The authorities finally get a break in the Rebecca case, laying a toll-gate ambush for Rebecca and her Daughters and capturing two of them in the act. From the Cambrian:
Haverfordwest, . On this town was thrown into a state of considerable excitement from a report that Rebecca and her Daughters intended to pay us a visit during the night, in order to pull down the toll-gates about the town. The Magistrates had been previously summoned together at the request of the Chairman (the Rev. Thomas Martin), to whom it appears information of the intended attack was conveyed during , by a person who was in Rebecca’s secrets. The Magistrates immediately sent off expresses to Pembroke Dock for a detachment of marines, and to Narbeth for a troop of cavalry. The latter arrived in town , and were ordered to hold themselves in readiness for immediate service. The marines did not arrive until . Between twenty and thirty of the town constables were also called out, and stationed at the Prendergast toll-gate, to await the arrival of the Rebeccaites. Considerable doubts existed whether the information which led to all these precautionary measures was not false, but about , a body of men were observed approaching the Prendergast toll-gate, on the Fishguard road, in numbers from sixty to one hundred, from ten to twenty of whom were on horseback, and the others on foot; they were headed by a man on horseback, armed with a double-barrel gun, who had his face blackened, and wore a long beard, and a shawl about his head. On his coming near the gate, he called out to his followers to come forward, and lifted up his gun. At this moment, Williams, one of the police constables, made a dash at the man, and caught hold of his gun; a struggle then ensued between them, during which the gun went off. The horse then galloped back towards Crow’s Nest, and Williams secured the gun. The Rebeccaites then turned about, and took to their heels as fast as they could. The constables followed up, and observed that the rioters were armed with guns, large bludgeons, sledge hammers, and other weapons: they succeeded in capturing two of the fellows, who were brought to town. Some short time after, following on in pursuit of the mob, the constables discovered a horse lying on the load, and on examination they found it had been shot by a ball in one of the hind legs. It is probable that this was the horse rode by the leader of the gang, and which had been hit either by the ball discharged from the gun during the scuffle, or by another from a gun fired by the rioters at the constables, as it was quite clear that no arms were fired by the latter. The horse is an entire one, of middle size, in good condition, chesnut colour, and about four years old. Unfortunately, neither the cavalry nor the marines had arrived at the gate to assist the constables; the night was also very dark, so that two only out of the large number of rioters were secured.
The Magistrates held a private meeting in the Town-hall on the morning of , and subsequently a public examination of the witnesses against the two men in custody. The Magistrates present were the Rev. T. Martin, Chairman, J. Potter, J. Griffiths, Wm. Evans, Wm. Owen, and Wm. Rees, Esqrs. The following is a report of the proceedings:–
The prisoners, whose names were David Vaughan and Joseph Walters, were charged on the oath of Thomas Roch Garrett, with a riot and tumult.
John Francis sworn:– I live at Newhouse, in the parish of St. Dogmelis, and am a farmer and butcher. I know the prisoner Joseph Walters; he is a servant with William Lloyd, of Penvider, parish of Ambleston, butcher. I have known him about two years. I know Vaughan; he is a servant with Joshua Price, of Musland. I did not see them last night, nor during the last month. I have not seen the horse . I heard of a horse being shot it is the property of John Jenkins, of Langwg-fach, near Puncheston. I only heard it was his horse; I don’t know it of my own knowledge.
The prisoners had no question to ask.
Margaret Llewellyn:– I live at the Corner Piece, Rudbaxton parish, and keep a public-house. I know neither of the prisoners. , persons came to my house and called for some ale — I cannot tell one of them. Some of them were on horseback, others on foot. I don’t know how many were there. I did not hear them say anything; they seemed to have feathers in their caps. I saw nothing in their hands; they remained about a quarter of an hour. They had nine or ten jugs of ale. They seemed to go towards Haverfordwest. A gentleman on horseback paid the money. I went to the door with a light to receive it: he said “keep back the light, and I will give you the money.” He then returned the jug with the money in it. I never saw him before as I know. I think he had on a round jacket and a cap. He spoke English; he did not say what he was going about. I thought they were going down to the gates. There might have been one hundred people there. I was not aware of their coming.
The prisoners put no questions.
John Davies:— I went up the Fishguard road last night as far as Treffgarne bridge. When I got to the Corner Piece, there were from ten to fifteen persons there; they had branches of trees about their heads, and their faces blackened; they were lying about the door and the garden hedge. This witness deposed to his having met five or six other companies of men with their faces blackened, and similarly dressed.
George Thomas:— I am a servant with John James, blacksmith, Tangreis. I am sixteen years of age. , after I went to bed, some persons came to my master’s door. I went to the door, and saw men in the road; about fifteen were on horseback, and others on foot. One of them asked me to come to the shop; his face was blackened. I told him I had not the key. They then broke in the shop door; the men on foot went in. I went to the door of the shop, and saw them come out with a sledge hammer. A boy took up a spade, and I took it back from him. The sledge now produced is my master’s, it is the one they took out of the shop; they then went down towards Prendergast; they did not say where they were going, or what they wanted the hammer for. I followed them down to Simmond’s house; he lives half way between my master’s and Crow’s Nest. I met my master there; he went down after the men, and I returned. I saw one or two of the men with sticks.
Joseph Potter:— I am the son of the Mayor. I accompanied my father to Prendergast gate. I went up . I remained about five minutes at the gate, and then went up with William Williams, the policeman, as far as Colby Scott, on the Fishguard road. I there heard a noise of horses galloping. The sound proceeded from the road beyond me. I then returned, not hearing any body follow us. We again walked I towards Colby Scott. When we got a little way up, we heard steps. We then hid in the hedge, and saw a single person pass on foot. We remained a short time, and then got up, when we heard the sounds of horses and foot people. We returned slowly before them. I passed through the gate, leaving Williams about 10 yards behind me. As soon as I faced round, a man on horseback pushed the horse’s nose against the gate. He appeared to have a shawl on, and a low crowned hat; he then cried out “forward,” about three or four times. He had a gun in his hand this he raised, but I don’t know whether he pointed it at any object; there were persons in front of it. I saw some person catch at the horse’s head, and Wm. Williams caught hold of the gun. I did not hear him say anything; they scuffled for some time, during which the gun went off. Williams secured the gun. I did not hear any other report of a gun; there were about thirty or forty persons behind. After Williams got hold of the gun the man escaped. I heard the crowd talking; they had something like sticks in their hands; they retreated as soon as the man on horseback escaped. I soon after saw a scuffle between Mr. Llewellyn and Mr. Tasker, and the prisoner Walters. By the time I got up he was secured.
Wm. Williams, police-constable:— I went up last night to Prendergast gate with the four constables; there were about twenty-five who went up; the Mayor was present. I have heard Mr. Joseph Potter’s statement respecting going up the road and returning again — it is correct. When I came back to the gate, I saw a man on horseback coming towards the gate, carrying a gun; he appeared to have a long beard; he cried out “forward, forward.” He overtook me, and I walked by his side; he kept the gun pointed towards me; he did not put it to his shoulder. I went towards him, and caught hold of the gun. I held on by the trigger. We struggled for it, during which his horse turned round with his head towards Crow’s Nest. The scuffle lasted about a minute, and the gun went off in the struggle. I then got it out of his hand. The man escaped. The gun is now in my possession. I have shown it to the Magistrates, it is a double-barrel one; the left barrel was discharged, the right loaded; it had a percussion lock with caps; the hammer of the discharged barrel was down, the other was full cocked. I was present when the loaded barrel was drawn ; there were a leaden ball and powder in it. I saw a great many other persons at the gate; they were all disguised. I saw some with cudgels in their hands. I saw no guns besides the one I took. I afterwards went up the road, and saw a horse lying in the grip without a saddle or a bridle; he was dying; he was shot in the thigh. I saw this ball taken out of the thigh to-day, the bone is in atoms; he is an entire horse, from three to four years old, chesnut colour.
Wm. Llewellyn:– I went up after the Mayor to Prendergast gate. I arrived there . I saw a person come to the gate on horseback; he was accompanied by thirty or forty persons; he cried out “forward.” His followers were all disguised, with their faces blackened, and something over their hats; they were talking; they had clubs and guns in their hands. I saw part of the scuffle between Williams and the man. I saw the people move off. I then went up the road, and saw the prisoner Walters; he had a gun in his hand; I was close to him. He carried it upright; his face was blackened, with his cravat covering his hat; he either passed the gun to some one else, or threw it into the hedge. I kept my eye on him, and caught hold of him, as soon as I saw Thomas Adams, a constable, near me; before that I was surrounded by the mob, and saw none of my own friends near me. I asked him his name, and what he had done with the gun; he said he had no gun. Mr. Tasker then came up and laid hold of him; he struggled to get off, and shouted for help. I brought him to town. Coming down Prendergast hill, I said to him, “it is of no use your denying having the gun, because I saw it with you.” He then said that the gun was not his own, that it had been handed to him by another person. I was present when he was searched in the hall by Garrett, the policeman; there were a comb, and two or three other things found in his pocket, and some cartridges were found at his feet, which he had dropped.
James Tasker corroborated Mr. Llewellyn, as to the capture of Walters.
James Davies:— I am one of the constables of this town. I was at the gate after the gun was taken from the man on horseback. I went up the road; I saw a person attempt to get over the hedge; I laid hold of him, and pulled him back; it was the prisoner Vaughan. He had something tied on his head, and under his chin; his face was discoloured. I gave him into the custody of Garrett.
Thomas R. Garrett deposed to his having searched the prisoner Walters, and finding on him a burnt cork, and having picked up some powder, which he saw the prisoner drop.
The prisoners were remanded .
On , the examination was resumed, when the following witnesses were sworn:—
John Blethyn, constable:— I was at Prendergast gate on . I saw the man come to the gate on horseback. I saw some persons there, but I did not know them, they were disfigured with their faces blackened. After the gun went off, I went up the road, and picked up the two sticks in the road, which I now produce. I found them about 100 yards from the gate; they have been in my possession ever since.
Thomas Adams, constable:— I went up with the other constables to Prendergast gate. I was there when the man on horseback came up. I saw the scuffle between Williams and the man. I saw some persons come down the lane; they were a great many in number. I cannot say how many. I could not see the dress of any but of the prisoner, who calls himself David Vaughan. I saw him from a dozen to twenty yards above the gate; he was dressed in a round jacket, an old hat, and a handkerchief tying it down; his face was all black; he was moving on towards Crow’s Nest. I heard him say, “Here’s Becca come.” He caught hold of me by the collar of my coat; I then laid hold of him. Other constables came up, and secured him; he never spoke a word after he was taken.
T.A. Phillips produced a cartridge and ball, which he took out of one of the barrels of the gun taken by Williams.
Elizabeth Llewellyn:– I live with my mother at Corner Piece. I don’t know the prisoners; I have never seen them before to my knowledge. I was at home on . I was up about . Abont that time a flock of men came to the door; I cannot tell who they were — they were on horses and on foot; some came into the house and called for ale; their faces were blackened; three came in first. About five minutes after, the persons came to the door on horseback and on foot. I had a candle in my hand going to the door, when a gentleman on horseback said, “Go back with the light, we want none.” I did not see him, but only heard his voice; he spoke excellent English, like a gentleman. I sold 5s. worth of ale at one time, 2s. worth at another, and six or seven quarts besides. The gentleman put the money in the jug, and handed it to my mother; he asked me how many miles to the next town. I answered four; they remained about a quarter of an hour, and then left in the direction of Haverfordwest, as I thought by the noise; the greater part of them had red caps and red turbans on; some of their faces were black, some not. I never to my knowledge heard that gentleman’s voice before.
A few other witnesses were examined, whose statements agreed with those already made.
The prisoners declined saying anything in their defence. They were then committed for trial at the next Assizes.
The witnesses were all bound over to give evidence, and the prisoners were liberated on bail. The sureties for Vaughan, were Joshua Price, of Musland, and John Francis, of Newhouse, Ambleston parish, in the sum of 50l. each; and for Walters, Owen Llewellyn, of Whitelays, and Wm. Lloyd, of Penvider, Ambleston parish, in the same sum.
Between two hundred and three hundred persons, consisting of farmers, farmer’s sons, and their servants, were present during the examination on . At the close of the proceedings, a few remarks were addressed by Sir R.B. Philipps, the Lord Lieutenant, Mr. Potter, the Mayor, and Mr. John Henry Philipps, to the persons present, entreating them to go home quietly, and stating their readiness to give every explanation in their power of the turnpike affairs, and to redress all grievances; but they were listened to with apparently great dissatisfaction. One of the Magistrates (Mr. J.H. Philipps) was loudly hissed by the crowd, although his remarks were very reasonable and conciliatory. The prisoners were then carried away on the shoulders of their friends, amidst loud hurrahs, and when they arrived at Prendergast gate, the prisoners were lifted on top of it, and were swung backwards and forwards for about ten minutes, during which the country people gave full vent to their powers of cheering. They then marched quietly away.
The Monmouthshire Merlin also covered this event on :
Rebecca at Prendergast Gate, Haverfordwest
Information having been received by the magistrates of the town and county of Haverfordwest, about , that Becca and her daughters intended besetting Prendergast-gate, which is close to the town, on that evening. About twelve o’clock, four of the magistrates, consisting of the Mayor, the Rev. Thomas Martin, William Owen, Esq., and J. Griffiths, Esq., met at the Town-hall, and despatched a messenger to Narberth for a detachment of cavalry, and another to Pembroke Dock for a company of marines, both of which arrived in town about eleven o’clock. The magistrates held a second meeting, when it was determined that the special constables headed by the magistrates, should defend the gate, and in case of need the cavalry and marines should come to their assistance. Very soon after their arrival at the gate Rebecca and her daughters, consisting of about two hundred horse and foot, made their appearance, when the special constables, about twenty-five in number, assisted by several respectable townsmen, most valiantly attacked Rebecca, who was mounted on a charger, and carried a double barrelled percussion gun, loaded with ball cartridge, when in the scuffle one of the barrels went off and lodged its contents in the loins of the horse, and the constable, Williams, succeeded in securing the gun. The second barrel was loaded with ball. Rebecca, finding herself disarmed, gallopped off, the horse, however, fell dead at the distance of a hundred yards. Unfortunately, in the darkness of the night, the rider escaped. In the meantime a fierce contest took place between the constables and the rioters, when two of the latter were captured. Their faces were blackened, and they were otherwise disguised. Finding themselves vigorously attacked by the constabulary force, the rioters fled in all directions. The cavalry and marines, accompanied by Capt. Peel, a county magistrate, arrived at the spot when the affray was over, and patrolled the roads during the night.
On the prisoners captured on the previous night were brought before the magistrates at the Town-hall. Their names were, Joshua Walters, aged twenty, and David Vaughan, aged twenty, both farm servants. A long investigation took place, which lasted the whole day. Various witnesses were examined, and the prisoners were fully committed for trial as rioters.
On investigation before the magistrates, it appeared that the prisoner Walters had been seen with a gun in his hand, but which he contrived to pass away before his capture, and on examining his person, blank cartridges were found in his pocket. It was also proved that as the rioters passed a blacksmith’s shop, on the way to the gate, they forcibly entered it, and stole several sledge hammers, and other deadly weapons.
A farmer from the neighbourhood of little Newarth gave evidence as to the very general dissatisfaction of the farmers and others with regard to the tolls, alleging their heavy and unequal pressure. This man seemed well acquainted with many of the individuals who are under the guidance of Rebecca and on being very closely examined, he very reluctantly admitted that he knew the owner of the horse which had been shot — a very fine horse, four years old, but refused to give the name, even if a hundred pounds were offered. He proposed, with a view to remedying some of the grievances, that the whole expense of the roads in the county should be paid out of the county stock, instead of, as at present, being subject to vexatious tolls. He stated that some roads were comparatively free from turnpikes, and others too numerously supplied; and complained of the unjust operation of such a distribution of the turnpikes on particular individuals.
Another witness deposed that he saw a flash of light from a gun which missed fire.
This event has excited the greatest commotion in the town, the magistrates have exercised the greatest zeal in detecting the offenders. The Rev. W. Martin has also proposed to circulate tracts in the disaffected districts, to call the attention of the Rebeccaites to such measures as he intends to propose for their consideration, prior to the conference which he solicits with the leading parties.
The prompt and cheerful assistance of the military claims our respect and praise; but it furnishes another proof how inadequate a cavalry force is to put down these rioters, who, on the approach of soldiers, are instantly over the hedges, and disperse over the fields in all directions.
Instead of government putting down this species of insubordination by a military force, and the argument of sword and pistol, or by the foolish efforts of the Carmarthen magistrates, lord-lieutenants, establishing an expensive rural police, adding to the heavy burthens of taxation, why are not the more humane and generous means adopted of enlightening the mind of the deluded rioters, by meeting them on fair terms, hearing their grievances, rectifying the evils which are real, with honesty and decision, and calmly pointing out the errors and misconceptions under which they labour? This might be done by cheap tracts freely distributed, and by popular lectures and conferences in towns and villages.
When the farming people have completed the harvest, and winter is setting in, many fearful riots may be apprehended, unless moral means are used to prevent the efforts of perverted and misguided men.
— Correspondent of the Evening Chron.
And the Spectator chimed in, too:
Rebecca has sustained a defeat in Heverfordwest. The Magistrates received information, on the evening of , that the rioters intended to attack Prendergast gate, near the town. The Mayor, the Reverend Thomas Martin, Mr. J. Griffiths, and Mr. William Owen, made arrangements for defending the gate in person, with a body of twenty-five special constables; detachments of cavalry and marines being in the neighbourhood as a reserve in case of need.
[Here, the Spectator inserts a quote from the Chronicle article also quoted above.]
The two prisoners were committed for trial as rioters.
The Times reporter relates an outrage connected with the Rebecca riots, which, more than almost any thing that has occurred, shows the extent of the bad feeling against the law–
I wrote to you the other day that Glangwilly-gate, within one mile and a half of the town of Carmarthen, was destroyed on , immediately after the soldiers left it. The gatekeeper, David Joshua, was enabled to identify four of the Rebeccaites. The gatekeeper is a bookbinder by trade, and carries on his business in a small way in a cottage close to the gate. Fearful of his personal safety since giving the information he has done to the Magistrates, he took a room in the centre of the town of Carmarthen thinking he should be there safe; and on proceeded to remove his goods thither in a cart. On arriving in the town, it was soon discovered who he was: he was surrounded by a mob of people; and in broad day, in the middle of the town, his furniture was thrown out of his cart, and every article of it broken in pieces. The mob then dispersed, before any interference of either civil or military force took place.