A Most Daring Burglary: The first major case for the Glamorgan Constabulary

Amongst the papers held at Glamorgan Archives there is a copy of a ‘memorial’ written by Superintendent Davies of the Glamorgan Constabulary in 1844. The final version was clearly to be passed to ‘The Lords of the Treasury’, setting out the details of a crime solved by the Glamorgan Constabulary and asking that a reward of £50 be paid to two police officers from the Merthyr District of the force. The oddity is that while the draft and the accompanying correspondence are dated 1844, the crime in question was committed in November 1841.

The first recruits to the Glamorgan Constabulary were sworn in on 23 October 1841. They then had a period of basic training at Bridgend before being deployed to the four districts, probably at the end of the third week of November. If that was the case, then the crime identified in the memorial, committed on the night of 23 November 1841, would have one of the first major cases tackled by the new force.

On the morning of 24 November 1841 Sergeant Evan Davies and Constable John Millward of the Glamorgan Constabulary were called to Ynislaes, a house near Aberpergwm, to investigate a reported burglary. Davies and Millward had been sworn in on 23 October. A newspaper report at the time referred to them as members of the Merthyr New Police. This is almost certainly a reference to the Superintendent and 12 constables and sergeants allocated by the Glamorgan Constabulary to the Merthyr district in November 1841.

It was a particularly daring raid for, although the owners of the house, Miss Elizabeth Ann Williams and Miss Maria Jane Williams, were away in London, the staff had been held up at gun point in the night and robbed. The burglary was widely reported in the newspapers including the following account published on 27 November:

On Wednesday morning last, between four and five o’clock, two men with their faces chalked , entered the house of the Misses Williams near Aberpergwm, and proceeding to the servants’ bedroom, one of them presented a double barrel gun at the terrified girls, and declared that if they made the least noise “Death should be their portion”. They then demanded to be shown where the money was kept and the poor girls were forced to accompany them through the different rooms of the house; but after a fruitless search, and money appearing to be their only object, they departed without committing any further outrage [Glamorgan, Monmouth and Brecon Gazette and Merthyr Guardian, 27 November 1841].

Although the burglars had failed to find any cash they had, in fact, removed a range of goods. However, they had also been spotted by a number of people while making their getaway and Davies and Millward were able to track their progress.

…they traced the villains to Hirwain, where two men answering the description were seen about half past seven o’clock the same morning; they also ascertained that they were seen passing through Aberdare towards Mountain Ash about nine o’clock in the morning. Here they lost all clue to them, but we trust they will not long elude the hand of justice [Glamorgan, Monmouth and Brecon Gazette and Merthyr Guardian, 27 November 1841].

In the following weeks Millward and Davies found further witnesses, including Mary Richards, who reported that she had heard two lodgers at her brother’s house asking about the owners of Ynislaes and whether there might be money on the premises. On 19th December two men were arrested by Sergeant Evan Davies in Merthyr; John Rogers, 43, a shoemaker and Thomas Rees, aged 28. They were still in possession of the gun and many of the items removed from Ynislaes, including a thermometer, a pincushion and an accordion found in Rogers’ house behind the mantel-piece. The items were identified by the one of the owners, Miss Maria Williams, while the maids confirmed that Rees and Rogers had been the burglars.

At the Glamorgan Assizes in March 1842, Rogers and Rees were found guilty and sentenced to 15 years transportation. The cook at Ynislaes, Caroline West, provided the court with a graphic account of the burglary.

One of the men after coming into the bedroom pointed a gun at me and said “No more noise or death will be your portion.” Thomas Rees did that. The gun was close to my head. Hannah Jones begged of him not to kill me. Soon after I went downstairs and I saw Thomas Rees unlock the door of the bedroom and go into it. I said “I will ring the bell for master” and the other one said “Come, come let us go”. That was before they went down stairs. I opened the window and screamed “Murder”. The housemaid was so much frightened that she wanted to jump through the window [The Welshman, 4 March 1842].

The Court took a very dim view of armed robbery. Rees and Rogers only escaped transportation for life, which the judge considered …a worse punishment than capital punishment for you will spend your life in slavery – in misery…, because their conduct …was not characterised by any violence towards the persons of those females [The Welshman, 4 March 1842].

This high profile case had attracted a significant reward of £50. Although the case was resolved with the conviction of Rogers and Rees in March 1842, it is difficult to explain why the request for the payment of the reward was delayed for two years. However, there is a record that John Nichol, as MP for Cardiff and Chairman of the Glamorgan Quarter Sessions, wrote to the Treasury, on 18 January 1844, asking for the payment to Millward and Davies of …a reward of £50 offered by the Government in December 1841 to any person who should give such information and evidence as should lead to the discovery and conviction of the persons who had committed a daring act of burglary… Although Nichol had appended a supporting letter from the Chief Constable of Glamorgan, Charles Napier, he was asked to present further evidence [Letter from John Nicholl to Rt Hon Jas Graham Bart, 18 January 1844 and reply 24 January 1844, ref.: DMM/CO/71].

The following month Napier forwarded a ‘Memorial’ produced by Superintendent Davies, head of the Merthyr district of the Glamorgan Constabulary, to support the claim. The above correspondence can be found in Glamorgan Archives, including a copy of the memorial that was probably a near final draft [ref.: DMM/CO/71].

copy-memorial_edited

That about the end of December 1841 John Millward in conjunction with Police Sergeant Evan Davies apprehended Jno Rogers and Tho Rees for the same burglary on which charge they were committed for trial at the then next assizes for Glamorganshire.

That the said Jno Rogers and Tho Rees were …convicted of the same offence chiefly upon the evidence of John Millard and Sergeant Evans Davies who had both found some of the stolen articles in the possession of each of the prisoners and were sentenced to 15 year transportation.

…pray that your lordships will be pleased to direct the immediate payment of the said reward of £50.

At this point, sadly, the trail goes cold. There is a further and final letter from Napier to John Nicholl, on 8 March 1844, confirming that the memorial had been sent on the 16 February but stating that …as no reply has yet been received, I beg to solicit your assistance in obtaining an answer to the application [Charles Napier to John Nichol, 8 March 1844, ref.: DMM/CO/71].

It is just possible that Millward and Evans received the £50 – a significant sum at that time. Whatever the outcome, there is no doubt that, within days of it deployment, with the solving of the Ynislaes burglary, the Glamorgan Constabulary was making its mark on both the local and national stage.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

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