Friday, November 19, 2010

A Rebeccaite Attack

The Rebeccaite attack in the Claerwen valley on September 10th 1868 is retold in two must-have books, see here and here. At the same time we can add a few more facts with the help of a report in the newspaper Baner ac Amserau Cymru and the census returns.

The Nanteos estate had built a shepherd's cottage on Esgair-garthen in Llanwrthwl parish with the purpose, in part at least, of harassing the stock of local farmers who traditionally grazed sheep and cattle on the open mountain thereabouts. Perhaps the shepherd took his duties a little too seriously, for his home was soon subject to a visit by 15 or so Rebeccaites with blackened faces. As chance would have it the shepherd was away and the house was occupied by his wife, baby son and ten year-old sister-in-law. The family's furniture and clothing were taken out and the house demolished and burnt along with it's stacks of peat and hay. Ms Bidgood reports that the china was put on the dung heap, which seems a mean thing, although in reality it was probably the safest place for them.

Seven of the attackers later appeared in Builth magistrates' court and it is interesting to note that the five easily identifiable individuals all originated from Radnorshire - William Palfrey and his son John from Dyffryn, Llanwrthwl were a Nantmel family, while John Lewis of Dolifor and Thomas Hughes of Cefn were born in Cwmteuddwr. John Scott of Ciloerwynt was also a Cwmteuddwr man. Two others cannot be identified with certainty although David Davies, a servant at Cefn, was most likely a Radnorian while Thomas Jones, a carpenter, was probably a Cardi.

No doubt for the shepherd's family this was as terrifying an experience as for those legally evicted from their homes on the commons. The Esgair-garthen action was part of an on-going very low level insurgency against those members of the ruling class who were seen as over-stepping the mark. To a degree it was a threat that kept the majority of landlords a tad more honest.

The prosecutor in the Builth court complained about the "Irish" character of the attack and like most of the cases where Rebeccaites were brought before the bench, there were no convictions for lack of evidence.


Rob said...

Excellent stuff.

BTW, did you hear Iolo Williams on Radio Cymru the other day recorded speaking from Penybont talking about how important the commons were to Radnorshire people across the centuries?

old radnor said...

No I missed that, have to see if it is on iplayer - what was the programme?

Rob said...

'Na ni...