£100 reward for wanted men
Immediately rewards of £100 were offered for John Frost, Zephaniah Williams, William Jones, Jack the Fifer (John Rees), and David the Tinker. Frost was captured straight away, eating bread and cheese at his friend Partridge the Printer’s house. William Jones evaded capture for a week, and was found in woods near Crumlin, whilst Zephaniah Williams was found three weeks later on board a ship in Cardiff about to leave for Portugal. The authorities failed to find Jack the Fifer who escaped to America, or his accomplice, David the Tinker.
Almost a year later, the offer of a reward winkled out Wright Beatty, who had led some of the western valleys men through Rogerstone to Newport. Dr William Price who had helped to plan the Rising, didn’t trust Frost’s leadership, and had refused to march the men of Pontypridd to Newport. Believing he was a wanted man, as he had been stirring up chartists around Pontypridd, Price escaped to Paris disguised in women’s clothes. William David, another leader from the Pontypridd area, reached the USA. Both returned within a few years; neither was charged.
Frost’s old enemy Thomas Prothero took on the role of chief interrogator. He was delighted at Frost’s capture and led the demand for a treason trial, along with the Monmouth Boroughs’ MP Reginald Blewitt. Some witnesses claimed they were being intimidated and, as threats to kidnap them circulated, the authorities moved key witnesses from the coalfield area to secure locations in Newport. Welsh-speaking witnesses were poorly treated by the Rev. James Coles who undertook much of the initial questioning. He was extremely hostile and condescending to the Welsh-speaking prisoners, threatening to arrest one witness, John Hughes, for ‘smiling’.
Two hundred and fifty-three people gave testimony to the examining magistrates at Newport. Fifty men were charged with high treason and as many others with lesser charges.
Text and artwork from Voices for the Vote: Shire Hall and the story of Chartism in south Wales. Reproduced by kind permission of Monmouthshire County Council/Shire Hall, Monmouth. The book costs £4.99 and can be obtained from Shire Hall Monmouth, Newport Museum or Gwent Archives