The Bont murder – pages 1, 2 and 3
The Murder Act of 1752, dictated that :
. . . for better preventing the horrid crime of murder, those found guilty and hanged should then be delivered to the surgeons to be dissected and anatomized.
All this was carried out in public – it was argued that by increasing the terror and the shame of the death penalty, this would increase the deterrent power of capital punishment. The Anatomy Act, ending the dissection of murders, did not come into force until 1832. Thomas Price and John Evans were hanged and literally dissected outside Cardigan jail on Easter Monday, 1822. The trial and executions attracted a great deal of interest nationally. There were reports in all the Welsh newspapers and ballad writers also gave their own graphic portrayal of the whole spectacle.
In the 19th century, the judges at Welsh assizes were presented with a pair of white gloves if the Calendar  before them had no criminal cases. It was a custom which led to the saying ‘Hen Wlad y Menyg Gwynion’ (‘The Land of the White Gloves’), and to the notion that Wales was a place free from serious crime. In fact Henry Richards of Tregaron  declared that Wales, in terms of criminal behaviour, was superior to other nations. The people of west Wales, in particular, were depicted as law abiding and intensely moral. Of course, this view was not universally accepted, and the subject is still being debated by historians. Russell Davies, in 1996, raises the question  :
Was west Wales a land of ‘secret sins’ or was it a paradisial land free of crime?
Perhaps, west Wales in the 1820s may not have been widely recongnised for its lawlessness, it did have its serious crime was not uncommon. An incident at Pontrhydfendigaid, just five miles or so from Henry Richard’s birth place, received considerable notoriety in 1821.
This is a story of a murder which took place at Bont on a dark, winter night, on the 8th of December, 1821. The weather at the time was particularly unpleasant  :
. . . uninterrupted gales with wind and dreadful torrents of rain . . . these were frequently accompanied, in the early part of the evening, by thunder and vivid lightning.
The scene of the crime was Bryncrach, on the way out of Bont going towards Tregaron . Thomas Evans was the victim. He was the village blacksmith and was known locally as Twm y Gof . A report in Seren Gomer said that the incident shocked the community and galvanised the neighbourhood into action. Forty-
Nos Sadwrn, yr 8fed o Ragfyr, llofruddwyd Thomas Efans, gôf, o Rhydfendigaid . . . yn y modd creulonaf. Am nad oes neb yn cofio am lofruddiaeth yn yr ardal hono o’r blaen, gwnaeth yr hanes argraff neilldiol ar feddyliau y cymdogion; ac aeth 48 o ddynion, o honynt eu hunain, at Ynad yr Heddwch yn fore y dydd canlynol i gael eu tyngu yn hedd-
geidweid anarferol, a chyn nos daliasant dri dyn, y rhai a yrwyd i garchar Aberteifi, dan y cyhuddiad o Lofruddiaeth Gwirfoddol.
Three men were eventually caught – they were Thomas Price, John Evans and Evan Evans, all from Bont. This prompt action by the community may not have been a reflection of local regard for Thomas Evans. He was not the most law-
The Ystrad Fflur Parish Register includes the following record for December 12th 1821  :
Thomas Evans alias Twm y Gof, murdered by Thomas Price and John Evans both of whom were hanged at Cardigan for the offence
Further search of the Parish Register revealed that Thomas Evans married Ann Lloyd Evans on the 27th November 1812 ; he had a daughter baptized in September 1813 and a son roughly eighteen months later. There is no record of a Thomas Evans born in 1778, but there is a reference to a Thomas Evans, Bwlchyddwyallt, baptized on the 10th of October, 1777. This could be Twm y Gof, but there is no way of proving it one way or the other. However, all the indications are that Thomas Price was ‘local’ – born and bred in the area.
Twm y Gof had many brushes with the law and his name was coupled with a number of felonious incidents . On the 25th of September 1818, he was accused of assaulting David Jones. The date is significant ; it was ‘dydd Ffair Gŵyl Grog yn Bont’ (the annual fair day at Bont) and, very likely, there was a lot of drinking going on, accompanied by a bit of petty violence. Twm y Gof seemed to have been in the thick of it and it was said that, twice during the course of the day, he  :
. . . did beat bruise wound and ill treat (David Jones) so that his life was greatly despaired of . . .
Twm was prosecuted ; he pleaded not guilty and the grand jury at Cardigan decided that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a trial proper and returned a verdict of ‘no true bill’ . The following year he was accused of maiming a horse belonging to Richard Rees and, as before, he pleaded not guilty and the verdict, once more, was ‘no true bill’. And this was not all, there were a few other instances of Twm y Gof being charged with criminal wrongdoing. In January 1821, he was :
. . . charged upon oath of John Morgan and David Evans with suspicion of having on the 7th January . . . maimed a Bay Gelding, the property of David Evans, of the parish of Gwnnws in the . . . County of Cardiganshire.
This time, the case did go to a full trial and judging by the number of people who testified, it seems that there were many in Bont who wanted to get rid of Twm y Gof ─ for good. If convicted, he faced transportation. The Quarter Sessions Record for May 1821  has a long list of people who were paid ‘expenses’ for attending the Great Sessions to give evidence against Thomas. One of them was Thomas Price who was given :
. . . the sum of one pound and five shillings . . . for his attendance at Cardigan Great Sessions to give evidence against Thomas Evans Blacksmith for felony, together with the sum of six shillings by him expended in obtaining this Order.
Thomas Price was paid a further sum of money for conveying Thomas Evans to Cardigan jail. John Evans and Evan Evans were also among those who received ‘payment’ for their role in the trial. Clearly, these three individuals seemed to have had a little bit of a grudge against Twm y Gof well before they planned his murder. However, despite the weight of evidence against him, Twm y Gof was cleared, once more, of any wrongdoing. The irony is ─ had he been found guilty and transported, that would have saved his life.
Thomas Price played quite a prominent role in the court case against Twm y Gof. This was not an accident ; it emerged, during the course of the murder trial that there was a ‘conspiracy’ to get rid of Thomas Evans one way or another. After the bid to have him convicted and transported had failed, it looks like the three accused took it upon themselves to dispose of him by other means.
The three accused were members of the same family ─ Evan Evans was Thomas Price’s father-
During the hearing, the conspiracy theory was given credence by Thomas Price who admitted he and Twm y Gof had been ‘one-
Fe ddarfu Thomas Price gyffesu ei fod ef a Thomas Evans wedi bod yn cyduno mewn llawer o ddrygau, a’u bod wedi mynd â bywyd un Trafaeliwr, (Rider) a’u bod wedi mynd a bywyd Iuddew, ond ni roddodd eglurder pa fodd; ac mai fe ddarfu dori neu frathu y ceffyl y bu Thomas Evans yn cael ei brofi yn ei gylch yn Aberteifi, ac iddo gael gini am dyngu mai Thomas Evans oedd wedi ei wneud.
Thomas Price also confessed that the main reason behind the murder was fear that Thomas Evans would reveal their past criminal activities and, he claimed, that his father-
. . . an old quarrel, and an apprehension lest should he (Thomas Evans) expose some of their tricks. Price declared that he had no intention to murder him in the first instance, and attributed it to heat of passion at the moment.
Stephen Jones (ballad writer and singer[) , also, quoted Thomas Price as saying that his father-
. . . mai ei dad ynghyfraith a ddarfu ei hudo i fwrddo Thomas Evans, –
However, there was no real evidence to suggest that Evan Evans was the prime inciter other than the word of Thomas Price, who was never really averse to lying.
The sixteen days extending from the tail end of November to early December 1821, were, to say the least, eventful for Thomas Price. He was married to Mary Evans at Strata Florida Church (by John Jones, the then Curate) on the 23rd day of November. Three days later on the 26th, the same Curate, was back at Church, this time baptizing the daughter of Thomas and Mary Price. They were now living at Penybont, Pontrhydfendigaid, probably, with Mary’s father (Evan Evans) and her bother (John Evans).
Within about two weeks of moving in with his in-
Could this be Thomas Price’s last address? Probably not. Despite having the same name, this bulding seems to be more of a late 19th century build.
The Bont murder – pages 1, 2 and 3