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Caroline Lewis, 1811

Caroline Lewis was probably born in 1811, at Glascoed, and baptised at Monkswood Parish Church on 13/10/1811, the daughter of Phillip and Mary Lewis. She had at least two siblings, Phillip Lewis (c.1815), and Thomas (c. 1823) who were both younger brothers.

She married James Meredith, on August 1st 1835 at Usk Parish Church, and the two of them played major roles in the Glascoed Common disputes of 1860/61, aka “the Glascoed Riots!

One of the early articles I found on Caroline from 1856 describes her as “a very quarrelsome woman” after assaulting Elizabeth Jones, who herself was described by the magistrate as having “an aggravating tongue”! Not a quiet idyllic village by any means. From the same case, the magistrate stated: “The disturbances and offences committed by the defendant and her husband were a great annoyance to that part of the country.” The background to some of this can maybe be understood from the story below about the Glascoed Riots. Here the argument partly started as Caroline “cut her (Elizabeth’s) hedge down” - could this have been related to the later enclosures dispute (1860-61) in some way?

In 1857, Caroline was apparently provoked into a fight with Elizabeth Jones’ daughter, Mary Ann which was described in the Usk Observer in this way: “Caroline Meredith and James Meredith, her son, of the hamlet of Glascoed, were charged with having unlawfully assaulted and beat Mary Ann Jones, on Sunday, the 12th of July. Mr. Henry Roberts appeared for the defence. The magistrates considered the case a very frivolous one, and that the female defendant had been aggravated to the assault by the conduct of the complainant, and dismissed the case-the costs to be paid between the parties. Mary Ann Jones was called on to pay 7s. 6d., and Caroline Meredith 3s. 6d.“

Caroline and especially her husband James (“Jemmy”) were at the centre of the “Glascoed Riots” in 1861. Caroline was quoted as follows in the Free Press’ account of the petty sessions court case at Usk:

“Caroline Meredith, wife of the last witness, said she heard guns fired and something come to the wall like shots. Was very much frightened, and had been frightened ever since. – Cross-examined: Was not too much frightened to fight with another woman ……”

In the earlier Free Press account of the events, the “fight” was described in a “tongue in cheek” way as follows: “As it was, there occurred nothing less harmless than little dog-fighting by way of relaxation for the men, and some hair-pulling among the women for their mutual delectation.” I wonder whether this was with one of her next door neighbours, the Jones family (Elizabeth or Mary Ann).

“Was told by Thos. Edwards, one of the defendants, that Mrs Meredith had threatened to shoot the first man that came there. Saw no guns brought, nor anyone assaulted.”

So Caroline could either be seen as a feisty woman (she was in her early fifties at this point) or as a sorely put upon lady who was doing everything she could to defend her home and her family. I prefer the former, since it is more juicy, but really it is for the reader to judge the evidence.

Caroline also gave evidence in a case between her sister-in-law, Hannah Lewis (nee Williams) and a neighbour (James Williams) - all lived within a stone’s throw of each other at Pergoed Lane.

By 1871, Caroline had managed to get into a fight with her sister-in-law - Hannah, who had married Philip Lewis. Hannah had at one point (e.g. at the time of the 1841 census) lived with Hannah and Philip. By the 1860s, however, Philip and Hannah had started to fall out regularly as you can read in Philip’s bio; I imagine that Caroline’s assault on Hannah may well have been linked in some way. It was reported very briefly in the Monmouthshire Merlin in September 1871.

Caroline and Jemmy had five children: four boys (James, Thomas, Philip and Charles Henry) and a girl (Martha). It’s also worth reading biographies of her children. The first one I have written concerns her daughter Martha Meredith, who was born in 1847. She is taken to court for pulling down a neighbour’s fences in 1862, gives evidence of a neighbour’s tea party that turned into a “Biddle” (an illegal drinking session) in 1865, married a sheep stealer in 1867 who was to be transported within a couple of years of marriage, which in effect ended the marriage. She married twice more and lived in Glascoed for pretty much all of her life.

Caroline died on 9th May 1888 at Glascoed. Her son, Philip was the executor.


Census records: 18411851186118711881