Thursday, 30 March 2017



Salmon poaching on the Wye



The River Wye has long been famous for its salmon. The right to fish in the river belonged to local landowners though, and they employed water bailiffs to prevent anyone else from fishing there. Local people resented this, as they liked to fish for the salmon for much needed food. This led to trouble with the river authorities and the police on several occasions. In 1878 poachers attacked water bailiffs at Crossgates, and hundreds of people turned out to watch poaching on the Wye near Rhayader.

The men doing the poaching used hooks or barbed forks attached to poles. They usually disguised themselves, and were often called Rebeccaites because the original Rebecca rioters had done this. (See
pages on the Rebecca riots at Rhayader).

The local people supported the poachers and police found it hard to get evidence against them.



Salmon poachers
Many local people regarded the poaching as a sport, and enjoyed outwitting the police. Things turned nasty in 1880, though.
The poachers took to arming themselves and often fired their guns in the air to show their defiance of the police. It wasn't long before violence erupted and people were hurt.





More about salmon poaching on the
Crime and punishment

More about...
Salmon poaching on the Wye 
 As trouble built up in the area, the police became more concerned. The house of a water bailiff in Rhayader was Attacked by a mob who threw stones at his windows.  The police were determined to catch the poachers but they had difficulty, as this report shows. It is the report of the Chief Constable to the Justices, and it tells of the police attempts to catch the poachers one dark night in 1880...  

 Chief constable's report.
The extract reads:
"I beg further to report that on the 7th January last at 7.30pm the Rhayader Police saw about 24 men (believed to be disguised) in the river Wye near to the town with lights and spears, the officers endeavoured to place themselves in a position to meet them but before they could do so the lights were extinguished and the poachers had disappeared".

Drawing of salmon and noteExtra men were sent the next night but the police found nothing except a salmon pinned by poachers to the Market Hall with a note attached.
It read "Where were the river watchers when I was killed?
Where were the police when I was hung here?"

The poaching got worse and the poachers more daring. When a policeman was stabbed by the poachers things became more serious, and the nervous policemen were issued with cutlasses like the one to the right. But gradually the disturbances died out and things returned to normal.
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Police cutlass

Link to sources