This is part of a metal-tipped stick of the sort carried by constables in the 1800s. It was used in 1831 during the arrest of Dic Penderyn who was wrongly convicted and hanged for stabbing a soldier during the Merthyr Rising in South Wales.
In the early 1800s, Wales was at the forefront of global industrialisation. Its economy depended largely on jobs in mining and the iron industry. Working conditions for ordinary people were poor and dangerous and there was high unemployment. In June 1831, a popular uprising began in Merthyr Tydfil, with an angry crowd calling for parliamentary reform to stop the exploitation of workers by industry owners. The rioting and protest lasted for days, with some 7,000 – 10,000 men and women marching and rallying under the ‘red flag’ – the radicals reportedly killed a calf and dipped the white cloth of a reform flag in its blood.
The authorities summoned soldiers from the nearest barracks to try and take control. They fired into a crowd protesting outside the Castle Inn, killing as many as twenty people. One soldier, Donald Black, was stabbed. A twenty-three year old miner, Richard Lewis, whose nickname was Dic Penderyn, was arrested for the stabbing. The arresting constable was carrying this tipstaff. Inside was the warrant for Dic Penderyn’s arrest.
Over 11,000 people signed a petition calling for Dic Penderyn’s life to be spared. But the authorities wanted to make an example of him to deter others. Despite little evidence against him, he was hanged for the stabbing on August 13 1831 (much later, a man called Parker admitted to the deed). His hanging turned Dic Penderyn into a local hero, a martyr. And working men in South Wales were not deterred from protesting: many would join trade unions or support Chartism and, in 1839, there was an even bigger rising at Newport.
Dic Penderyn has remained a folk hero in Welsh history. He is remembered as a symbol of the working man who died protesting against oppression and is commemorated in books and songs. A memorial was unveiled outside the library in Merthyr Tydfil by the General Secretary of the TUC (Trades Union Congress) in 1977.
Did you know..?
The Merthyr Rising was the first time the Red Flag was raised in industrial British History. It would become an international symbol of communism and socialism.
Sources & acknowledgements
This object description and its related educational resources were researched and written by our team of historians and education specialists. For further information see the item’s home museum, gallery or archive, listed above.
Find it here
This object is in the collection of South Wales Police Museum