1886 Cardiff Boroughs by-election

The Cardiff Boroughs by-election, 1886 was a parliamentary by-election held for the House of Commons constituency of Cardiff Boroughs comprising the towns of Cardiff, Cowbridge and Llantrisant in South Wales on 27 February 1886.


Under the provisions of the Succession to the Crown Act of 1707 and a number of subsequent Acts, MPs appointed to certain ministerial and legal offices were at this time required to seek re-election.[1] The vacancy in the Cardiff Boroughs was caused by the appointment of the sitting Liberal Member of Parliament (MP), Sir Edward James Reed to become a Junior Lord of the Treasury,[2] a formal title held one of the government's assistant Whips in the House of Commons. Reed had held his Cardiff district seat since 1880 and had previously been Liberal MP for Pembroke.



Reed stood again in the Liberal interest. At the 1885 general election, he had only narrowly held his seat against his Conservative opponent, Henry Harben, formerly the unsuccessful Tory candidate in Norwich in 1880, a Sussex businessman in the insurance industry in London.[3] Reed won by just 140 votes, a meagre 1.2% of the poll.[4]


This time the Conservatives selected John Talbot Dillwyn-Llewellyn, a 49-year-old land-owner and brother-in-law of former Cabinet Minister Sir Michael Hicks Beach. Dillwyn-Llewellyn seems to have been the only name put forward by the representatives of the various wards making up the constituency, reflecting the reluctance of Conservatives to put themselves forward in Welsh seats.[5]

Irish PartyEdit

It was reported that a meeting of the local Irish Party had been held at which it was decided, almost unanimously, not to stand a candidate of their own but to recommend a vote for Reed.[6] This was confirmed with the receipt of a telegram from T. P. O'Connor, President of the Irish National League in London, by the local Cardiff branch of the League, which read, "Executive of the National League respectfully advise the Irish electors of Cardiff to vote to a man to Sir Edward J Reed, the supporter of Mr Gladstone and justice to Ireland.[7]

The resultEdit

The result was re-election for Reed by a majority of 863, a slightly healthier position over the general election of the previous November.[8] The Irish vote may have been a factor. It was reported that the Irish vote had gone against the Liberals in 1885[9] whereas this time it was decidedly in favour. This is perhaps ironic as Reed was later to defect from the Liberals to the Liberal Unionist Party, the raison d’etre of which was to oppose Irish Home Rule, albeit over the issue of tariff reform.[10]


Cardiff Boroughs by-election, 27 February 1886[11]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Edward James Reed 5,708 54.1
Conservative John Dillwyn-Llewellyn 4,845 45.9
Majority 863 8.2
Turnout 10,553
Liberal hold Swing

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results, 1885-1918; Macmillan Press, 1974 pxiv
  2. ^ David K Brown, Sir Edward James Reed; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online, OUP 2004-13
  3. ^ Who was Who, OUP online, 2007
  4. ^ F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results, 1885-1918; Macmillan Press, 1974 p454
  5. ^ Matthew Cragoe, Culture, Politics and National Identity in Wales:1832-1886; OUP, 2004 pps 116-117
  6. ^ The Times, 22 February 1886 p6
  7. ^ The Times, 24 February 1886 p8
  8. ^ F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results, 1885-1918; Macmillan Press, 1974 p454
  9. ^ The Times, 1 March 1886 p7
  10. ^ Ian Cawood, The Liberal Unionist Party: A History; I B Tauris, 2012 p317, n143
  11. ^ The Constitutional Year Book, 1904, published by Conservative Central Office, page 178 (202 in web page)