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Crime and Punishment

       (With a Welsh slant)


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
















  (C17th - C19th) up  



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 ;



Related material on this site


Gaols etc in south/west Wales

(and crime and punishment)




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




 "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 Digital Mirror 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 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.

 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)

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 Museum 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 Museum 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 Museumsite    
"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 Museum 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 Museum 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 Museum 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 Museum 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 Museum 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 Museum site


The following pieces from Archives Network Wales;


1859  The Diary of a Swansea Police Officer - on the South Wales Police Museum 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,





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)

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;