Rebecca Riots

The Rebecca Riots took place in parts of West Wales, during 1839-1843. They were a series of protests against the payment of tolls (fees) charged to use the roads.
  • ‘Rebecca’ and Felinfoel

    Rebecca Riots Felinfoel LlanelliIn 1843 the whole of west Wales was gripped in the civil disturbances known as the ‘Rebecca Riots’. Aimed mainly at the unfair tolls that were charged for the use of the turnpike roads, the rioters disguised with blackened faces and attired in women’s clothes would attack and destroy the offending tollgates and their attached gatehouses. The town of Llanelli and its district did not escape this turmoil, for its roads were under the control and management of the ‘Three Commotes’ and the ‘Kidwelly Turnpike Trusts’. These trusts had been described by a government solicitor as being the most ‘odious’ and ‘obnoxious’ than any others. Old plans show that the town’s roads were secured by at least 15 tollgates and ‘toll-bars’. It was probably for this reason that both the Furnace and the Sandy tollgates were destroyed at the beginning of August 1843.

    A watershed in the disturbances came at the later end of August, following the ‘Great Meeting’ on the slopes of Mynydd Sylen under the chairmanship of the Llanelli Magistrate, William Chambers. It was resolved that a petition laying out the local grievances would be sent to Queen Victoria with a pledge that there would be no more ‘nightly meetings’ – But some of Rebecca’s daughters had different ideas!

    Rumours that the landlord of the Bear Inn at the village of Felinfoel was about to inform on the rioters had reached the ears of Rebecca, and so on the night Monday 4th of September, along with her ‘daughters’ she rode into the village to confront the host of the Bear Inn with these allegations. Contemporary documents describe the incident….

    “On their arrival, they halted before the public house called the Bear, when they called out to the landlord, ‘David Williams, David Williams, come downstairs, come downstairs’, he instantly made his appearance. Rebecca, who was on horseback, told him they did not wish to hurt him, and asked him if he knew any of her daughters, and whether he did not say to some person he did? At which he replied he did knot know any of them. Rebecca then strictly charged him not to make use of her name, or any of her daughters, or else she would certainly punish him the next time she heard of it”.

    The rioters then terrorised the village by discharging their guns in a volley and disappeared into the mountains.

    A few days later on Wednesday the 6th September 1843 after attacking the Llanelli Harbour Master, the Rebecca rioters headed for the Copperworks and fired a number of rounds into the factory where over 300 men were working. Once again they then headed up to the village of Felinfoel where they fired off a volley of guns and threatened the local publicans into giving them beer and according to the Victorian historian John Innes, they ‘had a big drink’. By about 3 in the morning they had adjourned to the parlour of the Farmers Arms in the village of Five Roads to pick up their ‘wages’ from the landlord William Jenkins.

    Probably the last of Rebecca’s attacks in Llanelli came on Saturday 30th September 1843, when she removed the Tyrfran Tollgate on the road to Felinfoel and dropped it down the shaft of a nearby coal pit. According to old documents and newspapers the gatehouse and gateposts remained untouched. ‘When the Dragoons reached the spot not one person was to be seen although they were billeted within 200 yards of the gate’ . Old town plans show that the site of the tollgate was at the corner of Felinfoel Road and Parc Howard Avenue. Some of the troops were billeted at the Union Workhouse, lately Bryntirion Hospital.

    But by this time the tide was turning, probably as a result of the resolutions passed at the Great Meeting on Mynydd Sylen and probably because of Williams Chambers’ influence, about 40 local farmers recovered the gate from the Dimpath coal pit and returned it to its hinges the following Monday morning.

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  • Bridge End Blue Plaque Unveiling

    Llangennech Blue Plaque Poster 2019 Bridge End Toll GateA Blue Plaque commemorating an event which took place exactly one hundred and sixty-six years ago almost to the day was unveiled on Saturday, 29th June, 2019.

    Lyn John, chairman of Llanelli Community Heritage, said that the daughters of Rebecca assembled on the night of 28th June, 1843 and destroyed the toll gate which stood on the bridge at the entrance to the village of Llangennech, and also partially destroyed the toll house itself. (Ref: Rebecca and Llangennech)

    The plaque was sponsored by the children of the owner of the The Bridge public house, Jonathan Norbury who also supplied teas and coffees to the invited guests.

    The event was well attended by members and local Llangennech people, including County Councillors Gary Jones and Gwyneth Thomas who both spoke of the importance of recording significant historical events.

    The film and television actor with local roots, star of ITV’s Mr Selfridge, Trystan Gravelle and Ultimate Fighting Champion, Brett Johns, jointly unveiled the plaque.

     Lat:51.693884 Lon: 4.084809        LCH0333

  • Bryntirion 1839-2004

    Bryntirion 1839-2004

    Location: Bryntirion Terrace (Swansea Road) Lat: 51.686173 Lon: -4.149668

    Sponsor: Charles Church Wales

    Site of the Union Workhouse and later the Bryntirion Hospital. Troops were billited here during the Rebecca Riots of 1843.

    Click here for Bryntirion and the Union Workhouse

     

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  • Bryntirion and the Union Workhouse

    Bryntirion and the Union Workhouse

    Bryntirion residential flats 2013Before the advent of the Workhouse in Llanelli, the poor and destitute were given sanctuary and refuge in alms houses. These were situated at The 'Wern', a district of Llanelli that lies below the slopes of Bigyn Hill. Life in these cottages was described in the closing years of the Victorian era, as being 'infinitely more humane than that of the Union Workhouse by which they were succeeded'. The present day 'Cwrt Elusendy', off Wern Road stands in their place.

    The establishment of a Workhouse in Llanelli appears to have begun with a meeting of the Board of Guardians in 1836, when it was decided to erect a Workhouse for the reception of the town's poor and destitute at a cost of £2,500. By 1839 the building was complete and under the control of the Master and Matron, John and Elizabeth Rees. As with all Workhouses at the time, the regime was harsh. Some of the duties of the new Master and Matron included:

    Admitting paupers and having them examined by a medical officer; to cleanse, clothe, and place them in proper wards; to enforce industry, order and punctuality; to provide for and enforce the employment of able-bodied adult paupers and to keep partially-disabled occupied to the extent of their ability.

    The Workhouse had been operating for only four years, when it played an important part in The Rebecca Riots. The Llanelly Poor Law Institution officially ceased to exist on July 5th 1948 following the birth of the National Health Service, and the establishment of Bryntirion Hospital. By then most of the 'inmates', now termed 'patients', were elderly people. Mr. T.J. King, who had been master since 1938, became the hospital secretary, whilst his wife Mrs Olga King of the infirmary, became the matron of the hospital. Bryntirion closed its doors in September 2004 when its patients were transferred to new facilities at Prince Phillip Hospital. The closure brought to an end 165 years of service to the Llanelli district, first as a Workhouse to provide Poor Law relief for the destitute, then for most of the past one hundred years as a hospital. The administration block and rotunda are now saved for posterity by the efforts of members of Llanelli Community Heritage, Carmarthenshire County Council and Charles Church (Wales).

    The Rebecca Riots
    The riots were predominantly aimed at the destruction of tollgates erected by the 'Trusts' that charged excessive tolls for the use of their roads. The mainly peaceable town of Llanelli did not escape this turmoil for, in the summer of 1843, the Sandy, Furnace and Tirfran gates were either destroyed or damaged by Rebecca. The house of the town's harbour master was also attacked. As a result of these disturbances, the government sent Metropolitan Police and troops to the district to keep order. These troops consisted of detachments from the 75th and the 76th Regiments of Foot, backed up by a flying squadron of cavalry in the form of the 4th Light Dragoons. Accommodating and billeting these soldiers was a problem for the town so it was decided to billet them at the Workhouse in Llanelly, which became their base during operations to apprehend the Rebecca Rioters.

    The Union Workhouse cell doorRebecca Prisoners
    Following the attack on the Pontardulais tollgate in September 1843, some of the Rebeccas were captured by the 76th Regiment of Foot and taken to the Llanelly Workhouse to be interrogated by the magistrates, Nevill, Rees and Chambers. The prisoners, still attired in women's clothes were described as William Hugh, a lad of 15 years and son of a respectable farmer of Talyclun; Thomas Williams, a servant to a farmer at Llangennech; Henry Rogers, a farm servant of Penllwyngwyn and Lewis Davies, a respectable farmer of Ysgubor Uchaf near Pontardulais. All were examined and remanded. Later that month, the Metropolitan Police captured the famous Rebecca leader David Davies, alias Dai'r Cantwr. He was placed in the custody of the military at the Workhouse until his removal to Carmarthen Jail. The captured Rebeccas would almost certainly have been held initially in the Workhouse's single holding cell. This cell was in the main administration block and was used for many years as the hospitals stationery cupboard.

    Click here for the Bryntirion Blue Plaque

    Click here for the Bryntirion map

    Click here for the Bryntirion Interpretive Panel

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  • Dai’r Cantwr

    D‘ai’r Cantwr’ was one of the most notorious ring leaders during the civil disturbances known as Rebecca Riots. In 1843 he had led or had been involved in a number of attacks on targets in the town and district of Llanelli. David Davies or Dai’r Cantwr as he was called is said to have been born in Llancarfan, Glamorganshire in about 1813 [a]. Davies has been described by number of authors as being employed as a farm labourer, a quarry worker, a contractor and industrial worker. He also appears to have taken up a religious cause at some time, as he is reported to have been a Wesleyan Preacher.

    Davies is best known by the alias of Dai’r Cantwr. A name he is supposed to have been given because he had been a ballad singer or a poet, but perhaps another explanation could be that he had been a choirmaster because he had described himself as a person who taught them to sing at church[b].

    It has been reported that Dai’r Cantwr had taken part in attacks on the Llanelli Harbourmaster’s house, the Spudder’s Bridge Tollgate, the burning of the hayricks of William Chambers’ farm at Gelligylwnog. He was also involved in the attack on the manager of the Pontyberem Ironworks.

    On 24th Sept 1843, the Justice of the Peace of Llanelli, Richard Janion Nevill and the Magistrate’s Clerk Fredrick Lewis Brown, issued two warrants for the arrest of both David Davies alias Dai’r Cantwr and John Jones alias Shoni Sgubor Fawr. William Francis with the assistance of the London Metropolitan Police searched the village of Five Roads and the district of Cynheidre for both outlaws. The first to be found was Dai’r Cantwr. He was seen at their usual haunt at the Stag & Pheasant Inn, but by the time the authorities had caught up with him he had moved on to the nearby Plough & Harrow Inn where he was arrested.

    According to William Francis...

    Two or three officers were placed at the back door and the deponent (Francis) seized Dai who was sitting near the corner by the fire, handcuffed him, and handed him to the officer. They procured a horse and cart from the man of the house and took Dai along the Llanelly road as far as the road leading from Trimsaran to the top of Pembrey Mountain. There they left him under the care of 3 or 4 officers and searched for Shoni. Not finding him they returned and took Dai to the Llanelli Union Workhouse (Bryntirion). The next day he was taken to Carmarthen gaol.
    The Llanelly Workhouse at this time housed the troops that had been deployed in the area as a result of the disturbances.

    A Blue Plaque has been installed on the house that was formally the Plough & Harrow, commemorating its connection with the Rebecca Riots. It has been sponsored by the Llanelli Rural Council and will form part of Llanelli Community Heritage’s Blue Plaque Trail.

    Notes and Citations

    [a] The Rebecca Riots David Williams (1955) p247
    [b] Williams p248

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  • Farmers Arms

    Farmers Arms Blue Plaque

    Farmers Arms Blue Plaque Five Roads VillageFarmers Arms
    Location: Five Roads B4309
    Sponsor: Llanelli Rural Council

    (From Llanelli take the B4309 to Five Roads Village and drive through the village for 100m and you will see the blue plaque on the cottage called the Farmers Arms on the left hand side of the road).
    This Blue Plaque was installed on this cottage called the Farmers Arms which was formally the Farmers Arms Inn, commemorating its connection with the Rebecca Riots of 1843. It was one of the Inns in Five Roads where the Rebecca Rioters would meet and plan their operations.


    Farmers Arms Five RoadsSafle: Pum Heol B4309
    Noddwr: Cyngor Gwledig Llanelli.

    (O Lanelli ewch ar y B4309 i Bum Heol a gyrru trwy'r pentref am 100m. Fe welwch y plac glas ar y bwthyn o'r enw'r Farmers Arms ar ochr chwith yr heol.)
    Gosodwyd y Plac Glas hwn ar fwthyn o'r enw Farmers Arms, gynt yn dafarn o'r un enw, yn coffau ei chysylltiad gyda Therfysgoedd Beca 1843. Un o dafarnau Pum Heol oedd hon ble byddai Terfysgwyr Beca yn cyfarfod i gynllunio eu hymgyrchoedd.

     

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  • Furnace Tollgate

    Location: Furnace Post Office. Sponsor: Lyn John.

    Click images to enlarge.

    In 1843 the whole of West Wales was affected by civil disturbances known as 'The Rebecca Riots'. Instigated by the unfair cost that the tollgates placed on society as a whole, the populace rose up under the cloak of anonymity. Disguised as women with blackened faces and armed with guns, axes and saws the rioters would be led by 'Rebecca'..

    They would ride out at night and destroy the toll gates as a protest. Between the night of 2nd, and the morning the 3rd August, 1843, after demolishing the Sandy Tollgate, Rebecca made for the furnace Tollgate intent on its destruction. The gatekeeper must have tried to prevent Rebecca because he received a beating and the blast of a gun in the face. The Furnace Gate was destroyed. An eyewitness account states 'the old toll house and its thatched roof was burnt into cinders, its walls in fragments, the gate in pieces and the massive pillars on which they hung were pulled from their roots and thrown headlong into the river where stands The Stradey Arms, in fact the old place was a heap of ruins after 'Becca'. Furnace Post Office now stands in its very place.

    Notes
    Rebecca and Her Daughters by Henry Tobit Evans p110


    Tollty Ffwrnes
    Safle: Swyddfa'r Post Ffwrnes, Heol Ffwrnes
    Noddwr: Lyn John.

    Yn 1843 effeithiwyd ar orllewin Cymru gyfan gan gynnwrf sifil Terfysg Beca. Cychwyn y terfysg oedd y gost annheg a osodai tollborth ar gymdeithas gyfan, a chododd y boblogaeth yn eu herbyn ond ynghudd. Yn niwyg menywod a'u hwynebau'n ddu gyda'u drylliau eu bwyeill a'u llifiau, Beca oedd eu harweinydd.

    Gan farchogaeth yn y nos, byddent yn distrywio tollbyrth mewn protest. Dros nos yr 2ail a'r 3ydd o Awst 1843, wedi dymchwel Tollborth Sandy, aeth Beca at y tollborth nesaf, sef Tollborth Ffwrnes gan benderfynu distrywio honno. Rhaid bod y ceidwad wedi ceisio rhwystro Beca, achos cafodd gweir a saethwyd gwn i'w wyneb. Distrywiwyd Tollborth Ffwrnes. Yn ôl llygad-dyst'Llosgwyd yr hen dollty a'i do gwellt yn ulw, ei waliau yn ddrylliau, y porth yn ddarnau man a'r pileri enfawr oddi tanyn nhw wedi tynnu o'u gwreiddiau a'u taflu bendramwnwgl i'r afon lle saif tafarn y Straey Arms. Yn wir roedd yr hen le yn adfeilion yn dilyn ymweliad Beca'.Saif Llythyrdy Ffwrnes heddiw yn yr union fan.

    Nodiadau
    'Rebecca and Her Daughters' gan Henry Tobit Evans  t 110

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  • Griffith Bowen Waterloo Soldier of Two Regiments

    Griffith Bowen Waterloo Soldier of Two Regiments

    by Lyn John including an account of The Battle of Waterloo by B W Bamford Chairman & Officer Commanding 1st Foot Guards (1815) Organisation.



    The hamlet of Llangyndeyrn stands about 9 miles from Llanelli 'as the crow flies' on an old coach road leading to the county town of Carmarthen. The place is a small agricultural settlement set around an ancient church dedicated to St. Cyndeyrn.

    Llangyndyrne ChurchThe church register for 22 April 1790, records the Christening of Griffith, son of William Bowen [a]. At the age of seventeen, Griffith Bowen was listed as labourer because that was his Trade or Occupation, as recorded on his army papers when he signed up in His Majesty's 1st Foot Guards in 1807, where he committed himself for unlimited service.

    The year of 1807 was beginning of the war against the dictator we know as Napoleon Bonaparte – the Peninsular War. Griffith Bowen was described as being 5 foot seven inches tall, and of light complexion. His hair was brown and he had black eyes. It is not certain why a man from such a rural part of South West Wales would enlist in the army? Perhaps there was a shortage of employment in the area or news from a traveller in a passing stage coach that the army was in need of soldiers and were recruiting? However like Thomas Morris, another local man, Griffith Bowen was at Merthyr when he signed up for service with the British Army. [b]

    Barrosa

    Within four years Griffith Bowen found himself in Spain in action against the French at the Battle of Barrosa, where his regiment, the 2nd Battalion of the 1st Foot Guards were under the overall command of General Thomas Graham and Major General Dilkes. They were in the South West part of Andalusia, as part of the allied attempt to break the French siege of Cadiz. Despite a 15 hour march against a heavily defended enemy, the composite brigade of Guards, commanded by Major General Dilkes, were victorious, but at a heavy cost, because the 1st Guards lost a third of their manpower being either killed or injured. It was in this battle, according to his discharge papers, Griffith Bowen received a gunshot wound in his left hand in action with the enemy at the Battle of Barrosa on the 5th March, 1811. [b][c]

    Although the British contingent defeated the much larger French force under the command of Marshal Victor, Cadiz remained besieged. Despite this, Both Houses of Parliament unanimously voted their thanks to Lieutenant General Graham, and the officers and men under his command for his victory. The losses they inflicted helped to allow Wellington’s forces to move north and drive the French enemy from Spain.

    Owing to the severe losses sustained by the corps in the late action it was ordered home [c] It is likely that Griffith Bowen then found himself back in Britain but more action was to follow...

    The Battle of Waterloo
    With Griffith Bowen and the 2nd Battalion, 1st Foot Guards in Belgium 1815

    On February 26th 1815, Pte. Bowen was parading in his very best order as he and the 1st Foot Guards formed part of a huge review of allied troops in Brussels. The review was to celebrate the accession of the Prince of Orange as Sovereign of Holland and Belgium. As a British soldier Bowen most probably considered the whole affair an unnecessary misuse of his time but, in common with all his comrades in arms, had little choice in the matter.

    What he, or anyone else involved in that parade, didn't know was that at the very same time Napoleon Bonaparte and his personal guard were making good their escape from exile on Elba: and so began the campaign known as the 100 Days which would culminate in battle at a place called Waterloo.

    On March 25th Bowen and the rest of the 2nd bttn. marched straight for the French border, rested at Ath and then proceeded to Enghien on 4th April. On 14th April the 3rd bttn. arrived from England and together they formed the 1st Guards Brigade, part of the 1st Corps under the overall command of the Prince of Orange. It was at this time that Bowen’s company commander – Lt.Col. Fitzroy Somerset – took up his alternative post as military secretary and ADC to the Duke of Wellington. [d]

    On 15th June came news that the French had crossed the border into Belgium; the Guards Brigade was put on alert and then marched towards Nivelles at 04:00 the following morning, reaching the outskirts of that town by about 15:00hrs. on the 16th tired, hungry and thirsty after such a march in the swelteringly sticky heat. But there was to be no rest for Bowen and his friends on this day. A major clash with French forces under Marshal Ney was taking place at a cross roads known as Quatre Bras. The allies there were outnumbered and needed re-enforcements. The Guards were marched at double time towards the action, and as the 2nd bttn. arrived it was immediately fed into the surrounding woodland by the Prince of Orange. Tired, confused and lacking detailed orders, the officers and men sustained heavy casualties as they attempted to clear the wood of the enemy, many of these from friendly fire. The French did not manage to take the area by force but by nightfall, when hostilities ceased for the day, the foot guards alone had lost over 500 men killed or wounded. If Bowen slept at all that night it was through complete exhaustion – the sound of the wounded would have kept him awake under any other circumstances.

    Due to the situation of Wellington’s Prussian allies, who had been forced back to Wavre by French forces commanded by Napoleon Bonaparte, there was no option for the Guards Brigades but to fall back during the day of June 17th. To Bowen and the other men in the ranks it must have seemed as though despite all their valiant efforts of the previous day they had, none the less, been beaten and were in retreat. What the men in the ranks did not know was that Wellington was in fact consolidating his position by retiring to ground previously identified by him as an ideal place to stop a French advance on Brussels [e]. It was just to the south of a small village called Waterloo.

    That afternoon it began to rain. It was a downpour of biblical proportions accompanied by great flashes of lightning and crashes of thunder which ripped the summer sky. It kept up all night while the men did their best to keep dry and prepare for the inevitable battle which was to follow on the morning.

    The 1st Guards Brigade was posted high upon the ridge, overlooking the farm complex of Hougoumont, on almost the extreme right end of Wellington’s line. In a style of fighting developed over years the Duke would post some of his men on the front of a slope in view of the enemy, but would post still more just over the ridge on the reverse slope, where they were hidden from view and, more importantly, shielded from direct fire. Lord Somerset’s company, as part of the 2nd bttn., found itself on the reverse slope whilst the 3rd bttn. stood to their left and slightly ahead of them.

    It had stopped raining early on the morning of Sunday 18th June but even with all troops in position a French attack could not start until the ground had begun to dry. Delaying the engagement aided the allies on that field as they knew the Prussians were on their way to assist them. Napoleon could only be defeated if Wellington could hold him in check until the arrival of the Prussians under Blucher. The French also knew this and so were determined to smash their way through the allied line which stood impudently blocking their way to Brussels.

    The main French artillery barrage commenced at a little after 11:00 and for the entire day the men of the 2nd and 3rd bttns. of the 1st Foot Guards had to stand and endure a continuous enemy canon fire of shot and shell. The only relief from the artillery onslaught was when the French launched a series of unsupported cavalry charges up the slope in an endeavour to break the foot soldiers of Wellington’s army. Surge after surge of the finest French horsemen raced towards the allied troops only to find them fall back into a static square formation, bristling with bayonets to keep horses at bay whilst musket fire from within the square brought down horses and men alike.

    It is almost impossible to imagine the horror of being either in line or in square in such circumstances as were endured by Bowen and his colleagues that day. The noise of men and musketry, of horse and howitzer, of shot and shell would be enough to drive a man insane; but consider also the carnage of battle as men and animals are torn literally limb from limb in front of one’s very eyes. Of comrades reduced to offal as they stand at one’s very side. And all the time being ordered to keep close to the next man – and to keep loading and firing. After more than six hours of this continuous cacophony and carnage it seemed to fall almost silent.

    By this time men were almost inured to the horror of their immediate situation and had been almost deafened by the noise of battle; and yet, in that eerie, whistling moment of respite it was there that Bowen, and what was left of his company, could just hear the sound of a general infantry advance.

    Knowing that the Prussians were now arriving to assist Wellington, Napoleon had sent in his elite Guards. These men – never beaten in battle – respected and feared by all sides, were marching up the slope to finally break the allied line. And they were heading directly towards the Foot Guards. The men formed and crouched in a line four deep, and as the French crested the slope to what they believed would be a defeated, retreating army, a host of red coated soldiers sprang to their feet and opened fire upon them at point blank range. The finest French infantry had met the finest British infantry. The French advance faltered and then, in the face of overpowering musket fire, began to fall back. Bowen and the other foot guards could not contain themselves; and as the French retreated they surged forward. Another regiment of red coated infantry fired into the flank of the French and the attack was finished. For the first time in its long and proud history the French Guard had been bested in battle. When the news spread through the French army their retreat was turned to rout [f].

    The 1st Foot Guards followed the retreating French for a distance of about two miles before being ordered to halt. Bowen fell to the ground exhausted, shell shocked and deafened. His company commander, Lord Somerset, was having his mangled right arm amputated, but Griffith Bowen was both alive and uninjured. He slept that night on the field of battle, surrounded by the dead and dying who, that day, had secured peace in mainland Europe for the next 99 years.

    Bowen in the Rifle Brigade

    Following the declaration of peace with France, Griffith Bowen was discharged from the 1st Foot Guards (The Grenadier Guards) on the 16th February 1816, after seven years and 169 days service. Although he received his due allowances, including two weeks pay to carry him to his home he re-enlisted in the army with the Rifle Brigade on 25th February of 1816. In August 1821 Griffith Bowen was discharged from the Rifle brigade in consequence of a reduction in the establishment of the battalion. His general conduct was described as indifferent [g].

    Bowen the Toll Collector

    The Site of the Black Horse Inn MeinciauTwenty years on, we find a Griffith Bowen and his wife Elizabeth living next to Black Horse Inn, in the hamlet of Meinciau on the main road to the village of Pontyates where he is listed as an Army Pensioner [h]. Meinciau was only two miles south of Llangyndeyrn, the village where Bowen was Christened. (The 1880 OS Plan of this area show a small farm holding named Llwyn-dau -filwyr which translates from Welsh to The field of two soldiers.)

    The Farmers Arms public house in Llangyndeyrn was the occasional meeting place of The Kidwelly and District Turnpike Roads Trust, a body of businessmen, Justices of the Peace and members of the local gentry, set up to manage the toll roads in the area [j]. They were also responsible for employing the toll collectors that manned the toll houses collecting gate money for the use of the roads. Given the reputation that Griffith Bowen had been a soldier at the Battle of Waterloo, and an Army Pensioner it is likely that he was employed by the Trust as a toll collector.

    Toll collectors were not very popular in the early part of the 1840s, particularly in West Wales as it was the time of the civil disturbances known as the Rebecca Riots. These riots were instigated by the unfair cost that the toll gates placed on society as a whole, the populace rose up under the cloak of anonymity. Disguised as women with blackened faces and armed with guns, axes and saws the rioters would be led by 'Rebecca', They would ride out at night and destroy the toll gates and their houses as a protest. One such gate was the Pen-y-Garn Toll Gate, which was probably located in the village of Llanegwad approximately seven miles east of Carmarthen on the Llandeilo road.

    The Times of London frequently reported on the Rebecca Riots in Wales, and on Friday 30th June 1843 its reporter published his investigation in to the attack upon the Pen-y-Garn Toll gate.

    The Rebecca Riots

    The gate I speak of is called the Pen-y-Garn Gate, and is a regular turnpike upon the main London road between this town and Llandeilo Fawr. With a view to the utmost accuracy in my statement, I to-day drove to the spot, and was surprised to see a large tollhouse, built entirely of stone, two stories high, containing four large rooms being 36 feet long by about 20 feet wide, the walls of which were 22 inches thick, having a slate roof with lead gutters and every other requisite, which at 11 o'clock last night was standing in complete repair, but now in a heap of ruins. The gate, it appears, was kept by an old pensioner named Griffith Bowen, who had been in the peninsular war and served at Waterloo in the 2d Battalion of Grenadier guards. I think I cannot depict the outrage by giving the simple narrative of the old man himself:-

    “About a quarter before 12 o'clock last night,” said he, “I was standing at the door of the tollhouse, which has been built about 15 years, smoking my pipe, when, looking up the hill, upon hearing some talking, I saws two men at a distance of about 50 yards. After the men had talked a little, I saw a body of them, to the number of between 200 and 300 disguised, and with their faces blacked – most of them had women’s caps on and they had Rebecca at their head: many of them were on horseback, but they dismounted at the top of the hill, and left their horses there. They then marched down the hill and I could see that they were armed with guns and pistols, pickaxes and sledge-hammers, and all sorts of offensive weapons. Being much alarmed, my wife and myself fled from the house, and I hid myself behind an ash tree, a short distance off, but from which I could observe their motions. Upon their reaching the gate, Rebecca called out, “Hallo! Hello! gate!”. After a short interval, he gave the word of command, “Go on,” and the work of destruction immediately began.

    The whole mob fell to work, pulling down the gate, and sawing off the posts, which were solid oak, and each four feet in circumference. A portion of the body also entered the toll house, and having thrown out the furniture on the roadside, and torn down the bedstead, &c, they began pulling down the walls of the house, and left it and the gate in complete ruins. They kept firing guns and pistols at intervals during the whole period, which occupied upward of an hour, and then, at the word of command, marched up the hill and disappeared, taking with them the Waterloo medal of the collector and 12s in silver which was in his desk, and escaping without detection, although they must have marched more than two miles each way upon the main London-road to and from the scene of the outrage”

    When I went to the spot I saw the poor man and his family sitting houseless by the wayside. [k]

    Bowen is recorded as being a recipient of the Waterloo Medal. There is some evidence that he was also awarded the Peninsular Medal (General Military Service Medal) with the Barossa Clasp [l].

    Cwmduad Toll HouseThe Census Returns of 1851 record a Griffith Bowen living with wife Elizabeth as the toll collector or gate keeper, in the toll house at Cwmduad, a village near Conwil Elfed, Carmarthenshire. Although his place of birth is not recorded in this document, his wife's are, she was born in the village Llanddarog which situated in the same county. So it is be possible that the last resting place of our Waterloo hero and his wife was in the Church of St Twrog, Llanddarog, where the Burial Register records the interment of a couple of the same names and age [m].

    Notes and Citations

    William Davies, Farmer, charged with having, on or about the 27 day of June last, with divers evil disposed persons, riotously and tumultuously assembled together, and feloniously demolished the dwelling-house of one Griffith Bowen, situated at or near Penygarn, and also having destroyed a turnpike toll gate there situate. (The Welshman 8th December 1843 page 3, column 2)

    [a] Parish Register 1790, page 80.
    [b] G. Bowen, HM Grenadier Foot Guards Discharge Papers dated 14 February 1816
    [c] The Origin and History of the First or Grenadier Guards; Hamilton Vol 2 Ch xxiii
    [d] The Waterloo Roll Call; Charles Dalton 2nd Edn.
    [e] Waterloo, the history of four days, three armies and three battles; Cornwell
    [f] The Reminiscences of Captain Gronow; edited by N. Bentley
    [g] G. Bowen 1 Bt Rifle Brigade Discharge Papers dated 25 August 1821
    [h] 1841 Census
    [j] Extracts from the Kidwelly & District Turnpike Road Order Book (Carmarthenshire Records Office item: T.T. 21)
    [k] The Times Friday 30th June 1843 page 6
    [l] Waterloo Medal Roll p115-116 (The Naval & Military Press Ltd 1992).
    Military General Service Medal (Barossa) (Grenadier Gds Pay List)
    [m] Church of St Twrog, Llanddarog. Burials Register

    Click here for further reading: Llanelli and the Battle of Waterloo

    Acknowledgements:-
    Margaret Rees of Llanddarog Parish Church (Website Co-ordinator)
    Alan Richards from Pontarddulias (Author and historian)

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  • Llandafen Toll House, Halfway

    The town of Llanelli has a long connection with toll gates. Many years before the civil disturbances of the mid-nineteenth century, known as the Rebecca Riots, the toll gate became a focus of Welsh history and folklore, early gates existing in the town at least fifty years before. These were sited at Old Road, below Capel Newydd, and at Island Place. [a] It appears that these gates became redundant and were replaced as the town expanded during the Industrial Revolution. As the network of roads linking the town to the outside world grew, so did the traffic and the number of toll gates. Some of these gates were at Sandy, Furnace, Felinfoel, Tyrfran, Capel, Halfway, Pemberton and Llwynhendy. There is a historical reference to the Island Place toll gate being moved to Halfway…
    A gate of this kind stood on the site now occupied by the Island House. The old gate was removed fully a hundred years ago to Halfway. [b]

    Toll gates were used as a method of taxing the road user to fund the maintenance and upkeep of the roads, attached were their associated toll houses. Toll houses were usually small white cottages built with their windows overlooking the roads that they took ‘gate money’ from. It was also the abode of the toll keeper and his family. The charges and costs for use of the road were usually displayed on a large board placed in a prominent position on the side of the building. A classic example of a toll gate can be seen at the Welsh Folk museum at St Fagans.

    Toll Gate charges as displayed on the side of the house. Hover over image for zoom.

    In 1843 the whole of west Wales was gripped in the civil disturbances known as the Rebecca Riots. Aimed mainly at the unfair tolls that were charged for the use of the turnpike roads, the rioters disguised with blackened faces and attired in women’s clothes would attack and destroy the offending toll gates and their attached gatehouses. As a result of these riots a government inquiry was set up to establish the causes of the riots and changes were made to improve the turnpike system. [c]

    Roads still had to be maintained, tolls had to be charged and prosecutions were taken out against those people who eluded or evaded payment. In November 1868 James Francis of Carnarvon Farm, Llanelly, was charged with driving a flock of sheep off from the Turnpike road into a field at Cwmfelin Bar. It was recorded that the ‘defendant had done the same trick many times before’. Nevertheless, he was fined £1 and costs or seven days jail [d]. In July of 1882, Morgan Saunders was fined eighteen pence with costs of £1-8-6 for avoiding the payment of tolls at the Furnace Toll Gate. [e] But the end of the gates was nigh!

    In December 1887, the Local Board of Health in Llanelli was canvassed to support legislation for the Abolition the Turnpike Tolls in South Wales. One of the reasons cited was that…

    It must be obvious to all that the admitted cost of collection of tolls, amounting to 15 per cent. apart from possible loss through misappropriation, is in itself a heavy and unproductive expenditure, and that also in the maintenance of the toll houses and of separate staffs of Clerks, Surveyors and Treasurers, there is a considerable outlay, much of which could be saved, if the management of the roads within their respective districts were transferred to the Highway Boards. It may be assumed that scarcely a singular occupier does not now pay in tolls an amount equal to a 1d. Rate.

    In short, the Turnpike Roads were uneconomical. [f]

    At the beginning of April 1889, local newspapers in Wales carried the welcome announcement of the abolition of the turnpike gates. One Llanelli newspaper added a twist of humour to the news...

    The Reign of the Gates Closing
    After this month, by the provisions the Local Government Act, nearly 250 turnpike gates will be thrown open and become free from toll on the South Wales roads. The length of the highways thus to be dis-turnpiked is 986 miles. This announcement carries the mind back 45 years, to the time when Rebecca and her followers were making it lively throughout the neighbourhood, and possessing themselves literally of the “gates of their enemies”. The few Rebaccaites who survive will feel very great interest in the final swing of the turnpike bars. By the way, we hear a funny story of a parson in the neighbourhood passing a toll gate (Alltyfran we believe) and twitting the keeper with the coming disestablishment of the gate. The quick retort was – “your turn next!”.  [g]

    By the beginning of the twentieth century most of Llanelli’s toll houses had been removed. For instance, in 1915 it was reported that Sir Stafford Howard had written to the County Council referring to the Sandy toll house... the structure now served no useful purpose and that it projected into a busy main road, and was thus not only inconvenient but also a source of danger [h]

    Today no trace of a toll house can be seen in Llanelli except for one, or the remains of one. This toll house can be found from the description given by John Innes in his book Old Llanelly… “The Llandafen Gate on the Swansea road, almost at the foot of the hill before reaching the Dafen Brook, on the left leaving Llanelly”. [I] Today the Llandafen Brook crosses beneath the old Swansea Road between Llygadyrych and Halfway.The name of Halfway is said to derive from the fact that it was situated between the toll gates at Capel and Pemberton, or from the tradition that it lies half way between Carmarthen and Neath and was used as a halt for rest by cattle drovers when travelling from one mart to another. The area was also known as Llygadyrych. [j]

    Was Llandafen Toll Gate attacked by Rebecca?
    In 1926, the recollections of ninety four year old Sarah Meredith were published in a local newspaper recollected her early life in Llanelli, she remembered...

    how in the dead of night the Beccaites marched past her home to wreck the toll-gates at Hendy, Halfway, and Llanelly. It was at this occasion that at Hendy an old woman was, who was in charge of the toll-gate there, was shot dead by the rioters. When this occurred Mrs Meredith was eleven years of age. In connection with this affair she has recollections of the trial of “Dai’r Cantwr” for his activities in the “Beccas” and his conviction and banishment to Botany Bay [k]

    Although the Rebecca attacks on the Sandy, Furnace, Tyrfran and Hendy gates are well documented in official government records and local newspapers, to date, nothing can be found to substantiate any such assault on the Llandafen Toll Gate at Halfway. The old toll house at Halfway has survived for over a century and a half, the building has undergone structural changes, perhaps the most significant being the demolition of the distinctive front vision bay that was uniquely associated with toll houses.

    At the beginning of the twentieth century Llanelli was still using the archaic form of public transport the horse-drawn tram. Although the electric tram was already in use in many other parts of the country there was some reluctance to adopt this means of transport locally, many of the older generation at the time considered them as devil’s coaches. However, The Llanelly and District Electric Lighting and Traction Company Ltd (formerly a subsidiary of Messrs. Balfour Beatty Ltd.) changed all that. They had agreed with the Llanelly Urban Council to build a power station to light the town and provide an electric tram system. The inauguration dinner for the new tram system took place at the Stepney Hotel 18th July 1911, where a sumptuous dinner was served. [l] But there were teething problems, because many of the roads in Llanelly were not sufficiently wide enough to allow the free flow of traditional traffic as well as the new trams. The road past Halfway was widened in June 1911 when it was recorded that two or three gangs of workmen were replacing the pavement at Halfway Bridge. It was most likely that at that time the distinctive vision bay was removed. [m]

    The Llandafen Toll House probably survived the test of time because it remained in use as a house and home to successive families. Records show that in 1851 Samuel Burford and his wife lived there and were the toll collectors, while in 1861, John Jones had to subsidise his wife the gate keeper, by working as a coal miner. Just before the Second World War it was the abode of Martha Lewis, Margaret Davies and Daniel Davies. Daniel worked a ‘Dipper’ in a galvanising works. [n]

    Today the newly renovated Llandafen Toll House stands as a tangible link with Llanelli’s past, the turnpike road system and the Rebecca of long ago.

    Note and citations  top

    [a] Gates at Old Road (Hen Gât) Old Llanelly John Innes, 1902 p91 (map) . Island Place, Island House, Howell’s Plan 1814.;‘Hen Gȃt below ‘Cae Halen’, Stepney Plan and Board of Health Plan.
    [b] Reminiscences of Old Llanelly Llanelly Mercury 21 Sept 1893
    [c] Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry for South Wales 1844 H.M.S.O.
    [d] Llanelly Guardian Nov 5th 1868
    [e] South Wales Press 13 July 1882
    [f] LC6752 Llanelly Local Board of Health. Letter books February 1880 to September 1889 Item 41 and 42
    [g] South Wales Press 21 March 1889
    [h]Llanelly Mercury 11 March 1915.
    [I] ibid. John Innes p53
    [j] Coal Mining in Llanelli Area Vol I p81. Halfway, Capel and Pemberton toll gates. Llanelly Star 25 July 1956. Did You Know That... Halfway. OS Plan 1880 Llygadyrych
    [k] Llanelly Mercury 5 August 1926
    [l] Llanelly Guardian 20 July 1911 and Llanelli Library collection LC588
    [m] Llanelly Mercury 15 June 1911
    [n] Census Returns and 1939 List

    Llandafen Toll House on Google Maps

    Photos of the Toll House at St. Fagans by Phil Marker

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  • Llanelly Pottery

    Llanelly Pottery Blue Plaque

    Llanelly Pottery Blue PlaqueLlanelli Community Heritage unveiled  its first Blue Plaque at the Pottery Street entrance to St Elli Shopping Centre on Saturday 24 July 2004.

    The inaugural plaque commemorates Llanelly Pottery, which operated in the centre of the town from 1839 to 1922. The pottery achieved considerable fame and many examples of the pottery's fine and varied products are on permanent display at the Parc Howard Museum.

    The plaque, unveiled by Llanelli's Mayor Councillor Eryl Morgan, is attached to the wall at the entrance to the St Elli Shopping Centre, close to where the Pottery once stood.

    Llanelli Community Heritage is planning an extensive programme of Blue Plaques which will eventually be placed around the town and surrounding communities.

    The pottery plaque is being sponsored by the Carmarthen based antiques dealers, Carol and Robert Pugh, whose researches together with the late Gareth Hughes have lead to the publication of definitive works on the Pottery.

    William Chambers Junior, opened the pottery in 1839: he lived in Llanelly House, was involved in most aspects of the town's business and social life and, as an active magistrate, became involved in the Rebecca Riots.

    From the beginning, Llanelly Pottery produced high quality earthenwares every bit as good as those of Staffordshire. The mainstay of the production was always transfer ware; items decorated by a system of transferring patterns from engraved copper plates onto the unglazed pots by means of tissue paper, the Willow pattern being the best known.

    Hand decoration was rare in the early days, but in the latter years much brightly coloured wares were produced; the brightly coloured cockerels and fruit and flower decoration are the ones most readily associated with Llanelli.

    The name Samuel Shufflebotham is well known; he worked at the Pottery from 1908 to 1915 and his work is most sought by collectors today.

    In the closing decades, the Pottery was run by David Guest and his cousin Richard Dewsberry and finally by David's son Richard..

    Competition from the Potteries of Staffordshire and the Continent finally made the enterprise impossible to maintain and the final kiln was fired in 1922, leaving us with wonderful examples of ceramic excellence.

    John Wynne Hopkins, Chairman of Llanelli Community Heritage, said, "We were set up to protect the heritage of Llanelli as best we can and an important part of our work is to remind future generations of what has gone before.

    "Blue Plaques are one of the ways to do that. They are universally accepted as being easily spotted from a distance and are to be found all over Britain, including Wales. We have identified many possible sites for such plaques in and around Llanelli and they will be rolled out as the sponsors are found.

    "We are very grateful to Carol and Robert Pugh for agreeing to be our first sponsors. They have done so much to promote Llanelly Pottery and highlight it's important contribution to the town's heritage."

    LCH0084

  • Llangennech and Rebecca

    Llangennech and Rebecca

    During the middle of the 19th century South Wales was rocked by civil disturbances known as The Rebecca Riots. These riots were predominantly aimed at the destruction of tollgates belonging to the turnpike trusts that charged excessive fees for the use of their roads. The rioters would dress themselves up disguised as women with blackened faces and would be led by the leader who was known as Rebecca.

    Although most of Rebecca's activities in the Llanelli area have been recorded in various articles on this website, a chance find at the Swansea Central Library led to the report of an attack on a local tollgate by Rebecca not covered here before. A July edition of the Swansea Journal of 1843, reports:

    Rebecca – On Wednesday Night or in the early morning of Thursday a number of Rebecca's daughters proceeded to Bridge End Gate at the entrance of Llangennech and in the usual way totally demolished the gate and part of the toll-house. The following night they again commenced their depredations in destroying the Forest Gate, between Pontardulais and Llaneddi, which they burnt to the ground [a]

    Recent publications on the topic of the Rebecca Riots do not record this nocturnal attack, however one old book, Rebecca and Her Daughters (1910), briefly mentions the event in one sentence, The Bridgend Gate near Llangennech was destroyed and the toll-house much damaged. [b]

    To establish the fact that there was a toll gate at Llangennech, contemporary documents had to be examined and a government report on the disturbances published in 1844 mentions the grievances about specific gates and bars. The report includes one in the village of Llangennech, where the problem of the Bridge End Gate was recorded as being set up very vexatiously. It was exacting money from farmers for going with their horses to water and from hauliers for transporting pit timber to the nearby collieries, despite the fact that there was another toll-gate in the nearby village of Hendy [c].

    Further evidence of the toll-gate or bar being erected at Llangennech is shown in the government's plan of the Turnpike Trusts' gates in this part of the county, published in 1844, it shows that the Kidwelly Trust had erected or managed a toll-bar at Llangennech. [d].

    It appears that Rebecca attacked The Bridge End toll-bar or gate in the village of Llangennech, late on the night of 28th June or in the early hours of the following morning and destroyed its house. Newspaper accounts state that a gate and toll house was attacked and destroyed. However the above mentioned government report refers to the toll-bar (not a toll-gate) having being taken down but later removed by the Trustees. So did Llangennech have a gate or bar and did it have a house?

    Gates and Bars are often referred to as toll-gates but according to one of the local magistrates, William Chambers Jnr., of Llanelly House, there was a difference.

    The only distinction I make between a gate and a bar is where there is residence for the person to collect the toll. [e]

    Sometimes chains were put up and referred to as bars.

    Although the more accurate Ordnance Survey plans of 1880 show the location of some of the remaining toll-gates and bars, nothing can be seen in the village of Llangennech because the gate was officially removed by 1844. It is possible that a temporary hut was placed as a shelter from inclement weather near the gate and it was this that was burnt down. Given the fact that the gate was referred to as the Bridge End Gate it is possible that its location was close to the Bridge End Inn and the nearby Mwrwg Brook where horses were taken to be watered.

    Who were the perpetrators that Rebeccaized the Llangennech gate? [f] As most of the attacks upon the gates and houses were carried out at night by disguised men, very few of the offenders were brought to book. However, some men in the locality were captured in the later attack on a Pontardulais tollgate in September 1843 and taken to The Llanelly Union Workhouse for questioning.

    Rebecca Prisoners

    Following the attack on the Pontardulais tollgate in September 1843, some of the Rebeccas were captured by the 76th. Regiment of Foot and taken to the Llanelly Workhouse to be interrogated by the magistrates, Nevill, Rees and Chambers. The prisoners, still attired in women’s clothes were described as William Hugh, a lad of 15 years and son of a respectable farmer of Talyclun; Thomas Williams, a servant to a farmer at Llangennech; Henry Rogers, a farm servant of Penllwyngwyn and Lewis Davies, a respectable farmer of Ysgubor Uchaf near Pontardulais. All were examined and remanded. [g]

    Were these men involved in the destruction of the Bridge End Gate? Perhaps we will never know, or perhaps some dusty document hidden in the archives of Carmarthenshire or the National Library of Wales may yet reveal more about Rebecca's activities in our district?

    Notes and Citations

    [a] 5 July 1843 Swansea Journal. 8 July 1843 Monmouthshire Merlin.
    [b] Rebecca and Her Daughters (1910) H Tobit Evans p85.
    [c] Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry for South Wales (1844) Minutes of evidence. taken before the commissioners. Page 126-Item 2995.
    [d] ibid. Three Commotts & Kidwelly Turnpike Turnpike Trusts, enclosed plan.
    [e] ibid. Page 126 -Item 2992.
    [f] ibid. 'Rebeccaized'. A term used by Llanelli J.P. William Chambers Jnr. Page 127-Item 3007
    [g] The Times, Saturday, September 9 1843. Page 5

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  • Rebecca and the Harbour Master

    Rebecca and the Harbour MasterIn 1843 the whole of West Wales was affected by civil disturbances known as 'The Rebecca Riots'. Instigated by the unfair cost that the tollgates placed on society, the populace rose up under the cloak of anonymity. Disguised as women with blackened faces and armed with guns axes and saws the rioters were led by 'Rebecca'. They would ride out at night and destroy the tollgates as a protest. But tollgates were not the only target. In September 1843, during the height of the riots a gang of more than twenty men dressed in the clothes of ‘Rebecca’ rode down from the village of Five roads via Penyfai and Furnace to attack the Seaside home of Llanelli Harbour Master, Captain John Pasley Luckraft R.N.

    Luckraft had settled in Llanelli from Crediton circa 1841and secured his position as Harbour Master of Llanelli with the help of Richard Janion Nevill, owner of the Copperworks. Although Luckraft had served in the Royal Navy he was reported to have been a teetotaller. Probably as a result of his anti-drink stance he had persuaded the Harbour Commissioners to ban their pilots from keeping public houses and beer shops. This and other regulations caused hardship and resentment amongst the pilots, they wanted Luckraft removed! They sought the help of the Five Roads ‘Rebecca’ gang who included the notorious ‘Rebeccas’ David Davies and John Jones, alias ‘Dai’r Cantw’r and ‘Shoni Sgubor Fawr’. After meeting in the ‘Farmers Arms’ they left Five Roads along with about twenty to thirty others and arrived at the harbour master’s Seaside home on Wednesday 6th September 1843. It was about 1:30, in the early hours of the morning when they roused Luckraft from his sleep and threatened him to come to his door or they would burn his house down. All the gang wore disguises ranging from petticoats to turbans and handkerchiefs. After threatening him with an axe and guns they ordered Luckraft to leave the town and fired a number of shots at the windows of his home, shattering some of the panes. The gang then made for the nearby Copperworks where they repeatedly fired off a number of rounds into the works. Encountering a workman who had been working on the paddle steamer ‘Hercules’, they asked him in whose employ he had been. On being told, ‘in Mr Waddle’s’, they replied ‘Aha, he’s a good master’. This was thirsty work for ‘Rebecca’, so they all headed back to Five Roads via Felinfoel where they threatened a local publican into giving them ‘drinks all round’ and according to the historian John Innes,they ‘had a big drink’!

    By daybreak they were back in the parlour of the Farmers Arms, where the landlord William Jenkins, gave them half a crown each as payment from the Llanelli Harbour Pilots for their night’s work. Later that day, Luckraft received the following letter …

    “Mr Luckraff (sic),

    This is to give you further notice that if you don’t quit these premises in a fortnight’s time we must come and remove you & I am sure it is better you went yourself than be removed by force . Signed Rebecca”

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  • Rebecca and Tyrfran

    Rebecca and Tyrfran

    Tyr Fran blue plaqueIn 1843 the whole of west Wales was gripped in the civil disturbances known as the Rebecca Riots. Aimed mainly at the unfair tolls that were charged for the use of the turnpike roads, the rioters, disguised with blackened faces and attired in women's clothes, would attack and destroy the offending tollgates and their attached gatehouses.

    The town of Llanelli and its district did not escape this turmoil, for its roads were under the control and management of the Three Commotes and the Kidwelly Turnpike Trusts. These trusts had been described by a government solicitor as being more odious and obnoxious than any others. Old plans show that the town's roads were secured by at least 15 tollgates and toll-bars. Perhaps for this reason both the Furnace and the Sandy tollgates were destroyed at the beginning of August 1843.

    It may be that the last of Rebecca's attacks in Llanelli came on Saturday 30th September 1843, when she removed the Tyrfran Tollgate on the road to Felinfoel and dropped it down the shaft of a nearby coal pit. According to old documents and newspapers the gatehouse and gateposts remained untouched.

    When the Dragoons reached the spot not one person was to be seen although they were billeted within 200 yards of the gate [possibly the Union Workhouse].
    Old town plans show that the site of the tollgate was at the corner of the lane close to Felinfoel Road and Parc Howard Avenue. Some of the troops were billeted at the Union Workhouse, lately Bryntirion Hospital.

    But by this time the tide was turning, probably as a result of the resolutions passed at the Great Meeting on Mynydd Sylen and probably because of Williams Chambers' influence, about 40 local farmers recovered the gate from the Dimpath coal pit and returned it to its hinges the following Monday morning.

    31st January 2014 unveiling of the plaque.

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  • Rebecca Riots

    Rebecca and soldiersDuring the middle of the 19th century, South Wales was rocked by the civil disturbances known as the Rebecca Riots. These riots were predominantly aimed at the destruction of tollgates belonging to the turnpike trusts that charged excessive fees for the use of their roads. The mainly peaceable town of Llanelli did not escape this turmoil for in the summer of 1843, the ‘Sandy’, ‘Furnace’, and ‘Tyrfran’ Gates, were either destroyed or damaged by Rebecca. The house of the town’s harbour master, Captain John Paisley Luckraft R.N. was also attacked. Rebecca had warned Luckraft that his life was in danger if he did not leave town!

    As a result of these disturbances the government sent the Metropolitan Police and troops to the district to keep order. The troops consisted of detachments from the 75th and the 76th Regiments of Foot, backed up by a ‘flying squadron’ of cavalry in the form of the 4th Dragoon Guards. Accommodating and billeting these soldiers was a problem for the smaller towns of West Wales and as it was considered unwise to put them up in the inns and public houses, the authorities of the town of Llanelli decided to billet them at The Union Workhouse. This workhouse was later converted into Bryntirion Hospital. The little known but important history of the workhouse is that it was the base for the military during their operations against Rebecca in and around the town and district of Llanelli.

    Following the attack on the Pontardulais gate in September 1843 some of the captured Rebeccas were taken prisoner by the 76th Foot to the Workhouse at Bryntirion to be interrogated by the magistrates Neville, Rees and Chambers, all Llanelli JP’s. The prisoners, still attired in women’s clothes included William Hugh a lad of 15 years and son of a respectable farmer of Talyclyn, Thomas Williams a servant to a farmer at Llangennech , Henry Rogers a farm servant of Penllwyngwyn and Lewis Davies a respectable farmer of Scybor Uch near Pontardulais all were examined and remanded. Later that month, the Metropolitan Police captured the famous Rebecca leader, David Davies alias ‘Dai Cantwr’ in the Plough & Harrow public house in Five Roads. He was placed in the custody of the military at the Workhouse until his removal to Carmarthen Jail.

    The WorkhouseAs to the soldiers themselves? A local JP writing at the time is quoted as saying, ‘It has given me great satisfaction to hear from every one that the conduct of the soldiers ever since they had been stationed in the workhouse has been most exemplary’. The ‘Dragoons’ were said to be seen on parade every morning at a place called Caeffair, a field once used for cattle and horse fairs near the Thomas Arms Hotel. Today, its site is marked by the private nursing home bearing that name.

     

     

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  • Sandy Tollgate and Rebecca Riots

    Sandy Tollgate and Rebecca - Sketch by John Wynne HopkinsThroughout the summer of 1843, the tollgates of South Wales were being attacked and destroyed under the uprising known as the Rebecca Riots. The town of Llanelli remained peaceful up until the end of July 1843.

    On the 31st of that month there appears a scant report of an attack on the Sandy Tollgate, it states….

    “Yesterday (July 29th , 7am ) the news reached here that during the night the Rebeccaites, as if in utter defiance of the authorities, had attacked and destroyed the Sandy Gate, close to the town of Llanelly. It appears that at 12 o’clock at night there had been no symptoms of any attack, but shortly afterwards Rebecca and her daughters arrived and the gate was speedily destroyed”.

    This was not the only time for Sandy to suffer at the hands of Rebecca, for on the night of the 2nd of August 1843, after Catherine Hugh, the toll keeper of the Sandy Gate retired to bed, the tollgate and house were completely destroyed. Much has been written about the grievances that instigated the Rebecca Riots, but what about the victims of these attacks? Here are the recollections of one of them, Catherine Hugh …..

    Site of Sandy Toll Gate Llanelli March 2008“I remember the night of the 2nd of August when I retired to bed about one o’clock. The children had previously gone to bed. My husband was on the settle. Shortly after retiring, I heard a noise of knocking at the windows. It was quarter to two o’clock. I came out of bed to wake my husband. He went on his knees upon the table for the purpose of looking out through the window at the party destroying the gate. The window was soon smashed in. The glass was broken to pieces. I do not know that it was broken by the shots, but there were marks on part of it the next day. I desired my husband to request them to stop until the children were taken out of the house. He cried ‘halt’ through the window. The door was then broken open, and my husband begged them to allow him to remove the family and furniture. Some cried ‘come out or we will kill you’. Others assisted in removing the furniture. I was in the back room with the children, who were crying, while my husband was outside with the crowd. I heard some of the tiles fall, and also heard my husband telling the rioters that he depended on their honour not to injure the children. I did not recognise any one of the party. After the party had gone, I began to cry. My husband said they would surely repent. My husband was perfectly sober, but he had been taking beer. That morning, before he left the house he named some persons as being among the rioters. He named McKiernin [some times recorded as McKiernan or McKiernon] and Laing. He named no others, as I told him to hold his tongue. He complained of his arm, and was afraid it was broken”.

    The following morning, Catherine’s husband, Jenkin Hugh went to town and reported the incident to the authorities, where he made a statement to the magistrate William Chambers, that he had recognised three of the Rebeccas and that they were, Francis McKiernin, George Laing and John Phillips.

    McKiernin was the mail coach proprietor from Llanelli to Carmarthen and Swansea; he was also the innkeeper of the ‘Ty Melyn’ in Park Street. Laing was also an innkeeper and haulier. Phillips worked as a servant of McKiernin. All had an interest in the destruction of the gates; Laing had given up his business as a haulier because of the heavy tolls, McKiernin would have gone the same way had he not carried the Royal Mail which freed him from the tolls. All the above appeared before the Llanelli magistrates but were bailed and later acquitted.

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  • The Great Meeting

    Location: Mynydd Sylen.
    Sponsor: Gwendraeth Valley Historical Society

    The Great MeetingTake the B4309 from Llanelli to Five Roads Village. As you enter Five Roads (5 km) turn right into Heol Horeb continue to the cross roads and go straight over on to Mynydd Sylen and find the concrete milk churn platform on the right hand side of the road.London Illustrated News

    The Great Meeting on Mynydd Sylen / Y Cyfarfod Mawr ar Fynydd Sylen
    By the end of the summer of 1843, 'The Rebecca Riots', which had ravaged West Wales, was drawing to an end. The violent and clandestine attacks on the tollgates were being replaced by peaceful and open air meetings calling for political action.

    Perhaps 'the greatest of all these meetings' was held on the slopes of Mynydd Sylen where it is claimed that no less than three thousand people were in attendance. On the 25th of August 1843 some of the most important and influential people addressed the meeting including the 'Rebecca' leader, Hugh Williams and the Llanelli landowner William Chambers Junior JP. The Times reporter, Thomas Campbell Foster and the lithographer, William James Linton of the London Illustrated news reported on the event. As a result of the meeting a lengthy petition to Queen Victoria was drawn up calling for an end to the injustices.

    Notes:
    'And They Blessed Rebecca' by Pat Molloy p194
    'The Rebecca Riots' by David Williams p242


    Y Cyfarfod Mawr
    Safle: Mynydd Sylen

    Ewch ar yB4309 o Lanelli i Bum Heol. Wrth i chi gyrraedd y pentref (5 km), trowch i'r dde i mewn i Heol Horeb, ymlaen at y groesffordd a syth draw i Fynydd Sylen. Mae'r plac ar garreg dal stên laeth ar ochr dde'r heol.

    Noddwr:Cymdeithas Hanes Cwm Gwendraeth
    Y Cyfarfod Mawr ar Fynydd Sylen

    25 August 2007 People gather for the unveiling of the 'Great Meeting' Blue Plaque25 August 2007 Mr Donald Williams of the Gwendraeth Valleys Historical Society, addressing the onlookers at the unveiling by Dr Noel GibbardErbyn diwedd haf 1843, roedd Terfysgoedd Beca a anrheithiai Gorllewin Cymru, yn tynnu i'w terfyn. Cymerwyd lle'r ymosodiadau treisgar a dirgel ar y tollbyrth gan gyfarfodydd awyr agored heddychlon yn galw am weithgarwch gwleidyddol. Efallai'r mwyaf o'r rhain oedd yr un a gynhaliwyd ar lethrau Mynydd Sylen ble cyfarfu nid llai na their mil o bobl. Ar Awst 25ain 1843, anerchwyd y cyfarfod gan rai o'r bobl fwyaf pwysig a dylanwadol gan gynnwys yr arweinydd Beca Hugh Williams a'r tir-berchennog William Chambers yr Iau Y.H. Adroddodd gohebydd y Times Thomas Campbell Foster a'r lithograffwr William James Linton o'r London Illustrated news ar y digwyddiad. O ganlyniad i'r cyfarfod, tynnwyd deiseb faith i'r Frenhines Fictoria yn galw am ddiwedd i'r anghyfiawnderau.

    Nodiadau:
    'And They Blessed Rebecca' gan Pat Molloy t 194
    'The Rebecca Riots' gan David Williams t 242

    LCH0078

  • The Inhabitants of Llanelli in 1847

    The Inhabitants of Llanelli in 1847

    As part of an enquiry into the state of education in Wales in 1847, two of the most powerful and important men in Llanelli were consulted about their opinions on the working people of the town; Richard Janion Nevill and William Chambers Junior.

    Richard Janion Nevill managed and controlled the biggest employer in the town, the Llanelly Copperworks and its associated coalmines. In his employ were hundreds of copper men and coal miners. He was also a member of the Harbour Commission, a committee that administered the town's port. He was a Justice of the Peace who had been in office during the turbulent period of the Rebecca Riots. In common with many industrialists of his time, he employed child labour at his works and mines. At the time of the enquiry he lived at the large residence known as Llangennech Park.

    William Chambers Junior, through his father's inheritance had custodianship of the entire Stepney Estate in Llanelli and lived at Llanelly House. Under his control were the many farmers and tenants on the estate and the workers of Llanelly Pottery which he owned. Like Nevill, he was also a Harbour Commissioner and a Justice of the Peace during the Rebecca Riots. Both men were town burgesses, members of the governing body of the town who had been described as a 'corrupt clique'.

    These were the questions that were put to them...

    Are you acquainted with the Condition of the Mining and Manufacturing Population in any part of Wales?

    “I have for more than forty years been acquainted (with) the mining and manufacturing population of Llanelly, in Carmarthenshire, having for the whole period been connected with collieries and copper-works there.” (RJN)

    “In Carmarthenshire and the western part of Glamorganshire, I am.” (WC)

    State your opinion of it under the following heads:-

    Domestic accommodation?

    “The houses of the colliers and copper-men are built of stone, tolerably dry, and usually occupied by one family only; but they are deficient in comfort, and, owing to the want of drainage and an imperfect supply of water, they are generally dirty. Many of the men live in their own houses, built on leases for long terms.” (RJN)

    “The iron and copper men, a better class of workmen, are generally well provided with as many necessaries and comforts as their condition in life would entitle men to, receiving similar wages, in any part of England; many live in their own houses. Generally the back accommodations are not as well arranged as might be, and this more particularly applies to old houses. Gardens are small, as the men seem to have no taste for any description of horticulture. The potatoes are raised on the farms in the neighbourhood, and the cultivation carried on by the women and children. The colliers are a degree worse in every particular, receiving less wages. A few Staffordshire potters have lately introduced a taste for gardening which is likely to be copied by the Welsh. Windows are not often opened, but, as large fires are kept with their allowance of coal, the door always open ventilates the apartments.” (WC)

    Sobriety?

    “The people are much more sober than formerly; but there is still a good deal of drunkenness, and beer shops are found a very serious evil.” (RJN)
    “As regards sobriety, all classes are improved, and much of this improvement may be attributed to the efforts of teetotallers.” (WC)

    Providence and economy?

    “In Providence and economy the population is very deficient, though many of the men belong to benefit-clubs and building societies.” (RJN)
    “The farmers and agricultural labourers are provident and economical, but the average of the other classes are not so.” (WC)

    Religious feeling and observance?

    “Both men and women are regular in their attendance at public worship on Sundays (almost all being Dissenters); but, from their disregard of truth and laxity of morals, it is evident their standard of morals is not what it ought to be.” (RJN)

    “In this they appear to be extremely particular; Sabbath-breaking, or an absence from divine service, would subject a man to more odium from his acquaintances than, perhaps, any other offence.” (WC)

    Care for their children and sense of parental responsibility?

    “The people are fond of their children, but they are wretchedly managed; punishments are almost always prompted by anger instead of by wish to effect improvement. Of sense of parental responsibility they have scarcely any; the consequence is, the children throw off all control before they are of an age to think and judge rightly for themselves.” (RJN)

    “Very fond of, and kind to, their children, especially when young; but I do not think they attach much importance to their responsibility as parents for the good conduct of their children; they are left to do much as they please very early, and soon leave their parents.” (WC)

    Feeling towards their employers and superiors?

    “The people generally are respectful to their superiors, and have never shown themselves actuated by ill-feeling towards their employers.” (RJN)

    “This is a very difficult thing to find out. Most of the employers of work-people are English, to whom they behave with external deference - though their extreme civility, or rather servility, would lead one to question their sincerity. They stand much in awe of their superiors, from the difference of language not enabling them to enter much into communication with them, except upon matters connected with their employment; and partly for the reason of the number of workmen employed bears so large a proportion of their employers, that there can be little intercourse upon subjects touching the welfare and comfort of the former.” (WC)

    Capability of forming a judgement on the true interests of their class, and general intelligence?

    “They are naturally intelligent, and as competent to judge of their own interests as their imperfect education and knowledge will allow them be.” (RJN)
    “The Welsh possess a degree of intelligence and acuteness admirably developed in their transactions with one another; but they receive with suspicion any information from a stranger.” (WC)

    Whether improving or retrograding, and in what respects; and whether likely to continue in the same direction?

    “The condition of the working-classes is certainly improving; they are better fed, clothed, and lodged than formerly; there is less drunkenness and more attention to religious duties, and I have reason to hope the improvement will progress. It would so rapidly, if the wives were more provident, cleanly, and industrious.” (RJN)

    “A dread of ridicule, and an obstinate perseverance in ancient customs and manners, is a great check to the introduction of improvements. Some of the better informed of the middle classes are doing much by the introduction of mechanics' institutions in towns, to improve the mental condition of the people and, by agricultural examples in the country, to give ocular demonstration of the truth of their principles.” (WC)

    Whether their moral condition is improved, or the reverse, by good times?

    “The moral condition of the population does not appear to be sensibly affected by good times; but wages do not fluctuate here as they do amongst the iron-workers, and the workmen are not at all inclined to change their masters, or leave their homes.”
    (RJN)

    “The two great outbreaks (except that of Rebecca) took place in good times. One at Merthyr, when the mob disarmed the yeomanry, and very nearly obtained the arms of a company of infantry. In this case they were fired on, and 70 killed. Another at Newport, under Frost, where the mob endeavoured to get possession of the town, but were repulsed with great loss by a few soldiers. The Newport was strictly a Chartist movement, and so I believe was the Merthyr. Emissaries are always at work with the people; but it is only in good times when they can earn money enough in a few days to keep them some time idle that they can find time to attend to political matters.” (WC)

    Extent to which English is understood?

    “English is almost universally understood by the copper-men, and by most of the colliers, but many of the farmers and farming labourers speak Welsh only. The English language is gaining ground daily and its universal diffusion would be of extreme advantage to the country.” (RJN)

    “English in general, except by the labourers from the upper part of the country, who only understand a little.” (WC)

    Position, character, and influence of females among them and how far the duties of mothers and wives are adequately understood and fulfilled?

    “Excepting perhaps the wives of small farmers and the farming labourers, the women are generally inferior in intelligence and education to the men; as wives they are mostly slovenly and improvident, and as mothers ignorant and injudicious. There is no apparent difference in their composition, compared with that of the men.” (RJN)

    “A great freedom of manner and conversation exists amongst the young women, not of necessity followed by impropriety of conduct, though it is evident that such licence, unchecked by the parents, tends to dissipate the restraint of the other sex towards them, and evil consequences ensue; but after once they have entered a state of matrimony they seem to devote themselves to the duties of their families with assiduity – the exceptions are not many. The affection for the child is animal, and to this they appear to sacrifice all other considerations for its well doing.” (WC)

    Whether an improved system of education is required for this population – what means exist for procuring it – the best manner of employing those means?

    “An improved and extended system of education is urgently required for boys and girls. Considerable efforts to this end are now being made in this large parish, but I fear they will not extend to the rural districts, for they depend on the voluntary exertions of persons living near or immediately connected with the copper-works and collieries. If every married man could be induced or compelled to pay something towards the education, there would then be a strong desire felt to send them to school, that a return might be obtained for the payment.” (RJN)

    “I think no Government system of education will be efficacious unless all the more intelligent of the middle classes are by some means enlisted to the scheme. The Dissenters are making strong efforts to educate the rising generation, and, as they join for this object, religious peculiarities of doctrine are avoided, except perhaps against the Church in some cases. I have endeavoured, and with some success, to introduce the union persons of the Established Church, and am in hopes that the plan will become general. Instruction upon all matters which can interest and benefit mankind is needed, except religion, and I know no better means of imparting the desired information, and of rendering the system popular (without which it would be of no avail) than by Government giving a certain part only of the necessary funds for the erection of schools – the other part being obtained locally – paying a certain proportion of the Master's salary – not making it imperative on the master to impart religious instruction which savours of the Established Church doctrines, nor intrusting the supervision of these schools to any parties whose bias would lead them to such a direction.” (WC)


    It must be remembered that this enquiry was conducted over one hundred and sixty years ago and the respondents should not be judged by today's standards. Both Nevill and Chambers made important improvements to the town and its society. At the time Nevill was already in the process of building the Copperworks School for his workmen’s children – a school which is still open today. He also provided aid, at personal loss, during times of grain shortages. Over three thousand people attended his funeral in 1856.

    Although he was a Justice of the Peace, Chambers had been sympathetic to the causes of the Rebecca Rioters and in August 1843, had chaired the 'Great Meeting' at Mynydd Sylen, called to address the grievances of the protesters. The following year the people of Llanelly resolved to present him with a piece of plate as a 'testimonial of his intrepid conduct during the whole of the Rebecca Riots'.

    In 1850, Nevill and Chambers were acknowledged for their assistance in the Government's Clark Inquiry into conditions in the town of Llanelly, which brought an end to the corrupt government of the Burgesses. Chambers was chosen as the first Chairman of the Llanelly Board of Health, the administrative body that replaced the Burgesses.

    On his final departure from the town in 1856 Chambers received a silver plate valued at one hundred guineas from the people of Llanelly bearing the inscription “Presented by the inhabitants of Llanelly and its vicinity to Mr and Mrs Chambers and Family in testimony of respect and esteem and of regret at their leaving the neighbourhood. Llanelly, November 1856”.

    Notes and Citations

    • Compiled from the The Blue Books of 1847
    • Photograph of Llanelly House reproduced by kind permission of Kate and Sam Lighting
    • Image of Llangennech House courtesy of Carmarthenshire Museum Services

    LCH0299

  • The New Drovers Arms

    The New Drovers Arms

    The New Drovers Arms public house is situated in Thomas Street, Llanelli, a thoroughfare which was the centre of the town's commerce during the first half of the 19th century. Within close proximity were the town's earliest hostelries and markets. At the top of the street stood the Thomas Arms which opened about 1829[a], and at the bottom was the much older Falcon Inn.

    The Cae Ffair nursing home stands on the site of the early cattle and horse fairs of Llanelli and probably took its name from a field that was used for the purpose. It was said that troops practised their drill and manoeuvres at Cae Ffair during the Rebecca Riots of 1843. Many businessmen and tradesmen lived and carried on their business in this street. The name Drovers probably arose because the inn was a popular meeting place for drovers who would quench their thirst after a long cattle drive and catch up on the news and gossip on market days.

    Arms was generally used because pub signs bore the coat of arms of the local landowner or the livery company of the trades that met there, as in Stradey Arms, Joiners Arms, Masons Arms etc. This practice later evolved into the use of symbols illustrating the occupation of the tradesmen who patronised the hostelry, important when a large proportion of the populace were illiterate. The addition of 'New' could be because there was another, older, Drovers Arms in the district or perhaps because the inn had reopened after being closed for a lengthy period.[b]

    In the mid-19th century the district was not a pleasant place. During the time when John Evans was the landlord of the Drovers, the Clarke Report of 1850 stated:

    The meat market is dark and badly drained. The back of Thomas Street, below Prospect Place, is in a very dirty condition, containing many dung pits and pigsties, and ill-contrived privies, the contents of one of which soaks into the road. The smell in the street is particularly offensive. Above Prospect Place the road is in better order. Thomas Arms Row is composed of cottages in a good position, and each provided with a garden', privy and detached cesspool; the whole is tolerably neat but water is very scarce. Mount Pleasant cottages, though higher up the hill are by no means in such good order. The ground behind is higher than the floors, and renders the houses damp. The windows are small and close; many of them will not open.
    This was the condition of much of Llanelli at the time.
    A contemporary map of the town shows the location of the Drovers in 1853.

    LCH0213

    Notes and Citations
    We acknowledge the Staff at the Llanelli Reference Library for their assistance and permission to use photographs from the Local Collection.
    The local trade directories show the dates and details of the landlords who kept The New Drovers Arms from as early as 1838:

    1838 Piggot & Co. Directory. 'Drovers Arms', John Jones, Thomas Street (BR)
    1844 Piggot & Co. Directory. 'Drovers Arms', John Jones, Thomas Street
    1843 Poor Rate Book Jno Jones, Mary Rigby & Wm Peters owner R G Thomas
    1849 Hunt & Co. Directory. 'Drovers Arms', John Evans, Thomas Street
    1853 Town Plan - Thomas Street, 'Drovers Arms'
    1858 Slater's Directory. 'Drovers Arms', John Evans, Thomas Street
    1866 Post Office Directory Drovers Arms Thomas Street D. Harries (BR)
    1872 Chalinder's Directory. David Harries 'Drovers Arms', Thomas Street
    1891 Return of Public Houses. 'Drovers Arms', Thomas Street. Ground landlord (i.e. landowner) Rees Goring Thomas. Tenant – Benjamin Jones.
    1895 Kelly's Directory, Thomas Thomas Drovers' Arms P.H. 30 Thomas Street
    1897 James Davies & Co Llanelly Directory & Local Guide List of businesses; Drovers Arms 30 Thomas Street T. Thomas.
    Street Directory; Thomas Street. T. Thomas Licensed victualler Drover's Arms
    1907 Kelly's Directory, Jones Morgan Marks Drovers' Arms P.H. 30 Thomas Street
    1920 Kelly's Directory, Charles, William Drovers' Arms P.H. 30 Thomas Street

    [a] Cambrian 3 January 1829 "To be let Inn called The Thomas Arms, Llanelly"
    [b] Some twenty years ago, I was informed by the then landlord of The Farriers in Cwm Bach that it was originally named The Drovers which later changed its name to The Farriers. Hence the New Drovers in Thomas Street, but this so far is unproven. (Personal recollection)

  • The Stag & Pheasant Blue Plaque

    Stag and PheasantLocation: The Stag – Heol Hen.
    Sponsor: Llanelli Rural Council

    From Llanelli take the B4309 to Five Roads Village take second left turn into Heol Hen, and you will see the blue plaque on The Stag Public House on the right hand side of the road. Lat: 51.724461 Lon: -4.188119

    This Blue Plaque was installed on The Stag Inn which was formally the Stag & Pheasant, commemorating its connection with the Rebecca Riots of 1843. It was one of the inns in Five Roads where the Rebecca Rioters would meet and plan their operations.


     

    Approximately four miles outside the town of Llanelli sits the rural and sleepy village of Five Roads. But its peaceful and tranquil appearance of today belies a very active and turbulent past. Not only did it stand between Cynheidre Colliery, The Eclipse Brickworks, Horeb Mills and the Llanelly & Mynydd Mawr Railway, but further back in time the village became the focal point of some of the most exciting events in Welsh agricultural history - The Rebecca Riots.

    During the middle of the 19th century South Wales was rocked by civil disturbances known as ‘The Rebecca Riots’. These riots were predominantly aimed at the destruction of tollgates belonging to the turnpike trusts that charged excessive fees for the use of their roads. The rioters would dress themselves up disguised as women with blackened faces and would be led by the leader who was known as ‘Rebecca’.

    Two of the most notorious and despicable leaders of the Rebecca movement were David Davies and John Jones, alias ‘Dai’r Cantwr’ and ‘Shoni Sgubor Fawr’. They and others used the pubs and inns of Five Roads as their frequent meeting places, but perhaps more important of all, their ‘headquarters’ was at The Stag & Pheasant Inn.

    Throughout the years The Stag & Pheasant Inn has also been known as The ‘Stack’, The Five Roads Inn and more recently, The Stag. This inn stands at the convergence of five roads that pass through the village, hence its name. From here the rioters planned and led their attacks on various targets. They also planned and plotted the murder of William Chambers Junior, the Llanelli landowner and Justice of The Peace. Chambers had been wrongly identified as having shot a Rebecca rioter at an earlier disturbance. Although they did not murder Chambers they burnt some of his farms and attacked his pottery in Llanelli.

    In the September of 1843, Dai’r Cantwr, Shoni Sgubor Fawr and others dressed as ‘Rebecca’, left the Stag & Pheasant Inn and attacked the house of the manager of the Gwendraeth Iron Works at Pontyberem. They also destroyed the toll gate at Spudders Bridge.

    Both the above leaders were finally apprehended and convicted for their lawlessness.

    By Lyn John, Member of Llanelli Community Heritage.


    The Stag Public House at Five RoadsTafarn y Stag & Pheasant
    Safle: The Stag – Heol Hen.
    Noddwr : Cyngor Gwledig Llanelli.

    (O Lanelli, ewch ar y B4309 i Bum Heol. Cymerwch yr ail droad ar y dde i Heol Hen ac fe welwch y plac glas ar Dafarn y Stag ae ochr dde’r heol)

    Gosodwyd y plac glas hwn ar wal tafarn y Stag, gynt y Stag and Pheasant, yn coffau ei chysylltiad gyda therfysgoedd Beca 1843, Un o dafarnau Pum Heol oedd hon ble byddai Terfysgwyr Beca yn cyfarfod i gynllunio eu hymgyrchoedd.

    Tua phedair milltir o dref Llanelli saif pentref gwledig cysglyd Pum Heol. Ond mae ei gwedd dawel heddiw yn cuddio gorffennol aflonydd a chynhyrfus. Nid yn unig y safai rhwng glofa Cynheidre, Gwaith Brics Eclipse, Melin Horeb a Rheilffordd Llanelly & Mynydd Mawr, ond ymhell yn ôl mewn amser y pentref hwn oedd canolbwynt rhai o’r digwyddiadau mwyaf cyffrous yn hanes amaethyddiaeth Cymru - Terfysgoedd Beca.

    Yn ystod canol y bedwaredd ganrif ar bymtheg siglwyd De Cymru gan gynnwrf sifil sef Terfysgoedd Beca. Anelwyd y terfysgoedd hyn yn bennaf ar ddinistrio tollbyrth yn perthyn i’r ymddiriedolaethau a godai tal gormodol am ddefnyddio eu ffyrdd. Byddai’r terfysgwyr yn gwisgo fel menywod a phardduo eu hwynebau o dan arweiniad Beca.

    David Davies a John Jones, sef ‘Dai’r Cantwr’ a ‘Shoni Sgubor Fawr’ oedd dau o’r arweinwyr mwyaf ofnus a dirmygadwy. Defnyddion nhw ac eraill dafarndai Pum Heol fel eu mannau cyfarfod ond efallai, yn bwysicaf oll, eu pencadlys oedd Tafarn y Stag & Pheasant.

    Trwy gydol y blynyddoedd adnabuwyd y dafarn fel Y Stack, Tafarn Pum Heol ac yn fwy diweddar Y Stag. Saif y dafarn hon ar fan cyfarfod y pum heol sydd yn hollti’r pentref. O’r fan yna, cynlluniodd ac arweiniodd y terfysgwyr eu hymosodiadau ar dargedau amrywiol. Roedd cynlluniau ganddyn nhw i lofruddio William Chambers yr Iau, y tir-berchennog ac Ustus Heddwch. Meddyliwyd ar gam fod Chambers yn gyfrifol am saethu terfysgwr Beca mewn cynnwrf cynt. Er na lofruddion nhw Chambers, fe losgon nhw rai o’i ffermydd ac ymosod ar ei grochendy yn Llanelli.

    Fis Medi 1843, gadawodd Dai’r Cantwr, Shoni Sgubor Fawr ac eraill yng ngwisg Beca dafarn y Stag & Pheasant ac ymosod ar dŷ Rheolwr Gwaith Haearn y Gwendraeth ym Mhontyberem. Fe ddinistrion nhw hefyd y tollty ar Bont Spudder.

    Cafodd y ddau arweinydd eu restio a’u heuogfarnu am dor-cyfraith.

    Article by / Gan Lyn John, Member of Llanelli Community Heritage / Aelod o Dreftadaeth Cymuned Llanelli

    Notes / Nodiadau

    And They blessed Rebecca’by / gan Pat Molloy p / t 211


    Unveiling of Blue Plaque at the Stag

    Rebecca prepares to destroy the toll gateRebecca destroys the toll gate

    "The unveiling was carried out by Councillor Donald Davies at the invitation of Mr. John Hopkins, who congratulated the [Llanelli] Community Heritage in ensuring that the history of Llanelli was fully recorded. Mr. Lyn John further addressed the gathering and explained that the plaque unveiled was the third to be mounted on public houses in the village during the Rebecca Riots. The other two being those on the closed Farmers Arms and the Plough and Harrow.

    The local Young Farmers Society contributed to the afternoon's finale by re-enacting in appropriate dress the the attack on a toll-gate in the Stag car park. Through the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Thomas, proprietors of the Stag, all concerned were served with delicious 'Cawl' and 'Welsh Cakes', to end a memorable day's activities."

    Extract from a document by A. D. G. Williams, Brynyblodau, Bancffosfelen, Llanelli

    LCH0080
  • The Stag & Pheasant Inn

    The Stag and Pheasant Five Roads. May 2007Approximately four miles outside the town of Llanelli sits the rural and sleepy village of Five Roads. But its peaceful and tranquil appearance of today belies a very active and turbulent past. Not only did it stand between Cynheidre Colliery, The Eclipse Brickworks, Horeb Mills and the Llanelly & Mynydd Mawr Railway, but further back in time the village became the focal point of some of the most exciting events in Welsh agricultural history - The Rebecca Riots.

    During the middle of the 19th century South Wales was rocked by civil disturbances known as ‘The Rebecca Riots’. These riots were predominantly aimed at the destruction of tollgates belonging to the turnpike trusts that charged excessive fees for the use of their roads. The rioters would dress themselves up disguised as women with blackened faces and would be led by the leader who was known as ‘Rebecca’.

    Two of the most notorious and despicable leaders of the Rebecca movement were David Davies and John Jones, alias ‘Dai’r Cantwr’ and ‘Shoni Sgubor Fawr’. They and others used the pubs and inns of Five Roads as their frequent meeting places, but perhaps more important of all, their ‘headquarters’ was at The Stag & Pheasant Inn.

    Throughout the years The Stag & Pheasant Inn has also been known as The ‘Stack’, The Five Roads Inn and more recently, The Stag. This inn stands at the convergence of five roads that pass through the village, hence its name. From here the rioters planned and led their attacks on various targets. They also planned and plotted the murder of William Chambers Junior, the Llanelli landowner and Justice of The Peace. Chambers had been wrongly identified as having shot a Rebecca rioter at an earlier disturbance. Although they did not murder Chambers they burnt some of his farms and attacked his pottery in Llanelli.

    In the September of 1843, Dai’r Cantwr, Shoni Sgubor Fawr and others dressed as ‘Rebecca’, left the Stag & Pheasant Inn and attacked the house of the manager of the Gwendraeth Iron Works at Pontyberem. They also destroyed the toll gate at Spudders Bridge.

    Both the above leaders were finally apprehended and convicted for their lawlessness.

    LCH0046