Hawlfraint © Archifau a'r Llyfrgell Gymreig, Prifysgol Bangor LL57 2DG
The William Bulkeley Diaries
Housed in the University Archives at Bangor is what is known as the Bulkeley Diaries one of the most important pieces of documentary evidence available to the historian on life in eighteenth century Anglesey. Comprising of two volumes the first covers the period 1734 - 1743 whilst the second goes from 1747 - 1760. A third volume for the period 1743 - 1747 has not survived. The two surviving volumes run into over a thousand pages of small but neat handwriting detailing the life of a minor squire in Brynddu, Llanfechell, Anglesey.
William Bulkeley was born on 4 November 1691 and was described by William Morris as being kind and an honest man. He married Jane Lewis and had two children by her, William [d.1751] and Mary who was to be the cause of great anxiety and trouble not least through her marriage to Fortunatas Wright a brewer from Liverpool who was also an adventurer and a pirate. His sudden death in Italy would leave Mary penniless and once again a burden to her father.
The bulk of the diaries, as one would expect, deal with farming matters, such as when he started ploughing or haymaking. Rates of wages for servants and labourer are also noted as well as prices for goods at market. Every day he carefully notes the weather and the direction of the wind.
As a member of the gentry class he was expected to play an active role in the administration of the county and as a Justice of the Peace he would attended the Quarter Sessions at Beaumaris or, if the needs be, dispensed justice on his own. At the beginning of the first volume precedent cases are noted down. He gives graphic descriptions of how the administration carried out its business commenting on the drunkenness of one judge or the failure of officials to attend. He also describes socialising done during the time the court was sitting and how much money he himself spent on entertaining.
He was an active participant of the Anglican Church and, although not a churchwarden at his local parish church of Llanfechell, nevertheless carried out many of the duties of that post. He has some disparaging comments about local parsons, especially his own at Llanfechell, accusing him of delivering poor sermons. Some have argued that he was sympathetic to the Methodists, though there is nothing in the diaries to prove this, apart from one significant incident where he leased Clwchdernog in the parish of Llanddeusant to William Prichard regarded as one of the first Nonconformists in Anglesey and who had been hounded from various tenancies because of his beliefs.
National and international incidents don't escape his notice. In 1748 he mentions the War of the Austrian Succession and the signing of the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle which ended the war. In 1752 he notes the change in the calendar in Britain and Ireland from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar which meant the loss of eleven days in which September 14 followed September 2. Again in 1756 what became known as the Seven Years War broke out between Britain and France and Bulkely was directed as a J.P. to scour the county for 'straggling seamen.'
In politics Bulkeley was a Whig though not a fully committed one. His dislike of Walpole is evident and he writes with satisfaction when he hears that Walpole has fallen from power. He is scornful of the Tories whom he refers to as Jacobites a term of abuse more than anything more serious though the loss of the third volume which would have covered the period of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 would have given an interesting insight into his views on the matter.
Eighteenth century elections, especially when contested, could be lively affairs and the four elections mentioned by him provide a picture of the overt bribery, corruption and scandal that ensued during election time. Voting was due to patronage and Bulkley notes in the contested election of 1741 he was obliged to vote for the John Owen Pressaddfed since the Meyricks of Bodorgan had come out for him.
Throughout the summer of 1760 his health was failing ; the last entry in the diary appears on September 28 where, as always, he notes the direction of the wind and the weather. On October 28 1760 William Bulkeley was buried in Llanfechell churchyard leaving behind a veritable wealth of knowledge relating to the life of a minor squire in eighteenth century Anglesey.