A Magistrates Report to the Home Office
on Looting near Cefn Sidan 1833
I believe the melancholy duty devolves upon myself of first informing you that on the 19th.day of this month the Barque "Brothers" bound from Bahia, South America to Liverpool, of 370 tons burden, and of which a Mr. Williamson of Liverpool was Owner, was wrecked on Cefn Sidan sands (near the town of Kidwelly), Carmarthen Bay and the Crew which consisted of sixteen men, only one person, the Carpenter, was saved. The Vessel was laden with Cotton Wool, Hides, and Buffalo Horns, and I learn from the deposition of the Man saved that she contained about 2000 bales of the Cotton, and 400 Buffalo Hides. What particularly induces me to address your Lordship, is, the nearly total plunder of the Wrecked Vessel and her cargo by the Country People, for the wind then blowing hard upon the shore, nearly the whole of the goods and wreck were driven on shore between the Borough Town of Kidwelly, and the village of Pembrey in the Parish of that name. I was not informed of this wreck until Saturday, the 21st inst. at about eleven o'clock A.M. by the Collector of the Customs, when I immediately rode to the Scene of the Wreck, distant about twelve miles from the House, and as I followed the Sea-shore, I observed numbers of Country People employed in cutting open Bales of Cotton which were lying in quantities along the shore of nine miles in length, and carrying them away in Bags and Carts etc. As I approached Kidwelly, I informed the People, chiefly of that Town, engaged in breaking up the wrecked vessel with Saws, Hammers etc. and conveying the timber etc. away in Carts - I warned the People, many of whom were Farmers of respectability of the consequences of this proceeding, but being alone, the Constable I had engaged being unable to keep pace with my horse, I did not succeed in deterring them from doing so. I have very highly to complain of the conduct of a Gentleman, who resided near the spot where the wreck occurred in refusing me the assistance of his carts and men to preserve some of the goods etc. for had I been made acquainted with the wreck on Friday morning, on which day the chief plunder was committed, and had the assistance of the Gentleman I mention and the neighbouring Magistracy, some of whom resided within three miles from the wreck and in sight of it, nearly the whole of the goods and wrecked Vessel might have been saved, whereas, in consequence of the want of co-operation I name, only 109 bales of cotton and a few hides have been preserved. Carts have been sent from a distance of twenty miles round, to convey away the bales of Cotton etc. and timber of the Vessel, but the Constable I had stationed along the sands, from the length of the shore along which the goods were strewed, and the numbers of the People, were unable to prevent them from carrying them off, and I was myself assaulted by two men, in endeavouring to do so, and apprehend the offenders. Some respectable farmers have employed Men to saw up and take off the Mast, bowsprit, etc. tho' some Men I placed to preserve them, gave the parties notice that I had desired them to prevent their being taken away, and was that morning going to send timber carriages for them.
I regret to say that this is the third wreck that has occurred on these sands within the period of one week. One Vessel of about 120 tons was stranded opposite the Village of Pembrey on Monday last. She was laden with Oranges and Lemons.
As the number of the Offenders is so great, and many of them Persons of much respectability (large farms etc.) I should wish to have the honour of Your Lordship's instructions on the subject ere I take steps in the business, as I stand alone, as Magistrate, in it. I have information against many persons of substance, for cutting up masts, carrying off bales of Cotton, and the ships pumps etc. and against an Iron Manager of Carmarthen, for actually having carts to carry off bales of Cotton to Carmarthen and other places. I venture to suggest to Your Lordship that unless some examples be made of the Major Offenders, these disgraceful scenes will again occur, as wreckers are frequently on this coast and as I was myself this time Assaulted, there is no knowing to what lengths opposition may be carried, as they come prepared with short hatchets, hammers etc.
Since I went with one of
the Underwriters to the Town of Kidwelly, the Mayor of which granted
a Search Warrant for the stolen goods we found in one house some Hides,
and in a Farmers Premise (within the Borough) some bales of Cotton,
I am ready to furnish Your Lordship with All the information with respect to offenders.
I have the Honour to be, My Lord,
Your Lordships Obedient, Humble Servant.
J. H. Rees.