Monday, 28 December 2009

Joseph Lewis - Executed 30th August 1898

Joseph Lewis (also known as Harris) was convicted of murdering Margam Estate keeper, Robert Scott, in August 1898. Lewis was an Army deserter and was described as 'the terror of his native place.' He was fond of poaching and the Margam woods were an obvious attraction to him.
The Margam Estate was reknowned for keeping fine stocks of game and Robert Scott was on the lookout for poachers plaguing the area. Despite the real dangers the Gamekeeper only carried a stick, never a gun. In a clearing in the Estate, Robert Scott discovered Lewis and challenged him. The result was a forgone conclusion: Lewis fired both barrels of his shotgun into the gamekeeper's head.
Initially suspicion fell upon a man and woman with whom Lewis lodged and they were arrested. But the deserting soldier soon gave himself away. One evening he joined a group of colliers who were discussing the murder and emboldened by the beer Lewis stated: 'Go on boys, they've collared the wrong people. It was I who shot Scott.'
If he thought the miners would keep his confession quiet he was wrong. He was arrested shortly after and put on trial. He appeared to have no remorse for the murder, in fact he seemed he was justified in the shooting as The South Wales Daily Post reported that Lewis had claimed:

Scott was a big man and he had a formidable stick. Other poachers had been beaten senseless by keepers. I had a gun to save myself from the same punishment and so I used it.

Around 3000 people gathered outside the prison on the morning of the execution and these numbers were still rising as time went on. James Billington was the executioner, assisted by his son Thomas. They had arrived the previous day, and had the unfortunate experience of running into distraught members of Lewis's family at the Terminus Hotel before the execution.
Joseph Lewis walked to the scaffold from his cell, seemingly to display no emotion at all. Death was instantaneous. On the prison roof Warder Williams unfurled the black flag for the waiting crowd.

Of note it seems Lewis confessed to the crime in a letter to Scott's widow, asking her to forgive him for the killing. There is no record of her response.
Joseph Lewis was buried about twenty yards from where Thomas Nash and Thomas Allen were interred. Like the other executed men, his burial spot is marked by a small tablet inset in the prison wall.
Interestingly this was the last time the black flag was flown from the roof of Swansea prison. Having come to the conclusion that public executions served no useful purpose, and that they merely played to the morbid urges of a fascinated mob, the authorities decided that in future they would pin a formal notice of the execution to the prison gate as soon as the hanging had taken place.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Thomas Allen - Executed 10th April 1889

This execution caused somewhat of a stir in Swansea, due in part to the nature of the crime and partly due to the fact that the condemned man was a Zulu from South Africa.
Allen did not ever deny killing his victim, Frederick Kent, but he did say in a letter to the grieving widow, 'I did not intend to kill your boss.'
On the night of 18th February 1889, Allen had been drinking for some hours before staggering out of the tavern. On the street he met a girl with whom he walked to the Gloucester Hotel. She told him to go to a certain room and would follow on shortly. He went and waited - she did not turn up.
On hearing the rooms occupiers, Mr and Mrs Kent, approach, Allen hid under the bed. According to The Cambrian Allen claimed:

If Mr Kent had looked under the bed and discovered him he would have told him exactly how he got there and gone away quietly, but he was not discovered, and went to sleep under the bed. In the morning he awoke and did not quite remember where he was. He struck a match to see, and with that Mr Kent jumped out of bed and struck him. If he had only spoken to him he would have explained and gone away.

Quite why Allen was in the Kents room has never been fully explained. was he waiting, as he claimed, for a sexual liasion? Or was robbery on his mind? The prosecution played heavily on this possibilty because if robbery had been the motive and had ended in violence, then conviction was more likely.
Violence certainly occured in the room. A revolver was produced and Allen stabbed Mr Kent three times with a razor. Mrs Kent managed to get hold of the gun and fired at Allen, wounding him in the thigh.
Allen denied that robbery was his motive. He struck a match upon waking, something he would not have done if he had wanted to steal from the couple.
However the jury wasn't impressed and after only a few minutes' deilberation, returned with a guilty verdict. The automatic death sentence was duly passed.
Attempts at a reprieve were made and Allen seemed confident it would be granted. But public opinion was against him. The Cambrian:

The circumstances of this tragedy enacted on that peaceful Sabbath morning in February will not soon be forgotten. Naturally, they gave rise to a great outburst of horror and indignation, and while the murderer was the object of public execration, deep regret was felt at the untimely end of his unfortunate victim, who was universally respected, and much admiration was expressed at the heroism of his plucky wife, who wounded seriously her husband's assailant.

On the morning of Tuesday 9th April, the news was broken to Thomas Allen that there would be no reprieve. James Berry, the executioner, arrived the same day, fresh from an execution in Dublin the previous Monday. He examined the scaffold and tested the trap before getting the weight of the condemned and working out the length of the drop required.
It was a beautiful day on Wednesday 10th April and even at 7am small throngs of people had gathered on Oystermouth Road, waiting for the black flag to be unfurled. As the time of the execution neared, the crowed grew to over 2000, all bathed in early sunshine.
when the execution party arrived at the scaffold, Allen indicated that he had something to say.
The Cambrian reported:

The following words proceeded in a choked voice from his lips, 'Lord Jesus recieve my spirit this day. Lord Jesus recieve my soul.' these words were no sooner out of the wretched man's mouth than Berry stepped on one side, and then grabbed the iron lever of the drop. Instantaneously, the bolt slid out, the trap gave way, and the criminal fell into the pit.

The black flag was hoisted at 8am and was met with cheering from the young boys crowded outside.
There was a lot of debate in the local press about capital punishment after Allen's hanging, but it was to be another hundred years before being abolished in the United Kingdom.

Letter from Mrs F.M. Kent, widow of the murdered Frederick Kent:

Gloucester Hotel
Gloucester Place
April 9th
F Knight Esq


Will you please let Thomas Allen know, as I hope to be forgiven for my sins, so i will forgive him. The rest we must leave to Almighty God, who knows the thoughts of our hearts.

I am etc.
F.M. Kent.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The Last Public Execution In Swansea

The last public execution at Swansea jail was that of Robert Coe, who was hung near the sand dunes outside the prison on Thursday 12th April 1866. From the report of The Cambrian we can see the debate over public executions had been brewing over time:

We are far from believing that any salutary effect is produced upon the minds of the spectators by the exhibition presented them by seeing a poor wretch deliberately and PUBLICILY strangled, and would gladly welcome the alteration in the which the criminal should be executed within the precincts of the prison.

However they did not at any time question the justice of this execution stating that: 'if ever a murderer deserved death, surely such a man was Robert Coe.'
Coe was eighteen years old, born in the Midlands but working in Wales as a striker at a blacksmiths at Powell Dyffryn works. On September 2nd 1865 he murdered his friend and workmate, John Davies in Graig Dyffryn wood in Mountain Ash. In a subsequent confession, Coe said:

He (Davies) asked me on the way 'what do you want with the hatchet?' I answered 'to cut a walking stick.' When we had been in the wood about a quarter of an hour, and had gone some distance from the hedge, I struck him a blow from behind on the back part of the head with the pole of the hatchet. He fell backwards without speaking a word. I immediately gave several strokes on his neck with the edge of the hatchet until his head was severed from his body.'

John Davies' body was not discovered for several months after being hidden in the wood but there was suspicion in the close-knit town. George Davies (the father of the murdered man) made enquiries into his sons disappearance and in time Coe became implicated.
Davies and Coe had been seen drinking together in the Cefn Pennar Inn on the day of the wicked deed, and also talking together at a stile which led to Graig Dyffryn wood.
It was revealed Robert Coe had borrowed the hatchet from a chap called Swan, and he had never returned the item, (although it was later found at Swan's house with him ever knowing how it had been returned). Upon examination blood was found on the fibres of the wood.
Robert Coe was clear in his motive:

'I tied his legs with rope yarn and took money from his pocket which amounted to 33 shillings (£1.65). I had no other motive whatever for killing him but a desire for obtaining his money'.

At the time of his arrest and trial, Coe denied the murder and it was only later just prior to his execution that he confessed to the awful crime. The date of execution was set, 12th April 1866. Huge crowds poured into Swansea to witness the grim event, crowds of not hundreds but thousands it was reported.
From a newspaper at the time:

By the Wednesday evening it gave the appearance of some public rejoicing or festive sport taking place instead of the solemnity which should characterise the proceedings. A considerable number of them who arrived in our town to witness the sad sight were women with infants in their arms, fathers leading young boys, even cripples who could scarcely walk.

The scaffold was erected the night before the execution and was in the same spot as 2 Greek sailors, hung eight years before. However on this occasion events did not run as smooth. The Cambrian:

The usual collection of showmen set up their stalls and it was said that some drove their carts right up to the gallows and removed their wheels, which were then hidden so that the police could not move them on next morning. They then charged a fee to witness this execution from the carts.

A crowd of around 15,000 gathered at 7am outside the prison. Robert Coe was calm and controlled. He had spent most of the previous three weeks studying the scriptures, rediscovering the childhood faith he'd had but since lost. He walked at ease with Calcraft, the hangman, and other officials to the gallows. The Cambrian describes the grim procession:

As soon as the wretched man made his appearance upon the drop a subdued murmur was heard run through the crowd, with one or two shrieks or cries from the women....Four women armed with knives climbed the gallows platform as if to attack the condemned man, and they had to be forcibly removed by police. In the swaying crowds women and children were trampled underfoot and 120 injured.

The chaplain read the burial service together with texts and scriptures. He finished with The Lord's Prayer and as the words 'Thy Will Be Done' were spoken, the bolt was withdrawn and the Mountain Ash murderer Robert Coe plunged into eternity. He died immediately and without struggle.
Whether the scenes at this execution were pivotal in bringing an end to public hanging can never be known but they soon did end and Robert Coe has the miserable honour of being the last man to be publicly hanged at Swansea jail.

" The Hanging Of Bob Coe "

The Lower Dyffryn colliers
Had got their fortnight's pay
And two of them sat drinking
At the end of a summer's day.

Two friends who worked together
And often spent time so;
John Davies was the blacksmith,
His striker Bob Coe.

Full thirty shillings
Such hardy lads could win,
But that was the last of their spending
At Cefn Pennar Inn.

They'd both sailed to America
The valley gossip said,
But Coe skulked in the Rhondda
While Davies lay stark dead.

In the woods of Ynys Gwendraeth
His headless corpse was found
By John, the Ton Coch shepard,
All bloody on the ground.

And in Rhondda they remembered
Who'd been asking all the time
About news from Cynon valley,
And had their been a crime?

Had a body been discovered?
He always wished to know;
They remembered, they reported,
His conscience caught Bob Coe.

He made a full confession
That only simple greed
For the blacksmith's fortnight wages
Had brought him to the deed.

For thirty silver pieces
On the gallows he must stand,
The last to be hanged in public
In the history of our land.

That day the Cynon valley
Was still and silent quite,
They'd all gone down to Swansea
To see the dreadful sight.

As he uttered his repentance
His voice was clear and calm,
Before a crowd of thousands
At the gates of Cox's farm.

We still speak of that murder
A hundred years ago,
And the blood in Ynys Gwendraeth
And the hanging of Bob Coe.

Harri Webb

Monday, 14 December 2009

The Execution Of Thomas Nash

Thomas Nash was a labourer working for Swansea Corporation. As he was a widower he was unable to care for his 2 daughters (ages 6 & 17) so he lodged them to a Mrs Eliza Goodwin in Plasmarl. It was common to do this in Victorian Britain.
Nash fell behind with payments and despite Mrs Goodwin repeatedly asking he failed to pay the amount owed. On the evening of Friday 5th December (it being pay day for the Corporation) she took Martha Ann, the youngest child, to the Town Hall. Mrs Goodwin later said:

I showed him my bill; it amounted to £1.16s.2d (£1.81) for the food of the children up to that day. I gave him the bill and I said 'here is your daughter, take charge of her. He took the girl; he was then standing in the yard and he said 'I'll come up tomorrow Miss Goodwin and pay you.'

Thomas Nash immediately went to the beach and was next seen by boatmen walking along Swansea pier, holding his daughter by her hand. It was a wild night with rough gales and waters crashing onto the pier and the boatmen were suspicious. Minutes later the man returned without the child and instead of going past the group of boatmen he jumped over a rail onto the sand. The Cambrian tells what happened next:

The men now raised the alarm and ran around to the sands and on coming up with Nash, asked him what had become of the child they had seen in his hands a few minutes before. First he said he had left her on the pier, then that she was under the pier, and then that she had complained that she was tired and wished to be carried. That he had placed her onto the rails to get her onto his back and that she had fallen into the sea.

Nash was taken to the police station, pending enquiries. At 7 O' clock that night the body of the child, Martha Ann was discovered washed up on the beach.
Thomas Nash was brought to trial at Cardiff Assizes where the packed courtroom heard the evidence and verdict.
Found guilty of the wilful murder of his own daughter the death sentence was duly passed. His only comment was 'I am not guilty sir.'
Efforts were made to reduce the sentence to penal servitude for life, in view of his distressed state of mind and also the fact that nobody had actually seen him throw his child into the sea. Petions were placed in chapels and churches but they were not well supported. When the following letter was recieved from the Home Office it was obvious the sentence would be held:

Sirs - With reference to the memorial forwarded by you on behalf of Thomas Nash who is now under sentence of death. I am directed by the Secretary of State to inform you after a careful consideration of all the circumstances in this case he is unable to discover any sufficient ground to justify him advising any interference with the due course of the law.

I am, Sir,
Your obediant servant
Godfrey Lushington.

Thomas Nash was resigned to his fate. Apart from Sarah, the surviving daughter, he recieved no visits and was deserted by everyone. During trial it was revealed he had recently married for a second time but his new wife did not attempt to communicate with Nash after imprisonment.
The morning of Monday 1st March 1886 found five inches of snow covering Swansea, it was bitingly cold. The Cambrian wrote:

About seven minutes to eight, after the chaplain had left the condemned mans cell, Berry, the executioner, entered it with the pinioning straps in his hands....A broad leather strap went around the culprit's breast and arms, and was buckled so as to keep his arms to his sides. His hands were clasped in front. Before he was fastened he lifted a forefinger to his forehead in token of obeisance to the Sheriff and the Governor, and looked around once at the warders and others who stood in the corridor outside.

It was a short walk to the execution hall, across an open yard covered in crisp white snow. Nash uttered one brief phrase - 'Lord have mercy on my soul' - then the trap was pulled plunging him six feet into the pit and eternity.
A crowd of around 4000 had gathered outside the jail waiting for the black flag to be unfurled. When it was there were cheers and a few tears, mainly from the women. However in a few minutes snowballing had become of interest and Thomas Nash's fate was soon forgotten.
Its interesting to note that two last minute confessions by Nash confirmed the justice of the sentence. His reason for the crime was simple - 'I had not told my (second) wife I had children.'

A letter from a reader appeared in the Evening Post in September 2000:

I remember my late mother, who would have been ninety eight this year, singing a ditty which went something like this

Thomas Nash is lying down in Swansea Jail
For drowning his little daughter, her name was Marthe Jane.
He threw her in the river on a stormy night
And now she's up in Heaven with the angels bright
So clap your hands, he's going to be hanged,
Clap your hands, he's going to be hanged,
Clap your hands, he's going to be hanged
Early on Monday morning.

My mother had heard her mother singing this to her when she was a child, which would tie in with the year 1886 when my grandmother was a young woman. There may have been other verses but this is the only one I know.

A Letter To The Cambrian

Letter in Cambrian

The following letter appeared in The Cambrian on Friday 26th February 1886 and was a reply to the proposed reprieve of murderer Thomas Nash:

To the Editor,
I wonder did any of the good people who signed their names to the documents, which were in the lobbies of the chapels on Sunday, for the reprieve of Thomas Nash, think of what they were doing? Or was it that their feelings were rendered tender by the appeals of mercy, which was made by the pastors?
Do they remember on a dark, cold, stormy December night, this man (if he can be called a man), deliberately took his daughter by the arm and walked slowly to the bottom of the pier and there threw her into the foaming water beneath?
It is their duty to look deeply into this matter and say 'here is a man who murdered his child by throwing it into the sea. It was not in the moment of anger, but he seemed to have had the motive in his head as soon as the child was delivered into his care, and afterwards took her to the pier and drowned her'.
The people of Swansea must not be so good as to forgive everyone who commits a murder, or we shall be getting a very large number of murders here. They must think of justice; they must do justice to everyone. If a man commits a murder, let him hang for it, as a warning to others. I hope people will not think me very harsh, but justice ought to be done. Christian Wales and England must not be the scene of murders, all because she is forgiving.

I remain, yours &c,

A lover of justice

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Selapatana & Alepis Executions

1858 saw Swansea flourishing with ships and sailors of all nationalities, a thriving port. It was a rough, often dangerous environment. On the evening of 16th February 1858 the body of Atanasio Mitrepann, a twenty five year old cook on board the 'Penelope', was discovered in a canal near the Strand.
Watchmen had overheard harsh words being spoken in foreign language and a scuffle, and when they heard a loud splash, they hurried to the spot. By lantern light and using a boat hook they pulled Mitrepann's body from the water. He was dead, and had numerous wounds on his body; his head was beaten to a pulp.
A sling shot, consisting of strong rope and a iron ball was found on the canal bank. It was assumed to be the weapon which had caused such terrible injuries to Mitrepann's skull.
It quickly became clear that the dead man had gone that evening, together with two Greek sailors (23 year old Panotis Alepis and 28 year old Manoeli Selapatana) to a dancing house, the Powell's Arms in High Street. The Greeks had recently arrived in Swansea looking for jobs in one of the ships. One of them had been seen wearing a plaid cap similar to one found on the canal.
The following events were recounted in The Cambrian newspaper;

The two men were seen to enter their lodging house, the Jolly Tar in Wind Street, some short time after nine o' clock on the night in question. One immediately ran out of the back of the house and washed out a pocket handerkerchief which afterwards he threw upon a jack before the kitchen fire to dry, and this handerkerchief had several spots upon it, suppose to be blood.

The two sailors were arrested on the same night, within an hour of the murder. The cause of the argument was not made clear but supposed that drink had played a part in it. The moral tone of the Cambrian report (not to mention its inherant racism) seem hard to believe from todays perspective:

For the credit of Englishmen, aye Welsh too, we're glad to be able to say that the persons implicated in this atrocious act are foreigners, Greek sailors, whose long-bladed knives carried as daggers behind their backs make every english heart shudder at the very sight and which are too often drawn and used on the slightest provocation.

Alepis & Selapatana were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. The day set, 20th March 1858, was one of sunshine with bright, cloudless sky. The scaffold was erected southwest of the prison, on the sand dunes around 250 yards outside the walls. A huge crowd of between 18,000 and 200,000 people ('street arabs' homeless children, women with babies and what the Cambrian called 'labourers, carpenters, engineers and mechanics of every grade and description') arrived to witness the execution.
The condemned men had retired at eight o' clock the night before, but from midnight onwards they had been preparing themselves. They ate nothing, saying food would be superfluous but had constantly smoked their pipes - a luxury allowed to them by the jails authorities.

At twenty to eight in the morning, officials went to the condemned cell, and the hangman Calcraft strapped the men's hand behind their backs. The grim party then walked calmly to the gallows. The Cambrian:

Up to this time the men had been screened from the immense multidudes gathered in front of the gaol but now they mounted the drop and met the gaze of that vast crowd, still they were unawed by the light of those 18,000 upturned faces, themselves the object of attraction.

When the condemned men appeared a hushed murmur ran through the crowd, but there were no screams, cries or angry shouts. The two Greeks joined hands for a moment and Calcraft shook their hands. As the clock struck eight, a bolt was drawn and the two men fell to their deaths.

The Cambrian:

Alepis seemed to die almost without struggle, but with his unfortunate companion Selapatana it was different. He heaved violently for some six or seven minutes, but neither required that the executioner should pull their legs in order to shorten the miserable existence.

After the execution, the crowd quickly dispersed, however the bodies were left to hang for a further hour. The scaffold was then removed.

The Poet Executioner

This is the poem sent by hangman James Berry to the condemned man he was about to put to death:

My brother - sit and think,
While yet on earth some hours are left to thee.
Kneel to thy God who does not from thee shrink
And lay thy sins on Christ, who died for thee.

This was taken from The Hangman's Record, vol.1, 1868 - 1899.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The Executions In Swansea Prison


20/3/1858 Selapatana & Alepis - William Calcraft

Of Interest: The first recorded public hanging at Swansea Prison.


12/4/1866 Robert Coe - William Calcraft

Of Interest: The last public hanging at Swansea.


1/3/1886 Thomas Nash - James Berry

Of Interest: The Swansea West Pier murder.


10/4/ 1889 Thomas Allen - James Berry

Of Interest: The Gloucester Hotel murder.


30/8/1898 Joseph Lewis - James & Thomas Billington

Of Interest: Convicted of the murder of the Margam Gamekeeper.


8/5/1909 William Foy - Henry Pierrepoint & John Ellis

Of Interest: The Mountain Ash murder.


14/12/1911 Harry Philips - John Ellis

Of Interest: The Gower murder.


6/9/1916 Daniel Sullivan - John Ellis & George Brown

Of Interest: Murder in Dowlais.


11/12/1928 Trevor John Edwards - Robert Baxter & Alfred Allen

Of Interest: The Cynon Valley murder.


4/8/1949 Rex Harvey Jones - Albert Pierrepoint

Of Interest: Together with Robert Mackintosh, double execution in one day.


4/8/1949 Robert Thomas Mackintosh - Albert Pierrepoint

Of Interest: Double execution in one day.


19/4/1950 Albert Edward Jenkins - Albert Pierrepoint

Of Interest: The Pembroke murder.


28/4/1954 Ronald Lewis Harries - Albert Pierrepoint &
Robert Stewart

Of Interest: Murder in Carmarthenshire.


6/5/1958 Vivian Frederick Teed - Robert Stewart

Of Interest: The last execution at Swansea.

Executions at Swansea Jail

Early executions at Swansea Prison took place in a purpose built room, constructed in 1926. On the upper floor of the Tread Wheel house , a beam and brackets for use in hangings were built, however there was no trap for the drop; this was borrowed from Cardiff Prison. This building was demolished on 24th September 1963.
In 1929 a purpose built execution shed was in Swansea jail. Plans show the condemned cells, bathrooms and the dreaded trap where hangings took place.
Between 1858 and 1958 a total of fifteen executions took place at Swansea Prison. From passing of sentence to actual execution, three clear Sundays were allowed - a period of around twenty one days. The executioner arrived at the jail by four o' clock on the afternoon before the hanging and during his hours inbetween, it was his task to get the gallows prepared. He would also consult the condemneds records to calculate the length of drop required. (Too long and the inmate would be decapitated, too short and he would be strangled).
The rope had to be stretched by using sandbags and only used once. It was a most sought after souvenir, often sold by the hangman himself to grisly collectors once the buisness of the day was over. An hour before execution the weights would be removed, allowing elasticity to return in the rope.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the condemned cell in jails was located near the gallows, to avoid long walks to the gallows and undue stress, problems and mistakes.
But accidents did occur; on 11th December 1928, in Swansea Jail, the assistant executioner (Alfred Allen) failed to step off the trapdoor when chief executioner Robert Baxter pulled the lever. Allen followed the condemned inmate into the death pit, without much serious harm to himself.
Following tradition, a black flag was flown from the prison whenever there was an execution, being unfurled at the minute the prisoner was hung. This practice stopped at Swansea after the execution of Joseph Lewis in 1898, and even the ringing of the jail bell was stopped soon after. It was considered too stressful for the condemned man to hear the bell as he walked to the scaffold. From then on the only public sign that a hanging had been carried out was the posting of a notice on the prison gate.
That ended in 1957.
Swansea Prisons last execution was that of Vivian Frederick Teed on 6th May 1958. When he went to the scaffold, the passing of time was the only indication that the execution had been carried out.

Cox's Farm (Swansea Jail)

My uncle kept a public house,
The Glamorgan Arms so neat,
It stood just off the Mumbles Road
At the bottom of Argyle Street.

Ans when I was a little boy
My Uncle Will so kind
Would show me the walls of Swansea Jail,
So high and huge and blind.

That's where the wicked people go
To save us all from harm,
So watch your step in life, my lad,
Don't end in Cox's Farm.

It is no rural resiedence
But a place of dismal fame,
No flocks they keep, no crops they reap,
Its harvest is of shame.

The gasworks stink and the buffers clink
As the shunting trucks go by
And each man stares through prison bars
At a scrap of Sandfields sky.

But the Tree of Liberty shall grow
From that dark and bitter earth
For patriots bold its high walls hold
In the pangs of a nation's birth.

Here's a health to allwho've made a stand
To keep our land from harm
And served their spell in a prison cell
And dwelt in Cox's Farm.

Harri Webb

Swansea Prison

Swansea prison was known as Cox's Farm, the original prison was built in the castle in around 1112 by Henry de Beaumont. Earliest written records suggest that William de Braose, Lord of Gower, was in possession of the castle.
The first governor (although that title was not in use then) was Thomas Somer. He was a sheriff's officer and a constable; his pay in 1402 being 2d (less than 1p) a day.
The use of the castle as a prison was abolished in 1858. By this time the new Bridewell prison, construction of which began in 1826, had been running for quite a few years.
Opened in May 1829, it was known as the Bridewell, or House of Correction and stood on land located to the south of the main wing of the prison today. Its first governor was William Cox. A map of Swansea Corporation in 1838 details that Cox leased a small part of land adjacent to the prison, where he grew vegetables which he supplied to the prisoners. It was from this land came the name Cox's Farm, and to this day Swansea prison is known to locals as Cox's Farm.

Accounts of a gaoler, 1760

To the expense of executing Francis Rosser
for murder, paid to the hangman. £4.4.0

Paid for ale punch and vitals
for the above. £0.15.0

Paid for horse and cart to haul
him to the gallows. £1.0.0

Paid for halter. £0.0.6

For horse and cart to haul his
body to Neath in chains. £4.0.0