Site of fatal Rebecca Riot, Hendy


button_lang_welshSite of fatal Rebecca Riot, Hendy

Near this spot an elderly woman was killed in 1843 during the Rebecca Riots. She collected tolls from users of the Pontarddulais to Llanelli road.

The Rebecca Riots occurred across South-west Wales from 1839 until 1843. Tollgates were attacked as symbols of various grievances felt by the rural poor. There is more background information on our page about the first Rebecca attack, in Efailwen.

It was unusual for rioters to use physical violence against people, other than police and military personnel, but eventually the movement was exploited by ruffians who were bent on fighting. When a group of men in women’s dresses began to attack the Hendy tollgate on the night of 9 to 10 September 1843, they ordered toll-keeper Sarah Williams, aged 75, to leave the area. They set fire to the toll house after removing the furniture. Sarah asked the neighbouring Thomas family to help her extinguish the flames but they were too scared to go with her.

Back at the toll house, she was shot. She returned to the Thomas family’s door, where she said: “Dear, dear!” and fell down dead. Her body was taken to the Black Horse, in Pontarddulais, where surgeons conducted a post mortem. They found numerous gunshot wounds and a large volume of blood in her chest cavities. Nobody was convicted of her murder, despite rewards of more than £1,000 being offered for information – more than £120,000 in today’s money.

Her death was ironic because Government attempts to exert more control over rural women were one of the grievances which fed the Rebecca Riots. In the countryside, women significantly outnumbered men (who died younger as a result of hard labour and accidents) and there were concerns that the large number of spinsters and widows could be harming the public’s morality.

About the place-name:

Hendy – ‘(the) old house’ – was named after Hendy Tinplate works, which opened in 1866 on land belonging to Hendy farm.

With thanks to Prof Dai Thorne, of the Welsh Place-Name Society

Postcode: SA4 0XE    View Location Map