A new book has shed light on the fascinating lives of an extended family who have dominated life in a Flintshire village for over 350 years.
The Glynnes of Hawarden by T W Pritchard follows the story of the Glynne family, beginning with Lord Chief Justice, Sir John Glynne, who used his hefty legal earnings to purchase Hawarden for his family in 1654, and ending with the death of Sir Stephen Glynne in 1874 – whereupon the estate passed to four-time British Prime Minister Sir William Gladstone’s family, where it remains today.
Written in close collaboration with the Gladstone family, the book offers new insights into the Glynne family, the estate and the role both have played and continue to play in the life of Hawarden.
“A lot has been written about Gladstone, but I wanted to write something about the Glynnes,” says 85-year-old T W ‘Bill’ Pritchard, who lives rather suitably at an address on Glynne Way in Hawarden.
“There is a marvelous archive of the Glynne and Gladstone papers in Gladstone’s library and I read those papers in the record office over a very long period and I became fascinated with the Glynnes, especially the Lord Chief Justice.”
Having already written books about the history of Buckley, Mold and Holywell, Bill – who is originally from Chester but has lived in Hawarden since his retirement – spent years researching his subject at Gladstone’s Library where The Glynne-Gladstone Manuscript Collection contains family and estate correspondence and papers of both families.
“It relates in particular to the last generation of the Glynne family, whose last male representative, Sir Stephen Glynne, 9th Baronet, died in 1874, and to the immediate family of Gladstone, who married Catherine Glynne, Sir Stephen’s sister, in 1839,” explains Bill.
“Sir Stephen is a fascinating figure. His greatest hobby was the inspection of old churches and he is reputed to have compiled notes on 5,530 churches in Britain alone.
“He also wrote journals about his visits to the continent and wrote to the family when he was abroad so there’s almost a complete story of his life.
“He never married because we think today that he may have suffered from Asperger’s syndrome, which explains the persistence and ambition to visit that many churches.”
Sir John Gladstone helped rescue Sir Stephen from near bankruptcy after the failure of Oak Farm brick and iron works near Stourbridge, of which he was part-owner.
Sir Stephen was able to resume occupancy of Hawarden only by selling part of the estate, and agreeing to share the castle with William and Catherine.
Sir Stephen also served as Member of Parliament for Flint Boroughs from 1832 to 1837, and for Flintshire from 1837 to 1841 and 1842 to 1847 and was High Sheriff of Flintshire in 1831 and Lord Lieutenant of Flintshire from 1845 to 1871.
He sat in the Conservative interest, and, although he remained on excellent terms with Gladstone throughout his life, he shared few of Gladstone’s Liberal ideals.
He was an extremely shy individual who found public speaking an ordeal, and he never spoke in Parliament.
During the 1841 election campaign, Glynne found himself obliged to start libel proceedings against a newspaper for having published allegations of homosexuality against him.
The newspaper was eventually forced to offer an apology.
Gladstone later wrote that Glynne’s memory “was on the whole decidedly the most remarkable known to me of the generation and country”.
Other characters highlighted include Sir John Glynne (1713-1777), the 6th baronet, who he is reputed to have spent £35,000 in his unsuccessful election contest with Sir George Wynne for the borough of Flint in 1734 , but later served as MP for Flintshire, and Sir Stephen Glynne (1744-1780), the 7th baronet , who was educated at Queen’s College , Oxford and entered holy orders before becoming rector of Hawarden.
“I’ve always been very supported by the family and Sir William Gladstone has always taken an interest in my research,” says Bill, who launched the book with a special event at Gladstone’s Library earlier this month.
“It is all a fascinating portrait of the times and the often colourful lives of Tory Squires.
“The large and miscellaneous collections of the papers which have survived throw light on everything from applications to Parliament for enclosure acts to the appointment of servants or nannies and making of clothes for children.”
l The Glynnes of Hawarden is available from Hawarden Post Office, Gladstone’s Library or by sending a cheque for £20 and your name and address to Pedlars Central, Old Stable Yard, Castle Grounds, Hawarden. Flintshire CH5 3NY.