Sir William Meredyth Somerville was a politician and served as chief secretary for Ireland from 1847 to 1852. William was the eldest son of Sir Marcus Somerville, who had been M.P. for Meath from 1801 to 1831. The family resided at Somerville House, Kentstown.
Somerville succeeded his father in 1831 and became M.P. for Drogheda in 1837. In 1832 Somerville married Lady Maria Conyngham, the youngest daughter of the Marquess Conyngham. After her death in 1843 he re-married.
In parliament he was primarily interested in Irish matters. He supported tenant rights and was regarded as a good landlord.He was friend with the Young Irelander, William Smith O’Brien. After the defeat of the tory government in 1846 Somerville was made under-secretary of state at the home department and the following year became chief secretary of Ireland. With the famine at its height there was little he could do. He did attempt to introduce a landlord and tenant bill. Somerville did manage to increase the electorate in Ireland from 45,000 to 165,000 by increasing the franchise and basing it on occupation rather than ownership of property.
Somerville lost his Drogheda seat in 1852 but was returned for Canterbury in 1854. Somerville was made Baron Athlumney of Somerville in 1863 and in 1866 made a British peer as Baron Meredyth of Dollardstown.
Somerville supported the Land Bill of 1870 and also the act for disestablishing the Church of Ireland. He died at Dover in 1873 and is buried at Kentstown.