Rebeccaites on Trial in Pembrokeshire

The Pembrokeshire Spring Assizes sat on to begin trying some Rebeccaite cases.

Rebecca Trials.

The first case was one arising out of the late Rebecca riots, and excited a good deal of interest in the town [Haverfordwest]; it was that of the Queen against William [sic, actually Joseph] Walters and David Vaughan, for a riot and unlawfully [sic] assembly at Prendergast turnpike-gate, on . Messrs. Chilton, Q.C., Evans, Q.C., V. Williams, and Hall, were Counsel for the Crown, and Mr. Nicholl Carne for the defendants.

Mr. Chilton stated the case to the jury, and called the following witnesses for the prosecution:–

John Davies, shoemaker, examined:– I was a constable in . On I went to the Three Corner Piece, on the Fishguard road. Saw four or five men standing before the door. It was then . There was nothing particular in their appearance. I went on further, and met from twenty to thirty people. I said good night to them. Some of them had sprays of trees about their hats. I went on, and near Treffgarne bridge I met a third party. They also had branches of trees about their heads. When I met the second party, one of them said, I must come to join Becca, or would I join Becca? I was rather afraid on that occasion. I then returned, and turned out of the road at Treffgarne bridge, intending to come back by the river because I was afraid. I cannot say whether the faces of any of them were blackened. I missed my way in coming back through the fields, and was on that account a little longer before I reached Haverfordwest. As soon as I got there I went to the Townhall to the Magistrates. When I was in the fields I heard the report of two guns.

Cross-examined by Mr. Carne:– None of the people I met did anything to frighten me. I saw no spray in the hats of the first party. I cannot say how many of the second party had sprays in their hats, nor of the third party either. Neither of them did or said anything to frighten me. I saw no offensive weapon in their hands.

George Thomas examined:— I am apprentice to John James, blacksmith, of Tangiers, that is about a mile and a half from this town. I remember after I had gone to bed on some persons coming to the door. I got up and saw some persons at the door. They were on foot, but one was on horseback. I think there were more than twenty. One of them spoke to me, and said they wanted to go to the shop. I did not observe the faces of any of them. I think the man on horseback had his face blackened. I said I had not got the key of the shop. They then rose the door off the hinges, and took a sledge and cliff from the shop, and went away. I followed them as far as Simon Evans’s house, which is on the road to Crow’s Nest and Haverfordwest. I then returned home. Before I reached home I heard a gun go off. About nine or ten people then passed me. I saw a small stick in the hand of one of them. I could not see their faces, as some of them had something white about their heads.

Cross-examined by Mr. Nicholl Carne:– I thought the gun was discharged about Prendergast.

John James, blacksmith, Tangiers, examined:– Is master of last witness. I was in this town on . When I got to Simon Evans’s house, I observed some person coming against me. There might have been one hundred persons there. About twenty were on horseback. The horses were first, and the foot people afterwards. They kept the middle of the road. I did not see anything on their shoulders, as it was very dark. They said nothing to me. I then went back towards Haverfordwest, as far as Captain James’s house, that is about half a mile from this town. When I got there I heard a gun go off in the direction of Prendergast gate. Shortly after I heard the sound of persons coming towards me on horseback and foot. I went into Captain James’s yard, and saw a number of persons going up, away from Haverfordwest. Some were running, and others walking. There were a good many persons. I then went home. My boy told me something, in consequence of which I went into my shop, and missed a sledge hammer and a cliff. The articles now produced are the ones I missed.

Examined by Mr. Carne:— I first met the people about a mile from Haverfordwest. It was . They were perfectly quiet. I was not at all frightened.

Re-examined by Mr. Chilton:– It was too dark for me to see whether they were disguised.

Mr. Joseph Potter, jun., examined:— I am the son of Mr. Potter, who was Mayor of this town . I accompanied my father to Prendergast Gate on the night of the disturbance, I and Williams, the policeman, went on as far as Crow’s Nest. When there, I heard a body of horse galloping from the Fishguard road. I returned towards the gate. The noise then ceased, and we returned to Colby Scott, and saw some men, and heard them talk. I then retired, and arrived at the gate first, before the men came up. The first thing I saw was a horse’s head over the gate, near my face. The man on horseback presented a gun. He appeared to have some shawl over his head. He said forward more than once. I then saw Williams rush at him and seize the gun. They struggled for some time, during which the horse turned round, and the gun went off. The man on the horse then galloped away. I then saw a scuffle a little way up, and found that my brother-in-law, Llewellin, had secured the prisoner, Walters. While there, I saw the flash of a gun, but heard no report. All the men appeared to be disguised, with branches in their hats, and had their faces blackened. The road was quite full of men. They had sticks in their hands. They all ran away when the man on horseback got off. The Prendergast gate was at that time within the borough.

Examined by Mr. Carne:– I saw no more than one horse that night. The people made no noise — the men were jumping about. The man at the gate on horseback said “forward” more than once, and said “off, off,” afterwards. He sloped the gun upwards, towards the sky. I had never seen the man Llewellin secured before that night. I did not notice him among the number at the gate. The men had large crooked sticks in their hands. Thirty or forty had sticks.

William Williams examined by Mr. Evans:– I am a police constable of this town, and accompanied Mr. Potter to the gate in . Went up the road, and heard people talking and horses galloping. We then returned towards the gate. The noise stopped, on which we went on again. The noise was again resumed, and followed us towards the gate. I stood on the right hand side of the gate. The man on horseback said “forward, forward.” He had a gun in his hand. He went up to the gate. I was then three or four yards from him. He had a long beard, and something white coming down over his head and shoulders. I went towards him. He presented the gun at me. He then looked round, to see if his men were coming on, when I caught hold of the gun, and struggled with him. The horse then turned, and the gun went off towards Crow’s Nest. I got the gun, and the man galloped off. This is the gun I took [gun produced]; one of the barrels was discharged, the other was capped and cocked. I afterwards saw Mr. Phillips take off the barrel and remove the charge — it was a leaden ball and powder. The men had sticks and other things with them. I afterwards went beyond the gate, and saw a horse there. He appeared to be hurt in the thigh, and died shortly afterwards. I produce the ball taken out of the thigh. That was not the horse the man was on.

Wm. Llewellin examined:— I am a brother-in-law to Mr. Potter, jun. I went up after the Mayor, on , to Prendergast gate. I saw a man come up to the gate on horseback. I heard him cry out, “forward, forward.” There were people on each side of him. I saw a gun with him, and a gun with another man. The faces of both men were blackened, and they had branches of trees in their hats. Most of them were armed with large bludgeons. The demeanour and appearance of the men were such as to inspire terror in a person of ordinary courage. I saw a scuffle between Williams and a man on horseback. I saw Williams secure the gun. As soon as the man was disarmed he cried “off, off.” I ran after them, and got close to the prisoner, Walters. He held a gun in his right hand. I walked alongside of Walters for 20 or 30 yards, and was then surrounded by persons in disguise. Wallers either passed the gun to another, or threw it away. I saw the constable, Adams, and then spoke to Wallers, and asked him what he wanted there. He said he was not one of the party. I then asked him what he wanted with a gun. He denied having had one. I then seized him, and he then called out for assistance. I brought him to town. On going down the hill, I told him that it was of no use I for him to deny the gun, as I had seen it with him. He said it was not his gun, but had been given him while the mob stopped at Colby Scott. I took him to the Hall, where he was searched. Some gunpowder was found near his feet — it was made up in the form of a cartridge, and his face was blackened. I first saw him on the Colby Scott side. He was about ten yards from the gate then.

Examined by Mr. Nicholl Carne:— The powder was found on the floor of the Hall. I met Walters a minute or two after the man on horseback had left; he was looking towards the gate.

John Blethyn, constable, examined:— Went to Prendergast gate on . Saw the man coming on horseback. I was leaning against the gate post. After he had retired I followed. About 100 yards up I found those sticks. [Sticks produced.]

Thomas Adams, constable, examined:– I went to the Prendergast gate, and saw the scuffle between Williams and the man who came to the gate. He was surrounded by a great number of persons. I saw the prisoner, David Vaughan, about thirty or forty yards above the gate, near Philip White’s house. James Davies, the constable, was scuffling with Vaughan. I heard somebody say “Here’s Becca.” I laid hold of Vaughan, and secured him. Vaughan had on an old hat with a handkerchief tying it down. His face was blackened.

Cross-examined by Mr. Carne:– I never saw Vaughan nearer the gate than within thirty or forty yards that night. He was then scuffling with Davies. I observed no branches on the heads of the people nor any disguise. I heard no riot or disturbance.

James Davies, constable, examined:— Was at the Prendergast gate on . After the man on horseback had rode away, I went towards Colby Scott. I saw a person attempting to go over a hedge about forty yards up. It was David Vaughan. I laid hold of him. He had on a round jacket and an old hat. I gave him into the custody of Garrett, the policeman. I did not see his face.

Thomas Roch Garrett, policeman, examined:– Was at the Prendergast gate on . Received the prisoner Vaughan into my custody. I searched him. I found a burnt cork and some gunpowder on Walters. I saw Walters drop the powder on the ground. Vaughan’s face was blackened.

Thomas Nash Phillips, constable, examined by Mr. Hall:— I was at the gate on . I saw the constable Williams there. He gave me a gun in the Magistrates room. I took the barrel off, and found a cartridge. It was composed of gunpowder and a ball. I now produce it. I produce also a percussion cap, which I took off the nipple of the loaded barrel.

Thomas Carter examined:— I was near the Prendergast gate . I found a blacksmith’s cliff about sixty yards above the gate.

Wm. Morgan deposed to finding a sledge-hammer near the gate, on .

Elisabeth Llewellyn examined:— I live with my mother, at the Corner Piece public-house, which is four miles from here. On , a number of persons came to the house, some were on horseback and others on foot — perhaps there were 20 there. I cannot say how much ale they drank. I am sure I did not receive 20s. for it — the money was given to my mother. Some of their faces had a chance black spot on them. I was going to the door with a light, to receive the money, and a gentleman on horseback told me to go back with the candle — he spoke very good English. Some of the people wore caps and turbans. Men do not commonly wear turbans in that part of the country. [The Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser on the other hand renders this testimony as: “I have seen men in this country wear such caps at ten o’clock at night; such things are common in the country… By turbans I mean worsted caps. They are common in that part of the country.”]

Margaret Llewellyn corroborated the evidence of the last witness.

Mr. Nicholl Carne then addressed the Jury for the defendants, in an able speech. He contended that there was no evidence of a riot, or any disturbance of the public peace, — that it was not shewn that either of the defendants belonged to the party who came up to the gate, — that no breach of the peace was committed by anybody, until Williams, the policeman, jumped at the man on horseback, — that it did not appear what the intentions of the party at all were, — and that it would not, therefore, be right to convict the prisoners on suspicion of being concerned in riot, in the absence of reasonable evidence. The learned Counsel went through the whole of the evidence adduced for the prosecution, and submitted that it was not sufficient to warrant the Jury in convicting the prisoners.

His Lordship then summed up, and directed the Jury that before they convicted the defendants, they must be satisfied, first, that there was a riot, or unlawful assembly; and, secondly, that the prisoners were present acting therein, or aiding the real actors.

The Jury, after a short deliberation, returned a verdict against both defendants, of “Guilty of an Unlawful Assembly.”

Sentence deferred till .

The Rebecca Rioters.

Mr. Vaughan Williams moved that the recognizances of the prisoners, from No. 2 to No. 27 on the calendar, be discharged. In these cases the prisoners were held to bail for having been concerned in the riotous proceedings at Fishguard, in , the Crown proceeding no further in them. The motion was granted.

Reg. v. Walters and Vaughan. — These defendants were convicted of being present at an unlawful assembly at the Prendergast gate. — His Lordship now sentenced them to Twelve months’ imprisonment each.

These excerpts come from the issue of the Cambrian. Another account of the Assizes is given in the issue of the Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser which is in some ways more extensive.