Clonmel was the county town of Co. Tipperary. It was a medieval town with charters going back to the reign of Edward I, but the governing charter was that of 1609, 6 James I. The corporation consists of a mayor, two bailiffs, 20 free burgesses and a commonalty. As part of the palatinate of Tipperary it was under the suzerainty of the Dukes of Ormonde, though this does not necessarily mean that it was tranquil, as in 1705 Sir Richard Cox wrote to Edward Southwell (1962) that 'Your friend Hamerton and others stirred up a riot in Clonmell on the occasion of swearing in a new mayor.' After the abolition of the palatinate the Moores, Lords Mountcashell, came to dominate the corporation. There was a disputed election in 1727. The sitting MP (1713-27),Stephen Moore of Barne (1474), was declared not duly elected. The poll was as follows: Guy Moore (1458) 169, Stephen Moore 161, Robert Hamerton (0910) 166,Robert Marshall (1346) 131. Stephen Moore had used his position as mayor to establish his friends as freemen and Guy and Stephen Moore were originally returned, but Hamerton and Marshall successfully petitioned against the return. Hamerton died in 1733 and Sir Thomas Prendergast (1725) succeeded him; Marshall was elevated to the bench in 1754 and Guy Moore stood unsuccessfully again. His return was successfully contested by William Bagwell (0076), who was sworn on 19 January 1756. This election was considered a triumph of the rising bourgeoisie of Clonmel, but Bagwell died about six months after he took his seat.
The Moores had been working on the borough and, in 1761, Guy Moore-Coote (1459), who had originally been returned in 1757, was again returned along with Richard Moore (1470), who died almost immediately; Colvill Moore (1455) was returned in his place. Both Guy Moore-Coote and Colvill Moore were returned again in 1768. In 1773 it was thought that while Guy Moore-Coote might have half the borough: 'This borough is very open and if any person attended to it and resided in the town he would probably succeed.' By then the unfortunate Colvill Moore was 'disordered in his understanding',367 and in 1776 Stephen Moore (1477) was returned along with Guy Moore-Coote.
In 1783 Clonmel was described as having a 'Mayor, 19 Burgesses, 70 Freemen. Freemen non-residents, 500 Protestants, 1,500 Papists. Patrons, the Moore family. Proprietor, Mr Bagwell. A large and populous town.' It was said that Lord Mountcashell (1478) owned half of the borough; in 1785 the other half was attributed to Stephen Moore (1479). Whether Clonmel was ever secure is questionable: certainly in 1790 it was said that 'This close Borough, whose electors are confined to the Burgesses only, is the private property of the Earl of Mountcashell whose recommendation ever fixes in their offices these confidential trustees of his political influence and whose pleasure consequently appoints its representatives.'368 Clonmel survived the Union, and in 1800 its MP was William Bagwell (0077), whose father, John Bagwell (MP for Co. Tipperary), was the local entrepreneur. John Bagwell owned the town and had his mills near by at Marlfield, where he carried on an extensive flour-milling and biscuit-making activity. This background told against him in society, as did nicknames such as 'the miller' and 'Old Bags' and (as colonel of the militia) 'Marshal Sacks'. Curran (0560) is reputed to have described him at the head of the regiment as: 'Marshal Saxe with the flour of Tipperary at his back'. Nevertheless, his property was said to be worth £18,000 p.a. in 1812.369
Finally on 9 August 1800 John Bagwell bought from Lords Enniskillen (0444) and Desart, as trustees for the Earl of Ormonde (0333) 'the lordship, manor or reputed manor of the town of Clonmel and all rights, royalties and franchises appertaining thereto'. The grant was also said to convey 'all the messuages, houses, lands, waste and waste plots, within the walls of the said town of Clonmel and all the Burgagery [?burgage] land and a parcel entitled Duke's Island in the barony of Upperthird and County of Waterford'. With the Manor of Clonmel, which retained a seat at the Union, he obtained the patronage previously enjoyed by the Moores. 'At a meeting [of the Corporation on 31 Dec. 1800] for the purpose of electing five burgesses in the room of the Hon. William Moore (1485), the Hon and Rev Robert Moore, the Hon. John Moore, William Foulks Moore and John Robertson resigned. Ordered that Colonel John Bagwell of Marlfield Esq., Lieutenant Colonel William Bagwell, Richard Bagwell, Lieutenant Colonel John Bagwell, Benjamin Bousfield, John Keighly jun., Arthur Gething of Lorintoun, Charles Riall of Clonmel, Edward Crocker of Ballinaguard and William Pennefather of Darlinghill, Esq., be and are hereby admitted Freemen of this Corporation'. Canon Burke states that the group included John Bagwell, his three sons, his son-in-law, his cousin german, his wife's brother-in-law, Croker, Croker's cousin german, Pennefather, 'together with Benjamin Bousfield and Arthur Gething - poor relations probably'.370