How News of the Victory at Waterloo Reached Llanelli

In 1808 John Griffiths was recorded as the Post Officer for the town of Llanelli which had a post office of sorts, in Cwrt y Plas, the rear courtyard stables of Llanelly House. Sorting out the mail in 1816 was the Post Mistress, Jane Griffiths (possibly a relation), which was dispatched to Pontardulais by Post Horse or Letter Carrier where it met the Swansea to Carmarthen mail coach at The Red Lion Hotel. The Llanelli post mark at that time was LLANNELLY 224 (sic). The number designation was the distance in miles from London. [a] Four years later in May 1815, the mail coach, The General Picton, had commenced a new service calling at Llanelli on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. However probably in the interim the Letter Carrier still carried the mail to and from The Red Lion, the coaching inn at Pontardulais.

The naming of the post coach The General Picton was ominous, because it was a month later that the Welsh General, Sir Thomas Picton was killed in one of the greatest battles fought in Europe that century – Waterloo! [b]

Thomas Davies was born in Llanelli circa 1800, and at the age of fifteen he was employed as the Letter Carrier for the town of Llanelli. This occupation involved carrying the mail in saddlebags on a horse or pony, back and forth from Pontardulais and Llanelli. He would have also carried the gossip, scandal, messages and the news to the people he met along his route, which probably went via Swansea Road, Capel, Halfway, Bryn, Llangennech and Hendy. [c]

On a summer day at the end of June 1815, he arrived at The Red Lion Hotel, which stood adjacent to the Pontardulais bridge on the River Loughor, to see there was great excitement there for news had just arrived in the hamlet of the great victory at the Battle of Waterloo, which had been achieved five days previously (Sunday 18 June 1815). Here the inhabitants were so elated that they dressed the postal messenger and his pony with bay leaves. No doubt, they were all fired up by the celebratory drinks being imbibed in the Lion!

Thomas Davies would have looked a pretty site as he made his way back to Llanelli imparting the happy news that the war was in effect over and that Napoleon, 'the bogey man of Europe' had been defeated. On arrival back in his home town he was greeted by the aristocracy with cheers. As well as reporting to Jane Griffiths the postmistress, he would have been summoned by the gentry there to explain all he could disseminate about the victory news he had learned at Pontardulias as there would have been important business decisions to be made by the industrialists of the town such as Alexander Raby, Richard Janion Nevill and George Warde. Would trade improve and shipping increase now that the Napoleonic War was in effect, over? [d]

To date research has not delivered to us what celebrations went on in Llanelli then, but it must be supposed they would have been comparable with the events in the town ten years earlier as news of the Naval Victory at Trafalgar reached the town...

The inhabitants of Llanelly testified their joy by firing of guns, bell ringing and a general illumination was to take place at night. [e]

Also the sad news of the death General Picton at Waterloo would have been similar to that of Lord Nelson...

At Llanelly a day of thanksgiving was observed with a becoming reverence Captain Child’s corps of volunteers attended divine service and the Dead march in (sic) Saul which was performed with drums muffled, produced a solemn effect. [f]

Picton's death was especially poignant, not only did he live in the county but according to Innes, over the Falcon Bridge...

early in June 1815 went Sir Thomas Picton from Iscoed bound for Waterloo, where he died gloriously at the head of his brigade, driving three times their number of Frenchmen down the slope. [g]

Falcon Bridge was the town's main thoroughfare that crossed the River Lliedi. This bridge was very close to the post office where Thomas Davies would have picked up and delivered the mail and traversed many times on his way to Pontardulais.

Thomas Davies appears to have changed his job, probably as a result the expansion of the mail coach service to Llanelli, and so we learn that Thomas Davies became a tailor by trade and was described in the 1871 Census as a Master Tailor, living with his family in the Wern district of Llanelli, at number 74 Ann Street. He had been a member of the friendly society known as the Oddfellows and likely to have worshiped in the nearby Capel Als Chapel. He died in 1879. His obituary reads...

Death of An Old Inhabitant – On Friday, Mr. Thomas Davies, tailor, Ann-street, aged 80, died, after a lingering illness. In his earlier days he was employed in the conveyance of letters from Pontardulais to Llanelly, and it came to his lot to bring the tidings to Llanelly of the victory of the English army at Waterloo. [h]

He was interred at Box Cemetery, Llanelli. The funeral address was read by The Grand Master of the Oddfellows of Llanelli, David Bowen. David Bowen was also one of the town's earliest historians and a prize winner at the 1856 Llanelli Eisteddfod for his publication about the history of Llanelli. [i]

Notes and Citations

[a] Llanelli Tax assessment 1808. LC9216. List No41 John Griffiths, Post Officer.
The Postal History of Llanelli. The Carmarthenshire Antiquary Volume XII by Brian Cripps page 56 (1976).
Old Llanelly John Innes (1902) p 66 & 76

[b] The Cambrian 20 May 1815 Advertisement

[c] 1851, 1861, 1871 Census Returns.
South Wales Daily News 20 December 1879
South Wales Press 25 December 1879

[d] South Wales Press 25 December 1879

[e] The Cambrian 16 November 1805

[f] The Cambrian 14 December 1805

[g] Old Llanelly John Innes (1902) p75

[h] South Wales Daily News 20 December 1879
South Wales Press 25 December 1879

[I] Old Llanelly John Innes 1902 p72 & 168

Images provided by Llanelli Library

Further reading see LCH0226 Llanelli in 1820