Seven Rebeccaites Captured in Attack on Pontardulais Gate

The on-line version of the Cambrian’s account of the attack on the Pontardulais gate (in the issue) is, unfortunately, poorly-scanned. I’ll see how much of it I can recover:

Conflict between the Rebeccaites and the Constables.

Seven of the Former Taken Prisoners, and Two Dangerously Wounded.

Information was received by the authorities on , that an attack upon the Pontardulais gate had been contemplated, and was to be carried into effect during the night. A force of Rural Police, consisting of Mr. Superintendent Peake, two sergeants, and four policemen, proceeded towards that place. They were soon afterwards [join]ed by Capt. Napier, J.D. Llewelyn, and L.Ll. Dillwyn, Esqrs., and accompanied by Matthew Moggridge, Esq., and [Mr.?] Attwood. When about two or three fields distant from Pontardulais, they heard the firing of guns, rockets, the blowing of horns, and the noise of a great number of horses, [more] resembling a cavalry regiment than a party of Rebeccaites. It is stated, that with the blowing of ox-horns, tin-[horns], and different other wind instruments, in addition to [?] feigned voices — resembling a host of old market-women, they made a most hideous and indescribable noise. The [party] came from the direction of Llanon. After having given three cheers, when opposite the Pontardulais Inn, they arrived at the gate, which is but a short distance from the Inn. They commenced an attack upon it with saws, [?]ges, &c., and soon succeeded in breaking down the gate, as well as the side-rails, and also had commenced demolishing the house, having broken the windows, and a portion of the corner of the house nearest the Inn; they had also knocked in the door, but the posts had not been cut down. When the work of destruction had proceeded thus far, the magistrates and the Police, who were well armed, advanced. The number of Rebeccaites assembled at this time was estimated to consist of 150 to 200 persons, the majority of whom were on horseback. They were all disguised, many of them having their faces blackened, and dressed in women’s clothes; others wore bonnets, white shirts, and some appeared with their coats turned. Becca, on this occasion, was mounted, and wore a large white cloak. When the police appeared, the rioters immediately fired a volley at them, but, fortunately, without effect. The police immediately fired in return. The distance between the constables and the rioters did not now exceed ten to fifteen yards. A desperate conflict ensued, which lasted about fifteen minutes, when the mob commenced retreating and flying all directions. The groans of several of the wounded were distinctly heard.

The mob having dispersed, it was found that three of them had been captured, together with their horses, and among them the renowned Rebecca, who was found dangerously wounded on the bridge. He was dressed in female [attire], with bonnet, veil, &c., in addition to which his face was blackened. His name is David Hughes, the son of a [farmer] residing in the neighbourhood of Llanon. Another person, named John Jones, was also dangerously wounded.

In the course of quarter of an hour the Dragoons, who had been dispatched from Swansea, arrived. Four of the rioters, who attempted to make their escape, were also apprehended, having been met by a party of Dragoons, who were coming from Llanelly. The four were secured, and brought back to Pontardulais, but were subsequently taken to Llanelly, while the three prisoners who were captured by the police during the conflict, were brought to Swansea in a phæton; they arrived about . A number of horns, two guns, two sledge-hammers, and the various other implements of war which were taken from the rioters, were deposited in the Station-house, together with the white cloak worn by Rebecca, and the shirt worn by the other wounded man, which were literally dyed with blood.

It has been stated to us, that the rioters had placed sentinels on horseback, in several parts of the road, at distances [of] two miles from the gate, expecting that the Dragoons [would] be their pursuers, but their tactics were entirely [muffled], as the Magistrates and Police proceeded across the fields, which could not have been well done by horsemen.

The wounded men were immediately attended to by Dr. Bird, who ordered them to be conveyed on stretchers to the Infirmary of the Swansea House of Correction. Both of them are in a very precarious — some say, dying state. It appeared that David Hughes had received a gunshot in the left arm, on the outside of the elbow joint. The ball, which was quite flattened when extracted, had passed upwards from the elbow, shattering the bone of the arm at its lower [end], and was extracted at the back part of the same arm, midway between the shoulder and elbow; he had also a contused wound on the head. There is doubt as to the possibility of eventually saving the wounded arm of this man. John Jones, the other wounded man, is also in a very precarious state. He had received several wounds in the back, which appear to have been inflicted by shot, or slugs, a circumstance which proves that, by their unskilfulness and want of order, the rioters fired at each other, for the police used neither slugs nor shot. Jones has also been stabbed, and had three wounds on the head, which had been apparently inflicted with swords. He is in a very low and depressed state, and Dr. Bird is fearful some of the slugs or shot might have passed into the large cavities of the body, but there was no further evidence of that than the exhausted and depressed powers of life evinced in the man.

In the pocket of the leader were found a quantity of percussion-caps, powder, &c., and about 3l. in money, and the following Becca notice:– “Daniel Jones, of Brynhir — Meet [us] at Llan, on ; if you don’t, this shall be your last notice. –Becca.”

It appears that all the persons who composed the mob had come from Carmarthenshire. — The conduct of the small police force, in opposition to so numerous a mob, has excited considerable astonishment and admiration.

Examination of the Prisoners at Llanelly.

The following magistrates met at the Union House, R.J. Nevill, J.H. Rees, and Wm. Chambers, Esqrs., when the following prisoners were brought before them:– William Hugh, a lad of 15 years of age, the son of a very respectable farmer of Talyclew, dressed in woman’s clothes — Thomas Williams, a servant to a farmer at Llangennech — Henry Rogers, a farm servant at Pennllwyngwyn, and Lewis Davies, farmer, of Scybor Ucha, near Pontarddulais. It having been explained to them, in Welsh, that they were brought up for the purpose of hearing the evidence that would be adduced against them.

Mr. Wm. Chambers, jun., was sworn as the first witness, and deposed as follows:– I am a justice of the peace acting for this county. I received information that there was to be an attack made last night upon the Pontarddulais and Hendy Bridge gates; and in consequence of such information, I applied to Capt. Scott of the 76th Regiment of Foot, stationed here, to furnish me with a sufficient number of soldiers to protect the Hendy gate. He did so, and we proceeded accordingly; and at about , having arrived at the wooden bridge over the Gwilly on the railway, we saw a rocket fired. Previous to our reaching this bridge, we had concealed the soldiers. The rocket was fired in the direction between Mynydd Sylen and Llanedy. We had between twenty and thirty soldiers with us. The rocket appeared as if it came from the bogs at Llanon. We went on until we arrived near the Gwilly bridge, which is between the Hendy gate and Pontarddulais, and when there we heard the blowing of horns, which were sounded to one particular note, which was repeated several times. In the course of four or five seconds after the last blow of the horn, we heard the report of fire arms in the direction of the Pontarddulais gait. All this while, the soldiers were still concealed under the side of the hedge, and I was in advance of where they were about one hundred yards. Hearing the firearms, I immediately returned to the soldiers, and got them to move into the field, in which I was, south to the railway, and requested Capt. Scott to order his men to load, which they did, and fixed their bayonets. We then proceeded with all haste to very near the wooden bridge over the Gwilly. When we had arrived there I divided the men into two parties — Capt. Scott and myself, and put the other under the charge of Mr. Payne, with directions that he should go, as we were going, under cover of the hedges, and cut off the retreat of the people from the Hendy Bridge towards Llanelly. The firing which we heard continued from about seven to ten minutes, pretty rapidly, for during that time I should say that there were from seventy to eighty shots fired. Not being aware that any of the police were near the Pontardulais gate, I thought the firing to be a sort of feu-de-joie, which such persons do according to their usual practice when they have destroyed a gate. After they had destroyed the Pontardulais gate, I fully anticipated an attack would be made on the Hendy Bridge gate, my information leading me to suppose that they were both to be attacked. While we were there, I saw a man coming down the railway — he was not running, but walking very fast; at this time the soldiers were hid, and only one of us could be seen at a time. With the assistance of Capt. Scott, I caught hold of the man by the collar — the prisoner now present, Lewis Davies, is the man. He was dressed in his usual dress, but he had the upper part of his face blacked, and the lower part done with red ochre; he had a straw hat on. As soon as he was taken, he put his head down, and his right hand up, and put something under the tail of his coat. I immediately put my hand under, and drew forth the woman’s cap now produced. I then left him in charge of Sergeant Gibb, with one or two men, and ran, as fast as I could, up towards the turnpike-road, between Pontardulais and Llanelly, which position was east of the Hendy gate. I got the soldiers up into the position, and put them under the hedge separating the field from the road. I then heard some people coming along the road, and moved towards Pontardulais, beyond the soldiers, to peep over the hedge, and see who they were, as they appeared to me to be going in the direction from Hendy gate to Pontardulais; they were three or four. The moon shone brightly, and I fancy they saw the edge of my hat over the hedge, for they immediately whispered and turned back, and the boy prisoner, Wm. Hugh, who was disguised in woman’s clothes, got over the gate into the field where we were; but as soon as he saw the soldiers he turned back again, and ran in the direction of Hendy Bridge gate. The soldiers followed him, and some of them caught him at the bottom of the hill. Two others went up the road, towards Pontardulais, and another over the hedge, towards the farm. I was following them, but hearing the boy shrieking out, I ran back in that direction, to prevent his making any more noise. He was much frightened, and I told him not to be frightened, and he should not be hurt. I also asked him who he was. He was disguised in woman’s apparel, and his face was covered with black. He told me his name was Hugh, and that his father had just got over the hedge, and a servant-boy, whose name he mentioned. When I first caught him, I thought he was a girl, but on observing he had a trousers on, I saw he was a boy. Just before these people came up the road, I heard a noise in the direction of Swansea, which I thought was that of carriages bringing up the troops, but soon found it was the galloping of cavalry. I then said to Capt. Scott, it is no use our waiting here, and I made as quick an advance as possible in the direction of Pontardulais along the turnpike road — the boy being left a prisoner in charge of Sergeant Gibb. When we arrived at Pontardulais, I saw the dragoons gallop up just as we turned the corner. They took us for a body of the Rebeccaites coming back to the gate and were about to charge us, but we called out “Halt!” and some of the men presented bayonets, when we said we were friends. We went on to the Pontardulais gate, and found the gate was entirely destroyed, the toll-board destroyed, shot marks on the top of the windows, and the inside gutted. There were three men lying handcuffed on the floor. I know it to be a dwelling-house. I then recognised a number of Glamorganshire Magistrates, and Capt. Napier, and some of the Rural Police. I was asked to go as a Carmarthenshire Magistrate, and search some of the houses up the hill towards Llanon, where I heard there were a number of men who had escaped, but who were wounded. I did not find any, but there was plenty of time for them to be removed. I then returned home. I forgot to say that in returning, the boy Hugh said to me, I have thrown my horn away into the hedge. I returned and searched the hedge for it, and found a cow’s horn [horn produced], which, at my request, the boy blew for me.

Henry Gibb sworn:– I am a sergeant in the 76th Foot. Last night I was out with the soldiers and the Magistrates. I had one of the prisoners given to my charge. I heard a shrieking in the field, and some men running. On looking down the road, I saw the two prisoners Henry Rogers and Thomas Williams walk up the railroad very fast. I took them into custody, and told them they were to fall in with the rest, and stand at ease. They said they had not done any harm. I asked them what they were doing, and told them I would let them go free if they would tell where the rest were gone. They said they had only been out to look at it.

Rebecca notices were served calling upon the people to assemble on near Llanon. The police having got hold of one of them, the most judicious steps were taken by Capt. Napier to apprehend the rioters. The police were concealed in a field within a hundred yards of the Pontarddulais gate. At about on the night in question, the Rebeccaites assembled in a long body near Llanon, The Rebecca who is shot was dressed in bonnet and veil, &c., armed with a gun and mounted on a horse. As they marched along, they kept blowing their horns and firing their guns. An eye witness says, there were at least one hundred horses, who were marching in regular procession, most of them having two people on each — the procession being headed by Rebecca, and all her daughters being disguised in white dresses, bonnets, and caps. Upon their arriving near Pontarddulais they were heard by the gatekeeper, who states that the gate had been “threatened” for some time past, and about he was alarmed by shouts and the firing of guns. They were about a mile off when he first heard them. He immediately removed the rest of his furniture into the garden at the back of his house, which he thus saved. When he saw the mob at the top of the hill coming down towards him, he felt much alarmed, and ran to hide himself in a field about one hundred yards from the gate. Arriving at the gate, they immediately proceeded to pull it down: one gate was broken to pieces, and also the rails on each side of the gate-posts. The windows and door of the house were smashed in, and the inside completely gutted; a part of the wall of the house was also pulled down, shewing that a few minutes longer would have sufficed to raze it to the ground; there are also a great quantity of bullet marks about the windows and front part of the house. When they got thus far, Captain Napier, whose great object was to capture the ringleader and others while actually engaged in the work, rushed, together with his men, from their hiding place, and commanded them to desist; but, in attempting to capture some of them, was immediately fired upon, and a desperate struggle ensued, during which the horse of Rebecca was shot, and she also wounded in the arm, besides wounding another man, who is taken, and several who made their escape. The Rebeccaites then soon fled, leaving three of their body, two of whom were seriously wounded, in the hands of the police. At this moment, a part of the 76th Regiment, under the command of Capt. Scott, accompanied by Mr. W. Chambers, jun., arrived from Llanelly, having taken four prisoners while fleeing. In four or five minutes afterwards the Dragoons, commanded by Capt. Fane, came up. The Rebeccaites had in the meanwhile fled in the direction of Llanedy and Llanon carrying their wounded with them.

On being asked what he had to say in self-defence, Lewis Davies made a long statement, the substance of which was that he was compelled to accompany the mob by threats from ten or twelve persons, who called for him, with guns, &c., on the night in question.

The prisoner, Henry Rogers, said he was a farm servant at Penllwyngwyn, and only went to see the mob.

Thomas Williams, servant to John Thomas, Llangennech Mill, said that he accompanied Rogers to see them, and was apprehended in returning home.

William Hugh said that while he was in bed, a crowd of persons came to his house at Talyclew, and compelled him to go with them. He preceded to put on his own clothes, and they dressed him in women’s clothes, and put in his hand the horn which was found with him. When an opportunity offered, he turned back, and in crossing a gate, met the soldiers, who apprehended him.

The inquiry was then adjourned: and the further examination of the prisoners will be held at Swansea, where, they arrived .

The first witness for the prosecution was the son of one of the magistrates judging the examination? Nice.