Victorian Powys for primary  schools
Powys Digital History Project
The Rebecca riots
  1. Who were Rebecca and her daughters?  

Across the South Wales countryside the tenant farmers and farm workers in particular were finding the high toll charges levied on them by the Turnpike Trusts a real burden in difficult times. Rhayader had no less than six toll gates on the roads into the town. This meant that any journey by horse or horse-drawn vehicle could prove expensive, and bringing animals into market especially so.
This was not the only reason that local people became angry. Prices of stock at sale had fallen, and there had been bad harvests making times even harder for working people. High rates and the increase of tithe payments to the church made the situation worse.
Those who feared they would not be able to manage had only the new Poor Law Unions and the feared workhouse to fall back on. (see pages on the Rhayader Union)

  Eventually people became so angry that they resorted to violence. Local tollgates were a convenient target. No-one is completely sure why the local tenant farmers and workers created Rebecca and her daughters as a disguise, but it is thought that the idea comes from the Bible. In Genesis, Rebecca recommended that some "possess the gates of those which hate them".  

The different groups of attackers were often led by a "Rebecca" and were all dressed in women's clothing.
The cartoon above is from Punch magazine at the time, and it shows Rebecca rioters attacking tollgates marked with the things they were angry about.

How do we know what happened ?...

link to sources
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