed.
The Lord Lieutenant, and the member for the County.
An innumerable number of the friends o the deceased, and a train of 52 carriages, joined the procession on the road.

When the procession reached the church of Llanfachreth, it far exceeded three thousand persons, and had a most imposing effect. The burial service was read in a solemn and impressive manner, by the Rev. G. Phillips, while deep and sincere sorrow marked the demeanour of all present, particularly the household. The offering of the household was, for the clergymen £49. 11s. 4d. and upwards for £28. for the clerk.

The churches of Llanfachreth and Dolgelley, were hund with black cloth, and funeral sermons were preached on Sunday; at Llanfachreth, by the Rev. G. Phillips, from 1 Cor. 15 c,26 v,; and at Dolgelley, in the morning, by the Rev. N.W. White, from Rev. 14c,13v., and in the evening, by the Rev. J.C. Davies, from Psalm 39, 5v.

Sir Robert was born 29th March, 1768, and died 22nd April, 1843.
Messrs. Robert and William Brittain, of Chester were the Undertakers.

An accident occurred in returning from the funeral that might have been attended with fatal consequences. A spirited horse belonging to Mr. Revely, on which the worthy member for the county was riding, being pressed by the crowd, became restive, reared, and fell backward. Mr. Richards narrowly escaped from the animal falling upon him. His friends will be rejoiced to hear that he received no serious injury.

The following are Sir Robert W. Vaughan’s directions four his funeral:–

“Disapproving of many funerals, I write my wishes relative to my own internment. I would have my remains shrowded in flannel, and placed in such a wooden coffin as may be deemed proper. I would wish to be buried in the the churchyard of Llanfachreth, in a secluded spot, shortly after post mortem symptoms make their appearance:– the coffin to be placed on a platform, mounted on the springs and axels of my carriage – the body thereof to be removed for that purpose. I would have the coffin covered by a simple pall of black cloth, to be afterwards given for parochial purposes.

I would have none asked to attend, or desired not to attend at my internment: nor would I wish for any unnecessary parade in the distribution of scarfs and hatbands on the occasion. Silk bans and scarfs should be given to the clergymen and medical attendant, and large cloth hatbands adequate to make waistcoats, to 24 of my poorest labourers or small tenants, together with 2s. 6d each. I would also have similar hatbands given to the 12 young tenants, or their sons, who may carry my remains to the grave, with 10s. in money to each.

I would wish none but those above spoken of to come to the house, thinking it better that they should meet the procession at or on the way to the village. I wish the offering to be in accordance with the good old custom – open and free – not folded in paper to keep unknown the sum. I wish the clerk to have a suit of black clothes, together with a silk hatband; and all my servants to be put in to mourning.”