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The Merthyr Riots: Settling the Account

Gwyn A Williams, National Library of Wales journal. 1959, Winter Volume XI/2.

Extracted onto the pages of GENUKI with the kind permission of the National Library of Wales

This is a complete extract of this article by Gareth Hicks  (Feb 2003) - some Tables not extracted


On 2 June 1831, after a month of increasing disorder, a majority of the working population of Merthyr Tydfil, impelled by a variety of motives, in part instinctive and irrational, but in part politically and socially purposive to a degree hitherto unknown, broke into riot and insurrection, and, led by the ironstone miners of William Crawshay, attacked the houses of ironmasters and local bailiffs, overthrew the civil power. 1  On the following morning, a detachment of the 93rd Highland Regiment, hastily summoned from Brecon, marched to the Castle Inn, in the centre of the town, where the High Sheriff of Glamorgan was waiting with the masters and magistrates. A crowd of many thousands, led by the miner Lewis Lewis, attacked them, seized their weapons. The troops opened fire, and after a protracted struggle, cleared the street, inflicting a hundred casualties, a score of them fatal. In the face of sustained sniping and a threatened renewal of the assault, however, the Highlanders were compelled to withdraw, moving to Penydarren House, a strategically-placed mansion, and abandoning the town to the rioters.

For eight days, Penydarren House was the sole refuge of authority, at first in a state of semi-siege, later as a base for reconquest, as troops converged on Merthyr from all quarters. For by Saturday, 4 June, the troubles had assumed the form of armed insurrection. Rioters commandeered arms and explosives, set up road-blocks, formed guerilla detachments, with a full revolutionary ritual of mass-demonstrations, flagbearers, torchbearers, banners capped with a symbolic loaf and literally dyed in blood. Several hundreds of them, armed and drilled in para-military formation and acting under some form of effective central direction, attacked the troops advancing on the town. On the Brecon Road, they ambushed the 93rd's baggage-train, under escort of forty of the Glamorgan Yeomanry, and drove them into the hills, beating off a relief force of a hundred cavalry sent from Penydarren House. On the Swansea Road, they ambushed and disarmed the vanguard of the Swansea Yeomanry and threw them back in disorder to Neath. In the evening, as the wave of strikes and demonstrations rolled over Northern Monmouthshire, down the Neath and Swansea Valleys, the revolt reached its climax, with a mass demonstration against Penydarren House.

But, with hundreds fleeing from the town and panic spreading, the magistrates, by promises of negotiation and clemency, the reception of deputations, and the concentration of troops in battle array, succeeded in weakening the rioters' resolve and dividing their counsel. No attack materialised, and during Sunday there was increasing bewilderment and loss of nerve. The final crisis came on the 6th, when four hundred and fifty troops from Penydarren marched to the Waun, above Dowlais, and, with levelled weapons, dispersed the mass-meeting.................

................designed to concert action with the Monmouthshire men. By evening, as soldiers poured into the town, even the hard core of armed dissidents dissolved, though it was not until the 7th that Lewis Lewis was captured in the vicinity of the still recalcitrant Hirwaun Works. By the end of the week, order had been restored, garrisons of dragoons established at Dowlais and Cyfarthfa, and the leading rebels shipped in shackles to Cardiff. There, at the Summer Assizes, Lewis Lewis and a fellow-miner, Richard Lewis (Dic Penderyn), were condemned to death. Lewsyn, his sentence commuted, was transported, but Dic went to the scaffold at Cardiff, to become the first martyr of the Welsh working class movement.

For with the rising, the pre-history of that movement comes to an end. Its scale and tenacity, its impact on the industrial South-East, even its ritual and martyrology, mark it off as one of those upheavals which accompany a profound shift in opinion and attitude. The sharp contemporary increase in the local circulation of Radical working-class newspapers points in the same direction ; so does the notable intensification in the pressure of the unenfranchised on the narrow electorate. Almost at once the first trade unions appeared on the coalfield and Merthyr became the arena for the South-East during the bitterly-fought lock-out over union recognition at Dowlais and Plymouth in the autumn. From this date, the labour movement has a coherent, if discontinuous, history.

Moreover, 1831 was the year which saw the formation in Merthyr of an antitruck society, political unions of shopkeepers and workmen, and committees to press for parliamentary representation. In this local manifestation of the general Reform campaign alliance of middle and working class opinion, a cluster of merchants, shopkeepers, solicitors, took the lead, headed by a closely-knit family group of wealthy Unitarian Radicals, and the story of the next five years is the story of the rise of this group to power, through a series of successful struggles,---to refashion the structure of parish administration, which had broken down under the impact of industry, to equip the sprawling settlement with institutions to fit its new urban personality, to win parliamentary representation for the town and power for its middle-class Dissenters. By 1836 they had captured both the Member and the Board of Guardians, and had established themselves as a new power in county politics. The Riots and their repercussions, in short, were a symptom of that re-alignment of social forces which accompanied the Reform agitation, and which was the portent of the rise of industrial society to predominance in South Wales.

The troubles, however, pose many problems of interpretation at all levels, and since much of the vital judicial evidence has disappeared, even the essential preliminary of narrative reconstruction is beset with difficulties. The story of the rising has to be pieced together like a mosaic. Of particular value to its historian, therefore, is the considerable body of supplementary evidence available among the papers of the Crawshay family at the National Library of Wales.

William Crawshay II, builder of Cyfarthfa Castle, was heavily involved throughout. It was his works at Cyfarthfa and Hirwaun which gave the movement its fighters and leaders; he was personally pre-eminent at the Castle Inn in provoking the riots, and at Penydarren House in suppressing them, and it ...................

................ was he who was singled out as the villain of the piece by the Radical press, the London Observer, and even, sotto voce, by the Swansea Cambrian. Inevitably, the man himself is a prime source of information. He brought out a hard-hitting pamphlet in reply to the Observer, drafted memorials to the Home Office, and wrote for the Cambrian the fullest and most circumstantial of the eye-witness accounts. 1  Naturally, references to the riots pepper his correspondence. More important, however, is the fact that he assumed responsibility for clearing up the tangle of accounts left by the soldiers. Among his papers, in consequence, is a thick wad of bills, orders, receipts and balances relating to the victualling and maintenance of the military during the riots, and it is this material which puts flesh on the skeleton of newspaper accounts. It opens a useful new line of approach from the commissariat side---gives a quartermaster-sergeant's view of the whole 'bloody and dangerous transaction'.

The relevant roll, labelled Riot Expences, comprises one hundred and twenty-five items. 2  These have been classified into four categories:

1. Requisition Orders (fifty-eight). Of these, fifty-five are actual requisition orders issued from Penydarren House during the period of military occupation, from 3 June to 11 June. The other three are not requisitions, properly so-called. One is the fragment of a draft bill for blankets delivered on 5 June by William Marsden, draper and Chief Constable; a second, the draft of a messenger's expenses, scrawled on the back of a hotel bill and dating from 10 June and the third, a blank I.O.U. of 25 July which emanated from a detachment of the 3rd Dragoon Guards stationed at the Pandy farmhouse, Cyfarthfa. 3

2. Receipts for goods and money (thirteen). Only three of these date from the period of military occupation of the House, one of 3 June in fulfilment of a requisition, the other two of 5 June recording the distribution of Marsden's blankets among the officers of the 93rd Highlanders and the Royal Glamorgan Militia. Three others were issued by the Q.M.-S. of the 98th Foot, one franked 13 June and the others probably of the same date. A seventh, dated 15 July, records the settlement by Crawshay of a bill for meals supplied to the Cyfarthfa detachment of the Dragoons, and the remaining six, all dated 16 April 1833, record payments by Crawshay to creditors of the parish, and represent the final settlement of the overall riot accounts.

(continued)

 

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3. Statements of Account (forty-six). These are tradesmen's bills and accounts of payments made on behalf of the military. Two of them, the statement of the East Glamorgan Yeomanry and the cash-account of Anthony Hill, Plymouth Lodge, are best considered in conjunction with the general statements of riot expenses.

4. General Statements of riot expenses (eight). These are general lists, totals, calculations and draft balances, constructed by Anthony Hill and William Crawshay or their agents. Only one is dated, but their order of provenance and an approximate chronological placing can be deduced from internal evidence and collation with other accounts.   1

The earliest of the documents is a bill of Edward Purchase, keeper of the Castle Inn, recording the dispatch of expresses to Cardiff, Neath, and other centres on the evening of 2 June when public order collapsed---expresses which brought eighty men of the 93rd to their bloody affray the next morning. 2  By early afternoon, the bruised detachment had pulled out to Penydarren House, and then the requisitions began, a stream of orders to innkeepers, grocers, drapers, ironmongers, funnelling supplies into the mansion on an increasingly massive scale, as unit after unit threaded its way there through the crowds and ambushes. 'Please send up dinners for about 30 officers and gentlemen', reads one of the earliest, addressed to Purchase. Eighty-one quarts of ale for the Highlanders follow, and an illegible pencil scrawl over the signature of Captain Howells announces the arrival of the staff of the Royal Glamorgan Militia. The orders run on through the evening --- thirty-eight lbs. of cheese, four hundred and thirty-two lbs. of bread, six lbs. of hard tack, a barrel of ale, four bottles of brandy, and an urgent request to a grocer for one thousand copper caps and a bag of large shot ('large' underlined). 3  The requisitions of these eight days, on Company receipts, odd scraps of paper---one scribbled on a piece torn from a copy of the Riot Act---are the most immediate documentary relics of the troubles.

Most of them bear the signature of John Petherick. An able Cornishman, Petherick was the agent at Penydarren and a prominent local figure, having served as overseer and select vestryman well-nigh continuously since 1822. 4 To him and his under-manager, George Wilde, fell the task of organising the victualling .......................

  ............................. and maintenance of the military. 1  Concentrating on a handful of the town's most important (and courageous) tradesmen, they were able to impose a measure of control. Emergency action was frequently called for and men like Crawshay and his agent George Forrest sometimes acted independently. 2 Waste could not be avoided, but it was kept to a reasonable level. The process was soon reduced to an ordered rhythm.

Evidently, several requisitions are missing. Two Penydarren Company numbered receipt books were used, and there are gaps. The first surviving requisition for stationery dates from the 7th, but the stationer's bill reveals that, on the 3rd and 4th, he supplied two hundred copies of both the Riot Act and the Notice to Pensioners, as well as quantities of foolscap and letter-paper. 3  The general pattern, however, is clear. 4  The basic necessity was food. Inn meals, ready-dressed, were served from the Castle, the officers and gentlemen getting breakfasts and dinners, the men dinners only. The men's dinner was served at midday, the officers' in the evening, at twice the price. 5 The men's rations were supplemented by bulk orders of bread, cheese and biscuits, the officers' by small consignments of tea, sugar and butter; bacon, ordered on the 4th, was returned untouched. Beer, however, was in great demand, the early quarts soon supplanted by orders for ten and twenty barrels at a time, and wine consumption by the officers was equally brisk. On the first day they ordered twenty-four bottles, on the second forty-eight, on 6 June, seventy-two. By the 6th, they were specifying ports and sherries, though the rum and gin ordered on the 10th were returned. Brandy, however, evidently proved very acceptable. 6

Other goods, jugs, jacks, lanthorns, were ordered as need arose. Congestion was beginning to tell on the 5th, when Crawshay and Josiah John Guest were ordering blankets, coverlets and linen for the officers. One of the receipts records the distribution of seven pairs of these blankets to officers of the Royal Glamorgan Militia, three of them getting two pairs each, but gallant Captain Moggridge, who had just made an overnight march across the hills, after the hair-raising ambush on the Brecon Road, only one. The Royal Glamorgan, indeed, seem to have been markedly more regimental than the 93rd,---on the same day they took pains to order pipeclay and soap. Rushing to Merthyr without their greatcoats, they had run straight into a thunderstorm. 7

By evening on the 6th, however, all crises had been surmounted, and when W. D. Jenkins, grocer and parish officer, took over the requisitioning on the 9th, the flow of orders slackened. On the 10th, Millward, the Penydarren blacksmith,...........

.......................... was hauling stores from the House and the extensive bivouacs and temporary stabling erected there were being dismantled. 1  The sole order to survive from the 11th was for four bottles of brandy, presumably for the farewell toasts. Some of the supplies, blankets, glasses, ironware, were left at the mansion, and demand had not been unduly heavy, but in eight days, the troops at Penydarren consumed at least seven thousand, seven hundred and ninety-three lbs. of bread, one thousand, six hundred and thirty-seven lbs. of cheese, thirty-four bottles of brandy, two hundred and eight bottles of wine, fifteen gallons and a quart of porter, and nine hundred and fifty gallons of beer. 2

These figures alone give some indication of number, at least for the troops who ate at the House. Fuller information on this score is provided by the bills and accounts which flowed in after the restoration of order. Sometimes, indeed, this evidence helps to resolve contradictions in the narrative sources. The morning of the fatal 3rd is a case in point. The shooting at the Castle Inn took place sometime around ten o'clock. According to the Cambrian correspondent, the eighty men of the 93rd 'soon' afterwards moved to Penydarren, their Newport detachment arriving late on the same evening, Major Rickards's squadron of Yeomanry Cavalry and other units having 'also' reached Merthyr. Crawshay's fuller account, in the same newspaper, states that the 93rd moved to the mansion 'about 5 o'clock', carrying their sixteen wounded in four coaches which had just brought up fifty men of the Royal Glamorgan Militia under Captain Howells, Major Rickards and the 'Llantrissant Cavalry' having 'also' arrived . 3   Crawshay's lavish and exclusive praise of the 'brave Highlanders' stung one fiery Glamorgan patriot into an angry letter to the next issue of the Cambrian, dwelling at harrowing length on the splendours and miseries of the Royal Glamorgan's service on the battlefield. According to this writer, 'Fair Play', the 93rd had moved to Penydarren House 'long before' Captain Howells and his fifty-two men arrived in their coaches, and it was the Royal Glamorgan, without greatcoats and in the torrential rain, who had to clear the streets for the six badly-wounded men who had been left at the Castle Inn by the Highlanders . 4

At the time of the shooting, the weather had been very hot; rain fell 'towards evening'. 5  It seems probable that it was the 93rd's wounded, with the Royal Glamorgan, who moved to Penydarren at five o'clock. One of the later Penydarren requisitions of that day, ordering twenty-seven quarts of ale, may testify to their arrival. Certainly, 'Fair Play's chronology is more accurate than Crawshay's. The 93rd had moved to Penydarren in time to order a dinner for their men and were there by mid-afternoon at the latest . 6  But would a line regiment abandon its wounded in such circumstances?

It is the victualling accounts presented later by Purchase and Major Rickards of the East Glamorgan Yeomanry which help clarify the picture. 1  Purchase accounts for a 'lunch' supplied on 3 June not only to eighty men of the 93rd, but to seventy of the 'Cardiff Cavalry'. The East Glamorgan account also specifies a 'lunch' for seventy of its men on the 3rd, followed by one hundred and nineteen dinners and suppers supplied independently of the eighty dinners delivered by Purchase to the 93rd. This provision of a 'lunch' for privates is unique in the accounts. There is no mention of it in the requisitions, but Purchase's later delivery of dinners to the 93rd came in answer to a Penydarren House requisition, while the East Glamorgan went on to order their two regulation meals later the same day. Evidently, Major Rickards's squadron, the 'also-rans' of the newspaper accounts, must have arrived fairly soon after the shooting. They came in time to eat a 'lunch', probably at the Castle later in the morning, and probably before the 93rd left for Penydarren. The presence of these seventy cavalrymen makes comprehensible the apparent 'abandonment' of the 93rd's wounded. The Royal Glamorgan may well have had a hard time of it, between the rain and the rioters, but they have to share the glory with their mounted compatriots, even if the latter had the advantage of greatcoats.

These two accounts, the general victualling account of Edward Purchase, who supplied Penydarren, and the victualling account of the East Glamorgan Yeomanry (which does not, unfortunately, identify the unit's creditors), are the chief source of evidence on troop strengths. From the 6th, they are supplemented by the victualling and forage account of the 3rd Dragoon Guards, Captain Arthur's troop, with the Swan Inn, Dowlais and the Dowlais Iron Company, and the Swansea Yeomanry's forage account at Dowlais; from the 10th, by the victualling and forage account of the 3rd Dragoon Guards, Captain Todd's troop, with Purchase and William Crawshay and Sons. Tabulated, the evidence derived from these sources certainly indicates clearly enough the general pattern of reinforcement and withdrawal. 2

However, it does not warrant precise statement. The problem, particularly for the 3rd and 4th, is whether Purchase's general account incorporates at any time the account of the East Glamorgan Yeomanry. On 3 June it certainly does for the 'lunch' charge, but equally certainly does not for the later meals. Neither the Purchase account nor the Penydarren House requisitions make any provision for inn breakfasts and suppers for the men, as does that of the East Glamorgan; and while the latter paid 1s. 2 1/2d. for dinner with ale, Purchase charged 1s. for his dinners, pricing the ale on a separate account. Moreover, the Cambrian, in its account of the 6th, puts the strength of the forces which marched to the Waun at over four hundred and fifty, which strengthens the supposition that the figures in the Purchase and East Glamorgan columns must be added to give the total strength. If this be accepted, however, Sunday the 4th poses a problem. On that day, the 93rd's baggage-train, ambushed on Brecon Road the previous.......................

..................... morning, reached Penydarren House 'across the mountains'. According to the Cambrian, this force included Captain Moggridge and forty of the 'Cardiff Cavalry' from Penydarren. Since the East Glamorgan's strength remained more or less constant from the 4th to the 7th, the Yeomanry must have been supplied, in fact, by the Central Division. Their arrival is perhaps attested by the additional dinner requisition, but if Purchase's account for five hundred and nine dinners does not include the East Glamorgan men on that day, it is difficult to explain the sudden appearance of an additional one hundred and eighty men, without postulating re-inforcement from the 93rd or some other source which has gone entirely unreported. It is not possible, therefore, to be dogmatic about exact numbers, but it seems reasonable to assume that total strength on the 4th was nearer four hundred and fifty than three hundred, and that throughout, the numbers in Purchase's account represent the absolute minimum. 1

Troop movements are easier to detect. The Swansea Yeomanry had been severely shaken by its ignominious defeat on the 4th. 'Half of a troop ... was disarmed ... and the other half ran away', jeered Henry Hunt in the Commons, and certainly the accounts verify the Cambrian's report that the Swansea men did not arrive until the 6th.   2   By the 8th, they had gone home again. The Dragoons, on the other hand, reached Dowlais a day earlier than the press reported. The Militia staff, according to the press, left on the 7th; so, evidently, did one hundred men of the East Glamorgan, after supper. On the 8th, all the Yeomanry left, but the bedding charges borne by the Dragoons on the 9th, probably indicate the arrival of the vanguard of the 98th Foot. The following day, when dragoons and parties of infantry escorted prisoners to Cardiff, there was another heavy concentration at Penydarren House, but on the 11th, the 93rd returned to Brecon, and accounting at the mansion ceased. Merthyr was left to the new arrivals. The 98th, with its own field kitchens, paid its way from the start, leaving few records, but the presence of residual garrisons of dragoons at Dowlais and Cyfarthfa is clearly attested. The former vanished from the accounts, but not from the town, on 20 June, the latter on the 30th.   3

The establishment totals derived from these accounts are particularly interesting in view of the assertion by Crawshay, promptly echoed in the journals and the Commons, that the 'fewness' of the troops sent to aid the civil power was one direct cause of the riots themselves. This was true of the first and worst clash at the Castle Inn, when the eighty Highlanders were the only military force in the town, and the authorities were reduced to borrowing duelling pistols from a Merthyr draper, but it cannot be offered as an explanation of the extraordinary tenacity of the rebels during the next few days. 4  Before the end of the first morning, there were one hundred and fifty troops at Merthyr, seventy of them horsed; ..................

....................... by early afternoon, at least one hundred more, and by supper-time, the total had climbed over three hundred. On the crucial 4th, the day of the guerilla actions, there were probably at least four hundred and fifty men at the disposal of the magistrates ; at the final crisis on the 6th, some five hundred and fifty at least. By midday on the 6th, indeed, there were certainly seven hundred troops in the town, probably well over eight hundred. The level remained high until the morning of the 8th, and, during the mopping-up operations, climbed again over the six hundred mark.

One of these operations, the melodramatic capture of Lewis Lewis, is reflected in Purchase's transport bill for the chaise sent fruitlessly into Hirwaun Works at four o'clock in the morning of the 7th, and its more fortunate successor, with cavalry escort, in the evening of the same day. By the 10th, the innkeeper was charging for coaches taking the prisoners to Cardiff, shackled with ironwork supplied by the Penydarren and Cyfarthfa companies,---rather an original way of supporting local industries. 1  On this question of rebel leadership, the testimony of these papers serves only to deepen the mystery. The celebrated Dic Penderyn makes no appearance in the newspaper narratives. He is first mentioned in the Cambrian of 18 June, then simply as one of a group of prisoners. It is Lewis Lewis, 'the Huntsman' of journalists, historians, and of Captain Todd of the 3rd Dragoons, who figures as the leader, 'the most desperate of the Merthyr Rioters', and it was his capture which shed glory on the fearless sorties of Crawshay, Bruce, and gallant Lieutenant Franklin, with yeomanry and dragoons, 'alone', into the very heart of embattled Hirwaun. 2  To Rees Rees, the constable who actually laid hands on the 'sanguinary ruffian' in Penderyn Woods, it brought a more substantial reward. This worthy was dispatched to Crawshay by Morgan of Bodwigiad with a testimonial, and received 5 for his pains, a sum which the ironmaster promptly charged to the 3rd Dragoons. 3  Lewsyn's death-sentence, of course, was commuted; Dic's was not. But the assumption, which has gained wide acceptance, that execution implied leadership, seems, in face of the evidence, to be without warrant.

All the alarms and excursions, however, were over by the 11th, when most of the soldiers had departed. They left behind a jungle of accounts. Bills were being presented as early as the 8th, and since all but one of the accounts of individual tradesmen related to the victualling of Penydarren House, most must have been in soon after 11 June. The iron companies took longer. Penydarren had to assess the damage to its mansion, and its first bill was followed by a series of supplementary claims; Dowlais ran its account with the Dragoons to 20 June; Cyfarthfa was making payments to 20 August. Eventually, the trade bills, from twelve individuals and three companies, totalled 864 17s. 10d. 4

The largest by far was that of Edward Purchase of the Castle Inn. Though keeper of the town's premier hotel and contractor for the first direct mail coach from Abergavenny, Purchase was still a young man, and his service during the riots, when his 'good conduct' earned him a testimonial from the ironmasters, may have helped to establish him in developing town society. Elected churchwarden in 1834, he became active in local administration, ending his days an 'Esquire' and a pillar of Cyfarthfa Church and Merthyr Toryism. 1  His bill in June 1831, for meals, liquor and transport, came to over 397. Trailing a poor second at over 86, was another young man, William David Jenkins, who could not have been more than twenty-nine at the time, but had already made a name for himself in local politics. A native of Llantrisant, he was a grocer, though he graduated to the superior social degree of 'Druggist' before his untimely death. He played a prominent part in the drive to remodel parish administration which the ironmasters had launched in 1829, serving as church-warden twice and select vestryman four times between 1828 and 1834, and at the climax of the movement in the spring of 1831, was a close colleague of Joseph Coffin, the Unitarian tanner and glutton for parish administration, who was the chief local victim of the rioters. 2  The third of the leading creditors, at nearly 50, was Thomas Darker, another prominent figure in the reform committees of 1830 and 1831, and one who had been established longer, having served as church-warden, overseer and select vestryman since 1822. For after a sketchy start, he had become one of the town's leading Radical traders, with a grocery and drapery opposite the Castle Inn, and a house stocked with 'very superior' mahogany, a 'superior' piano, and an elegant organ, 'big enough for a chapel'. 3

Other prominent members of the Merthyr 'shopocracy', Tory and Radical alike, figured as creditors for small amounts. William Marsden, the Chief Constable, had supplied blankets worth 18, and on the desperate morning of the 3rd, lent the Highlanders a case of duelling pistols, three guns, three powderflasks, two shot-belts, and a cannister of powder, formidable armament for a draper,---though Darker, too, used to sleep with two pistols loaded with swan-shot at his pillow, 'Merthyr fashion'. 4  At Dowlais, William Teague, the Radical keeper of the Swan, came in for 30 for victualling the Dragoons, and all the smaller debts were distributed among men well known to the town Trade---Turners, Dykes, John Howell, who printed Crawshay's pamphlet, and the Millwards, sons of one ..................

................ of Homfray's original Yorkshiremen, who had started both Penydarren Works and the Wesleyan chapel. Only one creditor was not a Merthyr man, W. H. Iggulden, keeper of the Westgate Hotel, Newport, who had supplied transport for the 93rd's detachment in that town. 1

Claims from such people could not be pigeon-holed, and, indeed, an attempt was made to settle them promptly. This was the task of Anthony Hill of the Plymouth Works, 'a gentleman', according to Lady Charlotte Guest, though a Tory, and a magistrate, though he had not yet taken the oath to the new Sovereign . 2  Of all the ironmasters, Hill took the most sustained interest in parish affairs, had been active as a frustrated peace-maker in the early stages of the riots. By the autumn of 1831, he had paid off all the smaller debts as well as some incidental expenses, cleared most of the Darker and Jenkins accounts and made two substantial payments towards Purchase's. 3

For his funds, he had to look to the military, professional and amateur. This is the central weakness of the papers. Only two general statements of military expenses classified by unit survive, one undated, the other, of 17 June and therefore incomplete, listing somewhat larger figures, totalling over 977.   4 These would include services and other transactions which would not fit into the tradebill framework. Furthermore, as chance receipts, scribbled annotations, arbitrary calculations, indicate, there was a good deal of independent purveyance, independent settlement, and, as might be expected, much simple muddle. Two endorsements of these sheets, for example, record successive and fruitless attempts to calculate the sums due from the Glamorgan Yeomanry, the totals corresponding not at all to the amount actually and ultimately paid. In the absence of corroborative evidence, it is not possible to make much of the accounts. While the expenditure side of the parish balance-sheet, based on the trade-bills, is clear, its receipt side, the allowances obtained from the County and the War Office, remains a series of virtually inexplicable figures.

The one partial exception is the total for Major Rickards's East Glamorgan Yeomanry. 5  This unit budgeted for its men's meals from 3 June to 8 June, but it had a joint forage account with the Central Glamorgan. The forage bill was divided between the two units in proportion to their total strengths. From the sum which remained charged to the Easterners were deducted allowances for one hundred dinners, two hundred and nineteen suppers, one hundred bushels of oats and some straw and hay, leaving a total of 124 16s. 2d., which was the amount actually paid by Rickards to Hill. A scribbled annotation of the 17 June sheet makes it clear that a similar calculation decided Captain Morgan's Central Yeomanry payment of 90 17s.     6   Negotiations with the Regulars were more ............................

........................... protracted. Hill was in London about the business before the end of June, working through Crawshay's London House. The principles governing its payment of allowances were laid down by the government in a letter of 13 July, but examination of the Merthyr accounts took over three months. Not until 21 November did the War Office come to its cheerless decision. It would pay that amount which would have been chargeable for the troops 'if they had been billeted upon, and dieted by, innkeepers'---a total of 191 13s.     1

This left a deficit of over 450, but the magistrates took immediate receipt to settle with Hill. An endorsement of the Westgate Hotel bill states that it was finally settled by an order on the parish bank dated 15 November. This may be an accounting entry, since Hill presented a 'cash account' of his transactions, which included the Westgate bill, and claimed a deficit due to his company. His first payment towards Purchase's account was simply the East Glamorgan's 124 16s. 2d. transferred direct to the innkeeper, and the Yeomanry had paid their bills before 21 November. It is probable that Hill's transactions, which left him 9  9s. 3d. out of pocket, were completed in December. 2

By this time, Crawshay had taken over. It was inevitable that he should do so. He had been the centre of the storm; the troops at Cyfarthfa were there to protect him. Moreover, 1831 had witnessed one of his episodic irruptions into parish affairs. On the one hand, he was the force behind the administrative reform of May, on the other, he was on the point of launching the ironmasters into a fierce struggle against the new valuation which was one of its by-products. At the same time, he had taken the lead in the town's parliamentary reform and anti-truck campaigns, emerging, briefly but vehemently, as an advocate of the redemption of tithes, universal suffrage and the ballot. 3  His agent, George Forrest, and his London colleagues at George Yard, had been active in the business from the beginning, and soon Hill's documents were transferred, to be garnished with a new set of terse and tetchy annotations. 4

Crawshay had to find the remainder of the Purchase, Darker and Jenkins accounts and to meet the iron companies' bills, now in. Those of Dowlais and Cyfarthfa had been paid in part by the military, and were for no more than some 12 and 53 respectively. 5  Penydarren's, however, was for over 172, and there was further trouble from this quarter when Alderman Thompson took a hand.

Thompson, M.P. for the City of London and a partner at Penydarren, had an unenviable reputation at Merthyr. 'If he saw a nail on the ground or a lump of coal ... he would pathetically lament at his approaching ruin' ran the street-corner maxim. Lady Charlotte thought he lacked the City's 'uprightness' and the Crawshay factors at George Yard viewed his activities with the utmost suspicion. 1  At all events, the alderman now pressed for compensation, for damage done to Penydarren House, over and above the amount already negotiated direct with the Home Office, and, at a meeting at the Castle Inn, claimed 78 10s. on this score as well as a further 18 on another, unspecified. Purchase himself became restive, pointing to his losses and his generosity, and in the end, he, too, claimed compensation over and above the 33, assessed on the Hundred, which he had been awarded by the Glamorgan Quarter Sessions in October.

The year 1832, then, was not easy for William Crawshay. His works were losing heavily, he quarrelled violently with his father and found it difficult to raise the money for his daughter's marriage settlement; and with Thompson, Purchase, and the Merthyr Trade at his back, he had to face the implacable Melbourne. 3  By August, he was informing his father that 'harassed on all sides as I am ... I heartily wish ... that it were at an end in any way'. He had but one consolation---'I shall at least have the Conviction of Rectitude'. 4  This conviction certainly finds expression in his dealings with the War Office. In January, he composed a long and poignant memorial to Hobhouse, vividly recalling the desperate urgency of the crisis, pleading that tradesmen were threatening the magistrates with legal action, insisting that if the government left them saddled with the liability it would be 'committing an act of injustice which in any future occasion of disturbance would lead to a lukewarm-ness of execution on the part of those Gentlemen whose Services are at all times Gratuitous'. 5  He bombarded War Office and Home Department with letters and accounts, only to receive a reply from Melbourne in March, 'regretting to be obliged to inform the Magistrates that he is under the necessity of declining to comply'. Undaunted, indeed strengthened by a unanimous vote of thanks from a parish meeting, an unusual experience for him at this date, the ironmaster headed a committee of ten promptly elected to prepare a new memorial to the government, to be pressed upon them 'in every possible way'. 6  It was a long labour, entailing journeys to London and personal interviews with Ministers; Merthyr had elected its first parliamentary representative before the job was done. But by the spring of 1833, Crawshay had wrung a further 449 15s. out of a reluctant War Office. 7

This was not enough. It left a deficit of 1 12. 3d. even on the original bills, and there was still the compensation issue. Thompson had dropped his smaller claim, but Crawshay had consented to the larger, and had also agreed to compensate Purchase, though the amount had not been decided. There was but one course left open, what had now become almost a traditional remedy---a levy on the furnaces of the ironworks, twelve at Dowlais, nine at Cyfarthfa, seven at Plymouth, and five at Penydarren. 1

In the process, Purchase's compensation was fixed in decidedly Pickwickian fashion. The sum is worked out in a rough draft of the final settlement. The deficit on the original bills is added to Thompson's claim, giving 80 3s. 1d. Then,---'Suppose Purchase 92  10s.' runs the legend, giving no indication of how this sum was arrived at. The total now equals over 172. There follows a series of little multiplication sums to find that levy on thirty-three furnaces which will yield the most useful total. 5 is tried and found too little, but 5 10s. is just right, giving a total of 181 10s. The 80 3s. 1d. is deducted, and Purchase has his price. So the final settlement gives formal notice of the award to Edward Purchase 'in consideration of inadequate charges made by him, loss of interest of money and good conduct', of the rather remarkable sum of 101 6s. 11d.   2

The account was finally settled on 16 April 1833, when Crawshay, once more a popular figure, got his receipts from Purchase's wife, Darker, Jenkins, Guest, the Hills and John Petherick for Penydarren (with the furnace-levy duly deducted from the company claim). 3  The bills which Crawshay and Hill had met totalled over 1,038. 4  In no sense does this represent the true monetary cost of the riots. It covers only that sector of it which could be calculated from tradesmen's bills and claims. Whole categories of transactions are excluded. One suspects that in the confusion of June, many debts were written off, many simply could not be calculated, any more than could the damage to production and marketing. The parish had still to bear its burden of retribution. Compensation for the riots' victims was levied on Caerphilly Hundred, which in practice probably meant the townsmen. This sum included not only Purchase's paltry 33, but the total of 591 10s., which the Court of King's Bench awarded Joseph Coffin and Mary Rees for the destruction of their houses. The County had its burdens too. It paid out over 780 to the parish solicitor, William Meyrick, to cover the costs of prosecuting the rioters; over 90 to the men sworn in as specials. It cost over 258 to bring ninety-nine witnesses from Merthyr to the trial at the Summer Assizes. 5  3,000 would be a conservative assessment of damages.

But the cost of the rising is not to be measured in monetary terms. The dead and wounded outside the Castle Inn weighed heavier in the balance. 'There go the devils!', shouted one woman after the Crawshays en route to church in August, and she voiced a general bitterness, which the execution of Penderyn and the big autumn lock-out did nothing to assuage. The dragoons at Dowlais and Cyfarthfa were very free with their weapons; they had cause to be. 1  But there were compensations on the credit side. The riots came at that moment when the town was at last outgrowing its parochial swaddling-clothes, when its growing middle class were fumbling after new organisation, responsibility, power. The cause of Reform rallied individuals as diverse as Morgan Williams the future Chartist, and the painfully respectable Taliesin Williams (ab Iolo Morganwg), grouped men like Darker and Teague with the Unitarian democrats, in what was to become the town's 'liberal' caucus. 2  These men had won an unprecedented local power on the eve of the riots and the troubles merely strengthened their resolve. Indeed, it was the costly rising itself which was at least partly responsible for the unexpected dividend they now received.

For it had broken out in the early stages of the developing crisis over the Reform Bill, on the morrow of the Reformers' great electoral victory. Merthyr Tydfil, whose claims had been totally ignored by the Whig framers of the Bill, thrust itself upon public attention, even into the King's Speech at the opening of the new Session. 3 It was Orator Hunt who first rose in the Commons to pillory the government for the 'slaughter' of  '26 of our fellow-subjects', but the Tories swiftly understood that Merthyr was a stick ready-made for Whig backs, as the embarrassment of Althorp and Lord John Russell made painfully apparent. 4  Sir John Walsh, that hammer of the Reformers, was soon quoting Petherick in the Cambrian at inordinate length; the sins of the Swansea Yeomanry were bruited about the Chamber. Croker himself took Merthyr's petition as his text, and in the memorable August debate on the proposed enfranchisement of Gateshead, when Peel divided the House, Tory after Tory paraded Merthyr as the shameful contrast, a victim of Whiggery, the Cinderella to Durham's ugly Northern sisters. This novel posture of the defenders of Old Sarum drew from one exasperated Whig the complaint that 'of all democracies, none are so extravagant as ungovernable toryism', 6  but the thrusts went home, and it was not long before Merthyr put in a coy appearance on Schedule D. The year after Cardiff witnessed the execution of Dic Penderyn, Westminster welcomed Josiah John Guest as the representative of a new Parliamentary Borough.

 

GWYN A. WILLIAMS.

University College of Wales,
         Aberystwyth.

 


TABLE 1 : PENYDARREN HOUSE REQUISITIONS

June

Number

Meals

Victuals

Liquor

Other Goods

3rd

6

Dinner 30 officers

Dinner 81 men

432 lbs. bread

34 lbs. cheese

6 lbs. hard tack

128 quarts ale

1 barrel ale 

4 bottles brandy

1000 copper caps

1 bag large shot  

4th

13

Breakfasts, Dinners for Officers 'as yesterday'

2920 lbs. bread

504 lbs. cheese

400 lbs. meat

10 flitches bacon

2 lbs. tea

9 lbs. sugar

6 lbs. butter

14 barrels ale 

24 bottles wine

Some large jacks

5th

7

Officers' meals

Dinner 450 men

Dinner 100 men

448 lbs. cheese

12 barrels ale

48 bottles wine

4 bottles brandy

13 1/2 lbs. yellow soap

6 lbs. white soap

2s. pipeclay

27 pr. blankets

27 coverlets

33 Towels

40 yds. calico

1 wrapper

1 pr. cotton hose

2 prs. wool hose

6th

9

Officers' meals

Dinner 600 men

2240 lbs. bread

2240 lbs. cheese

12 lbs. hard tack

6 lbs. lump sugar

20 barrels ale

72 bottles wine

4 bottles brandy

20 brown-ware jugs

3 gallon water jugs

7th

6

Officers' meals

Dinner 350 men

Dinner 53 men

1 lb.tea 

2 qts. brandy

1 ream post paper

1 doz. No. 1

Foolscap

8th

3

-

1120 lbs. bread

24 bottles wine

6 bottles brandy

6 lanthorns

2 brass corks

9th

4

Officers' meals

-

48 bottles wine

12 bottles beer

12 bottles porter

18 qts. porter

4 bottles brandy

-

10th

6

 

12 lbs. sugar

3 lbs. butter

1 barrel porter

6 bottles brandy

2 bottles rum

2 bottles gin

48 bottles beer

-

11th

1

-

-

4 bottles brandy

-

Source:---Riot Expences, Requisitions. The order for lanthorns and corks on the 8th was duplicated on the 10th. Only one set was delivered---see Bills, Edward Williams and Co., General Statements, Sheet 3.


TABLE 2. GOODS SUPPLIED BY TRADESMEN TO PENYDARREN HOUSE

This Table has not been extracted, no tradesmen's names shown in it.

The column headings are; Goods ; Consumed ; Returned ; Date


TABLE 3. VICTUALLING AND FORAGE RETURNS BY MILITARY.

This Table has not been extracted, it is only a series of numbers of types of meals.

The column headings are; - Breakfasts; Dinners; Suppers; Forage with these figures being shown separately for
 -East Glamorgan Yeomanry
-Swansea Yeomanry with Dowlais Co
-3rd Dragoon Guards with   A] Capt. Arthur Dowlais with i) Swan Inn, Dowlais and ii) Dowlais Co.   B] Capt Todd Cyfarthfa with  i)Purchase and ii) W Crawshay
-Requisitions


TABLE 4. BALANCE-SHEET OF RIOT EXPENSES

Cash Received From                                      s. d.

In Account With                                                                           s. d.

1. Major Rickards (E.G.Y.) by A. Hill   124 16  2

2. Capt. Morgan (C.G.Y.) by A. Hill        90 17  0

3. War Office by A. Hill                         191 13  0

4. War Office by W. Crawshay               449 15  0

5. Levy on Furnaces by W. Crawshay     181 10  0

1. Edward Purchase (meals, liquor, transport)                       397  6   1

2. W. D. Jenkins (victuals and miscellaneous)                        86  15  1

3. Thomas Darker (victuals)                                                     48   7  2

4. William Marsden (drapery)                                                  18   5  9

5. W. H. Iggulden, Westgate, Newport (transport)                   18  14  0

6. J. Hutchings (bread)                                                              13   6  8

7. John Howell (stationery)                                                        7  13  9

8. Moses Turner (tumblers and wine-glasses)                            2   0  6 

9. Edward Williams & Co. (lanthorns & corks)                       1  16 10

10. R. M. Dyke (jugs)                                                                0 11  6

11. William Millward (haulage)                                                0   3  6

12. Penydarren Iron Company  (miscellaneous)                     172  15 9

13. William Crawshay and Sons  (miscellaneous)                   53 18  6 

14. Dowlais Iron Company (miscellaneous)                             12  11 7

15. William Meyrick's clerk to London (parish solicitor)                                                                                   10   0  0

16. Lambert's Bill(?)                                                                  9  12  1

17. R. Hill's expenses                                                                 4  15  6

18. Penydarren House, additional compensation                       78 10  0

19. Edward Purchase, additional compensation                      101  6 11

                                                          1,038  11  2

                                                                                           1,038  11 2


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