Evidence of a Misspent Youth!
One hundred and eighty years ago, the hub of the town of Llanelli consisted of the mansion we know as Llanelly House, the newly 'restored' Parish Church and, alongside, was one of the town's main hostelries and coaching houses - The Falcon Hotel. This long established inn was also the venue for the important social and administrative meetings of the town for as well as being the place where many a soirée was held, it reserved meeting rooms for the Town's Burgesses, The Harbour Commissioners and, perhaps more importantly the Magistrates Courts until the building of the first Town Hall in Hall Street. One can only imagine the consternation that was caused in the town about that time when news broke in the 'Falcon' that the son of one of its most important pillars of society; William Chambers JP, was assaulted by the local constable!
On Friday 9th. October, 1829, William Chambers, Junior, of Cambridge University and Llanelly House had been drinking at the 'Falcon', in the company of his coachman John Mellard, the innkeeper William Stanley, and the gamekeeper. This session ended about two or three o'clock in the morning, by which time the 'young blade' had drunk a considerable quantity. Leaving the hostelry, the party moved on to a smaller tavern in Water Street called the 'Square and Compass' where a light was still to be seen in the window. Here, another round of drinks was called for, after which, young Chambers decided to cross over the road to a Jewish pawnbroker's shop where, in a drunken state, he began knocking and kicking at the door in the middle of the night, demanding service.
The noise and fracas was too much for Daniel Williams, the local constable of the town who, incidentally, owned and lived in the building where the pawnbroker's shop was established. The constable grabbed young Chambers' coat saying 'What are you knocking at my door for?'
Chambers replied 'I don't care whose door it is.'
The future inhabitant of Llanelly House had wanted to pawn his coat for a cup of coffee! The constable warned Chambers 'You shall not kick at my door any longer!' This time, Mellard the coachman, supporting his master said 'It's Mr Chambers, leave him alone, he does not want anything of you.'
The constable replied 'I don't care for Mr Chambers or Mr Devil; he shall not kick my door.' At which, Wolf Samuel, the Jewish pawnbroker came out of the shop and tried to calm things down by telling young Chambers that if he came back at seven in the morning he could have some money.
Refusing to comply, Chambers persisted and, in the ensuing struggle, the keeper of law and order struck a mighty blow for justice with his staff and floored the son of the town's most powerful Justice of the Peace! According to Mellard the coachman, 'It was the largest staff I had ever seen in my life'. In astonishment, Mellard exclaimed 'You have killed my master!' And according to young Chambers 'It was the hardest blow I ever felt.'
Chambers spent the remaining morning in the house of Mr Bissett where he was seen by the local surgeon Dr Thomas Cook.
It was reported that as the result of the 'clubbing', young Chambers' life was in danger and so Daniel Williams, a constable of Llanelli for three years, was taken to Llanelly House to be brought before the Magistrates Mr Parry, JP., and William Chambers, Senior, JP. Consequently, as a result of the evidence given by both the local surgeons Dr Cook and Dr Bowen that Chambers' life was in danger, Daniel Williams was refused bail and was sent to Carmarthen Jail, where he remained in custody from the 12th to the 24th of October for the excessive use of force. There he remained until young Chambers came off the 'danger list'.
At the Carmarthen Assizes in the January of the following year, a bill of indictment was taken out against Daniel Williams but was thrown out by the Grand Jury. Evidently, this result was not to the satisfaction of the Chambers family, and so the case was placed in the hands of the Hereford Assizes of August 1830. The proceedings at the assizes were listed as "King-v-Daniel Williams" The case for the prosecution was that, however wrong the Cambridge student's behaviour was, quoting that a similar event occurred.........'when the very great man, Dr Johnson who was called up in the middle of the night by Langton , Beauclerk and some of his young friends who asked him to join them in search of adventure .That good man and strict moralist accepted the invitations and, cried "Have with ye my boys, we'll have a night of it" and they actually spent the night in all sorts of fun, and finished the morning by assisting the gardeners in Covent Garden Market to set up their cabbages etc. The prosecution concluded that young Chambers should not have to justify his conduct but that the defendant, Daniel Williams, had greatly over stepped his authority. Numerous witnesses gave evidence as to the events of the evening and the days following the assault, including an eyewitness account by Mr Frederick Lewis Brown, an eminent Llanelli solicitor, who was also the attorney for the prosecution, stated that he questioned Williams shortly after the assault on Chambers saying that he asked Daniel William:
'How came you to strike Mr Chambers; you might have killed him.' He replied 'If I had killed him you could do nothing to me because I am a constable. He added, What do I care for old Chambers or Young Chambers! I'll do it again if I meet them out after hours and they will not go home when I tell them. They have done their worst for me: they have raised my rent and they buy nothing at my shop'. The prosecution concluded their case on the evidence of the local surgeons, Dr Bowen and Dr Cook, that, Chambers, Junior had suffered for three months after the assault!
His Lordship, Mr Justice Park interposed and said that considering the improper conduct of Chambers, and as Daniel Williams had already suffered twelve days imprisonment already, any further imprisonment was out of the question and that the best way forward was to convene a verdict of 'Guilty' with the prosecutor undertaking not to bring up the defendant for judgement.
In answer Mr Russell stated that his client felt extremely sore upon the subject, and was very reluctant to withdraw the case from the jury as he thought he was entitled to a verdict upon the evidence he was prepared to adduce. But the judge, Justice Park, replied that 'the other party felt sore too. I think you had better let me be the arbitrator between you and that is what I recommend'. Mr Russell consulted again with his client and, at length consented to a verdict of Guilty, upon an undertaking that it would end there.
His lordship added: 'I am very glad it has ended in this way, for I must have made some very harsh observations upon some parts of the case'.
A few years later, William Chambers, Junior, of Llanelly House was to became a Justice of the Peace of the town and was to involve himself in one of the exciting periods of Welsh history – the Rebecca Riots.
Chambers, Junior, was admitted to St John's College on 13 June, 1826, and matriculated Easter 1828. He became, in 1850, the first chairman of the Llanelly Board of Health which replaced the town's burgesses - a corrupt clique which previously administered the town.