An adventurer whose chequered career is recorded in the D.N.B.; as Member of Parliament (for Okehampton, 1807) he made his reputation by his attacks on the army clothing contractors, and added to this by attacking (1809) the duke of York, who at that time was commander-in-chief, and who was forced by this attack to resign. This won for Wardle unbounded praise; addresses were presented to him by a considerable number of towns (e.g. Carmarthen; Transactions of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society and Field Club, xxii, 16), and he was given the freedom of the city of London — one of the sponsors being his fellow-countryman, Robert Waithman. But this popularity soon vanished when, in 1810, he became involved in a law-suit concerning Mrs. Clarke, the duke of York's mistress; he lost a great deal of money (and his seat in Parliament, 1812); after farming for a time in Kent, he was forced to seek refuge from his creditors on the Continent. He died in Florence, 30 November 1833, at the age of 71.
Wardle's connection with Wales requires some explanation. His father was Francis Wardle, a Chester attorney, who about the middle of the 18th century had a flourishing conveyancing business in Flintshire. Francis bought the Hartsheath estate near Mold — the Lloyds were its former owners (Archæologia Cambrensis, 1875, 227-30; 1890, 311) — but his son was born at Chester. Francis Wardle, married Catherine Lloyd Gwyllym, daughter and heiress of Richard Lloyd Gwyllym of Hersedd (Hartsheath); she died at the Tower near Mold, 11 August 1811, at the age of 77 (Cheshire Sheaf, December 1929, 87). In 1794 the son enlisted in the Antient British Fencible Cavalry, a regiment formed by Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn, which was on active service in Ireland from 1797 to 1799; in 1796 he was one of the vice-presidents of the Society of Antient Britons in London. He was refused a commission in the regular army (a pamphleteer hints that he was guilty of some dishonesty when engaged in buying remounts for his regiment), but he was permitted to retain his military rank when the regiment was disbanded. For some years after this he was engaged in various ventures in Caernarvonshire. He had already married Ellen Elizabeth Parry, one of the two co-heiresses of Love Parry of Madryn; his brother-in-law was Thomas Parry Jones (afterwards ‘Jones-Parry’) of Llwyn Onn, Wrexham (J. E. Griffith, Pedigrees, 224). By this marriage Wardle was said to have gained a great estate, and he himself asserted this. When he was made sheriff of Caernarvon in 1803 he was described as ‘of Wern Fawr’ (Llanbedrog), but according to J. E. Griffith, this estate belonged to his sister-in-law; so, too, when ne became sheriff of Anglesey (1802) he was credited with the Cefn Coch estate which, in fact, was not his. What is certain is that he bought the Wern estate at Penmorfa, the old home of the Wynn family of Peniarth (Griffith, op. cit., 343, at the bottom of the page), and with this Wardle was associated for some years after 1802. He (and Jones-Parry) became involved in the speculative enterprises of W. A. Madocks. When Madocks built a cloth factory, fulling mill, and dye works at Tremadoc, Wardle was one of the partners (Gesliana, 170, 176), and as the other partner, Scott, was an army clothier in London, it is easy to understand the mock surprise of the pamphleteer at Wardle's attacks in the Commons on rival army-contractors. The company exported cloth to France in spite of the war, but suffered a severe set-back when one of its ships was seized, together with its cargo, by the royal navy — the pamphleteer, moreover, suggests that Wardle was engaged in distilling gin in Jersey and smuggling it into England. What was more important was the part played by Wardle and the other two in a plan to change the route from London to Dublin by developing the harbour at Portinllaen, and linking Portinllaen directly with London (see Gestiana, 185-7); Wardle was chairman of the public meeting held at Pwllheli in 1808 to sponsor the new road, and was appointed one of the trustees. But, apart from the financial misfortunes which overwhelmed Wardle and Madocks, the determined opposition offered by Holyhead brought to nothing this scheme which might well have transformed the economic life of Caernarvonshire. Even allowing for the fact that many of the adverse criticisms of Wardle come from his bitter enemies, the impression remains that he was hardly an estimable character.
Published date: 1959
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