Magistrates Trying Rebeccaite Cases Are Also Toll Road Trustees

The examination of the suspected Rebeccaites captured around Pontardulais continued on .

On a hunch, I cross-checked the newspaper account of the list of 12 Magistrates who were conducting this investigation with the earlier newspaper account of the meeting of 23 trustees of the Swansea Turnpike and Wych Tree Bridge Trusts. The names J.H. Vivian, Samuel Davies, T. Edward Thomas, John Grove, J.D. Berrington, and J.D. Llewelyn appear in both lists. So it seems that the magistrates acting as grand juries to investigate the tollgate attacks were largely the same set of people who were profiting from the tollgates. At least half of the people in this grand jury were also trustees of that one trust. No wonder the Rebeccaites didn’t trust the local authorities to rectify things.

Here are some excerpts from the coverage of the examination as given in the Monmouthshire Merlin:

At the Hall was crowded by persons, most of whom had evidently travelled a considerable distance, for the purpose, of being present at the adjourned examination.

The prisoners, John Hughes, David Jones, and John Hugh having been placed at the bar, were told that they stood charged with having, on , with divers evil-disposed persons, at the parish of Llandilo-Talybont, in this county, unlawfully, riotously, and tumultuously assembled together, to the disturbance of the public peace; and being then and there assembled, did feloniously and unlawfully begin to demolish and pull down the dwelling-house of one William Lewis, there situate.

The Chairman having cautioned the prisoners, and informed them that anything they said would be taken down in writing, and probably used against them, asked them if they wished make any statements in reply to the charge.

The prisoners severally replied — “I have nothing to say now.”

Mr. Attwood then informed them that there was a second charge against them — namely, a charge against John Hughes of having feloniously, unlawfully, and with malice aforethought committed an assault upon Captain Napier, with intent to kill and murder him [the coverage in The Cambrian makes this more specific: “charging him with having, on the night in question, in the parish of Llandilo-Talybont, a certain pistol loaded with gunpowder and shot, which he held in his right hand at and against one Charles Frederick Napier, feloniously and unlawfully did shoot, with the intention feloniously, willfully, and of malice aforethought, the said Charles Frederick Napier to kill and murder”]; and the prisoners David Jones and John Hugh were charged with aiding and abetting John Hughes.

The prisoners severally said — “I have nothing to say till the trial.”

The prisoners, William Hughes and Lewis Davies, were informed that they stood charged with having unlawfully thrown down a turnpike gate — to which they replied that they had nothing to say.

The Chairman then addressed the prisoners as follows:– “John Hughes, David Jones, John Hugh, William Hughes, and Lewis Davies, I have now to inform you that you are committed for trial at the first Assizes held for this county.”

On the application of Mr. Hugh Williams, William Hughes and Lewis Davies, were admitted to bail.