Site of Rebecca riot, Pontarddulais

button-theme-crimeSite of Rebecca riot, Pontarddulais

The memorial stone here marks the site of a tollgate damaged in the Rebecca Riots in 1843. Three men were sent to Australia for their involvement. The Bolgoed tollgate in Pontardddulais was also attacked that year.

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

The tollgate here was attacked on the night of 6 September 1843. The authorities had been tipped off. Captain Charles Frederick Napier, chief constable of Glamorganshire, arrived in Pontarddulais with seven other policemen and three magistrates. They travelled across fields to avoid being seen.

There were more than 100 rioters, mostly on horseback. Many had blackened faces and wore women’s clothes. Some wore their coats inside out. They used saws and hammers to smash the gate and side rails, and were starting to destroy the tollhouse when Captain Napier ordered them to stop.

After clashes involving guns and cutlasses, several rioters were arrested. Three of them were later sentenced to transportation to Australia. One, David Jones, had sustained gunshot and cutlass wounds in the riot and died soon after arriving in Australia. Jack Hughes married and raised children there. He was suspected of leading the protest and had attempted to shoot Captain Napier during the disturbance.

The Bolgoed gate was on the opposite side of Pontarddulais, near the Fountain Inn (see yellow marker on map below). In July 1843 it was destroyed by a crowd of about 200 men, led by a “Rebecca” on horseback. The ringleaders’ names were later given to police by a John Jones of Llangyfelach. He may have been motivated by a desire to marry farmer’s daughter Elizabeth Davies, who was in love with one of the rioters, Daniel Lewis. He lost his nerve and fled to America before the ringleaders were tried. They were acquitted, since there was no prosecution witness available, and Daniel eventually married Elizabeth. One of their grandchildren was the broadcaster Wynford Vaughan Thomas, famed as a BBC war reporter in the Second World War.

With thanks to the late Ivor Griffiths

Postcode: SA4 8TJ    View Location Map

Detailed history of the tollgate attacks by Ivor Griffiths – Pontarddulais Town Council website