Former home of Elizabeth Williams, Bethesda

button-theme-womenbutton_lang_welshFormer home of Elizabeth Williams, Bethesda

bethesda_view_towards_coetmor_mountThe side road here leads up to Coetmor Mount, where one of the houses was once home to quarryman’s daughter Elizabeth Ellen Williams. For a fortnight in 1901, Elizabeth experienced local and national fame. Her story, played out during and after the Great Strike of 1900-1903, reflects the experiences of many women in Bethesda at the time. 

In the old postcard, the elevated houses of Coetmor Mount can be seen in the middle distance.

Elizabeth, born and brought up in Bethesda, married quarry labourer William David Williams in 1898. Soon the strike brought hardship for her family, which depended on the quarry.

When the quarry prepared to re-open in summer 1901, many strikers thought experienced quarrymen might return to work, breaking the strike. This led to demonstrations. Elizabeth and her husband, carrying their two-year-old son Daniel Gwynsul, were part of a group of protesters that followed two quarry officials from the quarry to their homes in Rachub.

Elizabeth, aged 22, was taken to court. Her case was reported across the country. She was represented by William George (younger brother of future prime minister David Lloyd George).

Police Constable Thomas said Elizabeth had been “shouting in a loud voice, and appeared to be greatly excited … She was covered with perspiration, and was red in the face”. He insisted it was the “shouting”, not walking in hot weather, that had made Elizabeth red-faced.

Mr Vincent, representing quarry owner Lord Penrhyn, told the court she had been summoned because the “women at Bethesda are worse than the men, and it would be just as well in a notable example of this kind to have one of the fair sex before the Bench, and to see what she has to say for herself”. Although he pressed for the maximum penalty of £20 (nearly £5,000 today), she was fined 5s and costs.

The following week, Elizabeth marched in a crowd of thousands from Pont Twr to the Market Hall (Neuadd Ogwen) for the weekly strike meeting. As she walked onto the stage, she was loudly cheered.

After her brief brush with fame, her life typified that of many in Bethesda. Her husband moved to Caerau, north of Bridgend, to work as a colliery labourer. Elizabeth and Daniel went with him. Eventually (after 1911) they returned to Bethesda. By 1939 they lived on Carneddi Road and David, 69, worked as a general labourer. It was still a hard life, but at least they were home.

With thanks to Dr Hazel Pierce, of The History House

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