Wales - Genealogy Help Pages - Crime & Punishment


Crime and Punishment

(With a Welsh slant)

Back to introduction

I was encouraged to produce this feature after re-visiting the very readable basic primer Crime and Punishment in England and Wales: an Outline History by Eldon Smith, Gomer, 1986.
The various direct references from the above book included here are coded (CPEW)

The first section is in timeline format and relates to events on a national basis, the second is the section I first started out to compile - data on gaols etc in south/west Wales but now including crime and punishment items too


  (17th - C19th centuries)  

I have included random references to individual crimes and their punishments to emphasise just how attitudes to 'crime and its punishment' changed over the centuries and how this translated into a general move away from death or physical punishment towards long term incarceration in gaols etc

The book (CPEW) has a table from Dolby's Parliamentary Register showing the number of people executed, and their crime, in England and Wales in the years 1805 - 1818.
Here are details of the 5 categories of crimes, which make up the bulk of the total,  for the year 1818 -  in which  95 people were executed ;

  • Murder; 13
  • Burglary, housebreaking etc; 19
  • Forgery and uttering; 24
  • Robbery on the person, and on the highway etc;  13
  • Sheep stealing; 14


  • 1615-1776
    •  'Idle beggars and disorderly persons' were transported to the colonies (such as the West Indies and North America)"  (CPEW)
  • 1648
    •   Royalists routed at Battle of St Fagan's - hundreds of Welshmen transported to Barbados
  • 1679
    • Habeas Corpus Act during reign of Charles II   (CPEW) - this legislation was to stop the practice of detaining people ad infinitem without trial
  • 1685
    • "At the 'Bloody Assizes' conducted by Judge Jeffreys over 1000 followers of the Duke of Monmouth were sent to the West Indies as slaves and another 300 were hanged, drawn and quartered." (CPEW)
  • 1713
    • Branding was abolished (CPEW)
  • 1716
    • "A nine year old girl was hanged as a witch in Huntingdon "  (CPEW)
  • 1718
    • An Act which broadened and regularised the system of transportation of convicts to the colonies
  • 1736
    • The Witchcraft Act, controversially declared witchcraft no longer to be a crime
  • 1779
    • " ....an Act introduced a new concept of hard labour for prisoners in the hulks .. ......"   (Home Office)
  • 1782
    • "A girl of 14 was hanged for being found with gypsies" (CPEW)
    • "Before the end of the C18th there were more than 150 offences for which death was the specified penalty" (CPEW)
  • 1787
    • First convicts transported to Australia in what is known as the First Fleet  - the Second Fleet followed in 1790
  • 1791
    • There are annual Criminal registers  for 1791-1892 at the PRO, Kew
  • 1801
    • "A boy of 13 was hanged for stealing a spoon" (CPEW)
  • 1823
    • Sir Robert Peel  became Home Secretary "and introduced far-ranging criminal law and prison reform " via the Gaol Act of 1823
    • From the CPEW et al;
      • The number of offences carrying the death penalty was reduced by over 100
      • Justices of the Peace were now required to inspect and report on prisons every three months
      • Houses of Correction and County Gaols were amalgamated -  and the word prison is first used
      • Men and women were now to be separated in prisons
      • Whipping, expulsion, the stocks etc ceased to be the punishment for  'idle beggars and disorderly persons'  - and seven years transportation was replaced by two years in prison
  • 1824
    • "A Vagrancy Act replaced all previous legislation and identified three classes of offenders; 'Idle and disorderly persons', Rogues and vagabonds', and 'Incorrigible rogues' " (CPEW)
  • 1829
    • Metropolitan Police force established in London
  • 1830
  • 1834
    • "The Poor Law Amendment Act set out to make provisions for the ' law abiding poor' and workhouses under the control of locally elected Guardians of the Poor were established."  &  "Gradually it was accepted that mere poverty was not a punishable crime" (CPEW)
    • Tolpuddle Martyrs - transported for forming a trade union
    • The Old Bailey becomes known as the Central Criminal Court
  • 1838
    •  Debt was now distinguished from premeditated fraud and ceased to be an offence punishable by a prison sentence unless the debtor was likely to abscond.
  • 1839
    • The County Police Act passed
  • 1840s
    • " ........in the six years after the building of Pentonville [1842] fifty-four new prisons were built providing 11,000 separate cells...."  Home Office)
  • 1843  
    • A Report on the Turnpike Trusts  "It was to be expected that the government should institute an enquiry into the (Rebecca) rioting. Edwin Chadwick, the secretary of the Poor Law Commission, who had paid some attention to conditions in Wales in preparing a report in 1839 on the best means of establishing a constabulary force, wrote to the home office on 11 July 1843 to suggest that an enquiry be held......"
  • 1859
    • "Hulks continued to be used until 1859 and at one time contained 70,000 prisoners, many being French prisoners of war captured after the defeat of Napoleon" (Home Office)
  • 1860s
    • "An Act allowed long periods of solitary confinement on bread and water, flogging, and the use of chains and irons" (CPEW)
  • 1865
    • "Despite this legislative activity and the work of penal reformers, conditions in prisons continued in general to be appalling and attempts to impose common standards achieved very little. In 1863 the deficiencies of local administration were catalogued by a Select Committee of the House of Lords on Prison Discipline. In 1865 the Prisons Act made it possible for the grant from central government to the local authority to be withdrawn if the provisions of the Act were not implemented"  (Home Office)
  • 1867
    • Transportation to the colonies effectively ended
  • 1869
    • Debt is now finally decriminalised and  routine imprisonment for debt ceased, other than in cases of fraud or deliberate refusal to pay
  • 1877
    • " .... in 1877 legislation was passed to transfer the powers and responsibilities from the local justices to the Home Secretary who also took over from local rate payers the cost of the system."     (Home Office)
  • 1878
    • Edward du Cane and the Prison Commission  (Home Office)
    • " ....the Commissioners close[d] 38 out of a total of 113 local prisons. Within another ten years another 15 had been abandoned."  
    • "The regime .... imposed in the local prisons was based on the principle of separate confinement, which....... reflected the view that imprisonment was a punishment intended to deter the offender from further crime. For the first month the prisoner was required to sleep on a plank bed, and to work alone in his cell. The work would be tedious, unpleasant and unconstructive; at this stage it would usually consist of picking oakum. Later on, he might find himself working the crank or tread wheel. ........ ...... The food consisted basically of bread, meal and potatoes  .......No letters or visits were allowed for the first three months, and thereafter were permitted only at three monthly intervals. "
    • "Conditions in the convict prisons were based on similar principles. A convict was sentenced to penal servitude, not to imprisonment, and spent the first nine months of his sentence in solitary confinement. The convict crop and the prison uniform with its broad arrows were intentionally demeaning and unsightly ....................."
  • 1895
    • Gladstone Report   (Home Office)
    • "Towards the end of the century belief in punishment and deterrence as the main objects of imprisonment, and confidence in the separate system as a desirable and effective means of dealing with prisoners, came increasingly under question. The Report of the Gladstone Committee in 1895 reflected this change in attitudes towards prisoners. 'We start', said the Committee, 'from the principle that prison treatment should have as its primary and concurrent objects, deterrence and reformation'.  In this spirit, the Committee recommended that unproductive labour, in particular the crank and tread wheel, should be abolished and that the principle of labour in association, practised for many years in the convict service, should be extended to local prisons.............."
  • 1898

    • Oscar Wilde wrote 'The Ballad of Reading Gaol which had some influence on public perception of what life in gaol was like  
      "He was sentenced to two years imprisonment for homosexuality, ............During his jail term, first at Wandsworth prison and then at Reading, Wilde underwent a transformation.  The indulgent, witty playwright and author was released a broken man, humiliated and bankrupt" (BBC)


  • The above ( Home Office) atttributed quotes are from Home Office 1782-1982 written to commemorate the Bicentenary of the Home Office in 1982


Related material on this site



(and crime and punishment)

Below is a  county based collection of crime and punishment related items and their sources ;

  • Bibliography
  • The Crime and Punishment database  on the NLW site comprises data about crimes, criminals and punishments included in the gaol files of the Court of Great Sessions in Wales from 1730 until its abolition in 1830. The Court could try all types of crimes, from petty thefts to high treason. In practice, most of the petty crimes were heard at the Courts of Quarter Sessions, whose records are held by the Welsh county record offices. Details about these records can be searched at Archives Network Wales. The records of the Court of Great Sessions do not include cases tried in Monmouthshire since that county formed part of the Oxford Assize circuit, whose records are held by the National Archives. There are, however, a number of cases of Monmouthshire interest on this database.
  • Welsh Legal History Society  - exists to spread knowledge of, and promote research into, the rich history of law in Wales. That history extends from a fascinating medieval indigenous legal system to the specific (sometimes surprising) application of law within Wales in more modern times.


 "Table of Diet recommended to be adopted by the Secretary of State be used and observed in the Gaol and House of Correction at Cardigan"  - on the Plwyf Llangynfelyn site

Cardiganshire Constabulary Register of Criminals, 1897-1933 - on the NLW's site.  Here is a name finding aid  on Genuki

The following pieces are from an article  by Alun Eirug Davies in Ceredigion , the journal of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society ; Vol V1/1 1968  .

  • The house of correction for the county was erected in Cardigan. Here poor prisoners were housed and set to work. It seems that the gaol and the house of correction were in the same building and that the separate functions of the two places had not been exactly defined in the C18. Thus the gaoler was responsible for looking  after the bedding in both places
  • "Upon the complaint of the Goaler [sic] on behalfe of the poor prisoners that the bedding in the goal is very much decayed and worn out..........it is ordered that 6 new Blankets and 3 new Rugs......be bought by the Deputy Sheriff." [Documents Illustrating the County Gaol and House of Correction in Wales. T H Lewis. Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymrodorion 1946-47]
  • Later in the century the authorities were obviously concerned about the need for distinguishing between convicted prisoners and other prisoners such as debtors and paupers, and accomodating them in separate quarters. In 1787 an order was made to apply for a new gaol to be built which would contain " a sufficient Number of Sells and other Appartments for the use of Debtors and Criminals Separate".  
  • When James Neild visited Cardigan in 1803 , the new gaol had been in use for 6 years. The gaoler was William Langdon who received an annual salary of £30. The building then contained sleeping cells for criminals and four rooms for debtors, and a chapel. There was no water on the premises and it had to be carried from a well about a quarter mile away. [James Neild, An Account of the Rise, Progress, and Present State of the Society for the Discharge and Relief of Persons Imprisoned for Small debts throughout England and Wales. London, 1808]
  • Debtors in Cardigan Gaol were said by James Neild to be sleeping on straw in rooms 'with fire-places, but no fuel...'
    Both lunatics and felons were confined to the same rooms, while ' maniacs' were not cared for, although it was admitted   ' that, by medicines and proper regimen, some of them might be restored to their senses, and usefulness in life.'
  • Poor prisoners were not granted allowances in 1803, and in times of need they were told to apply to their respective parishes for relief. In 1817, however, poor prisoners in the gaol received ' one shilling each a week out of the allowance of three shillings and sixpence for Bread and that in future the allowance for bread shall amount only to the sum of two shillings and sixpence each.
  • A surgeon and a chaplain were attached to the prison, in 1803 the former was John Williams of Newcastle Emlyn, and the latter the Reverend John Evans who both got an annual salary.


The following pieces are from  'A History of Cardigan , the Locality and its People '[Those were the Days]. Edited and published by The Cardigan & Tivy-Side Advertiser from source material supplied by Donald Davies. Vol 2, 1992.

  • In 1775, Mary Eynon of St Mary's parish was convicted of petty larceny, her punishment was " ..to be stripped from the waist upwards and whipped in the porch of the common gaol, till your body 'be bloody'  by the Master of the House of Correction."  It seems the chairman of the local magistrates, Rev Dr Powell, preferred this to the alternative of putting her on the ducking stool and dipping her in the Teifi.
  • In the following year, Susannah Daniel, wife of Daniel Daniel, was also similarly publicly whipped for petty larceny.
  • In 1786, Thomas Davies , of Llangoedmor, was convicted of stealing clothing valued at 11d and also whipped as above, this time " until the blood flowed freely from his back". The punishment was repeated a week later, on a different route through the town.
  • At the same Sessions as above, Margaret Davies, also of Llangoedmor, was sentenced to a single whipping for stealing a piece of brown cloth worth 6d.
  • In 1801, William Lewis of Llandysul was sentenced to death for stealing an ewe worth 5 shillings, this was later commuted to transportation for life and he ended up in NSW, Australia.
  • Cardigan's only female transportee was Eleanor James,aged 24, she stole clothing from the house of an Ann Thomas in Tremain, the clothing belonging to the latter and one Mary Phillips. This wasn't Eleanor's first offence , she was transported in 1823 on the vessel Brothers with 89 others to Hobart, Tasmania.
  • In 1827, William Andrews, a tramp, pleaded guilty to stealing "old garments" from a house in Aberporth, he was sentenced to death and was hanged at Cardigan County Gaol.
  • In 1826, Enoch Thomas and Owen Jones were to be found languishing in Cardigan County Gaol. Enoch had been found guilty of burglary, and sentenced to 2 years hard labour, and Owen of theft, and sentenced to 6 months hard labour. Their punishment included 8 hours daily on the dreaded treadmill. They were however excused hard labour on Christmas Day and Good Friday.
  • In 1883, Eleanor Jones pleaded guilty to stealing notepaper and envelopes from a shop in Llandysul, she was sentenced to 18 months hard labour and the judge appeared to agree with her statement that she 'wouldn't come out alive'.
  • The last murder trial at Cardigan was held in 1885 when Sergeant Price of the Cardiganshire Militia was sentenced to death for the murder of his wife during a quarrel.

 A person who stole clothing in Aberporth in 1827 was hung in the prison for his crime. (From A History of Cardigan , the Locality and its People '[Those were the Days]. Edited and published by The Cardigan & Tivy-Side Advertiser from source material supplied by Donald Davies. Vol 1, Ist edition 1991.)


Carmarthen Castle on Castle Wales -  "The castle was converted into a prison in the 18th and 19th centuries............"

"Carmarthen - a treadmill was erected in the County Gaol in 1832" - from Wikipedia

"......As early as 1789, the famous architect John Nash had begun the building of the county gaol in Carmarthen on the ruins of the medieval castle; although this prison was closed in 1922.........." ( Lloyd, Sir John E, A History of Carmarthenshire )

"Quakers  - By the beginning of April, 1673, Picton had been restored to his prison lodging again (these are the Bishop's words), only to teach from that vantage scholars who came in crowds to hear him under the windows of the gaol. And that is the last we hear of him........ "   ( Lloyd, Sir John E, A History of Carmarthenshire )

Was on the NLW's Gathering the Jewels site - Dai'r Cantwr (David Davies) sentenced to 20 years transportation to Tasmania for demolishing Spudder's Bridge turnpike gate near Kidwelly, CMN

The following item submitted by Brian Comley
"Carmarthen Register of Felons: entry for Isaac Comley, resident of Gloucester, committed on 29 June 1865 Isaac Comley, a twenty-one year old fireman, was tried at Carmarthen court of petty sessions for stealing cider and peppermint on the South Wales Railway. He was sentenced to one month hard labour.Stature: 5 5 1/2; Complexion; Dark; Where Born; Wilts.; Last Residence; 12 Victoria Street, Gloucester; Married; Profession; Fireman; Tried 1 Jul 1865; Discharged; 31 Jul 1865."

The following pieces are from The Story of Carmarthen by Malcolm and Edith Lodwick)

  •  "Queen Elizabeth Grammar School - here, on the old Priory Field, the school remained until 1884 when it was transferred to its present position off Richmond Terrace. This site, the gift of the Charity Commissioners, was known as the 'Prisoners' Field', having been left in trust many years previously for the benefit of debtors in Carmarthen Gaol."
    Before the building of Nash's gaol at Carmarthen the town had two squalid and dilapidated prisons, the chief one occupying the Castle site, the other on the "Prisoners' Gate" in King Street. When John Howard, the philanthropist and "inspector" of prisons, paid one of his visits to the Castle gaol in 1774 he found it, like most other prisons of the same time, in a shocking state. There was no water inside ; the cells were very small with mud floors, and "the condemned cell was damp!"On another occasion (1788) he found "a number of idle and profane people playing at tennis. The gaoler lived far from the gaol and was paid no wages, existing on fees and tolls extracted from prisoners and their friends."It was following Howard's recommendations in 1788 that Nash got his first big job to build the new gaol, which was begun in 1789 and finished in 1792.
    Before public executions were abolished, condemned men (including forgers) were executed on a platform raised above the gaol wall facing Spilman Street. The last execution was in 1829, when the crowd who saw it stretched up as far as the Ivy Bush. They also had a free view of the body afterwards. Before 1818 executions of county convicts took place at Pensarn on the site where Babell Chapel now stands, and those of the town on the Royal Oak Common, in Johnstown.
    The following are extracts from The Cwmgwili Manuscripts, being a letter from Richard Jones, Carmarthen, to John George Philipps, Esq., M.P., in 1788, when there appears to have been many in favour of building the gaol on the Royal Oak Common in Johnstown.
    • The plan fixed appears to be totally ineligible and improper for that purpose ... it will cost £800 more than if built ... on the site of the old gaol. Mr. Nash is willing to depose on oath . . . other persons who voted for the Royal Oak have now absolutely retracted ... I wish to get the Bill through before you leave town . . .
    • We had three persons condemned, two for horse stealing and one for stealing goods and breaking into a house in the day-time ; this last was the hangman in the gaol,-a person not 20 years of age, who had been tried at our bar three time ; not half an hour after he received sentence he hung himself in the gaol ...
    Public hangings and transportations were ordinary and frequent affairs in these days. In a letter to his son "George" in London in 1752, "Griff Philipps" says : "There are this day to be hang'd at Carmarthen two men for house breaking, which I suppose will draw all ye country peoples together, it being a very common thing here to get 'em hang'd by pairs."

Some in depth reading for the serious student of the subject ;
A Want of Good Order and Discipline: Rules, Discretion and the Victorian Prison. By Richard Ireland, to be published in May 2007.
"Major changes took place in the nineteenth century regarding the practice of punishment of criminals, ................ Increasingly crime came to be presented as a national rather than a local problem, meriting a national solution. By investigating in detail the operation of Carmarthen Gaol in the period c.1840-1877, this book explores the reasons for and resistances to these general trends, and for the first time provides an account of the relationship between a local gaol, its staff and its prisoners, and the community in which it was situated. ................. As well as concentrating on the issues arising from Carmarthen Gaol, the book also provides a theoretical discussion on the broader issues of state and penal development"


"The first congregation of dissenters known to have assembled in Wales was formed at this place [Merthyr Tydfil], about the year 1620, when Vavasour Powel, celebrated in the annals of nonconformity, while preaching to this congregation, was apprehended and committed to Cardiff gaol"   (A Topographical Dictionary of Wales" by Samuel Lewis 1833)

"John ap Henry or John Penry, a Puritanical zealot, held the living during the period 1567 - 1570. His excellent preaching completely eclipsed the service at the altar; the Catholics, showing open defiance, were imprisoned, and among those in Cardiff gaol were Turbervilles of Newton-Nottage, James and Lewis dying of gaol fever" (Newton Church )

"Cardiff gaol prisoners thank benefactor for provisions"
"Glamorganshire is included in the South Wales circuit the assizes and Epiphany quarter sessions are held at Cardiff, the Easter quarter sessions at Cowbridge, the Midsummer sessions at Neath, and the Michaelmas sessions at Swansea: the county gaol is at Cardiff, and the county house of correction at Swansea : to the new gaol at Cardiff will also be attached a house of correction for the eastern part of the county : there are seventy-seven acting magistrates."       (A Topographical Dictionary of Wales" by Samuel Lewis 1833)   (Item from the Cambrian of 1810)

1831    Dic Penderyn (Richard Lewis)  hanged at Cardiff on 13th August 1831 for his part in the Merthyr Rising.         See also the South Wales Police Museum site

1836-1870  The History of Cardiff Policing  on the South Wales Police Heritage Centre site
"In January 1836, faced with a population of 6,000 people that was continuing to increase rapidly controlled only by the inadequate Parish Constable and Watchman system, Cardiff Borough Council appointed a Watch Committee for the purpose of establishing and administering a Cardiff borough police force. .........................."

1840    The Newport Chartist leaders sentenced to death for treason---commuted to transportation. See Chartists   

1841   Merthyr Superintendants and the battle for 'China' - on the South Wales Police Heritage Centre site
"The first Superintendent of Merthyr, Edward John Davis, was sworn in at Bridgend on Tuesday 19th October 1841, at the age of 33 years. He had served in the Metropolitan Police as a constable and sergeant, and in 1840 had been appointed Superintendent in the newly-formed Essex Constabulary. ................"

1842   The 'Tamar' Murder, Merthyr Tydfil - on the South Wales Police Heritage CentreMuseumsite    
"On Friday afternoon the gallows in all its dreadful reality frowned over the lodge of Cardiff Gaol.  Groups of individuals collected to see a sight which for the honour of human nature we hope will be the last of its kind......................................"

1843   The Laleston Poisoning     - on the South Wales Police Heritage Centre site
"One of the first murder cases investigated by the fledgling Glamorgan Constabulary concerned a suspicious death at Laleston, a village on the outskirts of Bridgend..............."

1850s  Policing Pontypridd in the 1850s      - on the South Wales Police Heritage Centre site
"The arrival of the railway coincided fairly closely with the introduction into the valley for the first time of the new Glamorganshire Constabulary. In December 1839 agreement had not yet been reached on formation of the new County Police, so instead a trial force of a Superintendent and 6 Constables was established in the regions of Miskin Lower and Caerphilly Lower. ..............."

1860  PC James James - a Victorian Policeman   - on the South Wales Police Heritage Centre site
"Police Constable 95 James James joined the Glamorgan Constabulary on the 17th September 1860 at Merthyr Tydfil. He was just seventeen years old........................"

1862  The 'Tyntila' Murder    - on the South Wales Police Heritage Centre site
"Nearly a hundred years ago there occurred on the mountainside below a lonely Rhondda mountain farm a tragedy which for months afterwards focused the attention of the outside world on the small mining village of Gellidawel and which even today is spoken of in many Rhondda homes as the "mystery of Tyntila." ................."

1885   Policing Cowbridge, the Murder in the Storm  - on the South Wales Police Heritage Centre site
"In 1885, a farmer and cattle dealer named David Thomas, resided at Stallcourt Farm, Llanblethian. He was well-known and popular within the district,......."

1889 -1912    Policing Cardiff    - on the South Wales Police Heritage Centre site

The following pieces from Archives Network Wales;

  • "The County Gaol belonged to the Crown, and was the responsibility of the sheriff, although it was run and financed by the Quarter Sessions.  From medieval times until after the Act of Union 1536, the Black Tower of Cardiff Castle, Glamorgan, housed prisoners. In the 17th century, the county gaol was established in High Street, Cardiff.
    From about 1770, improvements to conditions in the gaol were carried out. By 1814, the gaol was deemed insufficient and a new gaol was built in 1832-1833, in the Spital Field, Whitmore Lane (later called Custom House Street).
    A second gaol was opened in Swansea, Glamorgan, in 1824. The House of Correction was administered by the Justices of the Peace; from the County Rate, each County was obliged to provide and maintain one or more houses of correction. Initially sited at Cowbridge, this was abandoned in 1834.
    After the Prisons Act 1877, responsibility for the Gaol and House of Correction was transferred to the Home Office"
  • The origins of modern policing in Glamorgan date from 1836 when borough police forces were set up in Cardiff, Neath and Swansea under the Municipal Corporations Act 1835. In 1841 a decision was taken to establish a new police force to cover the whole of the county, called the Glamorgan Constabulary. The borough forces and the Glamorgan Constabulary continued side by side until the establishment of the South Wales Police Authority in 1969.
  • "William Edmunds (fl. 1712-1738) left a life interest in land at Eglwysilan, Glamorgan, to his wife Mary in 1739. She sold the land to John Richard of Llandaff, Glamorgan, thereby dispossessing the heirs of William Edmund of their inheritance. In trying to reclaim the lands at Eglwysilan, the Edmunds took their case to the Court of Quarter Sessions at Swansea, Glamorgan, where the verdict was found in their favour. However, on appeal, they lost their case at the assizes. Unable to pay the legal costs of the case, one Edmund Edmunds and his son, William Edmunds, were imprisoned for debt at Cardiff gaol......"
  • " Calendars of prisoners are lists of indicted persons being held in the County Gaols and Houses of Correction for Glamorgan (at Cardiff and Swansea), who were due for trial in the Quarter Sessions and Assizes. They were compiled by the governor or keeper of the institution, and forwarded for use during the court's proceedings. They were submitted to the Clerk of the Peace as specified by the Act of 1835."
  • Neath Borough Police Force, records            "In February 1836, the Neath Borough Police force was established in Neath, Glamorgan, and David Protheroe was appointed as its first and only policeman. The force gradually increased in size, and by 1926, there were a total of forty men. .........................."
  • Swansea, Brecon and Carmarthen Prisons, records  "Swansea Prison was opened in 1861 and is now HMP Swansea. Brecon Prison closed in November 1915 while Carmarthen Prison closed in March 1922. Both Swansea and Carmarthen had male and female prisoners    
      "........comprising nominal registers, 1884-1952, Governor's journal, 1929-1938, calendars of prisoners tried at Quarter Sessions and Assizes, 1856-1903, Visiting Committee minutes, 1912-1931, Prison rules and orders, [n. d.]; Brecon Prison nominal registers, 1879-1915, and registers of previous convictions, [1914]; Carmarthen Prison nominal registers, 1879-1922."
  • Swansea Borough Police Force records             "..... 1874-1971, including: reports and special reports of the Chief Constable to the Watch Committee, 1879-1929; annual reports to the Licensing Committee, 1962-1967; Police Federation of England and Wales, minutes of branch boards, 1928-1969; general orders, 1921-1963; Swansea Borough Council, treasurer's accounts, 1914-1919; list of cases to be heard at the Swansea Borough Police Court, 1874, 1876; occurence books, 1959, 1965-1968; lost and found property books, 1962-1965; counterfoils of certificates issued to police on leaving Swansea Borough Police Force, 1942-1959, 1966-1969; Swansea war reserve, disciplinary book, 1940-1947; and personnel files prior to 1969 (unlisted)."
  • Swansea Constabulary Records        " ........... established in 1836. The Borough, and from 1889 County Borough, of Swansea retained its own constabulary until 1969, when it combined with several other forces to form the South Wales Constabulary"
    ".......... comprising Chief Constable's annual reports, 1933-1969; typescript of Seven tall men: the history of the County Borough of Swansea Constabulary by M. L. Sinnott, [1989]."


1859  The Diary of a Swansea Police Officer - on the South Wales Police Heritage Centre site
 "PC 207 Lewis Jones, Gorseinon............."

"James Nash, labourer, Greyhound St, Swansea; he was hanged at Swansea Prison in Feb 1886 with almost 4000 people gathered  outside " ( Welsh Murders Volume 1: 1770-1918 By Peter Fuller and Brian Knapp. Published by Christopher Davies 1986) "The Castle [Swansea] is situated on an emminence in the centre of the town, surmounted by an elegant parapet, with arched openings, and a lofty circular tower ornamented with a clock, which is all that is not concealed by the houses. The appartments yet habitable are converted into a gaol, principally used for the confinement of debtors. "  (Pigot's London Provincial Directory, 1822-1823)

"The disease broke out among the prisoners in the gaol [Swansea] on July 6, and W. H. Michael, in a long manuscript report to the Cholera Commission of the Royal College of Physicians, described how the death of one of the prisoners from the disease led to the premises being 'thoroughly washed out by a water-engine worked by the policemen of the Borough and Chloride of Lime plentifully sprinkled on the floors ..."   (Cholera in Wales by G Penrhyn Jones, National Library of Wales journal Vol X/3 Summer 1958.)

The following pieces from Swansea, its Port and Trade and their Development by Alderman Edward Harris, 1935,

  • The Prison at Swansea Castle
    Mr S C Gamwell , in his Guide to Swansea described the prison and terrible conditions existing there,  in the following terms;
    "In 1853, when the Inspector of Prisons visited Swansea , he found that the prison  consisted of the ruined keep of the Castle, divided into four rooms , varying from twelve to fifteen feet square. No furniture was allowed to the prisoners, and only one room, in which women were confined, possessed a lock. There was no glass in the windows, no fuel   allowed even in the coldest period of the winter , and no food at any time.If they had no friends to provide the necessaries of sustenance , they must depend upon charity, and the tender mercy of the Poor Law Guardians for daily bread, and for medicine  when sick. Not even a drop of water was within reach of the wretched prisoners , whose gaoler resided in a distant part of the town, and so could not aid them in an emergency."
    These iniquities were perpetrated in the name and as a prerogative of the Lord of Gower.  In 1858, the franchise prison in Swansea Castle was, with a number of others in other parts of the country, abolished by Act of Parliament. "
  • ".......   the Corporation [Swansea] record showing that the sum of 6/8 was paid for taking a Quaker to gaol for his religion. [C17th]



Journal kept by the Surgeon of the County Gaol, Haverfordwest  period 1820-1835  - Was on the NLW's Gathering the Jewels site

"The Town Gaol was situated within the Castle walls for centuries and the new county gaol and house of correction, was erected against the south wall of the inner ward in 1779. This was replaced by a three storied building in the outer ward in 1822, which now accommodates the Pembrokeshire County records."   - (was on the Haverfordwest Town Centre Partnership site)

Detail of a cell door from Haverfordwest Gaol - on the Haverfordwest Town Museum site

"John Roblin, or was it William Roblin ? The latter was definitely hanged  at Haverfordwest Castle on 23 Apr 1821 for the murder of William Davies"   ( Welsh Murders Volume 1: 1770-1918 By Peter Fuller and Brian Knapp. Published by Christopher Davies 1986)

The following pieces from; The Records of the Borough of Newport in Pembrokeshire. B G Charles. National Library of Wales journal, Vol VII/1, Summer 1951)

  • "The Grand Jury .................... present a gaol and a town hall to be built in the said town upon the charge of the lords of the borough with the benevolences of the burgesses in the place where it was formerly near the Crosse. Note : where the new house is now built (25 Sept 1713)."  
  • There are many instances of writs which bear the endorsement that the mayor had committed a person to the town gaol where he remained in the custody of the bailiff. When the bailiff was unable to find the defaulter in his bailiwick he then attached his pledge who had to answer for the debt or be imprisoned until satisfaction was made. On 23 Aug 1630 Owen John David, pledge of William Phillips, was arrested to satisfy a debt of 40s.4d. and 4s.2d. costs. On 20 Sept the mayor committed him to prison until he paid and on 1 Oct he paid the debt and costs in full. Debts recovered in court could also be levied by distraint"

There is this book; Rules, orders and regulations for the government of the gaol, and bridewell or house of correction of the County of Pembroke. London : Printed by Barnard & Farley, 1820. 72p

Powys counties (BRE/MGY/RAD)  

The excellent Powys Digital History Project entitled Crime and Punishment is a must visit 

"Prisoners at Brecon County Gaol give thanks to Samuel Church esq for Xmas dinner"  (Item from the Cambrian of 1828)



A selection of crime related books/articles from the Genuki pages;

  • Davies, Dewi. Law and Disorder in Breconshire 1750-1880. Brecon : D.G. & A.S. Evans, 1991
  • Davies, R. Secret Sins - Sex, Violence and Society in Carmarthenshire 1870-1920, University of Wales Press (1996) 327 p. [ISBN 0-7083-1367-1, CAM 1998.9.1315].
  • Evans, Howell.   County of Cardigan: A Retrospect of the Nineteenth Century relating especially to Crime and its Prevention , the Administration of Justice, and the creation of the Police Force.  Aber, 1901
  • Fuller, Peter/Kemp, Brian.    Welsh Murders Volume 1: 1770-1918.  Christopher Davies 1986.
  • Howard, Sharon.           Riotous Community: Crowds, Politics and Society in Wales c1700-1840.   Welsh History Review, 20
  • Jones, David J V.       Crime and Policing in the Twentieth Century (The South Wales Experience). UWP  
  • Jones, D.L.V. Rebecca's Children: A study of rural society, crime and protest, Oxford, Clarendon Press (1989) 423 p. ["This book sets the riots in the wider context of a changing rural society. It is a study of Rebecca's children, the peasantry of Wales. The author examines their economy, poverty, family life, popular culture, social attitudes, crime and politics."]
  • Jones, David J V.         Crime in Nineteenth Century Wales . UWP, 1992
  • Lewis, Thomas H. Documents Illustrating the County Gaol and House of Correction in Wales. Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, Session 1946-47. 1948 (London).
  • Powell, A A. Crime in Breconshire, 1733 - 1830. 1990
  • Smith, Eldon. Crime and Punishment in England & Wales, an Outline History.Gomer, 1986.0 86383 476 0