Monday, 8 February 2010

Carmarthen And Its Neighbourhoods

William Spurrell was educated at Queen Elizabeth Grammar school. At 16 he became apprentice at a Carmarthen printers. After a few years he left for London and was involved in the printing of the first editions of Charles Dickens' Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickelby. When he returned home to Carmrthen in 1839 he opened his own printing company that was a huge success for a hundred years in Carmarthenshire.
We are truly indebted to him because it is from his publication in 1879, 'Carmarthen and its Neighbourhood' that the town of Carmarthen has kept a truthful and accurate recording of its colourful past. Visitors and locals will find places of interest (both old & new) in Spurrell's book.
From his work we have an account of conditions in and around Carmarthen from amazingly as far back as AD 52 to 1879. And it was during the later period that many a public hanging took place. Carmarthen had established itself as a place where serious crime was almost unheard of but the town's poor did indulge in theft, if only to eat and survive.
By direct result the penalties for these crimes were high; hard labour, transportation or hanging. William Spurrell wrote a lot about the past but it is in his recordings of the hangings in Carmarthenshire that his accounts have proved invaluable to historians and ghouls.
Many of these stories would have gone untold were it not for Spurrell's collected work. Please note that no actual dates can be attributed to the early events because memory often forgets the date, just recounting the occasion.
The esteemed publisher recalled that a Welsh Bard had been locked in the town's pillory four times. His crime was 'Doing something against the government.' Another occasion of interest was when an old man was due to hang at Pensarn for stealing a horse. It appears that no one in the town would stand as hangman. A prisoner in the gaol sentenced to 14 years transportation, volunteered for the wretched duty on condition that he recieved a lesser sentence. The old man duly went to the Pensarn gallows and the prisoner, come executioner, got his wish. He was transported for only 7 years and not 14. In a final twist, the gallows was stolen during the night after the execution and the timber it is said was used to make a bed!
Spurrell's book also records the removal of the old gate at each end of King Street, and the Dark Gate, and all the poor debtors lowering their bags on cord, asking for aid in their accustomed phrase, 'remember the poor debtors.'

It was in the Market place in Carmarthen on 26th February 1555 that is recorded that David Grifeith Leyson, High Sherife of Carmarthenshire personally handed over the custody of Bishop Ferrar, in St Peter's Church, to Morgan his successor, who committed him to the keeping of Owen Jones.
On 30th March, being the Saturday next before Passion Sunday. 'This yeare Bishopp Fferrar the martyr was burnt in the market place where the Conduit Is'.
David Grifeith Leyson, LL.D. of Carmarthen Priory, Principle of St Edward's Hall Oxford, a justice of the peace, and high sherife for Carmarthenshire, who had turned Papist in Queen Mary's reign, 'would not suffer him to speak at the stake. Leyson died soon after, and when he would have spoken, could not.'
Richard Jones (or Johnes) of Cwmgwili, son of Sir Thomas Jones of Abermarlais, first M.P. for Pembrokeshire, called to console Bishop Ferrar under sentence.

It is in the year 1568 that the first executions are recorded by Spurrell. The first was that of David William Parry, a High Sheriff and Bishop Ferrar's brother's eldest son. He and Sir Gelly Meyrick and others were considered traitors to Queen Elizabeth 1 and were duly hanged.
In 1633 Father Arthur, an Irishman, believed to be a Jesuit, was hung, drawn and quartered for conspiring the Kings death; his offence was to curse the king.
In 1665 Nicholas Williams, Rhydodyn sheriff,

In his sherifeship, a woman, viz, gwraig Wil Coch, was burnt, and one of her daughters and a servant man hanged for killing her husband, and another daughter condemned, and after a long confinement was discharged.

1 comment:

  1. Would you known if burnt at the steak was something they used if a hang man was not available to carry out his duty ,Burnt at the steak was it rare or is their lots of cases we don't know about ,