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Rebecca descendant joins in celebration of tolls uprising.

The great-grandson of one of the men who led the Rebecca Riots will help the town of Pontarddulais near Swansea mark its role in the 19th century uprising.

David Vaughan Thomas, the son of the late writer and broadcaster Wynford Vaughan Thomas, will visit his great great grandfather Daniel Lewis's grave in Pontarddulais this weekend.

It will form part of a series of celebrations of the Rebecca Riots in Pontarddulais.

The former mayor of Pontarddulais, Philip Gill, is leading a campaign to have a museum dedicated to the riots established in the town.

This Saturday, two commemorative stones will be placed at the sites of two toll gates which were attacked at Pontarddulais during the riots in 1843.

The stones will be placed at the original sites of the toll gates, at Bolgoed near the Fountain Inn and at a point near Pontarddulais Railway Station.

The Bolgoed Gate was attacked at midnight on July 6, 1843 by 150 men led by Daniel Lewis.

He was arrested soon after but was eventually released because no-one would give evidence against him.

The second gate in Pontarddulais was attacked a few months later and local police fired on the attackers.

The attacks were part of the uprising across South and West Wales from 1839 to 1843 against deeply unpopular road toll charges which had to be paid at a series of toll gates.

Feelings eventually overflowed and organised bands began to gather at night to burn the toll gates.

They were often armed men on horseback and to disguise themselves they sometimes dressed as women. They became known as the Rebeccaites or Rebecca's daughters.

The name may originate from a story that one of the actions was led by a man who borrowed clothes from a lady known as 'big Rebecca' with all subsequent local leaders adopting the name.

Generally however the movement was associated with a scriptural verse, Genesis 24, 60.

A simplified version of the text reads, 'And they blessed Rebekah and said unto her, let they seed possess gate of those who hate thee'.

The rioters had broad support and some magistrates and juries often acquitted activists despite strong evidence or arson or causing damage.

A number were convicted though and five were transported to desperate penal colonies in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land).

But the subsequent passing of Lord Cawdor's Act which substantially reduced toll gates meant that the 'Rebeccaites' eventually won the day.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 29, 2004
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