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[ Cambrian News index page]
Cambrian News, June 1870

MORALITY IN WALES - AN AWKWARD EPISODE IN WELSH COURTSHIP

County Court, Saturday - Before A J Johnes Esq. Judge

Mr Charles Jeffreys, a gentleman of independent means living at Gwynfryn, near Treddol, was sued by Evan Williams, farm servant, for damages caused by assault. Mr Creslock was for the plaintiff, and Mr Frederick Roberts for Mr Jeffreys. The damages were laid at 50. The case was heard before a jury composed of Messrs E R Watkins, R Humphrey, Z Humphreys, Peter Jones and Capt. D Lloyd

In opening the case, Mr Crealock said that the action was brought by Evan Williams, a farm servant in the employ of Mr Thomas, a farmer living near Trerddol, who sued Mr Charles Jeffreys for damages for injuries sustained from a very violent assault committed upon him by the defendant on May 4th. It would appear that the plaintiff was courting Sarah Williams, one of the servants at Gwynfryn, and at her invitation he came to the house on the evening of May 3rd, for a courtship in the fashion of the Principality, known as "bundling". Evan Jenkins, who was a servant at an adjoining farm, and who would be the plaintiff in a subsequent and similar action, accompanied him for the purpose of visiting Ellen Williams, another servant in the employ of Mr Jeffreys. About half-past eight they were met on the road near the house by the cook, who went with them to the rear of the house. She explained that the man-servant being at supper, it was not convenient that they go into the house there and then, but should wait until this man-servant had taken his departure. The plaintiff and his friend stepped into the wash-house, taking off their boots as a preliminary in the courtship proceedings, and after a time the man servant disappeared, and the pair were conducted up the back stairs into the maids' bedroom. There they remained, the men chatting to the girls until nearly two o'clock in the morning, when, in consequence of hearing strange voices, Mrs Jeffreys presented herself in the bedroom with a lighted candle. The plaintiff's young woman, seeking to screen her lover, threw the counterpane over him, but the precaution was observed, and Mrs Jeffreys, on closer examination, saw Williams's head, just visible above the counterpane. Mrs Jeffreys called to her husband, and the men, putting on their coats, prepared to leave the room. In the doorway they were met by Mr Jeffreys and Williams pulling his forelock, and scraping a humble bow, said "I beg your pardon sir" intending the remark as a kind of apology. Mr Jeffreys replied with the comment "I'll kill you", accompanying the remark with a heavy blow across Williams's face, froma club which he was carrying, a rough and tumble scramble ensued, and the three rolled downstairs, the strangers coming in for a good share of punishment on the way, the blows being so severe that the plaintiff had his thumb dislocated, a bone in his nose broken, and wounds and bruises about his shoulders and legs. Witnesses would speak to the fact of there being a quantity of blood in the roomn next day, and to observe that Mr Jeffreys' nightshirt was stained with blood, and the men's trousers and vests also. With some difficulty the men got home to Talybont, reaching there about seven o'clock in the morning. Mr Hughes, a chemist in the village, was at once called in, but finding that the injuries were too severe for him to deal with, they sent to Goginan for Dr Rowlands, and since that date the men had been under Dr Rowlands' care, having been unable to work. Fortunately the injuries were not of a permanent character, and Mr Jeffreys had cause for congratulation that the proceedings had been instituted in this court, as by the medical evidence it would be shown that, had the blow on the face been struck a little higher up, the consequences would have been very serious.

Evan Williams, the plaintiff, said that he was a farm servant at Newydd-yr-ynys. He was acquianted with Sarah Williams, a servant recently at Gwynfryn, having known her about a month before this occurence. On the evening of May 3rd he went to Gwynfryn, in company with Evan Jenkins, and on the road there they met Ellen Jones, who told them to go to the gate. There, Eliza Jones, the cook, came to meet them, telling them that the man servant was at supper, and advising them to go into the wash house, to take off their boots, and to wait there until the servant man went away. They did so, and in a short time Eliza Jones beckoned them to come into the house. At the door they were met by Ellen Jones, who, taking a light, went with them up to the maids' bedroom, telling them not to be frightened, as Mr Jeffreys was at his tea. Sarah Williams (the young woman whom plaintiff was courting) soon came into the bedroom, but the dining room bell ringing, she had to leave them, returning in about ten minutes. The cook, Eliza Jones, came into the room for a short time, but went away again. There were two bedsteads in the room, and a small bed was made up on the floor for Eliza Jones. The three girls came to the room about ten o'clock, the candle was put out in about five minutes after their arrival, plaintiff and Sarah Williams lying upon one bed, both fully dressed, save that the plaintiff's coat and shoes were removed. They continued in this poition, and chatted away until early morn, when plaintiff was alarmed by being told that someone was coming upstairs. Mrs Jeffreys came into the room with a light and, seeing plaintiff, she called "Charlie! Charlie!" at the top of the stairs. Plaintiff, anticipating a warm reception, jumped off the bed, slipped on his coat, and prepared to take his departure. Mr Jeffreys, carrying a big stick over his shoulder, met him in the doorway. Plaintiff said "I beg your pardon, sir" when Mr Jeffreys said "I will kill you" - (laughter) - accompanying the remark with a blow from the stick across plaintiff's nose, breaking the bone. Plaintiff fell against a washstand and, getting to his feet again, strove his best to get downstairs, and whilst on the way, received several blows on the neck and shoulders from the stick, and was still suffering from the effects of a blow on his arm, which was still numbed. Having succeeded in getting downstairs, they turned into the kitchen, hoping to get out through the back door, which unfortunately was locked and bolted. Plaintiff found that his nose was bleeding profusely, and that there was blood on his shirt, trousers and vest and, pointing to the blood, he again begged Mr Jeffreys to leave off beating him. The Rev. Mr Truman was in the kitchen, and saw Mr Jeffreys strike the plaintiff and Evan Jenkins several times with his fist. Ultimately Mr Jeffreys ejected them through the front door. Plaintiff was unable to put his boots on, and had to carry them a considerable distance. He and Jenkins got home about six in the morning, and sent for Mr Hughes who called in Dr Rowlands. Plaintiff had been unable to do any work since the assault. Mr Jeffreys had never cautioned them to keep from the house.

In cross-examination, plaintiff said that he was twenty-three years of age, in receipt of annual wages amounting to 14 10s and that he had fully made up his mind to marry Sarah Williams. He had met her casually a short time before this unfortunate occurence, and this was the second and would most probably be the last occasion on which he would go courting according to the custom of the country. (Laughter). His old sweetheart was a servant at the place where he now worked, but he did not know where she was now. Was in a sick club, but the club had declined to allow him sick pay.

Evan Jenkins gave corroborative evidence.

Ellen Jones said that she was formerly housemaid at Gwynfryn. On the morning of May 4th she was courting with Evan Williams[sic - Jenkins?], when Mrs Jeffreys came and disturbed them. (Laughter). Williams got up and went to the door where he was stopped by Mr Jeffreys who struck him with a stick or strap. She remained in the room and the men tumbled downstairs, with Mr Jeffreys sharp after them. The next morning she found blood on the shirt which Mr Jeffreys had worn the previous night, the sleeve being stained halfway up to the elbow. She also saw blood upon the candlestick.

Cross-examined:- Was twenty-three years of age, and had known Jenkins (her sweetheart) for about a month. She had twice before entertained him in her bedroom. On the first occasion they were in the kitchen, thence they went into the dining room, and then into the drawing room, where there was a sofa, and they remained talking until morning. Had been dismissed from Gwynfryn, and was now living at Ruthin with her parents. Did not know whether Jenkins and herself would make a match of it.

Sarah Williams, the late parlour-maid at Gwynfryn, and sweetheart to her namesake, the plaintiff, gave similar evidence, and said that on the following morning she saw a patch of blood upon the kitchen floor.

In cross-examination she said that she was nineteen years of age, and had first met Williams a fortnight, or thereabouts, before this occurrence. This was the first time she had allowed him night courtship; she was not engaged to be married to him. Mr Jeffreys had dismissed her, and she now lived at Ruthin with her father - a master butcher.

Thomas Hughes, chemist, Talybont, saw the plaintiff on May 4th. The left eye was much scarified and swollen, and he complained of his left hand - the thumb being swollen and discoloured. The blade of the right elbos was also swollen. Witness finding himself incompetent to deal with the injuries, sent for Dr Rowlands.

Dr Rowlands said that he examined the plaintiff on the afternoon of May 4th. There was a small fracture on the left side of the nose, with an abrasion of the skin on the left side of the face. The thumb of the left hand was dislocated; there were many bruises about the shoulder and elbos, and the left eye was swollen and discoloured.

This was the plaintiff's case.

Mr T Roberts, reserving his address until the close of the evidence for the defence, called Mr Charles Jeffreys, who said that on the morning of May 4th he was awoken between two and three o'clock by his wife, who said that there were strange men in or about the house. He thought that the men were outside, and that the girls were having a conversation with them through the bedroom window, and taking a thick stick, which was near the front door, he went round the outside of the house. In the meantime, his wife, having found the men in the maids' bedroom, called him upstairs. When he was entering the room the men rushed past him, and he followed them down the stairs. The men turned into the kitchen, making for the back door, and witness following them put the stick upon the table, and struck them with his fists three or four times. They did not complain of being injured, and did not attempt resistance, and, when the front door was opened, they walked quickly off - seeming very glad to get away. The girls came from Ruthin and were perfect strangers in the neighbourhood.

The Rev Mr Truman, brother-in-law to the defendant, said that he was staying at Gwynfryn on the night in question, and was awakened by Mrs Jeffreys knowcking at his room door, begging him to get up as there were some strange men in the house. Going to the servants' room he saw two men standing close to the door. Mr Jeffreys asked them what they were doing there and told them that they had better bundle off as quickly as they could, and whilst they were passing Mr Jeffreys he hit one of them with the stick. The men ran downstairs, followed by Mr Jeffreys, and turned into the kitchen. Mr Jeffreys laid the stick on the table and hit the men with his fists. Witness told them that they got only what they richly deserved, for having been strangers found in a gentleman's house at that hour of the night, and remarked that it was a lucky thing that Mr Jeffreys had not firearms with him, as he might have fired upon them under the impression that they were burglars. Having thrashed them in the kitchen, Mr Jeffreys opened the front door and let them out. They seemed very thankful to go, one remarking - "Well, I shall never come here again". (Laughter).

Mr Roberts commented upon the fact of the men being found in a gentleman's house at that hour of the morning, and argued that they got only what they well merited, and for whatever injuries the plaintiff might have received in his ejection, the samllest coin in the realm, say a fourpenny piece, would be ample compensation. There was agood old adage that Englishmen regarded with some respect "A man's house is his castle" and if that castle was invaded, the trespassers must look for treatment rougher even than that which these men had received at the hands of Mr Jeffreys. He characterized the action as being a most impudent one, and the amount of damage sought to be reovered as most extravagent. He trusted that the jury, as gentlemen of common sense, eager to uphold the cause of morality, would not listen to any such disgraceful and miserable plea as "the custom of the country" as a justification for the presence of strange men in a gentleman's house at any time they pleased to come, but that they would mark their disapprobation of the plaintiff's conduct by awarding him the smallest possible modicum of compensation. They knew too well what this custom of the country really meant; that its results were immorality, seduction, illegitimacy, or a hasty marriage to cover shame. Ministers preached against the custom, against immorality, but such preaching was useless unless they carried the lesson practically to their hearths and homes, and employers and heads of families strove their utmost to discountenance and put down this custom of bundling. They by their verdict must say whether they were desirous of upholding and countenancing such a custom. The girls werew almost perfect strangers to that part of the country, and being under the charge of Mr Jeffreys, that gentleman necessarily felt himself in a great measure responsible for the moral conduct of these girls, and was fully justified in adopting the course he had taken.

Mr Crealock pointed out that Mr Jeffreys had a legal remedy without resorting to unnecessary violence as he had done. The men might have been summoned before a magistrate. Mr Jeffreys had no right to take the law into his own hands.

His Honour fully sympathised with the very strong remarks which had been made by Mr Roberts as to the disgraceful custom of the country which existed - a practice which tended to immorality. It was disgraceful to the servants who so violated the trust put in them by their employers, and to those who acted in concert with them, and if the defendant had broken the law slightly, without really seriously injuring the plaintiff, his inclination would be to give one farthing damages. But it had been shown that the assault was a very serious one, and there was evidence to show the men did not wish to retaliate or resist. It did not matter whether the injuries had been inflicted by a stick or with the fist; the men had sustained serious injuries, which, although not permanent, had debarred them from working, and had subjected them to much bodily suffering. It was clear, as a matter of law, that the plaintiff was entitled to damages, but 50 was a most extravagent amount to claim. In assessing the damages he hoped that the jury would bear in mind the gross misconduct of the plaintiff in trespassing in Mr Jeffreys' house for waht was clearly an immoral purpose, and mark their sense of his behaviour.

The jury retired, and in about a quarter of an hour, returned with a verdict for the plaintiff - damages 15.

A similar verdict was returned in the second case.

Mr Crealock applied for witnesses costs &c which were allowed.

Gweler hefyd / See also : Illustrated Police News




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