Today I’ll reproduce some excerpts from the Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry for South Wales (1844) which looked into the causes of the Rebecca uprising, and which was released on .
There is much in the reports about the nature of the turnpike Trusts, their financial conditions, the laws concerning tolls (and how toll collectors sometimes violated them to increase their take), the grievances at the root of the uprising, and so forth. I’m going to stick to excerpting things concerning the tactics of refusal and of tollgate/toll house destruction — how they played out, how they were organized, and what resulted from them.
The resistance to the payment of tolls, and the destruction of turnpike-gates, began in the Whitland Trust, in the confines of the counties of Pembroke and Carmarthen. This Trust was established in : the Act was subsequently renewed, and several parish roads were then included which had not been named in the original Act. One of these roads (nearly eight miles in length), leading from St. Clears to Maesgwynne Gate, had been made and upheld in good condition by the parishes. The trustees did not, on the passing of the Act, take the road into their charge, or provide for its management and repair; it continued for several years to be maintained as a parish road, when suddenly the trustees resolved to place turnpike-gates at each end of it.
In , says Mr. Baugh Allen, some people from England, for the first time, gave intimation that if certain new gates were erected on roads where considerable lime and culm traffic passed, they might be induced to farm the tolls at a higher rate than that which had been previously obtained. Their proposition was accepted; the tolls were let to Mr. Bullin, an extensive toll-contractor, and four new gates were erected. But the country people thinking it wrong that the trustees should take tolls where they had incurred no expenditure, assembled “in the midst of summer, at about six o’clock in the afternoon, and those gates were pulled down amidst all sorts of noise and disturbance and great jollity, and were destroyed without the interference of anybody.” “I do not think,” says Mr. W. Evans, the clerk of this Trust, “they were a week standing.”
The trustees gave notice of their intention to re-erect the gates. A meeting was held for the purpose at St. Clears, but at that meeting a number (from 30 to 40, as it is said) of the leading magistrates of the county of Carmarthen qualified to act as trustees, and they decided, by a large majority, that the gates should not be re-erected.
“This act of the magistrates,” says a very intelligent witness, “gave satisfaction to the country for a time, but it strengthened the hands of the discontented, and, in some measure, prepared them for further violence. The trustees continued to call upon the parishes to repair the roads, without laying out anything upon them themselves, though the income of the Trust amounted to 500l. a year, which made the matter more galling.”
The rioters, however, gained their point, the gates were not re-established; no one was punished for the outrage which had taken place, and there can be no doubt (as we are assured by Mr. W. Evans) “that with the erection of those gates originated the disturbance.”
At the time of our inquiry no one gate or bar was left standing, and the receipt of tolls on account of the [Whitland] Trust was altogether suspended.
The [Main Trust] trustees, as we were informed by Colonel Rice Trevor, put up a new gate, called the Mermaid Gate. It was leased with others, but by some oversight the trustees omitted to direct that a payment at this gate should free the gate five miles off at Carmarthen. Discontent was created, and the gate was five times in succession pulled down by a lawless mob.
When the contagion of discontent spread from its focus in the Whitland Trust, the inhabitants of the parishes lying north and west of Carmarthen (who, from local position, were constrained to travel as heretofore over the old and hilly road), were displeased at paying this increased [by 50%] toll on account of the new road, the benefit of which they did not enjoy. Excitement prevailed, tumultuous assemblies took place, the gates, one of which stood at the very entrance of the town of Carmarthen, were destroyed with the greatest violence and outrage. At the time of our inquiry, out of nine gates established by the Trust, three only were standing.
At the time of our inquiry neither [Rhynws Bridge] gate nor bar were standing, nor was any toll collected at the bridge…
The trustees [of the Three Commotts Trust] had established 21 gates or bars, of which two only were left standing at the time of our inquiry.
In this [the Kidwelly] trust, 14 gates and bars, exclusive of that on the [Loughor river] bridge, had been destroyed; and 13 bars and one gate had been ordered by the trustees to be permanently discontinued.
As this road [in Llangadock Trust, “on which there were at one time 13 gates and bars”] exists chiefly for the carriage of lime, and as a high rate per horse was taken, the gates became objects of attack; all of them had been destroyed, excepting four. Some, we were informed, were about to be abandoned by the trustees, on the condition that the parishes would maintain the roads, and all the bars had been put down. The toll on lime appears to have been since reduced, without the authority of the Act of Parliament, from 6d. to 3d. on each horse drawing. But the trustees were unable to let such gates as they still upheld, and they had appointed persons to collect the tolls.
In the Llandovery and Llampeter Trust there are 40 miles of road, and on which, in there were 13 gates and bars… Four gates and all the bars had been destroyed.
Every gate and bar [in the Carmarthen & Lampeter, and Tiveyside trusts: “six gates and nine bars”] had been destroyed. When the first was broken, the trustees put it up again, but it was broken down again in the course of a few weeks.
[In t]he Llandilo and Llandebye Trust… [t]here were also seven gates, of which four had been destroyed. Some of these had been re-erected; one had been altogether discontinued.
[In t]he Brechfa Trust… three gates and two side-bars had been destroyed.…
No meeting [of trustees] had been held to consider what should be done with the gates which had been thrown down, and Mr. Rees, the Treasurer for the County of Carmarthen, who still discharges the almost nominal duty of clerk to the Trust, expressed to us his belief, with respect to the gates, that the trustees had no intention of putting them up again.
There are two gates on this road [under the Pembroke Ferry Trust], both of which were pulled down, and one only was restored at the time of our inquiry. The tolls had been let for 111l. per annum, but there seemed to be no hope that so large a sum could continue to be received.
In this district [Cardigan] there had been ten turnpike-gates, but at the time of our inquiry nine had been pulled down.
In the Northern District of Cardiganshire… four gates had been attacked, three of which were utterly destroyed.
[In the Rhayader and Llangerrig Trust] both the gates had been attacked, and that which it was most difficult to protect, has been twice pulled down.
There are five gates and one bar belonging to [the Radnorshire Trust], closely surrounding the town of Rhayader. Two of these gates are upon the old roads to Aberystwith and Llanidloes, which the creation of the new line of communication by Llangerrig, to which we have already alluded, has rendered nearly useless. These roads have been practically abandoned by the Trust, though the turnpike-gates continue to exist upon them. Both these gates, together with one at the eastern end of the town, which became obnoxious because it was so placed as to require payment of tolls from persons who came upon the turnpike-road at a short distance only from the toll-bar, were destroyed by an organized mob, and the toll could only be collected under the protection of police and a military force.
In [the Breckonshire] Trust one gate only had been destroyed. Such as were likely to become obnoxious had been taken down by order of the trustees.
In [the Llantrissant] Trust three gates [of eight] had been destroyed by acts of violence…
We met with no one, however deeply interested he might be in the continuance of the system, who was sanguine enough to entertain a belief that the same amount of tolls could be collected, or the same number of gates, chains, and bars be sustained, as before the disturbances began.
In appendices to the report, the commissioners included some transcripts of testimony they collected during their inquiry.
Here is some testimony of John Lloyd Davies, concerning the Carmarthen and Newcastle Trust:
- How many gates are now standing?
- Four this week; three, I believe, last week
- Which of the gates have you re-erected?
- The gate at Pontwilly, by Llandyssil, on the new line. The house stood, because they did not touch the house; nor did they touch this gates; they felt the justice of the proceeds of that gate being applied to pay for the new road, which was a great accommodation. During the whole of the outbreak it was left untouched, till some miscreants in the neighbourhood, whether out of wantonness or not, went there, and broke a little of the gate, and that led to a further spirit of destruction, and in a few months afterwards the whole was demolished, but not the house.
- In restoring the gate, do you feel any confidence that there will be a sufficient sense of justice in the public mind to maintain it?
- I think so. I have very good intelligence who the parties are who were privy to it, and who are morally criminal, though perhaps not legally. I mean to see them, every one of them; some of them are respectable people, I am sorry to say.
- Are there not parts of roads in your Trust which you have turned over to the parishes, and, as it were, cast out of the Trust?
- Not until now; we have done so recently.
- Can you explain under what view of the law you have been able to accomplish that?
- At the eastern end of Newcastle there are two turnpike-gates, the one communicates with a mountain road, the other with the Llangeler road. They broke the mountain gate, called Bwlehydomen. Such being the case, I proposed that we should let that gate remain, as they had broken it down, and let them travel the mountain road; but inasmuch as we received no toll from it, that we should make no expenditure upon it; if they chose to have a bad road free from toll, let them have it; or if they chose to repair it at their own expense, be it so.
- Have you anything that you wish to add to what you have stated?
- I would add this, rather in vindication of my brother trustees, — there are strong opinions gone abroad that there has not been a sufficient degree of sympathy on the part of the trustees and magistrates of the country with the country people to relieve them when a case demanding relief presented itself. Now, I give this as an instance, and a very strong one: it is three years ago a great number of gates stood upon the Whitland Trust. The parties in that neighbourhood assembled and broke the gates down. Our county member, Mr. Jones, then spoke to a great number of his friends among the trustees, and intreated many to go with him to a large meeting, assembled at St. Clear’s, of Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire magistrates. I went, at some inconvenience, down there; and Mr. Jones proposed that these gates should, by an order of the trustees, be abated, stating that they were a great burden upon the county, that they were unproductive, and that the parishes had to maintain the road. … When the Act of Parliament passed, those roads were in being as parish roads, and the power in this Act was only of adoption; but it first stated that the trustees, before they erected gates, should repair the whole of those roads, which condition precedent they had not performed. I, therefore, took an objection that they had erected the gates illegally; and as the parishes had ever since repaired the roads, I thought, in justice and law, the gates ought to be taken down… At that meeting there were, I dare say, 35 or 40 magistrates; and the view I took of it was coincided in by every one, with the exception of four or five, and the gates were taken away. Now that does not evidence the least want of sympathy with the country people, for we were of all grades of politics, Whigs and Tories and Radicals, and everything else, assembled for the express purpose of affording relief, and the country was completely relieved. I will give another instance, which led to the whole of this outbreak: it was a bar upon one side of St. Clear’s, upon the main trust… the moment I heard of the bar being erected I gave notice of a Trust meeting, to propose that it should be taken down again; and at the expiration of that notice there was an immense assembly of trustees again, and they all perfectly coincided with me that it ought to be taken away: but there was a little want of moral courage on the part of some of them; they said, “We must put it off a month or else it would seem a giving way to clamour.” I replied, “You have done wrong and you cannot do right too soon.” However I was over-ruled, it was not done, but it was to be done in a fortnight; and in that unhappy fortnight the whole of that outbreak took place; and at the end of the fortnight it was so done under circumstances betraying apprehension, much more than would have been the case if we had done it the preceding fortnight.
- At the commencement of this spring, the moment the gates were being broken, I sent round to my tenants, and I said, “Have nothing to do with the gate-breaking, I will pay for every load of lime at every gate that you pass through;” and in defiance of that I am satisfied that a great number of their servants joined the gate-breaking, from a mere spirit of wantonness, which required but a slight force to repel at once. We were perfectly quiet in Cardiganshire. There was a rising in Carmarthenshire to come and break the gate at Newcastle, on the Cardiganshire side. I saw their object, and I sent round to my tenantry and neighbours, and collected about 150, some of them armed with whatever they could bring, on the Cardiganshire side, and gave it to be understood on the Carmarthenshire side, that if they came the men would resist them; they never came, which is a proof that the people would act if they could act in a body.
William Evans, clerk of the Whitland Trust:
- With respect to the road from St. Clear’s to Maesgwynne Gate, the misfortune is that they did not take that road early enough under management… The road had existed many years. They set up a gate at each end, and proposed taking one toll throughout its whole length, that length being six miles and seven furlongs. The gates were approved of by the public in the locality; they were riotously destroyed, and those were the first riots, the riots which destroyed that gate, and destroyed another, called Evel War, upon another branch of the road. The erection of those gates no doubt originated the disturbances.
- How long is it since the gate on the Maesgwynne branch was demolished?
- In .
- And that gate was not re-erected?
- There were meetings of the trustees, at which a great number of new trustees qualified, from Carmarthenshire principally, who had never interfered at all with the management of the Trust before. They qualified in a body, and swamped the order that had been made by those trustees who usually managed the Trust, and who had ordered the gates to be put up.
- Are all the gates in your Trust destroyed now?
- Every gate.
- How many?
- There is one at Plain Dealings; there are two gates at Narberth, called Narberth East Gates; they are close to each other. There are at Penblowing two gates, Llether Gate, Robeston Wathan Gate, Pulltrath Gate, Trevan two gates, one of which is a side gate. There are ten gates altogether.
- The gates were destroyed. The trustees who revoked the order for setting up the gates, directed that Bullen should be compensated for giving up his agreement, and accordingly, a good part of the resources of the Trust went to buy him off. After all those new gates were set up, including those on the road from St. Clear’s to Maesgwynne, and after they were let to Bullen at 800l. a-year, the ex-officio justices qualified, the gates having been destroyed by rioters, and directed that they should not be again erected. But Bullen said, of course, “Those gates are let to me, and I will not relinquish them.” And then the trustees made an order, that in order to induce him to waive his agreement as to the gates they should pay him out of the Trust Fund 150l. It was made a subject of reference.
- What did he pay you for tolls?
- They destroyed the gates immediately after his taking.
- In point of fact, you have never spent from the fund of the Trust any money whatever upon the repair of the road from Maesgwynne to St. Clear’s?
- Not a farthing.
- How long were those gates on the line standing?
- I do not think they were a week standing.
- …14l. 4s. 8d., those were costs paid to an adverse attorney, Mr. Cozens, who was attorney for the appellant Howell, in an appeal against two justices, and Benjamin Bullen, who was the toll contractor of the trust, in respect of a conviction for making forcible opposition to the collection of the toll. The destruction of gates and opposition to the tolls having previously commenced, the trustees felt it their duty to defend the conviction, and so ordered at a meeting on ; the conviction was quashed, and those taxed costs ordered by the Court to be paid. Having defended the appeal, the trustees thought it right that they should pay the costs of the adverse party, and that they should not call upon the justices, or upon Bullen, and therefore, whether right or wrong, they ordered them to be paid.
- What was the conviction for?
- The conviction was for forcible opposition to the collection of toll under the general Turnpike Act. If I recollect rightly, it failed from not having made sufficiently clear the demand of the toll, previously to the forcing through.
- Was the appeal to the county sessions, or to the borough sessions?
- To the county of Carmarthen. It was tried here. No 4, 16l. That was cash advanced to John Mens and Henry Rees, poor men, who having assisted Benjamin Bullen, the toll collector, in apprehending Daniel Luke and William Phillips for forcing through the bar, without paying toll, and having from fear of a rescue, as they alleged, handcuffed them, were with Bullen, sued for trespass in an action by each. The trustees thought it their duty to stand by the collector, and those men who assisted him, and at a meeting of , they ordered the clerk to defend the actions at the expense of the Trust. They were defended accordingly, but the plaintiffs obtained a verdict, in each action, for 6l. damages, on the ground that the handcuffing was under the circumstances excessive. Mens and Rees were imprisoned for the plaintiffs’ damages and costs, and this 16l. was advanced to them to assist them to take the benefit of the Insolvent Act, which they did.
- …60l. were given by way of compensation to a person who had built a house for the Trust, by way of a toll-house, under a stipulation that they were to take it at a certain rent. The house was destroyed by rioters; the trustees did not wish to be at the expense of building it, and they agreed to pay 60l. by way of compensation…
- Were these gates all broken last year?
- Yes, we have had them down a long time now; we have hardly been able to get the tenants of last year to pay us anything. They say they will not pay us anything, and we shall only be able to recover anything by law proceedings, if at all. We let them the tolls for the year, which expired last Michaelmas, but every now and then the people came and knocked the toll-houses about their ears, and therefore they say, “We are poor people, we depended for paying you upon the receipts of the toll, and therefore we are unable to pay on account of the riots, and therefore we throw ourselves upon your mercy, but if you sue us we are too poor to be able to pay.”
John James Stacey, clerk to the main Trust:
- The [turnpike-]house which has been destroyed between here and Llandello cost 55l. at Penyguarn.
- What has taken place to induce the trustees to increase the payments?
- They have discontinued the gate at Penygarn which has been destroyed, and they have made other alterations with a view to relieve the farmers, and they wish to make up for the loss by putting an additional toll upon strangers, so that they shall pay two tolls in coming from Llandillo here instead of the one to which they are now subject; that was a proposition of Lord Cawdor’s.
- You are not able to state what number of gates are now prostrate?
- In this Trust there is only that one at Penygarn, and one side-bar at Abergwilly. Both those have been pulled down by the mob; and they are now, by the authority of the trustees, discontinued. There was a gate at Abergwilly, and there was also a side-gate, and that has been pulled down; and the trustees have ordered that it shall be discontinued. There was also a chain near the palace. It was not customary to take tolls at that chain, but only at fairs and weddings, and that has been discontinued.
- How many gates have been destroyed upon the main Trust?
- How many of those have been put up again?
- They have all been put up again except two.
- How many times have those that have been put up been destroyed?
- One has been destroyed twice.
- Can you tell the exact number of gates [in the Kidwelly Trust] before they were broken down?
- Yes, there were 14 toll-gates, exclusive of the bridge; there is a toll-gate upon the bridge also. One toll-gate and 13 bars have been discontinued by the order of the trustees lately.
- How many are remaining?
- All the toll-gates except one are to be continued, but great numbers of them are now in ruins, they have not been re-erected yet.
- Is there any claim against you by the lessees for the loss incurred by the destruction of the gates?
- Yes; it was agreed to allow the lessee of those tolls 350l., in consideration of his consenting to the immediate abolition of those bars which I have mentioned, and also in consideration of certain gates being made to clear each other which heretofore did not do so.
- How many gates have been destroyed upon this [Kidwelly] Trust?
- I think about 10 or 12 have been destroyed out of 15 or 16.
Lancelot Baugh Allen, magistrate for the counties of Pembroke, Surry, Middlesex, Essex, and Kent; and trustee of the Whitland and the main Trusts:
- You are aware that turnpike-gates and side-bars have been destroyed in both of those Trusts within the last few months?
- Very few upon the main Trust. Upon the Whitland Trust I know that the gates and side-bars have been destroyed; but I am not aware, with the exception of one at Haverfordwest, that any gate upon the main Trust has been destroyed. I mean not in that part.
- Can you at all account for the different course which has been pursued by those discontented persons with reference to the two classes of gates — what has induced them to destroy those in the Whitland Trust, and to leave those in the main Trust?
- It is an attack of the consumers of lime and culm, all of which comes from the south part of the country from Pembrokeshire, and goes northward. There is no lime or culm to the northward of Narberth, and the attack has arisen in consequence of those persons who live in the upper part of the county being anxious to get their lime and culm toll free.
- To what cause do you attribute the discontent with reference to these turnpike-gates on the roads along which lime and culm is drawn, seeing that most of them have existed for a considerable time?
- There was no objection made to the toll in any way till a meeting that took place about four years ago, and it is to that unfortunate business that I attribute the whole. My opinion is, that the outrages have arisen from the mismanagement which took place in reference to the transactions about which that meeting was called.
- After the breaking down of the gate at St. Clears?
- Yes; there has been very considerable mismanagement in bringing forward the last Act of Parliament respecting the Whitland gates. The first Act comprised within the limits of the Whitland Trust a very much less extent of road than the subsequent Act has done. The subsequent Act took in a great part of the road in the neighbourhood of Llanboidy and northward; upon those roads at that time there were no turnpike-gates; those roads which were parish-roads, and kept in very good order, were then put into the turnpike Trust. The general belief is, that the gentlemen of that part of the county thought that a toll might be a grievance, and instead of putting up a turnpike according to the Act prescribed, they intimated to the parishioners that if they kept the road in good order, no turnpike-gates should be put up.
- Is that notice on the book?
- No; I am now stating what I understood to be the case. I wish particularly to guard myself in saying that. This went on so; those roads being parish roads, and in no way obtaining any other assistance from the Trust, but occasionally getting stones which the Trust paid for. The Trust paid for no repair, but they paid for some of the stones that were expended upon those parish roads, and that was the extent to which they went. About four years back Mr. Bullen, the person who was the contractor for the tolls, took gates upon both lines of road; he stated there was considerable evasion of toll by the people coming northward into St. Clear’s, and recommended that a gate should be put up at a place of which the Commissioners have probably heard, Pevernwen. The consequence was, that persons taking lime from St. Clear’s, northward, had to pay an additional toll, which was felt by them as a very considerable grievance. In the course, I believe, of the early part of the following spring, the gate at Pevernwen was destroyed in the night by a considerable mob of persons, and in some months afterwards the gate at St. Clear’s was destroyed, in the midst of summer, at about six o’clock in the afternoon, amidst all sorts of noise and disturbance, and without any sort of interference of anybody. Upon this a meeting or two took place, and it was stated by a number of persons belonging to the Whitland Trust, who met at Narberth, that those gates ought to be reinstated. A communication took place with the Secretary of State, Lord John Russell, respecting it, and about the reinstating of the gate there seemed to be considerable division of opinion between the gentlemen who came from Pembrokeshire and from Carmarthenshire; a meeting was called for the purpose of reinstating the gates at St. Clear’s, at which meeting I attended; upon the proposition being made, it was carried against the re-erection of the gates by a considerable majority. It is true that at that meeting a great number of gentlemen in the county of Carmarthen qualified to act, who never attended before nor since; they came from a very considerable distance, gave a very ready vote, and there was an end of the thing; the gates were not re-erected. At the same time an opinion was produced which possibly you may have seen, that it was imperative upon the Trust to erect the gates in the district where they had been pulled down, but it was carried that they should not be re-erected.
- What interval of time elapsed between the destruction of this gate and the destruction of others?
- I think about three years; but that will be easily seen from Mr. Evans’s book. Mr. Evans is clerk of the Trust.
- The Commissioners understand that, since that time, every gate in the Whitland Trust has been destroyed?
- Every gate upon the Whitland Trust, I believe, has been destroyed, or partially destroyed.
John Lloyd Davies again:
- I think the Commissioners are taking for granted that the gates have been the origin of this disturbance. It is no such thing; it is merely the means by which the feeling of the people has become apparent; for the breaking of gates has taken place at Newcastle, in a portion of the road where the gates were scarcely paid or felt; and people have been the breakers of the gates, who, I am satisfied, never paid 2s. toll in the course of two years.
- When did the agitation in Cardiganshire begin?
- It began when the Newcastle Gate was broken, what is called the Adpar Gate.
- The Commissioners have been told that individuals who might have known better, have lent themselves to exciting and instigating the population of Cardiganshire to acts of violence. Has anything of that sort come to your knowledge?
- No; but I think that individuals who ought to have known better, I mean persons of education, have gone round the country, giving a very high colour to circumstances, which of themselves were not grievances and converting them into such.
- Has that been done from political motives at all?
- Yes; from Chartism.
- Have not meetings taken place in the day which have apparently borne an unobjectionable character, but which have really led to mischief, which was not apparent to those who observed them cursorily?
- Were not persons of station in society induced to preside at those meetings with a view to prevent mischief?
- They were.
- Have you reason to believe that they were deceived in the character of the proceedings, and that things were done at those meetings which were not known to the persons who presided over them?
- I have reason to think that after the apparent business of the meeting was over resolutions were entered into of a most injurious description.
- Can you at all specify what was the nature of the mischief that they resolved upon at those meetings?
- I have been told that after the Cardiganshire meeting resolutions were entered into to interdict any tenant from taking two farms under the usual penalty, fire, in case of non-compliance; and also I have been told that resolutions were entered into to pull down the weir, and I have understood that some portion of those assembled entered into a combination to attack the clergyman’s house or his haggard.
- From the circumstances of the country and the difficulty which exists amongst those people of communicating with one another, are you led to believe that if this meeting had not taken place the opportunity for this combination would not have existed?
- I think not, because those meetings drew parties from opposite directions who could not have had a pretense for meeting otherwise.
- Have you yourself discouraged such meetings?
- I have; I called together as many of my tenants as I could, and told them that I made them responsible for their labourers and workmen and undertenants, and if they had any cause of grievance let the mention it to me and I would redress it, but that I thought that the probability was that the only real grievance was poverty, and that the relief to be afforded to that I was willing to extend to them by a reduction of rent, and which I had practised some time before, two years, indeed, at intervals at different times, and the effect of this has been, I am happy to say, very good. I think I can safely say that not a single tenant of mine has ever been near those meetings.
- You were understood to say, the other day, that one or two of your tenants, to whom you had behaved kindly, and for whom you had paid their lime tolls, had actually attended those meetings?
- I have since had reason to believe that that was not the case.
- When was the last meeting of that kind held?
- Near Lampeter.
- Was it largely attended?
- I have been told that there were 3000 people, but I allow something for exaggeration and bring it down to 2000. It is so large an assemblage, that it is alarming, I think, in this country, where I never saw 200 people assembled in my life for any such purpose.
- What was the professed purpose of the meeting?
- To petition for redress of grievances and to enter into resolutions. I have heard that it was the most Chartist meeting that has ever taken place in Wales, in its complexion, actions, and words.
- Do you know who was in the chair?
- I do not, it has resolved itself into a Chartist business. They are persons of no good character that get up the meetings.
- Does it occur to you that anything can be done beyond the influence which you exercise very properly and judiciously as a landlord to discourage this?
- Nothing, but every landlord calling his tenants together, and making them morally responsible to him for the quiet within the district in which they live. Suppose a man lives within an area of four or five miles, I should say to him, “If I hear of any disturbance I shall take for granted that you or your sons or your servants know of it, and you must take every means in your power to prevent it.”
- Do you think that persons come from great distances to those meetings?
- Yes, they do. The meeting was in Carmarthenshire, and Cardiganshire people came there; they came from Pembrokeshire to the nightly meetings for breaking gates.
George Spurrell, clerk to the Three Committs Trust, and Richard Spurrell, clerk to Llandilo Rynnws Trust:
- The return states that there are 21 gates. Does that include side-bars?
- [GS] Yes.
- Are they all down?
- [GS] I think they are all down with the exception of two gates.
- Are any of them in progress of being re-erected?
- [RS] Yes; the farmers wish to have them re-erected. They see their folly in pulling the gates down and letting strangers pass toll free; and they support the gates now.
Lewis Evans, Thomas Thomas, and John Harris:
- Will you tell the Commissioners what has been the cause of disturbances which have taken place lately in Tallog, where you live?
- [TT] The policemen came there with a distraint upon John Harris’s goods.
- How did it begin?
- My carter went, with two others, through Water-street gate without paying it; when he came back that night he told me of the thing, and I sent the man the next morning to tell the gateman that I should pay next Saturday, and to leave everything quiet. That was on Tuesday or Wednesday. I sent to the gateman to say that I would pay on Thursday. I was summoned to appear here on Friday before the magistrates, but no magistrate appeared: and we were persuaded by Mr. Philip Jones to attend that day week. As we were coming to the fair the next day we wished to come on that day, and we came here on Saturday. I saw two magistrates, Mr. Morris the banker, and Mr. Stacey the mayor; I told them that I had sent to the gateman, and the gateman refused to take any notice of it, and they fined me the same as others.
- Was there any question with respect to yourself except that which arose from the man having gone through without paying, or did you say that the toll was illegally demanded, and that you wished to try the right?
- I think it was illegally demanded.
- Had your servant paid when he went into the town in the morning?
- No, he had not. I thought it was illegal.
- What did your cart bring into Carmarthen that morning?
- Nothing but grass for the horse.
- What did it come to Carmarthen for?
- For lime.
- And you had nothing in the cart but grass for the horse?
- Did your servant pay in the morning?
- Was he asked to pay in the morning when he came into Carmarthen?
- Did he refuse to pay?
- Did you tell him not to pay?
- Why did he refuse?
- He joined with others.
- For what reason did he refuse?
- It was reported over the country that the toll was illegal, that it was overcharged.
He goes on to testify that he sent a message to the toll collector indicating that he would quietly pay to make the whole thing go away, but he was nonetheless summonsed, whereupon he again stated that he would pay but that he thought the charge was illegal. The magistrates fined him two pounds, eight shillings, sixpence (the toll was 2½ pence; the dispute being that it ought to have been 1½). John Harris and Samuel Bowen were also summonsed for refusal to pay and also fined, but they refused to pay.
- Did any disturbance take place at Tallog in that week?
- Not at Tallog, but there was a disturbance.
- How did that disturbance arise? Did officers come over to seize your goods?
- Not my goods, but Harris’s; I had paid.
- Was the gate broken down shortly after you had refused to pay toll?
- It was broken before.
- Did you think that, because the gate was removed, you were not liable to pay toll?
- I took no notice about the breaking of it.
- Did the sheriff’s offices coming over to seize make a disturbance there?
- State what took place?
- Half of them were tipsy.
- Who were tipsy?
- The policemen, and went a way that was not leading to John Harris’s house, and kicked up a row.
- Did they go to distrain the goods?
- Yes; they took four boxes.
- What did they do with the boxes?
- They took them with them.
- How far did they take them?
- About 200 yards.
But then he told the police that he would guarantee the fine if they would return the property, so they left the boxes behind.
- Had there been any disturbances about the toll upon lime at the Water-street gate before that?
- I heard of nothing before that.
- How long before this had the gate been broken?
- I do not know, indeed; I think about a fortnight.
- What had been the cause of breaking that gate?
- I think it was because the toll was illegal.
- Was it reported, whether truly or not, that it was some people from your neighbourhood that had broken the gate?
- I do not know.
- Had many gates been broken down at that time, besides that gate?
- Yes, I think there were.
There then was some confusing testimony about some people pulling down a wall at “the entrance to a gentleman’s house” — perhaps that of a Mr. Davis (a county magistrate) who signed one of the distraint warrants and participated in the fining of the resisters. After that they begin to discuss the Carmarthen Workhouse riot:
- How soon afterwards was any notice given that a demonstration was to take place?
- I think about a week or a fortnight.
- [Captain Evans.] The word used was not “a demonstration” but that they were to meet, and that everybody was to attend under Rebecca’s orders, and that was carried to all the chapels and churches throughout the neighbourhood.
- Was there a demonstration which took place afterwards when a number of people rode to the workhouse?
- Yes, that was the very day when that occurred.
David Evans, surveyor to the Carmarthen & Newcastle Trust and to the Three Commotts Trust:
- What number of gates have you now?
- What number of gates have been destroyed and not restored, excluding bars?
- Were there any particular circumstances that led to the dissatisfaction that induced the people to pull down the Water-street Gate? Had not the toll been raised there to prevent the people coming along that in preference to the new road?
- Yes. That was what the people complained of.
- They thought that as that road remained in the same state as it had been, it was hard that they should pay the toll there to provide for making a new road to Conwyl, which in going through Water-street Gate they did not travel?
- Was there any impression that the maintenance of that gate was illegal, with reference to the Act of Parliament, that provides that no gate shall be set up in the borough of Carmarthen?
- I have heard several speaking of that; some of the parishioners in this parish.
- Is there anything in that in your opinion?
- I do not think there is.
- Upon this trust [Three Commotts] there were 6 gates and 11 bars destroyed?
- How many were not destroyed?
James Mark Child:
- Are you aware of any particular instance in which gates are oppressive, in your opinion?
- From the town of Narberth to the colliery at Bushmore, the property of Sir Richard Phillips, a distance of five miles, there are four gates, all of which you pay. At the last Trust meeting I proposed to my brother magistrates (this is on the Whitland Trust) that one gate should clear another; that we should only pay two gates. They said, “We will wait a day or two;” but they said, “Here is the difficulty, two of the gates are upon the Whitland Trust and the two others are upon the Tavernspite.” I said “Yes; but the Act gives us the power to confer with one another,” and I pointed out the section; and at the same time I said, “Every magistrate, or every man that is now here as a trustee upon the Whitland Trust, is also a trustee upon the Tavernspite Trust, consequently you have only to go through the form of sending the notices required.” A gentleman of the name of Phillips, a very intelligent man in Pembrokeshire, said, “We will wait till I can confer with Lord Cawdor.” I saw him three or four days afterwards; he said, “I have been talking with Lord Cawdor about it, and he thinks it is better not to disturb it, as no person has taken down the gates.” I said, “In my idea that is the very reason why we should interfere, because if it is an oppression and extortion it is better to do it before any step is taken.” He said, “I think we had better not interfere till it is pulled down.” A man had to pay at Plain-dealings Gate 9d., at Lower Narberth Gate 9d., at Kates Hook Gate 9d., and the fourth gate was Begelly; the two former upon the Whitland Trust, and the two latter upon the Tavernspite Trust; and the parish are called upon to maintain the road into the bargain.
Stephen Evans, farmer from Llangendeirne, near Pontyberem:
- Should you like to have the tolls done away with, and to have all the roads repaired by the parish?
- We do not wish to have the gates done away with, but only to have the bars done away with. The bars were put there rather from spite. They leased the gates there to one person, and we were obliged to pay the utmost farthing in every direction, and we made a little road to go to the mill and to other places without paying the full charge. The trustees have erected bars in every place to catch us; and now they have erected one upon the private road, and one of the neighbours went through toll free; they pulled him up to the Hall and he was obliged to pay half-a-crown fine and 15s. 6d. costs.
- What was the name of the man?
- William Williams, of Carclover.
- When was that?
- I believe it was on .
- Who were the magistrates who heard that complaint?
- I cannot say. They were at the Town Hall. The people went in spite at seeing the man pulled up at such expense, and they went and burnt the house. It was a small house with wheels, and they broke the posts.
- And the reason of that house being burnt down was that the man was fined half a crown for breaking it, and 15s. 6d. costs?
- Do you think they would have done that if the man had only been fined without the costs?
- I think not. That is the very thing that caused any disturbance in my neighbourhood. Now they are erecting the Penffoesfelen Bar, but it will be a difficult thing to maintain it. I think it cannot be maintained without a lot of soldiers or police, and it is nothing but spite to the neighbourhood. There is a road comes in at that place. They erect a bar to prevent any one going through. The road comes round from the colliery; the people go there to purchase fire-coal for fuel.
- If there was no bar at Benffoesfelen they could come into the road and go seven or eight miles along the road without paying any toll?
- If the trustees would not interfere more than for people going to get coal, the people would not complain of it, but they charge for lime and for everything.
Thomas Lloyd, surveyor to the main Trust:
- Have you had any gates upon that part of the Trust broken?
- How many?
- There have been three destroyed in my time.
- Have they been put up again?
- There is one that is not to be put up again.
- Which is the gate that has not been put up?
- The Mermaid Gate on the Carmarthen side of St. Clear’s village.
- Are your turnpike-gates that have been pulled down and put up again watched now by the police?
- I cannot say. St. Clear’s has been taken down, and Masholland has been taken down. Masholland is not watched; but there are soldiers at St. Clear’s.
- Do you think the thing is dying away?
- I think it is dying away in our neighbourhood.
- Do you think the gates upon the main Trust will remain standing?
- I think so; but there are rumours in the neighbourhood. If you ask a person, “Who told you so?” we can never find out. They say about the village that the people that burn the lime in the lower country threaten the Maesholland Gate.
John Garner, clerk to Llandovery & Lampeter Trust, Llandovery & Langadock Trust, and to the Towy Bridge Branch:
- It is stated also that you have 13 gates and side-bars, including one gate on the branch road. Is that the case now?
- There were eight gates, but at present there are only seven gates. All the side-bars have been done away with.
- How many of them were pulled down by violence?
- Four gates were pulled down, and some gates were taken down twice or thrice at different times.
- Can you name them?
- Dolauhirion was pulled down two or three times.
- Does it remain down now?
- No, it is up again. The gates were destroyed twice, and the toll-house once.
- Are you taking now at the gates nearly as much as you let them fore last year?
- No, for several reasons. The Rebeccaites have taken some of them down; and besides, they can evade the gate now by going another way.
- Because the side-bars are down?
- On the Lampeter Trust?
- Do they evade the tolls much, now that the side-bars are taken down?
- Yes, especially there is a gate near Lampeter that belongs to the Tivey Side Trust. Now they go about a mile and a half of road, and evade the gate entirely.
- Is the road a good or a very bad road?
- Very bad.
- What is the toll on that gate that they go round to avoid?
- Do you believe that the evasion of those gates is by the servants by the direction of the masters, or that it is done by the servants without the knowledge of the masters, with a view to pocket themselves the toll which they evade?
- I think it is often done by the servants without the knowledge of the masters, and also those that drive the cattle take the same advantage.
- And the masters for whom they work allow them the toll, although it is not paid?
- Yes, that is my opinion; but I cannot say that it is correct. But I can say that it is so with regard to some of them.
- Can you form any conjecture what reduction will be made in the receipt of the toll in consequence of the alteration that has taken place in the number of gates. How much do you think you shall lose by it?
- I cannot say; but there is a great loss in consequence of the Rebeccaites.
John Garner was joined in his testimony by John Williams, surveyor to the same trusts:
- Will the renters of the gates pay the rents they have undertaken to pay, or will they require compensation in consequence of the gates being down?
- [JG] They will not get any compensation. The trustees erected the gates as soon as possible after they were taken down.
- Are the gates which were taken down under the protection of the constables now?
- [JG] Not the whole of them. Some of them are.
- [JW] Some of them are totally abandoned.
- How many gates and bars are there upon the [Llandovery & Llangadock] road at present?
- [JW] There are seven.
- How many have been destroyed?
- [JW] They have all been destroyed except four.
- How many have the trustees put up?
- [JW] The trustees have put up three of them again.
- Do you think you will be able to maintain those seven?
- [JW] Not the whole of them perhaps.
- Have you had any application made from the gate-keepers for reductions on account of the gate-breaking?
- [JG] Yes, at the last meeting.
- What answer did the trustees give to such applications??
- [JG] I think they would not give anything to them, because the gate-keeper neglected to employ men to receive the toll when they were taken down. The trustees got the gates up again for them, and the gate-keepers neglected to employ any one to receive the tolls.
- How many days were the gates down?
- [JW] They were put up in general on the following day, but they could not get any person to remain there the night.
William Thomas Thomas, clerk to the clerk of the Newcastle Trust:
- Do you know how many gates have been destroyed?
- There are nine gates and bars down altogether; five have been destroyed.
George Rice Trevor, vice-lieutenant of the county of Carmarthen:
- Your attention must have necessarily have been directed to the disturbed state of this county, what is your opinion as to the causes which have led to these disturbances?
- The causes appear to me to be so numerous, and yet in many cases so trifling, that it is difficult to say which of them predominates. In the first instance, taking a view from the commencement as far as I know, about a year ago this disturbance, with reference to turnpike-gates, first showed itself; that was in the neighbourhood of St. Clear’s, in ; and on that occasion it appeared that the grievance complained of (which I should state is a grievance that was not made a ground of complaint before any of the trustees of the turnpike Trusts, as far as I am aware,) was the existence of one particular gate upon the main Trust road. That gate was repeatedly destroyed. It was at the Mermaid gate, in the immediate neighbourhood of St. Clear’s, about a mile on this side of the Blue Boar. That gate was placed there after the regular notices were given, and no person present at the turnpike meeting at which it was agreed to be put up, raised their voice against the erection of that gate. It was placed there, I believe, in consequence of the representations of the toll-collector, who said that the farmers and persons could come down certain roads to the north side of the turnpike-road, which are parish roads, and that also they could come off the Whitland road, which is a turnpike-road, and they could travel the whole distance to Carmarthen if they chose to stop short of the gate coming into Carmarthen without paying any toll, and he therefore begged to have a gate put there as a catch-gate. That gate was erected, and by some oversight it was not made to clear the gate coming into the town. The consequence was that parties who had heretofore paid but one gate were made to pay two, and of course it caught such people as stopped short of Carmarthen. This gate was, I think, pulled down as many as five or six times. The next gates that I am aware of that were attacked were the gates upon the Whitland road, (a Trust about which I can say but little, as I am not in the least connected with it,) as well as some gates upon the main Trust to the westward of St. Clear’s. Efforts were made, of course, to re-establish those gates; but there was some difference of opinion among the magistrates residing in that district as to the proper mode of restoring peace in that part of the country; some imagining that by talking to the people, and showing them the folly of their proceedings, they might be brought to a state of tranquillity; others thinking that more active measures were necessary. The evil afterwards spread into other parts of the country. The next part that became infected with this disorder was a portion of the county called the Hundred of Elvet, which lies to the northward in a line drawn from this town, or from St. Clear’s up to the Tivey. A great number of gates were pulled down there, as I am informed, and in that case also, as well as in the former, no remonstrances or complaints had ever been made, as far as I am aware, to the trustees of the Trust for removal of any of those gates. I think the next occurrence in point of time was the arrival of a large procession in this town, who came in, many of them, collected by means of threats, and whose appearance here ended in an attack upon the poor-house, which I am inclined to think was not generally the intention of the parties who joined the procession, which was formed some two or three miles from here, and in which procession I understand there were people from very distant parts of the county, some from the neighbourhood of Newcastle, and the rest from the parishes immediately round the town, and towards St. Clear’s and Mydrim. Trelech was one of the parishes from which a great number of people came, a parish about eight miles from here, and Abernant and Newchurch. All this I have obtained from information. I was not in the county at the time, nor at the time when many of the earlier occurrences took place. Then after this attack upon the poor-house I was sent down here by Sir James Graham, and on my arrival here I found it was stated that there was the greatest possible organization existing amongst those parties of “Rebeccas,” as they were called. It was stated, and I believe it to be true, that those men were assembled by signals, by letters put under their doors, and, generally speaking, under some degree of influence from terror. They were threatened with an evil they hardly knew what, but they were told to come upon their peril, and they assembled, generally speaking, to the sound of horns; they were all disguised, and they were partially armed, and their operations seem to have been in this manner — that they came down to the gate which was the point of attack; that they usually surrounded the gate; that they very frequently supplied themselves with tools for the purposes of demolition from some neighbouring smith’s forge; and on some occasions they pressed carpenters to come out with their tools; that they surrounded the gate, and they posted sentries to prevent the approach of strangers, and kept up a sort of irregular fire up and down the road during the time that the gate was being destroyed. In many instances the toll collectors were informed before hand of the approach of Rebecca. A letter was sent to them to say that Rebecca was coming at such a time, and that they had better clear their goods out and get out of the way. Generally, I should say, that there was no violence used to those toll-gate keepers, but in some instances very gross violence was perpetrated. Some of them were beaten; some have been put upon their knees, and forced to promise never to gather toll again. Some have been fired at; the windows have been fired into. This system of gate-breaking spread gradually over the whole of the county, and I do not think now there is any portion of the county where it has not spread more or less. There is not a parish, certainly, where there were turnpike-gates, where those outrages have not taken place.
- Do you think that the unwillingness to submit to the payment of the tolls arose from the frequency of the toll demanded, or from the high rate of toll in each instance, or from the demands for payment of toll when the people thought that was not due?
- It is difficult for me or for any magistrate to give the Commissioners information upon that subject, for this reason, that no complaints were made; certainly no complaints were ever made before me; but I have heard complaints of parties exacting toll beyond what they were entitled to. Such complaints, I believe, have been made before the magistrates in the Newcastle district, for example, and the parties, when found guilty, fined. I have also been told, with regard to the isolated case of a Trust called the Llandilo Rynnws Bridge Trust, that there perhaps they exacted higher toll than the Act of Parliament authorized. But I should state this, which I believe is pretty notorious, that even farmers in this county, or drovers who use the road very much, are in the habit of evading the toll wherever they can; that there is a positive dislike against paying toll, whether it be high or low. They will go any distance round to avoid a turnpike-gate. That feeling being prevalent, and there being a great number of cross-roads in the country, I believe has led to a very general placing of side-bars upon all the roads.
- Do you think those side-bars have been considered as harassing and vexatious?
- I do not know it of my own knowledge, but I believe it to be so; but I have never heard a complaint. That has been the difficulty we have had in remedying these evils. But we have now great complaints against the side-bars since they are broken, and therefore it is fair to suppose that that is one of the causes which has led to this disturbance.
- Has there been a great increase of those side-bars of late years?
- I believe so upon the Trusts in the neighbourhood of lime quarries; but of my own knowledge I know nothing, except with regard to the main Trust road, and a little with regard to the Llandybie, where I used to attend the meetings.
- Were there no disturbances and no apparent disaffection till it arose in connexion with the turnpike-gates?
- None that I know of. At the time of the Newport riots there were certainly a great number of Chartist emissaries endeavouring to make the best use they could of their lecturing and so on in this county, and we had the satisfaction of believing at that time that they had made very few proselytes. We believed that they had made very little way in those parts of the county where you might have expected that they would have made most, namely, among the colliers. A good many of those hireling orators came from Merthyr, and they made very little progress indeed, and I remember hearing it stated that some of those colliers had threatened to put those fellows down the pit if they did not leave that part of the county.
- But the discontent having once been excited by the unwillingness to submit to the payment of toll, did it gradually extend itself to other objects?
- Yes; and my belief is that a great deal of the dissatisfaction that has been prevalent in this country has been fostered by the efforts of certain newspapers. I think the articles published in the “Times” newspaper have done the greatest possible injury, and have fomented discord and discontent to a very considerable degree in this county.
- Do you believe some of the statements in the “Times” to have been unfounded?
- Certainly I believe that to have been the case; I do not know it of my own knowledge, but I have heard of a case connected with a person who is the magistrate’s clerk in this town, and I know that a gross misrepresentation appeared in the paper connected with myself; that was with regard to my magisterial business, in which it was stated, amongst other things, that Mr. Maule, the solicitor to the Treasury, had given out that we ought never to have committed the man. That was completely a gratuitous assumption on the part of the “Times” editor, and it led to my furnishing a contradiction to that statement, though it was not under my own name. Then, after this turnpike business had been going on for a considerable time, we began to hear in complaints against the tithe, which was stated to be exorbitantly high, and much more onerous under the present law than under the old system. We also had complaints made with reference to the Poor Law, and then one heard general complaints as to the weight of rates and taxes, parties stating their own poverty to be so great that they could not pay those imposts. Then there were complaints about the rent, and there were complaints with regard to the magistrates, stating that they were haughty in their manner, and also there were statements of the incapacity of the magistrates in many cases, and a wish expressed that there were stipendiary magistrates instead.
- Were there not complaints of the amount of fees taken by the justices’ clerks?
- There were also complaints of the amount of fees taken by justices’ clerks, and the payments made to constables for conveying parties to prison.
- Do you think that the opinions which were entertained upon these subjects were such as would have led to outrage and outbreak, if they had not been combined with the violence connected with tolls?
- I do not know. I think that probably, single-handed, none of those causes would have produced anything like the scenes that we have had here; but they were combined with the very deep state of distress, which certainly has had a good deal to do with it. I think our people are much poorer than they were, and that, in consequence of their suffering from deprivation and from poverty, they have been led to listen to persons who have been active in ascribing their distress to bad government.
- Was it not said that the procession which came into Carmarthen, and afterwards attacked the poor-house, on , had its origin in the conviction of some parties for not paying a toll which was alleged to be illegal?
- I have heard that it arose out of a conviction which was supposed to be illegal by the parties. As I understand, it was this:— there was a party summoned for non-payment of toll at one of the gates near this town. He was fined, and he refused to pay the fine, and a warrant of distress was issued. Parties were sent to seize, and a riot took place, which ended in the goods being given up; and the constables and special constables returned to the town, having many of them been a good deal ill treated, and all of them threatened and very much abused; and it has been stated that the procession in question was meant to be a demonstration of the force and number of those who were engaged in endeavouring to get rid of turnpike-gates and tolls.
- Have you found the magistrates generally during these disturbed times, as active, and as willing to do their duty, as you thought they ought to be?
- I think so; taking the whole of the circumstances into consideration, I have seen no desire on the part of the magistrates generally to shrink from performing their duty; but from the beginning I have felt, because I have had ample cause to see it, that we have not had, till quite lately, any proper force in our hands to repress that tumult. The parties creating the disturbance have been organized very completely; they have been armed, — they have been disguised, — they have been in great numbers, and they have by these means, and by means of threatening letters, very generally circulated, create a very complete panic in the public mind; and in consequence of that it has been perfectly impossible to get together in any portion of this county any ten men that you could rely upon to act as constables.
- Did the magistrates show an anxiety to swear in constables during these unfortunate disturbances?
- They have shown every anxiety to do it, but they have invariably told me what I believe to be strictly true, that it was quite useless to attempt it; and I know that in many cases the people absolutely refused to be sworn at all. In other cases they did not come, and when they did come, in one case they said, “Oh yes, we will be sworn, but we will not go to the gates.”
- Would that have been the case, had there been a good understanding between the magistrates and the people generally?
- I do not attribute it to the want of a good understanding between the parties. I believe that it is to be attributed entirely to two causes, operating at the same time upon men’s minds, namely, that a great proportion of them sympathized with Rebecca, and wished to get rid of these gates; and the rest were literally afraid for their lives: and I do not believe that if you take other persons who are not in the habit of coming into this town you would hear much complaint of the magistrates not treating persons with civility or with proper regard. I hear it more from people about here than I have heard it in other directions.
Richard Rees, treasurer for the county of Carmarthen, and clerk to the trustees for the Brechfa Trust:
- What is the length of that Trust?
- 21 miles.
- How many gates are there?
- There were three gates and two side-bars.
- Have those gates and side-bars been all destroyed?
- They have been all destroyed in the present year, . I cannot answer to the upper one, near Brechfa, being destroyed; but I know there is nothing collected at it.
William Chambers, who coins the term “Rebeccaized”:
- Can you give the Commissioners any information with reference to the grievances which are complained of, or the disturbances that have lately occurred, in this county?
- There are some grievances which have been remedied, which were the causes of disturbances in the county, I mean particularly in regard to the number of toll-bars. Many of them have been removed by order of the trustees. Some of them were Rebeccaized first of all, and then removed by order of the trustees.…
- …Between the Sandy Gate and the town there is also a bar, which is to prevent persons going to the brick-kiln, which is between the Sandy Gate and the town. Persons who would go to the brick-kiln would drive about 300 yards upon the Trust road. This Sandy Gate was Rebeccaized and pulled down, and has been rebuilt. The Furnace Gate was pulled down in the same way and burnt, and that was rebuilt.
- Is it your opinion that the farmers are becoming more quiet?
- Yes. I attended a public meeting at Llannon, , at the request of the farmers, at which they passed tranquillising resolutions. The relations of John Hughes and David Jones (the men who have been transported) came to me the other day, and asked me to do what I could to get the sentences remitted. I told them it was nonsense their trying to do it at this moment; that, in the face of the attack that was made upon the Sunday, at Pontyberem, in the parish of Llannon, a day or two before, any protestations on their part, that they would be quiet, would not be listened to; that, before they sent up any petition based upon their being tranquil, they must become so in the first instance, and show a disposition to be quiet. I told them that they would all be sworn in as special constables in the whole neighbourhood, every one of them; and then they said, “Could we send a petition to the Queen, to get the punishments of those men mitigated?” I said, “No, I do not think it would be worth while; you had better wait a little. Then, if you are quiet, you perhaps will be attended to.” They said, “We will be quiet if they are held as hostages for good behaviour.”
- Have you not had your own or your father’s ricks burnt?
- Yes; there have been five fires in one week upon my father’s property, and a horse shot; and I had some machinery at a pit, that was broken and thrown into the pit twice.
- Do you think that the readiness to be sworn in as special constables arises from the hope of getting off those people who have been sentenced?
- Yes, that is the real reason. It is not from their great love of their country, but they feel the inconvenience of these disturbances, inasmuch as a great number of the farmers upon whom black-mail has been levied do not like the paying part, especially in these distressed times; and I am sure that many of them, in the parish of Llannon, are exceedingly glad that those men have been transported.
- What do you mean by “black-mail” having been levied?
- They used to write a note to a man to say “You must send such and such contribution to Rebecca, on such a night.” That was received by the Rebecca of the night, and then he paid the labourers who went out at night to break the gates. He paid them 2s. 6d. a-night.
- How have you ascertained this?
- From farmers who told me that they had paid the money.
- How did you ascertain that the leaders in the riots had paid the labourers 2s. 6d. a-night?
- From men who have been present at the breaking of the gates. Farmers who have been present at the breaking of the gates told me that the labourers who went there received 2s. 6d. a-night.
- Those who did the working part?
- Yes. A neighbour of mine heard a farmer and a collier fighting; and the collier struck the farmer, and he swore at him, and said, “Damn you, do you think I will go out to be shot for you for 2s. 6d. a-night any more?” This was lately, when they began to quarrel among themselves.
- Are not those observations likely to arise henceforth, in any disputes that may arise between the farmers and their servants?
- Yes, there is no doubt about that. I have no doubt that things will come out on the changing of servants. I know in my own district, if I could get evidence, almost every man that was at the breaking of the gates; but you cannot get them to give evidence. But there is no doubt they had a great deal to complain of in the erection of those gates; but the influence that such men as that John Jones, or Scybor Vowr, got over the minds of the farmers arose from his having been employed by them in that way; and, being rather a sharper fellow, the others all felt that they were in his power, and then he ran riot over that part of the country. He went to a farmer’s house, lived there as long as he pleased, and knew a man that he went to (a farmer), and because he would not go out at night, he went to him, and cocked his gun at him, and said, “Now, if you do not go out at night, I will shoot you;” but the man did not go. There were some others of his friends behind, who said, “Come on, and leave the fool alone;” and he went away; but he threatened to shoot at this man; and he did shoot another man because he offended him. He was the most despotic governor that they ever had.
Madock Jones, clerk to the Llandilo and Llandybie Trust:
- What is the length of the road??
- About 37 miles.
- What number of gates?
- Five now.
- How many have been destroyed?
- Four have been destroyed, and there is one discontinued now.
- How many were there altogether before the destruction?
John James Stacey, clerk to the main Trust, again:
- I find that I misinformed the Commissioners as to William Lewis having been fined for having put up a bar. I saw yesterday the brother of the man who brought the information against him. He told me that his brother took out a summons; his wife attended, who of course could not prove the contents, and the thing was compromised by Lewis paying the expenses and giving some trifle to the wife; and so the matter dropped. The man came to me to ask me what he had better do, for that Lewis had set up the bar again without any authority, and demanded toll thereat. There are three toll-gates upon the line that have been destroyed by the mob, and he cannot collect toll at the place where he has a right to do it, and so he puts it up there.
Philip Griffith Jones, clerk to the magistrates for Carmarthen:
- Will you now turn to the conviction of Thomas and Harris, and the other people from Tallog, who were convicted of evading toll at the Water Street Gate?
- Henry Thomas, toll collector, against John Harris. The cause of complaint originated a day or two after the Water Street Gate had been taken down, and the conviction took place a week after that. The complainant swore that “On the defendant brought to Water Street Gate, in this town, a cart and one horse; I asked him for the toll; he said if he would pay the toll he was in danger of his house being set on fire, and he had no other objection to the toll. I said, If you won’t pay I must have your name, to which he said he had no objection but fear of his house being set on fire. He gave his name, but did not pay the toll. The defendant put in a letter as the ground of his defence, by which he was intimidated and induced not to pay.” He admitted that he had not paid the toll. He was then fined 40s., and 8s. 6d. costs. The costs were these:— information 1s., summons 1s., hearing 1s., service three miles distance 3s., conviction 2s. 6d. The conviction was very long indeed. In the second case against Thomas he made the same defence. He produced a letter, saying that he was intimidated.
- Did he offer to pay the toll?
- No; he never offered to pay the toll.
- Is 40s. the extreme penalty?
- No; I think it is 5l. for evading tolls. The third case was Samuel Bowens. The case against him was this:— The complainant was sworn, and stated, “On the defendant brought a cart and one horse to Water Street Gate; I asked him for the toll; he said if he was to pay he was afraid his house would be set on fire; he did not pay the toll, but said he was afraid; he was afraid his life would be taken from him, and that he had no other objection against paying; he passed through without paying the toll.” Then the defendant says,— “He saw a notice on a door of a stable at Blaenycoed village, saying that the lives of all persons paying tolls at Water Street Gate would be taken from them. He has no farm of his own, but lives with his father.” They would not pay the penalties, and we were obliged to enforce them. They said, if distresses are sent upon our goods we will pay them, but not till then.
- When those men were before the magistrates they were not contumacious about it; they merely presented those letters, and said that this was the reason why they did not pay the toll?
- Yes, they were not at all contumacious.
- Was not 40s. rather a high penalty?
- It was done after the gates were taken down; and unless the magistrates had taken it with a high hand there is no telling what would have been the consequence.
- Then there was no allegation on the part of the defendants that the object was to try the right to the particular amount of toll that had been demanded?
- Nothing of the kind; I heard exactly what they stated; I was rather particular in taking their statement at the time.
- Were there any refusals after that conviction?
- Not one, till the gate had been put up there there was not one.
- Do you happen to know whether this was before or after the toll had been reduced at the Water Street Gate?
- The toll had not been reduced at that time. I believe it has been reduced subsequently.
- Were there many other informations for evading the toll about this time?
- Not one.
John Davies, clerk to Carmarthen & Lampeter and Tivy Side Trusts:
- How many turnpike-gates and bars are there altogether upon your Trust?
- Six gates and three bars.
- Has Rebecca been amongst them at all?
- Yes, and destroyed them every one.
- When they were destroyed did the trustees put them up again?
- Not at first. The one they broke first they put that up, and it was broken down again in the course of a few weeks.
- Have they put them all up?
- No; the Glan-gwili they left pulled down till they could see something settled.
Richard B.P. Phillips, member of Parliament for Haverfordwest, and “the Lord-Lieutenant” of the county:
- Has any turnpike-gate been destroyed in the neighbourhood of Haverfordwest?
- One has been destroyed; it is called the Haroldston Gate, on the Pembroke Ferry Trust. That has been re-erected, and no attempt has since been made to destroy it.
John Henry Phillips, magistrate for Pembroke county, and trustee on the Whitland Trust.
- Do you remember a turnpike-gate keeper, and some man who assisted him, who were said to have assaulted some persons intending to evade the toll, having actions brought against them?
- Yes. I will state the history of that affair. These riots had taken place; the gates had been pulled down; the attention of a great number of people had been called to these gates who had never before taken a part in the Trust. After this riot had taken place a trustee, Mr. Baugh Allen, wrote to me. He said, “There is going to be a meeting at St. Clear’s for the purpose of rescinding the original order for erecting those gates;” and he said, “It seems to me mischievous; you, as a magistrate, may qualify and attend; if you think so, will you come and oppose it?” On this representation, thinking that to have a meeting to rescind the order for the erection of the gates, subsequently to the riot and the demolition, was giving the sanction of the magistrates and gentlemen to that mode of getting rid of the gates, I went up upon that occasion to St. Clear’s, and qualified as trustee in order to oppose it. I merely went up there because I thought that it would have a bad effect if, after people destroyed the gates forcibly, the trustees met and officially rescinded the order for their erection. Therefore I went up with Mr. Allen. The resolution for rescinding the gates was brought forward, and I think I moved a counter resolution, that we should take the opinion of the Attorney-General, or something of that sort, merely in order to stave it off; but I was left in a minority of six out of a great number; and I remember Bullen, the tollkeeper, at the time said, “You will not be able to keep a gate in the country after this.” I agreed with the majority of the trustees in thinking that those gates ought not to have been erected; but having been erected, I thought that they ought not to have been got rid of in that way. But I was left in a minority of six; and after having done that I came away. But I hear a complaint made of an order in the minutes of the Trust for defending the constables at the expense of the Trust; and I find in the minutes of the Trust, in the account of that meeting, that of course my name is down as having been present at that; but there is not a word said of a counter resolution. I find that an order, of which I have hardly any recollection, was given for defending the constables; but I think it was almost part of the bargain with Bullen, for which he gave up his gates. They were obliged to come to some agreement with him, as he was the lessee of the tolls; and there was a committee appointed to award a sum which they considered a fair compensation for giving up those gates; and I think that defence of the constables was a part of the stipulation, so that it was a consideration for having the gates removed. There is one great difficulty which has been felt in this country, with respect to which I made a suggestion to the Under Secretary through my brother-in-law, the member for Carmarthenshire. I allude to the difficulty we have in getting compensation from the hundred, indeed the impossibility, according to Mr. Evans’s law, in cases under 30l. He thinks that, where the damage done is under 30l., the Trust cannot get compensation from the hundred; and, therefore, the expenses of repairing the gates must be met by themselves.
- What is Mr. Evans’s difficulty about that?
- The difficulty is, that the Trust may sue and be sued; but cannot, like an individual, make an application before a magistrate. It is a technical difficulty; but it is one to which we have submitted. Some months ago I wrote to my brother-in-law to suggest, as the Government were bringing in a Bill, that some clause should be inserted upon that subject; but his answer was, that Mr. Manners Sutton said that the Bill was not upon that subject. If the people had understood that by breaking the gates they were damaging themselves, that would have had as good an effect in stopping the breaking as anything could have had. In consequence of Mr. Evans’s opinion, there was an opinion taken from the law officers of the Crown; and they divided their answer into two parts. It was said that the lessee could be described as the party damnified; but that they did not think that they could get compensation under 30l. That was their opinion as far as I could understand it.
- Then Mr. Evans considered that all damage under 30l. is irrecoverable; that the right of action against the hundred is done away with when the damages are under 30l.; and that the means of enforcing a remedy where the damage is under 30l. will not apply to the trustees?
- Yes. I should incline to say decidedly that the difficulty with regard to compensation from the hundred ought to be removed. I do not know whether the Legislature mean to say that in cases under 30l. there ought to be no remedy; but if they do not mean that, the difficulty ought to be removed. The trustees are asked, “Why do not you put up the gates again?” The answer is, that where the funds are very small they cannot afford it. The mere putting up a gate will cost 7l. or 8l., and perhaps it will be down again in a fortnight; and where the funds are very small they cannot afford it. It is clear that the state of the law at present is rather holding out a premium to rioters. I think that one mode of relieving the farmers with respect to the payment of tolls which is worth consideration is, by allowing the farmers of the parish, who perform labour upon the roads within the parish, to compound for the tolls at a lower rate.
Saunders Davies, member of parliament:
- Were there any gates pulled down in Cardigan?
- Yes, three were pulled down in that Trust; one at the New Inn, about 12 miles from Cardigan, between Cardigan and Aberystwith; the other two gates were close to the town of Cardigan.
Charles Arthur Pritchard, a magistrate of Cardiganshire:
- Has your attention been much drawn to the causes of the disturbances which have so unhappily prevailed in this and adjoining counties?
- It has; for they happen to have been more about my residence than in any part of the country.
- In what way has the evil shown itself?
- In various outrages, such as large bodies going about disguised and attacking the house of Dr. Jones and others.
- What has been thought to be the cause of the outrage upon Dr. Jones?
- Dr. Jones was a man rather free in his remarks; he said that he knew this man and that man, and that he would have them punished. He did not mean any harm, but I think that was the real cause of the attack upon his house, by which he himself was very nearly killed, for he went to the window and they fired at him.
- Did they fire a bullet?
- It appeared to me as if an old iron pot had been broken into pieces and put into the gun; and in the parlour there were a great many of those pieces upon the wall and on the floor, and Mrs. Jones was unfortunately there, and she is an English woman, unaccustomed to these riots.
- They do not prevail generally in this country, do they?
- I never heard of them, and I have lived here 25 years; they are generally as quiet and inoffensive a people as can possibly be.
- Do you speak Welsh?
- Only a little; enough to find my way about the country.
- What was it, in your opinion, that led to the outrages upon the turnpike-gates?
- The first attack upon the gates was in Pembrokeshire, and of course we all knew that such things were going on, and if the magistrates in Cardiganshire had been more active, I think we might have suppressed them. It was publicly known that they were going to attack the gates in Cardiganshire on a particular night, and I volunteered to go out with 20 men. I think 20 resolute men would have stopped them; that if 20 such persons had gone they would have run away. From what I could learn, I should say that the people were led on by three strangers who came into the neighbourhood of Cardigan, and who we knew were there at that time.
- Were the names of those persons known?
- I have tried to find out their names. I was in that neighbourhood lately, making inquiries of the people, but they said they did not know their names. I said to them, “You must have known their names, for you saw them every day;” their reply was, “We did see them occasionally, but we do not know their names.” Those men came down into this country, and I have no doubt worked up the people to attack the gates.
- Can you form any conjecture as to whence they came?
- Not for certain; it is merely from report that I can say anything; they are supposed to have come from some part of Carmarthenshire or from the Whitland district, the same two men were at Cardigan who were afterwards at the Aberdare Gate; one is a tall man and the other a short man, that is well known, and the same people seem to have gone through the country afterwards.
- You say that it was publicly known that there would be an attack upon the gates. Upon what authority do you say that?
- Three or four of my tenants came to me one day bringing with them notices, which notices were, — If you do not attend at such and such a place to night we will burn your house down, and they asked me what I would advise them to do, and I said, I would not go if I were you on any account, and they said they would not go, they would rather be murdered in their beds than go out.
- Did they go out?
- No, I do not think any of my tenants went out.
- Do you think that there was any sympathy on the part of farmers with those people who attacked the gates?
- Yes; at that time there was, but since that they have changed their feelings.
- The farmers’ labourers were engaged in those outrages, were they not?
- Yes, and young boys; they went for a lark.
- Do you think that there is still a very bad spirit afloat?
- Yes, I think it is the same as ever it was; I am speaking of my own immediate neighbourhood.
- The same disposition to violence?
- Yes, I am quite sure that if the police were removed from here and the troops from the different stations, there would be the same violence if not more; that is my own private opinion and the opinion of many other persons.
- From what do you suppose that?
- From conversation; I should say that they are merely checked by fear of the soldiers and police.
- Suppose that that check were removed, seeing that the turnpike-gates are most of them removed, in what way would the outbreak show itself?
- All the gates are down in the Cardigan Trust except one, and they have been down three or four months, but some are to be replaced immediately. There is a gate near this town in the Cardigan Trust that I am sure they would pull down if it were put up again. The tolls are reduced one-half, and the grievances the people complained of are removed.
- The third toll is felt to be a grievance, is it not?
- We have got rid of that; but the complaints they make are of this character. A farmer, who lives on the outside of this gate, wants the gate removed to the other side of his house; the consequence of that would be, that the next farmer would want the same, and there is no pleasing them. I had a letter lately put into my hands signed “Rebecca,” which I gave to one of the policemen, in order to endeavour to recognise the writing, threatening to pull down the gate if it were put up again. Several of the farmers now say they are very sorry that the gates are down, because they could get their lime and coal with great ease, and they did not pay more than 10s. or 12s. a year, and now they shall have to pay some pounds. I am speaking of the most reasonable farmers.
- They would rather have the tolls than have to maintain the roads themselves?
- Reasonable men would, because they get a certain allowance from the Trust, and that is paid to the parish officers and expended upon the road.
- Do they pay the men by the day or by the load?
- Some are paid by the day and some are paid by the load; many are paid by the load. There is another very great cause of complaint — the tithe, and unfortunately I am very much concerned in that. A friend of mine, Major Rice, who is now abroad, appointed me trustee to manage his affairs with another gentleman in Carmarthenshire, and this Major Rice owns a portion of the tithes in the parish of Pembryn. The chief accusation has been against the clergyman of that parish, and I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that it is in fact an attack upon the church; there is no doubt of that in my opinion, because they have been so very angry with the clergyman, and he is one of the most inoffensive men in the country. He is a man who has been educated at one of the Universities; he came to my house and told me he expected to be murdered, and on one occasion I had the marines at his house from 11 at night till 5 the next morning, and I know as a fact, that the people had assembled to do him an injury, because I saw myself one or two in disguise, and when we got near the place lights were thrown up and horns were blowing, but after we came up they were as quiet as possible. I have myself received several threatening letters. Owing to this the clergyman has not been able to get one shilling of his tithes; he wanted me to assist him as trustee, but I did not like to provoke the people. I was in hopes they would come round, but we cannot go on any longer; we must take some proceedings. There was a request made by the parishioners to meet them and take into consideration the state of the tithes. We met them, and offered them a reduction of 167l. The people were very violent, and one or two got up as spokesmen for the rest, and said, “We will not pay even if you give us 20 or 50 or 100 per cent.” I said, “Then you do not mean to pay anything.” Some of the party said, “Oh yes we do,” and they cried the man down. There was a shout at first, “We will not take any reduction at all, we will have it on our own terms.” They wanted to have it 2s. in the pound. I said, “I suppose you mean upon the landlord’s rent.” They said, “No, we mean on the parish rate.” Now the habit is to value on two-thirds of the rent.
Edward Lloyd Williams:
- Has the clergyman got his tithe?
- He has been paid by some; in fact the clergyman has been afraid to ask for it, for he has had soldiers in his house; they have threatened his life, and that was the state of the parish when I got them to meet, and I wrote to the Secretary of State, anticipating that mischief would happen; it was before the country was excited, but I knew that it was a very excitable parish, suggesting that if a short Act could be introduced for the purpose of opening commutations where manifest error or fraud could be proved, it would appease a great deal of the feeling that existed in many places. The parish are paying a great deal more now under this rent-charge, to say nothing of the difference in the average, than they did before when they had the option of paying in kind.
Herbert Vaughan, magistrate of Cardiganshire:
- …I think the turnpike gates were an excuse for the disturbance, but that the real cause was something deeper than that. Now they have gone to the weir and attacked that. I was told immediately after that a stranger came into that neighbourhood and located himself at one of the houses in the parish of Mount, and soon after that the people took down the weir.
- Have you any idea who he is?
- No, I have not; I saw him in the town, and marked him, but of course I could do nothing. The morning after the New Inn turnpike gate was taken down he went off, and the Monday night following the other gate was taken down. He used generally to go into the blacksmith’s shop, or any place of that kind, and talk of the people’s grievances. He said they ought to have more for their labour, and other things; he was a remarkably well dressed man. I saw him in a church, and asked who he was, and they said he is lodging with So and so; I did not think much of it at the time, and I saw him again, and then I asked who he was, and they said he walks about the sea-shore a good deal. I have not the slightest doubt that he organized this party hereabouts; he was in Cardigan for some time, and the very next morning after the attack upon the gates I saw him in a regular blackguard dress; he wore one of those loose velvet jackets, and his boots were of the commonest description, nailed and laced, and dirty, as if he had been at some work; he went that week from Cardigan, and was traced up the road to the New Inn.
- Do the people with whom he lodged know anything about him?
- No; I do not think he let them know.
Lewis Evans, treasurer of the Cardigan Trust:
- What number of gates have you upon the Trust?
- Only one now; we had ten, but nine have been pulled down.
- …In this case it is a tax upon industry: it prevents parties from manuring their land as they would otherwise do; and if that [Cardigan] gate were to be rebuilt there, I do not believe they would be able to keep it up without having the military or police constantly to watch it. When the gate came down I happened to be mayor, and I could not get the people to act.
The Rev. Eleazar Evans:
- I merely wish to state that I have been exceedingly annoyed, and my life threatened in the parish, for a long time; I cannot conceive for what cause; merely because I wished to demand what has been my due. I have letters in my pocket which I have received, most shameful letters, and my life has been really miserable for months past, and if I am not protected of course I must leave.
- Have you with you any of the threatening letters that you have received?
- I have.
- What do they indicate?
- They desire me to give back the money that was subscribed to the school-room, as otherwise I should be destroyed and ruined in my property and everything. I subscribed 15l. a-year myself towards the school-room.
- Will you read the threatening letters you have received?
- This is dated . It is in Welch: “Reverend sir, — I, with one of my daughters, have lately been on a journey to Aberaron, and amongst other things have heard many things respecting you, namely, that you have built a school-room in the upper part of the parish, and that you have been very dishonest in the erection of it, and that you promised a free school for the people, but that you have converted it into a [Church of England] church, and that you get 80l. by the year for serving it. Now if this is true, you may give the money back, every halfpenny of it, otherwise, if you do not, I with 500 or 600 of my daughters will come and visit you, and destroy your property five times to the value of it, and make you a subject of scorn and reproach throughout the whole neighbourhood. You know that I care nothing about the gates, and you shall be like them exactly, because I am averse to every tyranny and oppression.” That is signed “Rebecca and her daughters.”
- What is the purport of the letter which you now hold in your hand?
- This is upon a different subject, it is signed “Becca,” and dated “.” It is not very intelligible, it is in very bad Welch: “I send you this letter in Welch that you may understand it in the language in which you were born.” They request me to send back the advance in tithes and the law expenses by such a day, and that Becca and her daughters are sure to take notice of me if I do not do so; that Becca had found a place for my body, and they desired me to find a place for my soul, and the place for my body was to be at the end of the National Whore, that is at the end of the Established Church, that is the title they give to it; and that I have been a great oppressor since I have been in office; and then they refer me to the 6th chapter of the book of Judges, and the 27th and 28th verses, which is the account of “Gideon taking ten men of his father’s house and throwing down the altar of Baal, and because he was afraid to do it by day he did it by night, and when people got up in the morning the altar of Baal was cast down and the grove was cut down that was by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar that was built.” The meaning I suppose was, that the men were coming to destroy my house, and I was intended for the second bullock, because my curate had been attacked; and they desired me to read much of the Old Testament, to see whether my conduct was like that of Pharaoh, and that I had doubled the tasks of the people. “Do not you suppose that I am an idle old woman. I have not been brought up in idleness, nor do I bring up my daughters in idleness, and I am determined to have justice done, in spite of the world, the flesh, and the devil,” signed “Becca.” That is the substance of it, and then at the bottom it is addressed, “To the Minister of the National Whore.” I also received an English letter between those two letters, which is in the possession of the Inspector-General of the Post-Office.
- How long have you been in that parish?
- 15 years.
- Has any conjecture been formed as to the writer of that second letter?
- Yes, it is strongly suspected who the man is, but I do not know his writing; he has had a little better education than most, having been in a family where a little attention was paid to him. I have been obliged in consequence of this to sell my farm and stock and everything I had except my household furniture, and the day of my sale that man was there, and he summoned the parishioners to come to a meeting at the New Inn against my tithes, otherwise if they did not go there they should be destroyed, and their houses should be burnt.
- How did he summon them, by word of mouth?
- Yes, he said he was there as a delegate.
- By whom was he delegated?
- There is not the least doubt by Rebecca; who Rebecca is it is difficult to find out.
- You think it did not originate from himself?
- No, I am certain it did not; he must have been put on by somebody.
- Have you any idea by whom?
- By the farmers.
- Do you mean to say that he publicly threatened to burn the houses?
- He threatened that they must abide the consequences if they did not come, and some he threatened to burn. I have seen a letter to a tenant in the parish who held a little land of me, part of the glebe, that unless he attended he should be burnt.
- Was that letter written by that man?
- By somebody, I cannot say; it was written from St. Clear’s, and demanding that man to give up the land to me, saying that they were coming to destroy him because he did not give up the land.
- Can any evidence be produced to show that this man had threatened any persons if they would not attend the meeting?
- There is not the least doubt that there could if they were willing to give evidence. And more than that, he demanded something for his trouble, 1l. from each of the people.
- Who are the magistrates near you?
- Mr. Jordan is the only magistrate near me; he lives close to me. My house was threatened to be attacked, and he came to the house to protect it.
- Do you keep fire-arms?
- I only keep a gun for shooting crows.
- Have you any police in your parish?
- Yes, and military.
- Was that upon your application?
- No, I suppose it was done by the magistrate; the people met three nights successively.
- Has Mr. Jordan seen those letters?
- Has he ever taken possession of them for the purpose of following it up and trying to discover the authors of them?
- No, he took possession of the letter that was written to my tenant and Mr. Saunders Davies has it, but. Mr. Saunders Davies himself came up to the parish and called his tenants together. They were the principal tithe-payers, to me at least more than half, and reasoned with them, and said that they might rely upon it that the law was powerful enough to meet them in the end; that they must consider that, the obligation was upon the land and not upon themselves; that if they did not pay he must pay; and then they said they would not pay more than 2s. in the pound, (I do not know whether they said on the assessment of the parish or on the rack-rent,) otherwise the people from Carmarthenshire would come and burn them down. Of course that showed at once that they were in league with some persons somewhere. With respect to the amount of tithe I have with me a valuation of the parish by the parishioners themselves to the county stock 2112l.; the gross amount of tithe commuted is 240l.; that will amount to 2s. 3d. in the pound, and I believe 2l. 18s. more.
- Were the tithes paid with tolerable willingness before this addition was made to them?
- They were paid till the last six years, but not since that; in the last six years I am certain, I have been losing at least 6s. in the pound regularly by long credit.
- Do you ultimately get the whole sum?
- No, I have lost a great deal; I have lost since I came to the parish nearly 400l.
- Is that by persons refusing?
- No, by not paying; they would not actually refuse to pay, but I did not like to go to law for it.
- It was not from open avowed resistance to the payment that you lost that sum of money?
- No, they did not actually say that they would not pay; but I gave up the tithes rather than go to law for them.
- The people now refuse to pay?
- What reason do they give?
- That they should be destroyed by the people of Carmarthenshire if they paid according to the present average.
- Do you believe that to be an excuse, or to be the real reason?
- I believe it to be the real reason in many cases.
- Do you believe that there is any system of terror?
- Yes, I do, because some who have paid me, have paid me under a charge of secrecy; and another thing I should state, that I gave them back 2s. in the pound because the times were hard, and I would take no advantage of the rise in the average. In the last three years I have paid 37l. and received only 27l. I have paid 10l. 16s. 1½d. more than I have received for my tithes. I believe there is a promise that they will pay me some to-morrow, but I do not know whether they will pay. I have not asked for what is due to Michaelmas, but only up to Lady-day.
- Do you think that the evil disposition which is afloat in your parish, and which you have been made the victim of, diminishes at all?
- I do not think it does; they are only kept under by the military and police.
Thomas Jones, of Llangranog:
- Have you had much disturbance in your parish?
- Have you any turnpike-gate in your parish?
- Yes, it was made on my premises; it was nothing to me, because I did not pay anything. The turnpike-road from Cardigan to Aberystwith went through the middle of my farm.
- Is the gate now pulled down?
- Who pulled it down?
- I do not know; they say that it was Rebecca, but who Rebecca is I do not know.
- Did you see it pulled down?
- What did the people say who pulled it down?
- They said it was not right to remove the gate to the place where it had been removed to. The farmers go to fetch culm and lime as manure from the shore, and they say that they took the gate about a mile from the place where it was before to this place to catch those farmers because the other gate was not on their way when they came from the shore.
- Have you received any threats from Carmarthenshire, that if you pay the tithe it shall be worse for you?
- I have never received a threatening letter.
- Are you under any fear that, if you pay the tithes to the clergyman, people will come and attack you?
- Do you feel at liberty to pay what is justly due if you please?
- Yes; but I think that it is very heavy.
James Morris, John Williams, and Mr. Smith:
- Have you ever summoned the toll gate-keeper for exacting an illegal toll?
- [JM] Yes, I have.
- When was he summoned?
- [JW] Thomas George was summoned for the non-payment of toll.
- [MS] The toll-keeper was John Davis, and the magistrate adjudicated in favour of the toll-taker. I will explain what the circumstances were:– the trustees, in the first instance, after the erection of Catherine-row, put a chain there, seeing that several houses were licensed there as public-houses that had stables attached to them which took in horses and carts, and the gate stood below the row, so that the inhabitants of Catherine-row were obliged to pay going up and likewise to pay coming down.
- Was there more than one payment?
- [MS]I believe so; it was understood that they were obliged to pay at both. One Thomas George, a respectable farmer, came one Saturday-morning, and seeing a chain there, told the girl that stood at the chain, “There is no sign or anything here, I will pay at the old gate where I have been in the habit of paying;” “No,” she said, “You must pay here.” This farmer taking hold of one end of the chain, and the girl of the other, the neck of the padlock gave way, and for the breaking of that he was summoned before the magistrate, not for non-payment of the toll, and it was suggested by the magistrate, that if he paid for the lock the thing might be settled; at the same time, the sitting magistrate observed, that he was a very proper subject to make an example of.
- The toll-keeper has never been summoned for exacting what you considered an illegal toll?
- [MS]No, that has never been done.
John Hughes, surveyor to Aberyslwith Trust:
- How many turnpike-gates have you upon your road?
- Does that include side-bars?
- There is one side-abr at Lampeter; that is a little distance from the gate, and that should be added, that makes 12; but there are 100 toll-houses.
- Of those how many have been attacked?
- Four; the Lampeter, Tregaron, and Llanon toll-houses and gates destroyed; but the gate only at Aberyron destroyed. With respect to the side-bars at Lampeter and Llanon, the trustees came to the resolution to remove them, and also resolved to take away the Cromystwyth Gate, within two miles of the extreme end of the county, on the road to Rhayader.
- What do you believe to the the loss by the disturbances?
- I should say 500l. or 600l. a year.
John Hughes, lawyer:
- …The tolls have been reduced from 1½d. to 1d. a horse; the country did not expect that, and they are very much pleased with it; it was done because our gates were in jeopardy, and it had the effect of quieting the country.…
Lloyd Phillips, chairman of the board of guardians:
- Are you at all acquainted with the circumstances which led to the destruction of Llannon Gate?
- I am.
- What were they?
- There was a side gate there, which I do not think ought to have been there. A person of the parish of Llanarth, wrote a letter to the clerk of the magistrates at Aberaeron, begging him to call a meeting of magistrates to hear these grievances, and the meeting was called, but, before we had the meeting, both gates were taken down, but not the toll-house. Of course we held that meeting, and we did away with the side gate, though it had been taken down; the magistrates were aware of this. We had a meeting here, and lowered the toll on a horse from 1½d. to 1d., and on a cart from 4d. to 3d.; carriages the same as they were before. We lowered the toll on cattle going through to one half, and we put down lime carriage free; notwithstanding that deduction they went immediately and pulled down the toll-house.
- Was it publicly known that you had proposed to do away with the toll on lime?
- Yes, I had mentioned it myself.
David Oliver, acting treasurer of the Rhyader and Llangerig turnpike Trust:
- Have either of the gates been pulled down?
- The upper gate was pulled down in , and it was put up again the next day.
- Is it now standing?
- It is, but it is continually watched by the Montgomeryshire police force.
- Was any attempt made to pull down the other gate near this town?
- Yes, an attempt was made, but they were interrupted by the gate-keeper.
Harry Lingen, London barrister who sometimes resides in Rhayader:
- Were you resident in this neighbourhood when the disturbances took place respecting turnpike-gates?
- I was.
- Have you had opportunities of forming any opinion as to what it was that led to those disturbances?
- There appeared to be a general feeling in the country that they were labouring under great grievances of different kinds. I do not by any means attribute it altogether to the turnpikes, for there are many other things that they feel to be grievances; the chief cause, perhaps, is the great depression that they are suffering under, but the turnpikes were a tangible thing for them to lay hold of.
- Your opinion is, that the extreme poverty of the farmers rendered them desirous of throwing over any payments that they could get rid of, provided they thought that those payments were harshly or unjustly demanded?
- Was it under that feeling, and hearing what had taken place in other parts, that they were led to make an attack upon the turnpike-gates here?
- No doubt of it.
- Are there any particular circumstances relating to the turnpike-gates at Rhayader which excited the disturbances hereabouts?
- Yes, I think so. There are six entrances into the town of Rhayader, and a gate at every entrance, and a toll-bar besides, so that the town was completely surrounded; and what makes the grievance a great deal worse is that three of those gates were upon roads that are in a most abominable state, and which have never had any outlay whatever upon them; one of them is under indictment now. I indicted it myself four years ago; that is the old road to Llanidloes.
- Have you any other observations to make?
- It has unfortunately happened, that we have not been able to agree with the authorities in the place as to the proper means that should be taken to restore peace and order in the district; all have the same end in view, but we differ in the way in which it is to be carried into effect. The authorities have been determined to carry their point with a high hand, and we are satisfied that grievances exist, the getting rid of which is a sine quâ non to the restoration of the district to its former state. We consequently advised concession, that advice has been disregarded, but neither of us has been able to convince the other of error. Now as a part of the proceedings here, I do not state this at all with an intention of showing that intentional wrong has been done, but I do say that the magistrates have acted with indiscretion in reference to these late disturbances, and in one case I would mention that a man in this town was seized by a magistrate without a warrant and taken from his team, and his team left in the middle of the street to take care of itself; the offence for which he was seized was passing through the gate without paying toll. It has been charged against us that we have frustrated their intentions, and to some extent, a limited one, I would plead guilty to the charge, but I say this, that although the magistrates, by following the course that they have been endeavouring to pursue, may have done what would appear to heal the wound, yet if the cicatrice were examined it would be found festering in the core; we have been desirous of performing a radical cure by removing the cause of the disease. Now this is part of what we content is bad policy in the magistrates using such means as I have just alluded to; this state of extraordinary coercion is working badly in this district. This very case I allude to has done the magistrates more harm in the opinion of the people than I can describe to you.
- What was the case to which you allude?
- I would rather that the party himself should state it. Another thing that I think we should speak of is what appears to us improper, if not vindictive, towards the hundred of Rhayader. On , this present month, four gates in this neighbourhood and one toll-house were destroyed, and almost immediately proceedings were adopted against the hundred for a much larger sum than the damage could really have come to. That we think a very great hardship, and particularly when the toll-house destroyed was really a disgrace to a public body such as the trustees to put a human being with his family to reside in.
- Were you taken up for passing through the gate without paying toll?
- Yes, the gate was broken down on the night that we passed, and I told the person there I would pay at the gate I had been used to pay at.
- How did you get through?
- The gate was wide open.
- You did not open it yourself?
- What took place when you came down into the town?
- Nobody asked me at the gate where I was used to pay.
- Did anybody stop you afterwards?
- Did you go home?
- What charge have you against anybody?
- We were fined in Rhayader for doing that.
- About a week after.
- Before what magistrate did you go?
- Before Mr. Whitaker.
- Was any other magistrate present?
- Yes, Mr. [David] Oliver.
- What passed when you were before the magistrates?
- We were fined 26s. for not paying the gate. I had hauled 100 loads of lime, and nobody had asked me at that other gate before.
- Was that gate where you were in the habit of paying down?
- No, it was up; nobody asked me to pay.
- You pay when you come back?
- Yes, and the gate was up; it was 11 o’clock.
- Did you not know that the gate was pulled down till you got back to it?
- Yes, somebody on the road told me it was broken down before I came.
- (To Mr. Oliver.)—What is the explanation of this case?
- [David Oliver] Mr. Jones went through this gate; he was on his way to the Radnor lime-kilns, 26 miles off; when he went through the gate, the first gate was up, and he brought down his load of lime, and in his way up he met somebody who told him the gate had been broken down; he passed through that gate, and then when he came to the gate at the lower end he refused to pay.
- (Mr. Jones.) I did not refuse, nobody asked me for toll at that gate before. I said I will do anything that is fair; that is what I told the collector.
- (Mr. Oliver.) This man has been dealt with very leniently; he was fined upon this for refusing to pay; he was coming up a second time through the gate, and in his way up he and another, when they came to the gate, took the liberty of breaking the gate open, and breaking the lock; that was the charge sworn to before us, and the lock was produced and put upon the table.
- (To Mr. Jones.)—Did you hear that sworn to?
- No. I did not.
- (To Mr. Oliver.)—At the time this charge was made, and the lock was put upon the table before you, and it was sworn that this man and the other man had broken the lock, was this man present?
- He was. I prevailed upon Mr. Whittaker to join me in not inflicting the second fine, but fining him upon the first, and excusing him upon the second ground that it was a very different charge breaking the lock. I said I think these people have done it in ignorance, and therefore the fine was upon the first charge.
- (Mr. Jones.) The boys broke that lock in the night.
- Did you find the gate open when you went through the second time?
- The little girl had shut the gate against me.
- What did you do?
- I only touched the chain and the lock fell in two.
- You opened the gate?
- The gate did open, and I did take sheep through the town and paid the gate, and they tried to fine me 5l. after.
- (Mr. Oliver.) I got Mr. Jones clear of that.
- (To Mr. Jones.)—Why did you not pay this gate?
- Because we had never been used to pay this gate, and they wanted to put the costs upon me.
James Davies, clerk of the peace:
- How many gates have been destroyed?
- In the Radnorshire Trust there have been five gates destroyed.
- Before the destruction of the gates, how many were there?
- In there were 32; there must be 33 now.
- How many of those gates that were destroyed have you restored?
- We have restored all; at least we are taking toll at all. I do not know whether the gates are entirely up.
John Benn Walsh, parliamentary representative for Radnor county:
- …The first outbreak occurred on ; I happened then to be at Pentybont, ten miles from Rhayader; and I was informed that the two bridge gates had been cut down the previous night. I immediately proceeded to Rhayader and inquired into the transaction, and ascertained the particulars upon the spot. I did not that day meet any of the magistrates, but I communicated with Dr. Venables and Mr. Oliver on the following day. I was not very well acquainted myself with the locality of the gates, but I immediately requested those gentlemen to communicate to me any grievances, or any well founded objections which might exist in that neighbourhood to the existence of any gates, as I was extremely anxious that we should, before taking any measures for vindicating the law, show every disposition to redress the grievances of the people in that part of the country, and those gentlemen particularly mentioned the lower gate doing to Cwmtoyddwr, a gate on the old Aberystwith road, at the top of the hill towards the Devil’s Bridge, in the confines of the county, the New Bridge Gate and Saint Harmons Gate; they mentioned those as gates against which objections might be entertained, and particularly pressed upon me the New Bridge Gate, and stated a very strong case as regards that gate. I was extremely desirous of showing every disposition to enter into the discussion of the grievances of the people, and I immediately consented to bring forward the case of New Bridge Gate at the following turnpike meeting. The feeling I think was, that at that time the cutting down of those gates was the work of a party who are not inhabitants of that immediate neighbourhood; it was supposed that they came from Brecknockshire and Cardiganshire. The steps that were taken then, were an order for the re-erection of those gates. We then proceeded to call a general meeting of the magistrates of the county, who passed resolutions declarative of their determination to repress any attempt at outrage; and at the same time their willingness to give every facility for hearing all complaints which might properly be brought forward, and to redress grievances which might be proved and established. They proceeded to appoint special constables for the protection of the property in Rhayader. The magistrates in the neighbourhood of Rhayader, made a very strong representation to the meeting of the inadequacy of such a force, except under the control and direction of some competent police sergeant, or person accustomed to the organization of such a force. They expressed the strongest conviction that it would be impossible to procure persons who would do their duty, except under some such superintendance, and they likewise very strongly represented that a force composed of special constables, would be a very inadequate one under any circumstances. An application was in consequence made to the Secretary of State, and a sergeant of police was sent down for the purpose of organizing that force. There was no further outbreak until about a month afterwards; the New Bridge Gate was in the first instance attacked and was destroyed, that was the gate the question of the removal of which was brought forward at the meeting, but it was considered that it would be illegal to remove that gate, which formed part of the security which was pledged to the creditors for the interest of their debt. This gate was the first which was destroyed. On receiving information of its destruction, I immediately repaired to New Bridge, and with Dr. Venables, Mr. Oliver, and another magistrate swore in special constables, and ordered that that gate should be re-erected. I likewise considered that it would be necessary to strengthen the special constables, by employing a portion of the military force which had been placed at my disposal by General Brown, which was stationed at New Bridge as a guard in aid of the special constables. Two days afterwards, I received intelligence of a more serious outbreak at Rhayader. Immediately on being made acquainted with it, I signed a requisition to the commanding officer at Builth, to move a detachment upon Rhayader in aid of the civil power, and I then proceeded to Rhayader and made myself acquainted with the particulars of the outbreak which had there occurred. It appeared that three parties had simultaneously approached the town of Rhayader, in the direction of the adjoining parish of Cwmtoyddwr, and Saint Harmons, and Nantmel; they joined as it appeared at the Saint Harmons gate, which they levelled and proceeded to the Penybont, or East Gate, which they likewise demolished. A metropolitan sergeant of police, accompanied by six special constables, met them marching from the Penybont Gate towards the main street, through the town upon the main road. The sergeant drew up his men in a line and called to them to halt. The party walked forward in defiance of this appeal, and ordered him to stand back. When they came up to the special constables, they diverged to the right and passed them. The front rank pointed their guns at the police officer and special constables, and threatened to shoot them; the rear ranks fired several guns in the air, but the front rank always kept their guns pointed at the police officers without discharging them. They defied them to take them; the police constable and special constables being unarmed did not venture to interfere with them. The police officer, who has been in the army, computed their number at from 120 to 150 persons. He observed that they marched in military array, that they maintained good order, and that they were obedient to the word of command, which was given to them by one of the party. They walked through the town to the two bridge gates which had been restored since the former attack, and again demolished them, and proceeded to demolish the turnpike toll-house, The constables were entirely overpowered and intimidated, and did not venture to pursue them further than the bridge. In consequence of the representations which had been very strongly made to me, of the entire inefficiency of the special constables as a force to deal with disturbances of this character, and after communicating with Mr. Davies, the clerk of the peace, and other magistrates, I made an application to the Secretary of State for the assistance of a body of metropolitan police, who arrived on the following day, two days after this affair had occurred. They have since been employed in protecting the gates, and also in endeavouring to trace and detect the perpetrators of this outrage. From the reports which they have made to me, as well as from the observations which I have been enabled to make, I have no doubt of the existence of an organized system, and that the greater part of the inhabitants of the parishes in the immediate neighbourhood of Rhayader, particularly those of Cwmtoyddwr, and Llanwrthll, and Cwm Elau, in Brecknockshire, and Saint Harmons, and a portion of the parish of Nantmel, and a portion of the parish of Llanyre are confederated together. I have every reason to suppose that the heads of this Rebecca confederacy in those parishes, are the principal farmers and occupying tenants of those parishes. The police have entirely failed in their attempts, to bring home any legal evidence of the guilt of any parties; at the same time the general report of the neighbourhood and other circumstances, leave me in no doubt whatever, that the inhabitants of those parishes are almost all cognizant of the persons who committed those outrages, and that in point of fact the inhabitants of those parishes are the parties who were guilty of them.
- Would it not appear, then, from the statement which you have made, that if the gates were to be replaced upon their former footing, and the military and police were withdrawn, attacks upon them, similar to those which have already taken place, would be renewed?
- I entertain no doubt that at the present time, with the present disposition of the inhabitants of those parishes, unless some measures of protection or repression were adopted, the obnoxious gates would be immediately destroyed again if the military and police were withdrawn.
- Does it not appear, from the mode in which they proceeded, that they discriminate between one gate and another; that it is not a rebellion against all gates, but against some gates only?
- Yes, they spared two gates and they destroyed four; whether that was discrimination on their part, or whether they had not time to destroy the others, I do not know, but I should conceive that they certainly did intend to destroy those gates particularly, against which a strong complaint existed in the neighbourhood. I am inclined to think that their object was to attack those gates which were previously obnoxious to the neighbourhood, and against which they conceived that they had just cause of complaint.
- The conclusion, therefore, to which you come is, that if it were possible so to modify the gates as to remove the particular cause of complaint, the system of collecting tolls need not be abandoned from any apprehension of resistance on the part of the country?
- I am not prepared to say what the ultimate objects of this sort of combination are. It certainly appears to me, from a conversation which I had with the parties at Rhayader. that they have other objects in view, not immediately connected with gates, but particularly directed against tithes, and in some respects against the poor-law. I conceive that this confederacy has other and more important objects in view, and that the gates are only in the first instance attacked as being the most prominent, and perhaps the least defensible. I would add, in respect to the principle upon which I have acted throughout these outrages, that my anxious wish has been to give every possible facility to parties pursuing any legal and proper modes of obtaining redress for grievances and preferring complaints in a respectful and proper manner, but that I have felt a very strong impression of the absolute necessity of vindicating the authority of the law, by the adoption of firm and energetic measures at the outset. I entertain a strong persuasion that there are elements in other parts of the county which might very easily take fire, if a certain degree of firmness was not shown at Rhayader. Rhayader is a part of this county which is more immediately in connection with those portions of other counties which have been, unfortunately, the scenes of these Rebecca outrages lately. From the disposition of the people, from the small divisions of property, and from, perhaps, the backward state of that part of the county, I always feared that it would be in the first instance visited by these disturbances, if they appeared at all among us. I felt, therefore, that it was necessary to make every exertion to repress them in the outset at Rhayader. I have been at the same time extremely anxious to win back the people to a respect for the laws, and to invite, and, if possible, to obtain their co-operation in repressing these outrages, and in rendering their services as special constables for the preservation of the peace. I entertain hopes that they are themselves now sufficiently convinced of the folly, as well as the criminality, of these proceedings, and that there is a disposition at present in that locality, if we can at all conciliate the feelings of the better disposed to come forward, to give the authorities an assurance that these excesses will not be repeated, and I should myself deprecate very much any withdrawal of the force which is at present provided for the preservation of the peace, and for the maintenance of the authority of the magistrates and of the law until some such disposition was evinced on the part of the population of those parishes. I think it would be wise, as soon as such a feeling shall appear to be displayed, to confide in it. Of course there must be a certain discretion reposed in the magistrates of the hundred, and those who are immediately in contact with the persons, as to the guarantee which they give, but the disposition of my mind is to repose a confidence in those parties as soon as they come forward in such a manner and intimate their wish to preserve the peace, and I think that we might, after the display of force, and the decided measures which we have adopted at the outset, hope in that case that peace might be restored in the county, and that these disorders would not further encroach upon it.
- The Commissioners understand that no actual outbreak took place at Knighton, but that the moving of troops there was in apprehension of an outbreak?
- Exactly, and as the question is put to me, I may be permitted to state, very shortly, the circumstances which led to the application for military force. I received from a highly respectable individual, resident in Knighton, a gentleman of great local knowledge, a communication informing me that an attack upon the workhouse had been threatened, that he had received information of that fact from a source which he considered entitled to credit, and submitting to me the propriety of sending a military force for the protection of the workhouse and the town. I immediately considered it my duty to repair to the town of Knighton to investigate the circumstances upon the spot, before I gave any such order, and I there convened a meeting of the magistrates of the hundred, and although considerable doubt was expressed by some of the magistrates of the correctness of the information which had been given to me, yet upon the whole they unanimously voted for an application to the authorities for a military force for the protection of the workhouse. I forwarded that application, and the force was immediately sent there at the request of the magistrates. I have received communications since from the magistrates of the hundred; they have instituted a very complete inquiry, I believe, into the sources of the information which created this alarm, and I am perfectly satisfied upon their communication with me, that the danger does not exist, and in consequence of receiving a communication from them to that effect, I have forwarded a letter to the commander of the district recommending that the military force should be withdrawn.
Edward Williams, clerk of the Breknockshire Trust:
- Were any gates taken down by the Rebeccaites?
- Only one gate, that was the Ceffnllandewi Gate.
Francis McKiernin & George Laing:
- Have any of those gates been pulled down?
- [McKiernin] Yes, we are both out on bail, charged with having pulled the gates down.
- [Laing] And that a gate we never wanted to come through.
- [McKiernin] I was never out of my house that night, but a drunken fellow informed against me, and I was admitted to bail.
- Have you anything to say to the Commissioners?
- Lately the magistrates have ordered two gates in Gower, the gates of Kilvrough and Cartersford, to be guarded, which gates do not interfere with the parish at all, but they happen to be placed in two parishes which are nearly all my own property; and now, in consequence of a letter from the Secretary of State, the parish constables are ordered to be paid by the parish; they say that is the law; they read the Act of Parliament in a different way from what I do; but the parishioners are very much discontented about it, and in fact I am almost afraid we shall have Rebeccaism there, where nothing of the sort ever existed before, for they are all English people.
- Was any gate pulled down in Gower?
- Yes, one gate in the Welsh part of Gower was pulled down, that was the Poinfalt Gate. I wrote to the magistrates’ clerk to beg that the magistrates would take the constables away, for I knew there was no fear of anything, but they remained for five weeks, till the expenses of guarding those gates now are 15 guineas each week, and I consider it to be perfectly useless, as a magistrate, knowing the disposition of the people.
- What led to the guarding of those gates; was there any attack upon the gates?
- No; it was only because the chief constable chose to recommend it; and the hardship is that the parish should pay for it, where there is not one person in the parish that has occasion to go through the gate except my own tenant, who lives at my farm, and I am sure he would not attack it, and all the other parishioners live on the other side.
Thomas Arnold Marten, clerk of the Swansea & Wych Tree Trust:
- Were any of the gates in the Trust pulled down?
- The Pontardulais Gate was, and the Bolgoed Bar, the Pomfalt Gate in Gower, the Rhydypandy Gate, and the Red House Bars.
- What have the trustees done with respect to those gates that were taken down, have they restored them?
- They have restored the Pontardulais Gate and the Red House Bars; they removed the other gates and bar.
Thomas Bullin, who rented and supervised collection at many toll gates:
- …there were four gates on this Whitland Trust put up, and I rented them, and I gave 800l. for the whole of the gates there. I do not think that many people knew we were going to take tolls (there were notices given, but there are not many newspapers taken in that part of the country) till the gates were put up. After they were put up the people seemed very uneasy; they were put up at the time the lime season began; they had no sooner been put up than one was taken down one night, and then another the next night; and Mr. John Jones, a gentleman well known in the county, and a few more gentlemen residing in Carmarthenshire, met at St. Clear’s as trustees, who had never acted before, at least I never saw them. I found I should have some difficulty in collecting the toll; I had paid 200l. in advance, and I wished to get my money back and give up the gates, and they said they had spent all the money; and I was left therefore in the lurch, and I have never had the money till this day.
- Did you give up the gates?
- Yes, I did, because Mr. Jones and the rest wished me, as being the renter, to give them up, so that they might do away with all those gates which had been taken down; so I told them that I would willingly give up, because I knew that I should have great difficulty in taking the toll; but I thought that they were doing wrong all the time, because it was an encouragement to people to do wrong, and I thought it would be a great advantage to have good roads; but however it was determined to do away with them, but not by the commissioners in that part of the country, but by persons who came from different parts of Carmarthenshire.
- Were you present at the meeting when it was agreed not to re-erect those gates?
- Yes, I was.
- What was said at the meeting, and what did you prophesy about the effect of it?
- My belief was, that there would not be many gates in that part of the country if they gave way to the people in that sort of manner.
- Did you say that the consenting to keep down those gates would be the cause of pulling down the gates generally?
- I did.
- Where was the meeting?
- At the Blue Boar, St. Clear’s.
- How soon after that meeting was there any outbreak?
- After these gates were done away with, and the people were rejoicing at what they had done, the name Rebecca originated in the neighbourhood of St. Clear’s, because they used to ring that in my ears, “Rebecca will come to you.”
- As long ago as that?
- Was that after the meeting?
- Yes, after the meeting the person that took the lead was called “Becca.”
- Who was that person?
- I do not know. I have no doubt it was some respectable man in that part of the country, but I do not know who it was.
- When did you first hear that name used?
- As soon as ever the first gate was taken down, this leader was called “Becca and her daughters.”
- How soon was it after the trustees had taken down this gate in consequence of the resolution of the meeting, that any gates were pulled down by the mob?
- It was in ; there was a bar put up near St. Clear’s, and they took that down.
- Was that in the same district?
- No, on the turnpike-road; they then returned to this Whitland Trust again, and took down nearly every one on the Trust, bars, gates, and all into the town of Narberth.
- When was that?
- In ; whether there was one left standing I do not know..
- There have been some re-erected, have there not?
- Yes. Then the people began to be excited in the county through the reports, particularly the reports which appeared in the “Times” and other papers, for my belief is that this was excited by the papers more than anything else; that that was the cause of it, from the newspapers giving the accounts and exciting the people. It was supposed, from the accounts in the papers, that they were doing right, and were backed on by different people where they had their grievances, or had a spite against different people.
Robert Cook, assistant clerk of the Llantrissant Trust:
- There were two gates removed by violence, and persons were convicted for taking one away, one gate at a place called Cwmnar; there was only a chain there, no gate.
- Was not the Cross Vane Gate taken off?
- Yes, and destroyed.
- And never seen again?
- That is a gate at the very entrance to your Trust, about six miles from Cardiff?
- Yes, about six or seven miles, between Cardiff and Llantrissant.
- Were any parties taken up for that?
- They were not found out; and Chapel Gate, and toll boards were demolished.
- That is a third one?
- Was that a gate or a chain?
- A gate.
- The toll boards were destroyed?
- Were not the toll boards also destroyed at Newbridge?
- I believe one of the toll boards was split through.
- When were those three gates on the Llantrissant district destroyed or removed?
- About .
- Which was the first taken down?
- Chapel Gate.
- Which was the next?
- Cross Vane, and that was a week or nine days afterwards.
- The third?
- The third about , the parties were brought before the magistrates.
- Was it done in the night?
- That was done in the night, and the other was done in the night.
- Was part of the toll house taken down?
- They began unroofing the toll house at Cwmnar; it is a very low toll house that might be reached with their hands from the ground.
- Was it done violently and outrageously, and in defiance of the law?
- I suppose it was done in a fit of drunkenness.
- Were any people seen disguised about there?
- There were two men seen; the toll gatherer saw them.
- Were their faces blackened?
- No; they did not disguise themselves; they were found near the toll house; they had been to a public house close by.
- Have the gates been set up again?
- They have not; at the one at Chapel they have put a chain.
- At Cross Vane?
- Do they receive any toll at Cross Vane?
- Yes; they demand toll regularly, but there are several who go through without paying; some will pay and others will not.
- How long has that gate been placed there?
- About six or seven years.
- And it has been a good deal objected to, has it not?
- Only lately. I have never heard any complaint before.
- The toll is not now regularly taken?
- It is demanded, and refused sometimes by some parties.
- Do they take them before the magistrates?
- They keep a list of them.
- Do you know any party who refuses to pay?
- Has any party been summoned for refusing?
- Not yet, but they are to be. It is proposed to be abolished on .