Roads Riots and Rebecca – Pembrokeshire Community Heritage Meetings

Community heritage meetings took place across Pembrokeshire to uncover the history of the Rebecca Riots across the county.

3rd March 2005 & 12th May 2005

The main subject of these meetings was the history of Thomas Rees more commonly known as Twm Carnabwth, the first Rebecca. Through the course of two meetings members of the community provided information on his character, his family, his later involvement with Bethel Baptist Church, information from his gravestone and from his birth certificate. It was discovered that there is a discrepancy between the gravestone and his death certificate as to exactly when he died and what age he was upon his death. His gravestone states that he died on 17th September 1876 age 70, where as his death certificate states that he died on 19th October 1876 age 72. Both accounts differ from the census details of 1851, 1861 and 1871 where he is listed as 43, 54 and 64, which would mean that in 1876 he would have actually been 69. It is difficult to know which account is correct as poor levels of literacy meant that many people didn’t actually know their birthdays or true age. Although it is likely that the census details are more accurate as the information would have been given by Twm himself rather than gathered second hand after his death.

In memory of
Thomas Rees
Resident of this parish
Who died September 17, 1876
‘Twm Carnabwth’

A very interesting story came to light during the meetings. The story ‘Sword in the Wall’ was included in a channel 4 television programme called ‘Revealing Secrets’. A local stone mason had been renovating a house in the area when he discovered a sword buried in the front wall. He took the sword to the museum at Haverfordwest where they established that it was a Victorian Infantry Officers sword and from the detail of the hilt and the pattern could be dated to the years between 1837 and 1845 the same period as the Rebecca Riots. The person who lived in the house at the time was also found to be a stone mason called John Johns. It was decided that the sword had most likely been either taken from the officer or dropped during one of the Rebecca skirmishes and picked up by John Johns and taken home as a trophy. Fearing the sword would link him to the riots the stone mason may have built the sword into the wall so that it would not be found.