James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants

Serious riots

The riotous assemblies preceding and during polling at elections, even municipal ones, stretched the resources of the county’s small constabulary, and often the assistance of neighbouring forces, the military and special constables were required. In July 1841 a constable was killed in nearby Newtown during an election disturbance. Llanidloes experienced serious election rioting in 1862 when there were two candidates, Charles Watkin Williams Wynne, and the Hon. S.C.G. Hanbury Tracy. In the early hours of the morning of polling day about three or four hundred navvies, miners and other roughs, collected in the streets. They stopped all voters going to the poll and asked for whom they were going to vote. If for Tracy they were allowed through, but if for Wynne, they were treated roughly and turned back. The disturbances became so bad that at 4 pm the Riot Act was read.

Several telegrams were sent to the Police HQ at Newtown, who in desperation telegraphed the Chief Constable at Shrewsbury, asking for help. About forty officers from the Shropshire Constabulary, under the command of their Chief Constable, arrived at Llanidloes but returned to Shrewsbury when they found the disturbances had subsided and all was quiet. This proved to be a serious error of judgement. Shortly afterwards the mob reappeared totally out of control and went on the rampage, smashing windows, damaging property and causing mayhem until the early hours of the following morning. The Times reported that the houses of two of Mr Wynn's supporters were partially demolished.

Tollgate riots

The Tollgate Riots of 1843, which spread from West Wales into Mid-Wales, particularly affected the Rhayader and Llanidloes districts. The introduction of tollgates erected across all turnpike roads in the Principality, together with the inhumane Poor Law aroused much bitterness amongst the farmers, farm labourers and others in the already impoverished rural communities. The leaders of the rioters were called ‘Rebecca’ (possibly derived from a quotation from Genesis XXXIV, 60: And they blessed Rebecca and said unto her, let thy seed possess the gates of those which hate them.); their followers were called ‘Rebecca’s daughters’. They disguised themselves by wearing women’s clothing and sometimes blackening their faces. . >