Rebecca Raids: Wales 1842-1844

[ 1842 - 1844 ]

Members of a secret society in rural Carmarthenshire, Wales, protested against many wrongs: British governmental resistance to the industrial and political reforms of Chartism, agrarian distress, increases in land taxes, and "reforms" of the Poor laws that worsened the lot of the poor. But they directed wrath chiefly at the tollgates and tollhouses on the public roads of Wales. New gates and increases in toll charges were the last straw. The conspiritors took their motto from Genesis: "And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, '...may your descendants possess the gate of those who hate them!'"; they called each leader "Rebecca" and each follower "her daughter." Dressed in feminine apparel, the male raiders made suprise night attacks on tollgates and houses with axes and torches, ultimately destroying 120. The startled tollkeepers were not generally disturbed. In 1843, soldiers and police attempted to quell the raids, which stopped after turnpike trust laws were amended and the number of tollgates was reduced (1844).

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