HC Deb 07 May 1889 vol 335 cc1353-5
MR. BOWEN ROWLANDS (Cardiganshire)

asked the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he had received any communication from the Chief Constables of Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire in reply to the letters sent to them by him with reference to any attempts to come to an understanding with the tenants before bringing large bodies of police to the scene of tithe distraints and sales in those counties? He also wished to know whether the Chief Constable of Cardiganshire stated to the peasants and others attending tithe sales in the parish of Penbryn, on Wednesday the 1st May, that their presence at such sales was illegal, as constituting an unlawful assembly; whether such statement was translated into Welsh at the Chief Constable's request, by one of the persons so attending the sales, and repeated by him to the people in the Welsh language; and on what grounds was such a statement made by the Chief Constable?


Yes, Sir, I am informed by the Chief Constable of Carmarthen-shire that, as soon as Mr. Stevens informed him that he was going to levy distraints in the parish of Trelech, he wrote on the 3rd of March last to a leading County Councillor, who had influence in the district, asking if anything could be done to avoid the necessity of taking a large body of police to attend the sales. To this letter he received no reply. The Chief Constable of Cardiganshire informs me that since the 19th of March last (the date of the tithe riot at Penbryn) he has been in communication with some of the magistrates of the district, and has asked them to assist him in the preservation of the peace when next Mr. Stevens visited the parish. This they consented to do, and offered to accompany the Chief Constable without further escort; but Mr. Stevens, after the violence which had been shown, was unwilling to visit the parish of Penbryn without an escort of police. Accordingly, on the 1st of May, the Chief Constable, accompanied by two magistrates and 46 constables, went with Mr. Stevens to Penbryn. The crowd at first gave some trouble, but after a time, and with the help of the magistrates, who exerted their influence, the distraining party were allowed to proceed unmolested. On the 2nd of May there was comparative quiet, the Chief Constable going unattended by a magistrate and with a small escort of 18 constables. In reply to the second question of the hon. Member, I may say that the Chief Constable of Cardiganshire informs me that on the occasion in question he found a crowd assembled in one of the farmyards, where a large bell was being rung and a horn was being blown. He saw people armed with bludgeons joining the crowd, and one man was using threatening language. In these circumstances he informed the magistrates present and the people that he considered this an unlawful assembly, and he requested that his opinion might be stated in Welsh to the persons present, which was done. The opinion of the Chief Constable was shortly afterwards confirmed by the conduct of the crowd, who commenced to throw stones at the distraining agent.


Am I to understand from the answer to the first question that it was the action of Mr. Stephens that rendered it necessary for the police to be present in such large numbers?


Yes; that is substantially the answer that I have given.