W. Llewelyn Williams

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Llewelyn Williams

William Llewelyn Williams known as Llewelyn Williams (10 March 1867 – 22 April 1922), was a Welsh journalist, lawyer and radical Liberal Party politician.

Background and early life[edit]

He was born at Brownhill, Llansadwrn, Towy Valley, Carmarthenshire, the second son of Morgan Williams and his wife Sarah (née Davies).[1] A memorial plaque was erected in front of the house in 1938. Born into a prosperous Congregationalist family, his grandfather Morgan Williams had been an elder at Capel Issac near Llandeilo, before moving from Ffrwd-wen to his new residence at Brownhill.[1] His uncle, John Williams (1819–69) was an Independent minister at Llangadog and later at Newcastle Emlyn and Capel Iwan.[1] Another uncle, Benjamin Williams (1830–86) was also an Independent minister, serving at Gwernllwyn, Dowlais; Denbigh; and Canaan, Swansea.[1]

Williams was educated at Llandovery College and Brasenose College, Oxford University. At Oxford he was among the earliest members of the Dafydd ap Gwilym Society, a grouping for Welsh-speaking undergraduates, together with O. M. Edwards, John Morris-Jones, Edward Anwyl, John Puleston Jones and Daniel Lleufer Thomas.[2] Members of the Society saw themselves as agents of a cultural awakening, although it remained strictly non-political.

While a student at Oxford, he participated in the vigorous debates which took place in his home constituency of East Carmarthenshire to choose a Liberal candidate for the 1890 by-election following the death of David Pugh.[3]

Both at Llandovery and Oxford, Williams came under Anglican influence and after leaving Oxford he was invited by a Welsh bishop to become a clergyman.[4] However, his strong Congregationalist background proved too strong.

Journalism and the Law[edit]

Williams became involved in the Cymru Fydd movement, which emerged in the late 1880s, largely inspired by Tom Ellis. Cymru Fydd was largely a cultural and educational movement, but it differed from the sectarian tradition represented by Thomas Gee and was similar in many ways to the cultural nationalism which emerged at the time in central and eastern Europe.[5] Williams, as late as 1894, warned against emulating the Irish Nationalist Party.[6] The movement was largely based on support in North Wales and there were branches in London and Liverpool before Williams set up the first branch of Cymru Fydd in South Wales, at Barry, in 1891. He was later appointed the movement's South Wales Organiser by David Lloyd George.

On his return to Wales, he became a journalist, and this is how he first gained prominence in Liberal circles.[7] Williams edited the South Wales Star at Barry, then the South Wales Post at Swansea. In 1894 he was appointed sub-editor of the South Wales Daily News, the main Liberal-supporting daily newspaper in South Wales. In April of that year, Williams gave evidence to the Welsh Land Commission when it sat at Carmarthen.[8] He claimed that landowners had sought to discourage tenant farmers from submitting evidence.[9] The Commission reported two years later and proposed establishing a Land Court to defend the rights of Welsh tenant farmers.

Williams believed that the so-called tithe war in Wales made disestablishment o the Anglican church in Wales a practical possibility, although Kenneth morgan believes that He exaggerated this.[10]

In 1895 he became a sub-editor on the London Star. By this time he had put his name forward for several Parliamentary seats. In January 1895 he participated in a number of public meetings while seeking to succeed William Williams as member for Swansea District. Speaking at Penuel Chapel, Loughor, he concentrated on Home Rule and disestablishment.[11] He was also mentioned as a possible candidate for Cardiganshire in 1895, when he lost out to Matthew Lewis Vaughan Davies.

From journalism, Williams turned to the law, being called to the Bar from Lincoln's Inn in 1897. He took silk in 1912 and led the South Wales Circuit. He was Recorder of Swansea 1912–1915 and Recorder of Cardiff 1915–1922.[1]

In 1899. he joined Lloyd George on a tour of Canada.[8]

Additionally, he was heavily involved in the struggle to secure the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales, and it was on nationalistic grounds rather than on the ground of religious liberationism that he supported the disestablishment and disendowment of the Established Church in Wales.[1]

By 1903, however, Williams had come to the view that a Land Court would merely perpetuate the dependent status of Welsh farmers as tenants of landed estates.[12] He was therefore instrumental in engineering a shift in Welsh Liberal policy towards favouring the right of tenants to purchase their holdings.

In 1905, Williams made public criticisms of the University of Wales, claiming that it was an elitist body paying too little attention to the needs of Wales.[13]

MP for Carmarthen District[edit]

A renewed opportunity for election to the House of Commons arose in 1905 as a result of dissatisfaction in the Carmarthen Boroughs constituency with the sitting member, Alfred Davies. Williams emerged as a candidate favoured by the ore radical faction and by May 1905 nonconformist ministers in Llanelli were proposing a plebiscite between the two rival candidates over who should contest the seat.[14]

In due course Williams prevailed and at the 1906 general election, he was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for the constituency

Parliamentary career[edit]

A convinced new Liberal who supported the social reforms of the Liberal government of 1906–14, Williams was opposed to Socialism.

Having opposed the Boer War, Llewelyn Williams only reluctantly supported the Great War after the German attack on Belgium. He opposed Liberal Prime Minister H. H. Asquith over conscription in 1916, supporting the rights of conscientious objectors and opposing the Defence of the Realm Act. However, when Lloyd George took over as Prime Minister, Williams sided with Asquith.[15] Williams held his seat until it was abolished in Boundary Changes in 1918. He did not contest the 1918 General elections.

In 1921, Williams fought the Cardiganshire by-election, 1921 as an anti-Coalition Liberal, opposing Ernest Evans, Lloyd George's Private Secretary, the Coalition candidate. Williams had by this time developed an intense personal hostility towards Lloyd George, and the campaign became to all intents and purposes a contest focused on the Prime Minister's record and personality.[16]

Although he lost, Williams performed well and was generally felt to have won a moral victory, forcing Evans to rely on Conservative votes for his election. The contest created deep divisions within families, communities and chapel congregations, which lasted for many years. Kenneth O. Morgan suggests that the central issue of the campaign scarcely warranted such feeling.[16]

One of his last actions was to write a letter to Lloyd George attempting reconciliation.

Literary Output[edit]

He wrote a number of short works in Welsh, including Gwilym a Benni Bach and Gwr y Dolau, which were popular in their day. Neither was, however, considered of any real quality.[1] He published a number of scholarly articles on Welsh history, notably on the Tudor period, under the auspices the Cymmrodorion. Several of these werelater published in book form in 1919 as The Making of Modern Wales.[1] He was not a professional, and saw Welsh history more in terms of Welsh Nationalism than an objective account of the past. Accordingly, he refused to accept the evidence of Iolo Morgannwg's forgeries.

Personal life[edit]

Williams never married. He died on 22 April 1922, aged 55.

Election results[edit]

General Election 1906: Carmarthen Boroughs[17]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal William Llewelyn Williams 3,902 68.3
Liberal Unionist Hon. Vere Brabazon Ponsonby 1,808 31.7
Majority 2,094 36.6
Turnout 91.2
Liberal hold Swing
General Election January 1910: Carmarthen Boroughs[17]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal William Llewelyn Williams 4,197 68.1
Liberal Unionist Viscount Tiverton 1,965 31.9
Majority 2,232 36.2
Turnout 91.0
Liberal hold Swing

General Election December 1910 Liberal: William Llewelyn Williams elected unopposed.

Carmarthen District by-election, 1912[17]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal William Llewelyn Williams 3,836 58.6 -9.5
Conservative Henry Coulson Bond 2,555 39.1 +7.2
Independent Labour Frank G Vivian 149 2.3 n/a
Majority 1,281 19.5 16.7
Turnout 89.8
Liberal hold Swing -8.3
Cardiganshire by-election, 1921[18]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Coalition Liberal Ernest Evans 14,111 57.3
Liberal William Llewelyn Williams 10,521 42.7
Majority 3,590 14.6
Coalition Liberal hold Swing


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Jenkins, R.T. "William Llewelyn Williams, Member of Parliament, lawyer, and author". Dictionary of Welsh Biography. Retrieved 6 February 2017. 
  2. ^ Morgan 1981, p. 100.
  3. ^ "The Vacancy in East Carmarthenshire". Carmarthen Journal. 1 August 1890. p. 8. Retrieved 9 December 2016. 
  4. ^ Price 1922, p. 134.
  5. ^ Morgan 1991, pp. 69-70.
  6. ^ Morgan 1991, pp. 105-6.
  7. ^ Morgan 1981, pp. 49-50.
  8. ^ a b Jones 1999, p. 175.
  9. ^ Morgan 1991, p. 128.
  10. ^ Morgan 1991, p. 87.
  11. ^ "Swansea District. Mr Llewelyn Williams at Loughor". South Wales Daily News. 9 January 1895. p. 6. Retrieved 9 February 2017. 
  12. ^ Morgan 1981, p. 84.
  13. ^ Morgan 1981, p. 102.
  14. ^ "Carmarthen Boroughs and the Plebiscite". Welshman. 26 May 1905. p. 6. Retrieved 15 February 2017. 
  15. ^ The Downfall of the Liberal Party by Trevor Wilson
  16. ^ a b Morgan 1981, pp. 295-6.
  17. ^ a b c British Parliamentary Election Results 1885-1918, FWS Craig
  18. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949, FWS Craig
  • Great Welshmen of Modern Days: Sir Thomas Hughes.
  • Modern Wales: Politics, Places and People: Kenneth O. Morgan
  • T. E. Ellis Papers, National Library of Wales
  • Cochfarf Papers, Cardiff Central Library
  • Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs


Books and Journals[edit]



External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Alfred Davies
Member of Parliament for Carmarthen District
Succeeded by
John Hinds