George Slawson’s Wandering Donkeys

by Dave Edwards

George Slawson's Wandering Donkeys
George Slawson's Wandering Donkeys

This true story features mainly members of the Slawson family of Llangollen and also includes a few anecdotes in which they were partly involved.  I have previously been charged with “raking up the past” but surely that is what local history is all about.  All the details in this story are within the public domain and I have included a list of my sources at the foot of the article for anyone who may wish to check them.  I have also been in contact with two of George Slawson’s descendants, who are more than agreeable for this story to be told, as, after all, the events occurred between 160 and 107 years ago.

I’d like especially to thank Mr. Peter Jones of Llangollen Museum for finding for me the newspaper account of George Slawson’s imprisonment in 1881.

In 1861, 30-year-old George Slawson was living at Green Lane, Trevor Ucha, and working as a store keeper.  He was unmarried and his birthplace was given as Rhosllanerchrugog.

In October 1863, George Slawson was charged with being drunk at Llangollen.  He said he did not know whether he was drunk or not, as he didn’t remember anything about it.  He agreed that he must have been drunk though.  When those present in court had finished laughing at the defendant’s statement, he was asked if he had ever been brought up before for this offence.  George answered that he had never been, but when Mr. Patterson jogged his memory a little he added, “Never since the election, and then you know – ”  This led to more laughter in the courtroom and he was fined 2s. 6d. and 6s. 6d. costs.

George must have had some endearing features, because a 43-year-old lady called Catherine Jones agreed to marry him and their wedding took place in the Spring of 1864.  Towards the end of the summer of that year, Catherine gave birth to a daughter, Martha Slawson.  They already had three children in their house: Sarah, George and Mary, but whether these were Catherine and George’s children or George’s children with someone else remains to be discovered.  I found an internet genealogy site where it was suggested that prior to his marriage, George had illegitimate children (Joseph, Edward, Mary, Sarah Ann and George) with a lady called Catherine Ellis and later adopted them.  I have found no concrete proof of that though.  What I did find, however, was an 1861 census entry for a 38-year-old woman called Catherine Ellis of Green Lane, Trevor Ucha (which was the same street where George Slawson was then living).

Catherine Ellis was a charwoman and her children were: Joseph Ellis (8); Edward Ellis (6); Mary Ellis (4) and Sarah A. Ellis (0).  If these were George’s children, the names and birth dates agree with the genealogy page I found.  George Jnr. wasn’t born till 1862, so of course he wasn’t mentioned.  All this may very well be pure coincidence, but it’s also interesting to note that Catherine Ellis and Catherine Jones were both from Barmouth.  If anyone can shed more light on this, please do; I’ll add their information and credit them in Sources at the foot of this article.

9-year-old Mary, daughter of George Slawson, Green Lane, Llangollen, died on 27th June 1865.  This is where George had been living on the 1861 census.  Mary was buried at Pontfadog on 1st July 1865.

On Tuesday, 25th August 1868, George’s wife, Catherine Slawson, a lodging house keeper, was charged at the Petty Sessions with being drunk.  Her defence was that her employment required her to drink.  This clearly didn’t impress the court, as she was fined five shillings and seven shillings costs.

On Tuesday, 31st May 1870, at the Petty Sessions, Inspector Humphreys charged George Slawson with leaving his donkey carts in Church Street.  George was fined five shillings and costs.

In April 1871, 43-year-old George Slawson and his 50-year-old wife Catherine were living at Church Street, Llangollen, where George worked as a Marine Store dealer.  According to Roots Chat, “A Marine Store Dealer was a licensed broker who bought and sold used cordage, bunting, rags, timber, metal and other general waste materials; an occupation followed by many travellers and their descendants”. George was described as being from Ruabon and Catherine was from Barmouth, Merionethshire.  They had four children at that time; Sarah was 11; George was 9; Martha was 7 and William was 5.  Catherine must have given birth to William when she was 45 years old.  All the children were born at Llangollen.  Living in the house were five boarders – 35-year-old James Brimley from Halifax; 36-year-old Catherine Brimley from Liverpool; 42-year-old Thomas Grant from Naas, Ireland; 47-year-old Robert Cragg from Kendal, Westmorland and 16-year-old Bartholomew Botts from Newbridge, Glamorganshire.

On 12th July 1871, while under the influence of drink, George Slawson dropped his trousers in Church Street and exposed himself to a neighbour, Mrs. Catherine Ellis, while using “very indecent language”.  She said he was seen by her children and several other people too.  Mrs. Ellis and Mr. Slawson had exchanged a few words about his donkeys on a previous occasion and this may have been his way of retaliating.  He was fined £2 and costs.  In fairness it must be mentioned that this behaviour never occurred again, so he must have been really drunk indeed that day.

The Llangollen Local Board met on Thursday, 4th September 1873.  Mr. Humphreys, the Inspector of Nuisances, reported upon the building and outbuildings of Mr. George Slawson and it was resolved that a summons be taken out after the next meeting, if they were not cleaned by that time.

In June 1875, P.C. Phoenix charged George Lawson, described as a guide, along with Robert Horspool and Mrs. Ann Lloyd, with allowing their donkeys to stray on the public highway.  George Slawson was fined eight shillings for each of his five donkeys; a total of £2, plus 8s costs.  The other two people were each fined 5s and costs.

On Monday, 7th June 1875 at the Special Sessions, before Captain C.P.W. Tottenham and G. Ll. Dickin, Esq., 42-year-old Ellen Harris, a professional tramp, was charged with stealing a blanket and offering it for sale.  She had been staying with Mrs. Catherine Slawson at what was termed “a lodging house in Llangollen for travellers.”  She was a stranger to Mrs. Slawson, who hadn’t met her until the night of Wednesday, 2nd June, when she lodged with her overnight.  Ellen Harris left the lodging house on Thursday morning and stole the blanket, valued at fifteen shillings, from Pengwern farm, the property of Mr. Thomas Edmunds, district surveyor.  In court, Mrs. Edmunds identified the blanket, saying she had put it out to dry.  Ellen Harris returned to the lodging house that evening and offered to sell the blanket to Mrs. Slawson, who, on noticing that it was still wet, told her, “I don’t think you came by it honestly”.  Mrs. Slawson then called for the police.  P.C. Phoenix produced the blanket in court and John Humphreys said that he’d charged Ellen Harris with the offence and she had admitted to it.  In court however she denied the offence and was committed to stand trial at Ruthin at the next quarter session.

In July 1875, the aforementioned Ellen Harris, after serving a month in gaol, pleaded guilty to stealing a blanket and was “only sentenced to two months imprisonment with hard labour”.

In May 1876, George Slawson was once again in trouble because of his wandering donkeys.  He was fined 5s. for each of his six donkeys that strayed on the highway between Llangollen and Dinbren on 28th April.  When 8s. costs were added, this totalled 38 shillings.

In June 1877, Mr. T. Edmunds, Local Board Surveyor, charged George Slawson with allowing three donkeys to stray.  George was fined five shillings and costs, which seems moderate when compared to other fines he’d received for similar offences.

In September 1878, George Slawson was charged with allowing seven “asses” to stray on the highway near Llangollen and was fined thirty shillings and costs, which he paid.

Robert Ellis was the owner of some donkeys, plying for hire in Llangollen.  In August 1879 Robert applied to have George Slawson bound over to keep the peace towards Robert’s sister, Louisa Ellis.  His case was dismissed. In the same month, Mrs. Catherine Slawson, wife of George Slawson, was summoned by P.C. Windsor for using abusive and obscene language at the top of Church Street.  Mrs. Slawson admitted using “some big words” as her temper had been roused.  She was fined five shillings and costs, or fourteen days in prison.  On refusing to pay she was locked up, but was fetched out by her husband in a few minutes.

On Monday, 21st June 1880 the Special Petty Sessions met to charge two juveniles. with stealing two fishing rods and lines from the house of Mr. J. Wilkes of Berwyn on 10th June.  Thirteen year old William Slawson, son of George and Catherine, said he had exchanged some tobacco for one of the rods, which he then took to Inspector Humphreys.  Neither of the boys attended any school and they were unable to sign their names.  Captain Best told the boys’ mothers that they ought to be ashamed of themselves for allowing their children to go about begging and stealing and added that they were as much to blame as the boys were.  The boys appeared to be cool and indifferent as they were taken down to face fourteen days with hard labour in Ruthin gaol, followed by three years at a reformatory.

On Wednesday, 29th June 1880, George Slawson appeared at the Petty Sessions before Captain G. Ll. Dickin and Captain Best.  Mr. Fardoe, bailiff to Captain Best, Vivod, charged George with allowing a donkey to stray on the road in Vivod.  Captain Best retired from the Bench during the hearing of this case.  Hugh Jones, a farm labourer, said he found the donkey on the road between six and seven in the morning and he impounded it.  It was later delivered to the police and claimed by Mr. Slawson.  The case had been brought forward under orders from Captain Best, who was perpetually being annoyed by Slawson’s donkeys and others too.  They were straying along the roads, destroying hedges and breaking fences.  The Bench severely condemned Slawson for his frequent appearances before them on similar charges.  He was fined five shillings and costs and they expressed a regret that they could not inflict a heavier penalty.

On Tuesday, 31st August 1880, at the Petty Sessions, the court heard several summonses and cross-summonses between the families of Slawson and Ellis.  Mr. Marcus Louis appeared for the Slawsons, and after discussions all the parties bar one were bound over to keep the peace.

On Tuesday, 28th January 1881, George Slawson once again appeared at the Petty Sessions; this time before Major Barnes and R.M. Biddulph, Esq.  He was charged by Sergeant Jones with buying 1½ lbs. of lead from G. Rowlands, who had been convicted at the last court with having stolen it from Mr. Lodwick, grocer.  when Sgt. Jones questioned Slawson in November he denied having bought any lead but then brought out two small bundles (produced in court).  George hadn’t kept a book in which to register the purchase of such metal as required by the Act.  George Rowlands testified to having sold 1½ lbs. of lead to Slawson, for which he received 1½d.  George was fined ten shillings and eleven shillings and sixpence costs.  He was ordered to keep a book in the future for the entering of metal under the prescribed weight.

After only two months, George was back at the Petty Sessions.  On Tuesday, March 29th 1881, Inspector Thomson, Wrexham, an officer who was in the service of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal, charged Geo. Slawson with ill treating two asses on the 15th March.  The officer told the court that he was in company with Sergt. Jones at Vron, close to the town, when they observed George Slawson in charge of two donkeys and a cart.  The cart was heavily loaded with manure.  As the ground was very soft, the donkeys were unable to draw the load because the cart wheels had sunk almost to the axle. A long stick was produced in court which Slawson had been seen to use to beat the donkeys unmercifully about their legs, back, and other parts of their bodies, yet still they could not stir.  Thomson took the stick from Slawson’s hand and asked him what he was doing.  Sergt. Jones corroborated this in every particular.  George Slawson strongly denied the charge, and while the Bench were considering their verdict, he kept using the most violent expressions against the officer the police, the Magistrates, and all concerned.

The Chairman several times told the defendant to hold his tongue.  Slawson muttered that he could not understand why they were continually fining him in that manner and insisted that it was nothing but wholesale robbery.  He claimed to have treated his donkeys better than he treated his own children.  The Chairman decided that a fine would be inadequate in this instance, and the defendant was therefore sent to prison for seven days with hard labour.  As he was being removed from the court, Slawson continued to utter the most awful imprecations on his way to the cell. Lord Trevor said he wished it to be publicly known that in cases similar to the above the Bench would in future inflict the full penalty.

On the 1881 census, dated April 3rd & 4th, 59-year-old George Slawson, a mountain guide, was shown as being a prisoner at Her Majesty’s Prison, Ruthin.  His birthplace was given as Wrexham.  Meanwhile, back at 51 Church Street, his 60-year-old wife, Catherine, a “rag merchant’s wife” was running the lodging house, with nine guests.  Her children at this time were – 20-year-old Sarah Ann Slawson, a general servant; 18-year-old George Lawson Jnr., a general labourer; 16-year-old cook and domestic cleaner, Martha Slawson and 14-year-old William Slawson.

George Slawson’s offences seem to have been mainly the result of carelessness and over-indulgence, but his son, George Slawson Jnr. would appear to have been a rather aggressive person.  On the night of Saturday, 9th July 1881, W. Hamner, a pointsman for the railway, observed that as an excursion train was about to leave the station at 9:50 p.m., George Slawson Jnr., a donkey driver, came onto the platform and was very insolent towards the passengers.  He refused to go away and Mr. Hamner had to force him to go outside the railings.  Police Sergeant Jones and Police Constable Rowlands were nearby and spotted Slawson coming from the station.  They saw him pick up some stones and run across the road to the side overlooking the railway, from which he threw two stones with as much force as he could at the fourth or fifth carriage from the engine.  When the two officers ran towards him he dropped another stone out of his hand.  They took him into custody and as he was too drunk to be charged with the offence they locked him in a cell until about nine o’clock the following morning, when they went to his cell and charged him.  George Slawson Jnr. was taken on Monday 11th July to appear before G. Ll. Dickin, Esq., at the County Hall.  Slawson claimed that one of the excursionists owed him sixpence for a donkey ride.  At the station, when George had asked the man for his money, he became cheeky and struck George Slawson.  The stones George later threw had been found on the line.  P.C. Rowlands corroborated the above evidence and added that the train was in motion when the stones were thrown.  The prisoner couldn’t help hitting the carriages, but P.C. Rowlands hadn’t seen them actually hit the train because of the steam.  Chief Inspector Brooker, representing the railway company, observed that he was sorry to say that such occurrences were too frequent.  Mr. Dickin observed that the case was a serious one and that Slawson didn’t appear to realise sufficiently the nature of it.  He committed George Slawson Jnr. to stand trial at the next Assizes at Ruthin.  On hearing this, the prisoner became much affected.

A week later, on 18th July 1881, 18-year-old George Slawson Jnr., this time described as a hawker of earthenware, pleaded guilty at Ruthin Assizes to throwing stones at a railway carriage in Llangollen.  He was sentenced to three months’ hard labour at Ruthin Gaol.  It was mentioned that he’d previously been convicted of stoning policemen and of drunkenness, offences for which he had served one month and seven days imprisonment.

On Tuesday, 25th April 1882, at the Petty Sessions, George Slawson Jnr. appeared before Lord Trevor, Captain Best and G. Ll. Dickin, Esq.  He was brought up on remand, charged by Sergeant Jones with having been drunk and disorderly in Castle Street, Llangollen, on the 8th of April at 9 p.m.  After reading out a long list of previous convictions against him, he was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment with hard labour, without the option of a fine.

On Monday, 7th August 1882, a special petty sessions was held before G. Ll. Dickin and Captain Best.  21-year-old William Crawford and 20-year-old George Hood, mechanics working at the Hydraulic Works, Chester, were initially charged along with 29-year-old Robert Howson, a fitter from Liverpool of being drunk and disorderly.  The court decided to drop those charges and to concentrate instead on the charges of assault against all three men.

Sergeant Jones said that at three o’clock on Saturday 5th August he spotted William Crawford and a number of others fighting on the road that led to the recreation ground.  On being stopped, Crawford was most abusive to the officer.

Sergeant Jones said that at about half past four on Saturday 5th August he went to the Bridge End Hotel where he found Crawford and other men fighting together in the house.  P.C. Thomas said a man was lying on the floor of the room and a number of others were on top of him.  With great difficulty, Sergeant Jones and the other officers removed them from the hotel.  P.C. Lea said that when he was walkign near the bridge fifty or sixty men were making a fearful noise.  Realising he was outnumbered he walked on, but Crawford, without any provocation, struck him several times in the face.  Crawford threatened to “settle all the bloody policemen in the town.”  Catherine Ellis (one of three possible Catherine Ellis’s that I found) said Crawford struck the officer several times in the face then struck her in the neck until she fell down.  Crawford then turned to Martha Slawson (George’s daughter) and struck her in the mouth, loosening one of her teeth.  In court, Crawford said he remembered nothing about hitting the women and hadn’t seen them before.         William Crawford and Robert Howson walked over the bridge and up Castle Street, all the while challenging the police or anyone else to fight them.  Near the Grapes Hotel, Sergeant Jones saw Howson strike down a local man called George Rowlands.  P.C. Lea corroborated that Howson’s conduct was “most disgraceful.”  Crawford threatened to “settle all the police” before they left.  Crawford and Howson were later charged with assaulting the police.  When P.C. Thomas was taking Howson to the lock-up the prisoner had kicked him several times about his legs, head-butted his cheekbone and knocked and kicked a young man who had been asked to assist the police.  In court, Crawford and Howson claimed they’d been unconscious through drink.

When George Hood was being arrested by the police, they called upon Charles Roberts to assist them.  Hood kicked him several times about his legs and hit at him in every way.  Hood later said he remembered nothing about it.

During the court hearing, Crawford’s mother desired to address the Bench but was called to order.  Crawford was sentenced to five weeks hard labour; Howson was sent to prison for a month and Hood for three weeks.  As they were being taken down, Howson’s wife made a pitiful appeal for leniency, saying that he wasn’t used to doing such things and they had two sick children at home.

On Tuesday night, 20th March 1884, an assault took place in the Butchers’ Arms pub, Llangollen.  I will concentrate on the part played by George Slawson Jnr. and if anyone wishes to read the entire account, it is available in the Llangollen Advertiser of 28th March 1884 (Welsh Newspapers Website).  The Special Petty Sessions met on Thursday, 22nd March 1884, before Lord Hill Trevor and G. Ll. Dickin Esq.

George Slawson Jnr., Gomer Jones, labourer and Richard Edwards, butcher, were charged with having on the night of Tuesday 20th March 1884 unlawfully assaulted and beaten Griffith Morris in the Butchers’ Arms.  Arthur Edwards, groom, was charged with aiding and abetting the three defendants to commit the said assault.  Sergeant Griffiths stated that he went into their cell at 8 o’clock that morning and told them they would be tried at 11 o’clock.

At eleven on the night of the 20th March, Griffith Morris, a plasterer, had entered the Butchers’ Arms through the back door and gone into the bar, where he called for a drop of rum.  No sooner had he sat down than he was approached by George Slawson Jnr., who came in from the kitchen.  Slawson challenged Morris about the evidence Morris had given in court that day in the case of Ellis Edwards.  Gomer Jones and Richard Edwards then came in from the kitchen and Slawson rushed at Griffith Morris and knocked him in the face.  Gomer Jones also rushed at Morris and between them they pushed him to the ground.  In the struggle, a table was knocked over and glasses were broken.

George Slawson's Wandering Donkeys
George Slawson’s Wandering Donkeys

Richard Edwards struck Morris several times about the head.  Arthur Edwards shouted, “Wire into him, chaps.”  Gomer Jones tore Morris’s coat in pieces.  Morris ran out of the pub and whistled for the police, who arrived quickly.  There was a black mark on Griffith Morris’s arm where he had been kicked, but he couldn’t tell which one of them had kicked him.  P. C. Lee stated that he saw Morris in the middle of a crowd outside the Butchers’ Arms and observed that he was bleeding, “more like a pig than anything else” and was perfectly sober.  Morris’s coat was very much torn and was produced as evidence in the court room.  A large number of people were in court during the hearing of these cases and Morris bore several visible marks; his eyes and the greater portion of his face being much discoloured.

Slawson claimed that Morris had struck him first and had also bitten him on the nose.  Fanny Price, a servant at the Butchers’ Arms, said that Slawson was the first to rush into the bar when Morris arrived and that he struck Morris but did not kick him.  Fanny said she had overheard the men talking in the kitchen before Morris arrived.  They’d said they were going to give it to Morris for giving his evidence in court that day.

The magistrates retired and after an absence of about ten minutes they returned into court.  Lord Trevor said that after careful consideration of the evidence for and against the prisoners, he was bound to say that these were the most disgraceful proceedings that had taken place in Llangollen for many years.  He wished to give public notice that if any similar cases of assaults were to be brought before them they would inflict the highest possible penalty, as such cases must be put a stop to.

Lord Trevor added that during the last three and a half years they had recorded no less than twelve convictions against George Slawson Jnr.  He then sentenced Slawson to two months’ hard labour.  Gomer Jones was sentenced to two months imprisonment; Arthur Edwards was fined £1 and costs for incitement to violence and Richard Edwards was fined £2 and costs for assaulting Morris.

Due to George Slawson Jnr. being sentenced to two months hard labour he would not have been released in time to witness the marriage on 5th May 1884, of his sister Martha Slawson to Mr. John Williams, a wheelwright of Church Street, Llangollen.  The ceremony took place at Glanrafon Chapel, in the presence of Mr. E. Roberts, registrar.

On Sunday, 3rd August 1884, George Slawson was discovered lying on the side of the road, helplessly drunk near the Rockman’s Arms, Vron.  P.C. Brooks told the court hearing that Slawson had a donkey with him which he had ridden on to Vron.  The officer put the donkey into an adjoining farm building and moved George into a field.  I can’t help thinking that maybe he should have put George into a farm building and the donkey into a field, but I’m sure he knew George better than we do.  When Slawson sobered up he rode his donkey home.  George Slawson denied being drunk and told the court, that as it was a very hot day, “something came over me, somewhat like a sunstroke” and he became unconscious for some time.  The judge clearly didn’t believe George’s version of events and fined him two shillings and sixpence and costs.  You have to admire the man for trying though.

On Tuesday, 30th December 1884, George Slawson Jnr. made an appearance at the Petty Sessions in front of G. Ll. Dickin, Esq., Major Conran, Captain Best, R.M. Biddulph, Esq, and Major Tottenham.  The business was dealt with in about half an hour.  Evan Evans, a plasterer, and George Slawson Jnr., were charged by P.C. Daniel Evans with being drunk and disorderly and fighting in front of the Hand Hotel, where he’d found them at 10 p.m. on the night of 13th December 1884.  Both men admitted the charge.  Evans, against whom were recorded four previous convictions, was fined ten shillings and eight shillings costs, with one week in which to pay.  Slawson had twelve previous convictions and was described by Mr. Dickin as bearing a very bad character.  He had recently been in gaol but it was noted that it hadn’t done him any good.  He was sentenced to one month in prison.

On Tuesday, 26th May 1885, four months after being in prison, George Slawson Jnr. appeared once more at the Petty Sessions in front of G. Ll. Dickin, Esq., R.M. Biddulph, Esq., Captain Best, R.N., and Major Conran.  P.C. Cash charged George Jnr. with being drunk and disorderly in the bottom of Church Street on the 11th May.  He said Slawson was drunk and using most disgusting language.  This was corroborated by P.C. Evans.  Slawson Jnr. said he was not drunk and claimed that the police “are after me in every street I go to”.  Mr. Dickin commented that if he was drunk they very likely were after him.  Mr. Dickin told him, “You have been fined several times before, and we have cautioned you frequently; you are a very bad character, and you will be sentenced to one month’s hard labour.”

On Tuesday, 25th August 1885, at the Petty Sessions, George Slawson appeared before Lord Trevor, Sir Theodore Martin, Captain Best, Major Tottenham and G. Ll. Dickin Esq.  It will come to no surprise to my readers to hear that George was charged with letting his donkeys stray again.  He was fined five shillings and costs.

In October 1885, three labourers, George Henry Jones, John Evans and (no surprise here) George Slawson Jnr., were charged by J. Bailey of Maesmawr Farm, with having caused damage to the roof of his outbuildings by throwing stones on sunday, 18th October.  (Mr. Dickin retired from the Bench during the hearing of this case).   Mr. Bailey said he saw the defendants throwing stones into a walnut tree near his building.  The stones went on to the roof and six tiles were broken.  He estimated the damage to total three shillings.  As they were picking fallen walnuts from the ground, Mr. Bailey’s servant, Mary Lloyd, called from her upstairs window for them to go away but they continued to throw stones so she called for her master.  The Bench severely reprimanded them and fined Slawson and Jones two shillings and costs and ordered them to each pay one shillings and sixpence for their share of the damage.  They gave Evans the benefit of the doubt and dismissed the case against him, as Mary Lloyd had not actually seen him throwing any stones.

George Slawson Jnr. was charged by Sergeant Jones with being drunk in the Cross Keys on 13th February 1886.  He was fined twenty shillings and costs, but as he was unable to pay this he was sent to prison for fourteen days.

On Thursday, 4th November 1886, the Local Board met in the presence of Captain Best, Messrs, Thomas Hughes, S. Ll. Jones, William Jones, James Jones, John Roberts, R. Ll. Baker, J. Parry Jones and T. K. Jones.  In what I can only think of as “the pan calling the kettle black,” a letter was red out from Mr. George Slawson in which he complained of the nuisance caused in Church Street by the disorderly behaviour of persons staying at two particular lodging houses in Church Street.  George pointed out to the Board that the houses he referred to were not properly licensed.  The matter was left in the hands of the surveyor, T.K. Jones.

In May 1887, Sergeant Jones charged George Slawson with allowing three of his donkeys to stray in Abbey Road on 19th May.  Mr. Slawson was described as having “a calendar of previous offences of a similar character” recorded against him.  In his absence George was fined fifteen shillings and costs.

Two months later, George was appearing at the Petty Sessions before Lord Trevor, W. Corbett Yale, Esq., R.M. Biddulph, Esq. and Major Tottenham.  This time it was P.C. Worthington’s turn to charge George with allowing his donkeys to stray.  Seven of his donkeys had been found on the highway near Ffynnon-las, on the 9th of July.  The boys who had been left in charge of them were about a quarter of a mile away.  Sergeant Jones told the court that he was continually receiving complaints from local farmers that donkeys were grazing along the roads and were damaging the hedges and doing other mischief.  George Slawson said that the lads were taking care of them.  Sergeant Jones observed that even with someone looking after them they were still not allowed to be on the road.  The Bench reminded Mr. Slawson that he had been committed at least seven times in the previous four years for similar offences.  The court fined him the full penalty of five shillings for each animal, totalling £2 3s. once costs had been added.  Mr. Slawson paid the fine.

On Monday, 28th November 1887, at the County Court, before His Honour Judge Horatio Lloyd, Mary Williams, a potter of Hill Street, Corwen, brought an action against George Slawson of Church Street, Llangollen.  Her aim was to recover a sum of £16 or to obtain the delivery of a mule, harness and cart, with £2 damages for its detention.  Mr. R. S. Richards appeared for Mary Williams and Mr. Jones appeared for George Slawson.  Mr. Richards explained that on 14th September George Slawson’s son, George Slawson Jnr., without permission took away the mule and cart, which belonged to Mary Williams.  He drove it to Llangollen where he sold it to his father, George Slawson for the sum of £5 10s.  Mary Williams told George Slawson that the property he bought did not belong to his son.  It was allegedly believed by George Slawson that his son had permission to sell and he had paid him the full price for them. The son was described as a most notorious character with thirty-six convictions against him.  Mary Williams corroborated this statement and added that he had previously been fined for breaking her nose and sent to gaol for stealing geese.  The judge, describing George Slawson Jnr. as a scamp, gave judgement for £7 and costs, the £7 to be reduced to 1s if the property was given up within three days.

On Friday, 28th June 1889, Richard Gale, a young man employed by George Slawson, donkey driver, was charged with violently assaulting Robert Ellis, a cab proprietor of Butchers’ Arms, Llangollen on the night of Thursday, 27th June.  During a scuffle at Wern Inn Farm, Gale had bitten Ellis’s finger.  Mr. Ellis had been trying to prevent Gale from taking away some grass which had been given to Robert Ellis by the farm’s tenant, Mr. Lloyd.  Gale was fined twenty shillings and costs or fourteen days imprisonment.  He was then sent to gaol.

The 1891 census showed 65-year-old George and 69-year-old Catherine Slawson to be living at 51 Church Street, which was a Lodging House.  George was a ragman and his place of birth was shown as Rhosllanerchrugog.  With them was their 24-year-old son, William Slawson, a labourer.  Also present were two servants and two lodgers.

Meanwhile, at 4 Price’s Square, Llangollen, we find 26-year-old Martha Williams living with her 31-year-old husband, John Williams.   You may recall that Martha was a daughter of George and Catherine and she married John Williams in 1884.  They had two children: 3-year-old George Williams and one month old Mary C. Williams.  John was shown as a wheelwright, born at Llanynys, a few miles north of Ruthin.  George was born at Ruthin and was a scholar.

In June 1894, an enquiry was held at County Hall before Wynn Evans, Esq., coroner, relating to the death of 45-year-old Hannah Jones who met with an accident by falling down the stairs at Slawson’s lodging house, Church Street, Llangollen.  The jury heard that Catherine Slawson was the wife of George Slawson and they kept a lodging house in Church Street.  The deceased and her husband, Thomas Jones, a bricklayer, had been lodging with the Slawsons for some time.  At about 6:30 pm on Saturday, 16th June, Hannah Jones had stopped her husband from going out by persuading him to remove his boots and go to bed.  He had been working all day and she didn’t want him to go for a drink.  She then followed him upstairs, carrying his boots.  She had reached the top of the stairs and was talking to Catherine Slawson, who stood at the foot of the stairs.  Suddenly, Hannah tumbled downstairs, striking her head on the tiled floor at the bottom.  She did not speak a word, but breathed heavily.  Her death took place at about half past midnight.  She and her husband had both been quite sober.  Dr. Davies said he saw the deceased at about 8:30 pm on Saturday night.  She was suffering from a fracture in the base of her skull ad was unconscious the whole time.  It was considered that she may have had an apoplectic fit, as she’d suffered such attacks before and had also had a stroke in Wrexham the previous year.  The jury, after a brief consultation, returned a verdict of “Accidental death”.

A Local Directory, printed in the Llangollen Advertiser of 7th September 1894, showed Mr. G. Slawson as running a common lodging house at 51 Church Street.

On Thursday, 1st November 1894, the monthly meeting of Llangollen Local Board was held.  The Sanitary Committee resolved that a final notice was to be served upon Mr. George Slawson to remove an accumulation of dung and manure from his yard.

Slater’s Directory of April 1895 described George Slawson as a Marine Store Dealer of 51 Church Street.

On Saturday, 12th October 1895, Llangollen County was in session before his Honour, Sir Horatio Lloyd, judge.  Francis Roberts, of Dinbren Ucha Farm, sued George Slawson of Church Street, Llangollen, for a balance of £2 for grazing land and obtained judgment with costs.

Less than two months later, in November 1895, Mr. Foulkes Jones prosecuted George Slawson, donkey driver, for obstructing Church Street with a quantity of manure on 14th October.  He had let it remain on the highway near his house during the whole night of the 14th October.  R. Waltho of Llangollen Urban District Council proved the case and Slawson was fined five shillings and costs.

On Tuesday, 3rd December 1895, an ordinary meeting of Llangollen Urban Council was held.  Reuben Waltho, Sanitary Inspector, reported that in accordance with instructions given to him, he had instituted proceedings against George Slawson of Church Street for depositing manure on the highway contrary to the byelaws.  A fine of five shillings and costs had been imposed.  This report referred to the fine imposed by Mr. Foulkes Jones during the previous month.

George Slawson, guide, charged Thomas Jones, a donkey driver, with assaulting him on 23rd July 1897.  Slawson claimed that Jones had struck him several times and made use of dirty expressions.  After another witness gave evidence for Slawson, Jones went into the witness box and denied the charge, claiming that Slawson had struck him.  T. Fisher of Wrexham and W. Humphreys gave evidence for the defence.  The Bench bound Slawson and Jones over to keep the peace for twelve months.

The census of 1901 showed 80-year-old George Slawson and his 81-year-old wife, Catherine, to be living at 51 Church Street, Llangollen. George’s birthplace was shown as Llangollen (it varied on the census forms, with Rhosllanerchrugog being the only place named twice).  Their 38-year-old unmarried son, George, was at the house on that day.  George Slawson was a guide and his son, George Slawson Jnr. was a general labourer.  George and Catherine had nine visitors staying at their lodging house.

By 1901, Martha and John Williams had left Price’s Square and were living at 50 Church Street, across the street from number 51.  41-year-old John Williams was a Joiner Carpenter.  Martha was 36 years old and they had five children: 13-year-old George Williams; 10-year-old Mary C. Williams; 8-year-old John T. Williams; 3-year-old Margaret A. Williams and 1-year-old Martha E. Williams.

Catherine Slawson died during the summer of 1902, in the District of Corwen, aged 76.  This doesn’t agree with the age given on the census forms, but I found no other date of death for a Catherine Slawson.

On Tuesday, 29th August 1902, George Slawson Jnr. appeared at the Llangollen Petty Sessions charged with being drunk and disorderly on 16th June and 19th June.  For both of those cases he was fined five shillings and costs.

The death of 76-year-old George Slawson was registered during the 3rd Quarter of 1903 in the District of Corwen.  The Llangollen Advertiser said he died on 5th July 1903 at Church Street.  They gave his age as 80, which seems to agree with all the census forms.  Probate was granted on George’s will to Evan Morris Parry, draper, on 23rd July 1903.  George’s effects totalled £802 15s 1d.

An announcement in the Llangollen Advertiser of 7th August 1903 carried a solicitor’s announcement, dated 5th August 1903, declaring that all persons having any claims against the estate of George Slawson were to inform his Solicitor (Minshall & Co.) in writing on or before the 5th day of September 1903.

George Slawson was no longer with us, but his son appeared again in the local newspaper.  George Slawson Jnr. was charged with being drunk on 5th June 1904 and disorderly on 6th June 1904.  A fine was imposed, or in default twenty-one days’ imprisonment.

George Slawson Jnr. was charged with being drunk on the highway near Chirk on 18th July 1909.  He was fined two shillings and sixpence and costs.

The 1911 census shows that the lodging house at 51 Church Street was by then being run by John Williams and his wife Martha.  In 1911, John was aged 52 and working as a joiner.  Martha was 46 and was a lodging house keeper.  They had seven children living and six children had died.  Six of their children were present that day – 23-year-old George Williams, a carter; 18-year-old John Tomas Williams, a bricklayer’s labourer; 13-year-old Margaret Ann Williams; 11-year-old Martha Ellen Williams; 9-year-old Sarah Jane Williams and 6-year-old Elizabeth Williams.  The four daughters all attended school.  Living with them were Martha’s 48-year-old unmarried brother, George Slawson Jnr., a labourer.  There were also three boarders and a lodger in the house.

WRITTEN BY: Dave Edwards April 2018 v.2

SOURCES: Census returns; Cambrian News (4th June 1870; 2nd July 1875; 29th August 1879;); Wrexham Guardian (12th June 1875; 3rd June 1876; 30th June 1877; 28th September 1878;); Wrexham Weekly Advertiser (31st October 1863; 28th September 1878; 26th June 1880; 3rd July 1880; 4th September 1880; 16th July 1881; 23rd July 1881; 29th April 1882; 3rd December 1887;             30th November 1895; ); Llangollen Advertiser (9th July 1875; 28th January 1881; 1st April 1881; 22nd July 1881; 11th August 1882; 28th March 1884; 9th May 1884; 5th September 1884; 2nd January 1885; 29th May 1885; 28th August 1885; 30th October 1885; 26th February 1886; 12th November 1886; 3rd June 1887; 29th July 1887; 2nd December 1887; 22nd June 1894; 7th September 1894; 16th November 1894; 18th October 1895; 29th November 1895; 6th December 1895; 30th July 1897; 2nd August 1902; 10th July 1903; 7th August 1903; 10th February 1905; 6th August 1909; ); Cambrian News (8th July 1865; 29th August 1868; 12th September 1873;); Wellington Journal (3rd June 1876); Oswestry Advertiser (3rd July 1889); Roots Chat; Slater’s Directory for 1895; Peter Jones, Christine James; Janella Brummell Hughes; Sandy Lewis;


George Slawson's Wandering Donkeys
George Slawson’s Wandering Donkeys

v.1 – 30th March 2018.

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