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Rebecca riots

Rebecca riots, 1838–44. These riots in west Wales took place over a long period and, coinciding with the chartist agitation, caused the government much concern. They originated as protests against turnpikes which, because of the many small trusts, imposed heavy burdens on farmers and local people. They took the form of night attacks on toll-houses and -gates, the rioters often well organized, with blackened faces and wearing women's clothes. Their name came from the biblical reference—‘the seed of Rebecca shall possess the gates of her enemies’ (Gen. 24: 60). But they extended also to attacks upon workhouses, protests against tithes, and personal grudges. Workhouses were destroyed at Narbeth in 1839 and at Carmarthen in 1843. The government employed troops, police, and spies to control the situation, but the eventual remedy was an Act of 1844 (7 & 8 Vic. c. 91) to ease and reduce tolls.

J. A. Cannon

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