The Picket Line — 22 August 2014 5:00 pm / 21 August 2014 by David Gross, at The Picket Line
Rebecca is becoming more bold. In this episode, she launches intimidation attacks against the home of a tithe collector and a game warden (part of the backlash against the enclosure of the commons). There’s also note below of an unsuccessful prosecution of a suspected Rebeccaite — the jury returned a “not guilty” verdict. From the Cambrian:
We have, in our present publication, to detail the particulars of a more daring attempt on the part of the Rebeccaites than it has been our lot to record on any previous occasions, inasmuch as all the depredations which, unfortunately, are of such frequent occurrence, and accounts of which have from time to time appeared in the Cambrian, have, with a few trifling exceptions, been levied against toll-houses and turnpike-gates, but this week we have to record, in addition to the destruction of a considerable amount of property, a rather serious attempt upon life. The scene of the outrages to which we refer, was the village of Llanon and its neigbourhood, about three or four miles from Pontardulais, Carmarthenshire. , the inhabitants of the village were alarmed by the arrival of an immense concourse of Rebeccaites, who passed through the village. They had come from the direction of Pontyberem, on the Carmarthen road. We were assured by parties who witnessed the procession, that it must have consisted of about 500 persons, the majoriy of whom were disguised in women’s apparel, white shirts, or oilcase cloaks, but several of the party were not disguised in dress, but had their faces blackened. Becca, on this occasion, was mounted on a horse, which, contrary to the ordinary usage, was not a while one, but of a bay, or some other dark colour; she was also dressed in white. Nearly all the party were armed with guns, which they repeatedly fired in their progress through the village. Several horns were also in full play, and a number of rockets fired. There was also a kind of carriage in the procession, the lamps of which shed a lustre over a portion of the crowd, and lighted the apartments of many of the inhabitants, who were afraid to leave their bedrooms, thus enabling them to obtain a better view of the procession. When the party arrived near the end of the village, where one road leads to the Pontardulais highway, and the other towards Llanelly, Rebecca, who had previously given several orders, cried out “Silence!” when the party immediately left off firing guns and blowing horns. They then determined upon taking the Llanelly road, which also leads to Gellywernen, the house of Mr. Edwards, agent to Rees Goring Thomas, Esq., the lay-improprietor of the tithes of the parish. Mr. Edwards has, for some time past, had the management of the collection of tithes. When the party had proceeded as far as Morlais bridge they halted, and remained on the bridge for about an hour and a half, waiting for another division, which was to come from Mynydd-sylen. During the whole of the time, the blowing of horns and firing of guns and rockets, were kept up without intermission. Becca, thinking the party to be rather behind time, according to their engagement, accompanied by several others on horseback, proceeded for about three quarters of a mile on the road on which the party was expected to come, when she met them. It is also thought a third party, from some other direction, joined them. They afterwards proceeded towards Gellywernen House, and some persons estimated the party, by this time, to have amounted to seven or eight hundred persons; — their vehicle remained on the bridge. Upon the arrival of the rioters opposite Gellywernen House, they repeatedly fired their guns. Mr. Edwards, who had been for some days previously confined by illness, was in bed in one of the rooms up stairs, in which there was a light. Mrs. Edwards, who was in the room, hearing the firing and noise, advanced towards the window, and being greatly alarmed at seeing so large a crowd about the house, naturally enquired, “What was the matter? What did they require?” At this time a gunshot was fired through the window, several panes of which were broken thereby. Mrs. Edwards, who had cautiously avoided standing immediately in front of the window, fortunately escaped injury. She went to the window a second time and received a similar answer. Another shot was soon afterwards fired towards the door of the room, near which Mrs. and Miss Edwards stood, both of whom fortunately escaped unhurt, although the marks of shot were very thick upon the door. A great number of gunshots were then fired in succession into the bedroom, the evident aim of the rioters being seriously to injure, if not, indeed, to murder Mr. Edwards, who, as we have before stated, was in bed; but, happily for Mr. Edwards and his family, as well as for the rioters themselves, their endeavours were not attended with success, for, although parts of the wall were so thickly marked with shot and slugs, that scarcely a square inch was entirely free from them, while the window and bed-curtains were equally thickly perforated, Mr. Edwards escaped untouched, which was entirely owing to the position of the rioters being too low to enable them to fire into the bed. Some guns must have been discharged by persons who were on the court-wall, as there were some marks at a distance not exceeding half a yard from the pillow upon which Mr. Edwards lay, while those fired from the ground of the yard, could not take effect much lower than the ceiling. Another window, towards the back of the house, was also broken by gunshots, which had passed through the front window. There were in the panes of the window of another room, round holes, apparently made by balls, but which some persons thought were made by slugs. There were in all fifty-two panes of glass broken, in five windows. — Greatly alarmed at the dangerous position of her father, Miss Edwards, at considerable personal risk, came down stairs, and went to the door, at which there was a kind of porch, with glass at each side. Several large stones were immediately thrown at this young lady through the glass, but none of them struck her. Some of the party called out in Welsh, that they would not injure Miss Edwards, or her mother, but that “they would set no greater value on the father’s life than a feather thrown before the wind, and that they would have the tithes lowered.” Miss Edwards appealed to their humanity, and told them that her father was exceedingly ill, and confined to his bed, but that they might see him on any future day. After letting off a few additional charges, they left the house. — Whilst these outrages were carried on at the house, several of the mob forced open the door, and entered the beautiful walled garden, adjoining the house, where they committed devastations of a most disgraceful character. Nearly all the apple-trees, and wall fruit-trees of different kinds, were entirely destroyed, having been torn to pieces, or taken up by the root. The various plants and herbs, with which the garden abounded, were also destroyed. The row of large and commodious green-houses, extending from one side of the garden to the other, was attacked, and a large quantity of glass broken with stones. Though it was evident, by the marks on the green-house doors, which were strongly built, that attempts had been made to enter them, yet the mob did not succeed in that object, so that the luxuriant bunches of grapes and the abounding cucumbers were untouched — a circumstance not due to any sense of feeling or justice on the part of the mob, who evidently shrinked from entering the green houses through the broken glass. In fact, they laid hands upon nearly everything valuable in the garden with the exception of the bee-hives, which contained a good stock of bees; these the rioters prudently avoided, conscious that the diligent and active little beings would by no means sympathise in their devastations. — Either simultaneously with these depradations, or soon after they were committed, a party of the desperadoes proceeded to the house of William Bassett, the gamekeeper, who resided in a cottage in a wood, a short distance from Gellywernen House. On hearing of their approach, the gamekeeper, against whom they had sworn vengeance, fled for refuge to the wood, leaving his wife and children in the house. The Rebeccaites, on their entering the house, discharged a gun or pistol, containing powder only, nearly into the face of the wife, who had a child, who was slightly wounded in her arms at the time. They then broke the clock, which was a very good one, an old pier-glass, which bad been handed down for several generations, the chairs, tables, and all the little furniture the poor people possessed. They also carried away the gamekeeper’s gun, and 10s. or 12s. worth of powder and shot; and previous to leaving, took from the drawers all the clothes of the family, which were torn, trodden upon, and partly burnt. They then left the place, after firing several times. — We observed that several of the painted doors leading from the road to the plantation were destroyed by the Rebeccaites, either in going or in leaving. — When Becca and her party returned through Llanon, it was . The number of persons who returned through the village, was stated to us to be about five hundred, several of the party having previously dispersed in different directions. With the exception of the occasional firing of a gun, they made no noise on their return. When they arrived opposite Goring Thomas’s house, in the village of Llanon, which was vacant, but is being prepared for the reception of F. Fredricks, Esq., who has rented it for the sporting season, some of the junior members of the family commenced throwing stones at the windows, but Becca called out in English, and in a female voice, “Now girls, if you are my daughters, leave that house alone, until I shall command you another time.” They instantly desisted, but we counted thirty panes of glass, which had been broken. After leaving the village, they knocked up the landlord of the King’s Arms, and Becca and several of her children ordered beer, for which they paid, but commanded the landlord to put out his candle, which the latter readily did. They then went towards Pontyberem, on the Carmarthen road, but how far they walked before dispersing we could not ascertain, for no person was allowed to follow them, or scarcely to look at them, without being fired at. It is evident that Mr. Edwards had incurred the displeasure of the mob, in consequence of his being, in their opinion, too arbitrary in the collection of tithes, but it is not to be supposed that the riot has in any way emanated from the meeting held at Llation on , convened for the purpose of ascertaining if Mr. Goring Thomas had answered the letter applying for a reduction of tithes in accordance with a petition sent him from a former meeting, for that meeting was composed of most respectable persons, and though some dissatisfaction was expressed at not receiving an answer from Mr. Thomas, yet, upon its being explained to them that he had only just returned from London, and consequently had not had sufficient time to consider their request, they appeared perfectly satisfied, and called another meeting for , giving Thomas a week to consider their petition. We think it necessary to make these observations, as contrary reports have been circulated.
From the Monmouthshire Merlin:
John Skinner and other were indicted for riotously assembling together with other persons, armed, to demolish and destroy a dwelling and toll house, in the parishes of Mark and Wedmore, on .
From the evidence, it appeared that the party attacked the toll house and gate in the true Rebecca style, and demolished them in a few minutes.
The jury returned a verdict of Not Guilty.
There’s also a letter to the editor, dated that a James Rogers sent to the (London, I assume) Times to complain about how the reporter that paper sent to cover the Rebecca Riots kept trying to pin the blame for them on nonconformist ministers (see ♇ 3 August 2014 for an example):
Sir.— Having seen in your paper of a report of the state of South Wales, and, speaking of the Dissenters, you say, that, “at the commencement of these outrages, the farmers met the landlords, for the purpose of discussing the question, at St. Clears, and there a Dissenting Minister was the spokesman of the Rebeccaites; and at this meeting every man of the farmers refused to he sworn in as special constables, until this Dissenting Minister, being pressed to it, consented to come forward: when about fifty of his congregation followed his example immediately.” — Now, the whole or this statement is entirely void of truth. In the first place, no such meeting ever took place here, and no such circumstances as those stated by you ever transpired; and further, the report carries on the face of it the greatest absurdity, as the landlords had not the power to swear in special constables — this was a duty that devolved on the civil power.
There was a meeting held al the Blue Boar Inn, St. Clears, on (vide report in the Welshman, ), which was attended by a great many Magistrates and other influential gentlemen of the county, and by a few farmers. If the report in question has any reference to this meeting, it is as far from the truth as the other. This meeting was convened by the Magistrates, to take into consideration the state of the country, and for devising means to restore peace and order; and not “a meeting of landlords and farmers, to discuss the question of outrages.” Several gentlemen addressed this meeting, amongst the number the Rev. Joseph Williams, of Bethlehem, a Dissenting Minister. This gentleman suggested the propriety of dispensing with the services of the military and police here. The suggestion was taken into consideration by the Magistrates, and after a short consultation an order was given to dismiss the military and pensioners, but to retain the police; and this order was immediately carried inio effect. The farmers were now called upon to be sworn its as special constables, and having had the duty explained to them, all present came forward, without hesitation, and were sworn in — perhaps to the number of fifty or sixty, and a great many others were called upon the next day for a similar purpose.
No spokesman for the Rebeccaites attended this meeting. Mr. Williams was not asked to be sworn in a special constable — he did not go forward with fifty of his congregation — there was no refusal or reluctance on the part of any one to be sworn in that I could see.
So much for the truth of the statement contained in your report, and I shall feel much obliged by your giving publicity in the Times to this letter. I was present at all the meetings held here, and am well acquainted with all that transpired.
I remain, Sir, your very obedient servant,
St. Clears, .
P.S. — Since writing the above, I have seen the Rev. Mr. Williams, who states that he was particularly requested by the Rev. John Evans, J.P., and Chairman of the Petty Sessions, St. Clears, and by Walter R.H. Powell, Esq., of Maesgwynne, to attend the meeting at St. Clears, on .