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Nine Sovereigns

Anne-Marie Ford    -    3 July 2012

On the 23rd January 1869 the North Wales Chronicle carried a story about a significant tribe of Lovells who were charged with assault:

The gipsies (sic) Joseph Lovell, Walter Lovell, Nathaniel Lovell, John Lovell, Seth Lovell andUriah Lovell were brought up on remand on Monday… charged as follows: Joseph with unlawfully assaulting Mr Simon Hughes… with a poker, the other prisoners with aiding and abetting him in the offence.

The defence contended that there was not much sympathy with [the] tribe at Llanfwrog, and that:

one of the two of the senior of the tribe had gone out of the Nag’s Head public house first on the night in question. Nathaniel (whose head and face bore signs of violence), went out of the house, and no sooner had he gone outside of the door than he was knocked down and kicked. When Joseph got out and saw his uncle on the ground he became excited and… did that which was decidedly wrong.

Walter Lovell, Joseph’s father, gave evidence, as did Nathaniel. As a result, Joseph Lovell was fined £3, Walter Lovell £2 and the other prisoners £1 each. The newspaper report concluded:

Walter Lovell turned round to a dark complexioned lady, a member of the tribe, who drew out of her bosom a ‘long purse’ and handed him nine sovereigns, and all the prisoners were set at liberty.

Perhaps the “dark complexioned lady” was Walter’s wife, Rebecca, with whom he had four known children, Rhoda, born about 1835, Seth, baptised in Carew, Pembrokeshire on 13th August 1838 (who may have been the Seth Lovell who married Mary Ann Slender in the registration district of Wrexham in the March quarter of 1865), Noah, born around 1840, and Josiah/Joseph, baptised at Lawrenny, Pembroke on 18th February 1844.Walter, who had been baptised at Pershore in Worcestershire on 11th December 1812, son of Durrant Lovell (travelling chimney sweep) and Susannah, was the elder brother of Nathaniel Lovell, born around 1819.

This younger brother, Nathaniel,had formed a union with Syphorella Scamp, daughter of Riley and Clevansy, baptised at Bredon, Worcestershire on 30th October 1815, with whom he had Eldria, baptised at Llangattock, Monmouth on 23rd December 1843, Israel, born about 1849 in Eglwyswrw, Delia (Lily), whose birth, in the June quarter of 1851, is recorded in the registration district of Bala, and Timothy (Moti), born in Pembroke in about 1855. Timothy makes a couple of appearances in the local newspaper, the North Wales Chronicle, in 1886. In the 11th September issue it is noted that “Timothy Lovell was charged with allowing animals to stray on the highway, and fined 6d and costs.” In the 11th December issue, under the unlikely heading ‘Straying Steeds,’ he appears as “a travelling hawker,” and is charged with “allowing two horses and a donkey to stray on the highway.” This time he was rather less fortunate, and was fined 5/- and costs.

Nathaniel was to form a second union, with Sarah, also a daughter of Riley and Clevansy Scamp, who was baptised at Chew Magna, Somerset on 23rd March 1823; this resulted in the births of nine known children: Uriah, born in the June quarter of 1847 in the district of Rosemarket; John, born at Tenby, in Pembrokeshire about 1849; Seth, born around 1851; Louisa, born at Holywell, Flintshire, about 1853; Jane, born in Flintshire about 1855;Adolphus, born at Rhyl about 1857; Noah, registered in the March quarter of 1860, in the district of St Asaph; Robert, recorded in the same location in the September quarter of 1864; Edwin, born about 1867 at Festiniog, Merioneth. Nathaniel’s death is registered in the district of Caernarvon in the September quarter of 1901, “aged 78,” whilst Sarah, dying in the same registration district, in the September quarter of 1905, claimed to be “84.”

Whilst it is clear who the Walter Lovell and Nathaniel Lovell are, and Joseph is almost certainly Josiah, son of Walter and Rebecca, and Uriah and John likely to be the sons of Nathaniel, it is less obvious which Seth Lovell is a member of the party charged with assault.However, since Nathaniel and his son Seth, and their respective families, are often travelling companions, and can be found together at Llanbelig, Caernarvon in the 1881 census, and that he is the brother of the Uriah and John who are present, it is perhaps more likely that it is the younger Seth, aged 18 at the time of the assault case, who is named.

By the 1881 census Nathaniel, as Nathan, a basket maker, born in Gloucester, is with Sarah and his two youngest children, Robert, also a basket maker, and Edwin, in 17 Mount Pleasant Alley; next door is Seth, also a basket maker, his wife, Ellen, and children Elizabeth (6), John (4), and Elijah (1), at number 19, and a few doors down, at number 10, is another son, John, basket maker, with his wife, also an Ellen, and children John (7), Hugh (5) and Walter (3). The same census records Noah Lovell, basket maker, his wife, Mary, and daughter Lilly Rose (2), lodging with John, a hawker and pedlar, and Charme Hughes, Mary’s stepfather and her mother, at Bryn Rhys hamlet, in Denbigh. Uriah, a grinder and cutler, is lodging in Caernarvon, with wife Sophia;Adolphus, as Dolfus, a grinder, is also in Caernarvon, with his wife, yet another Ellen, and son Dolphus, just 7 months.

In 1884 the North Wales Chronicle, in its 12th April issue, published a case of violent assault concerning three of Nathaniel’s sons, Adolphus, Noah and Seth, described as pedlars, who were charged with “feloniously wounding Patrick Casey… Noah Lovell with a knife, Seth Lovell with a billhook and Adolphus with his feet.” (!) However, since Casey was said to be well known to the court and had himself frequently been bound over to keep the peace, the court decided merely to impose a fine, rather than prison sentences, on the Lovells. As a result, Noah and Adolphus were fined 2/6d and costs, and Seth was fined 1/- and costs.

Seth and Ellen Lovell had a turbulent marriage, and eventuallyEllen was granted a legal separation, which was reported in the North Wales Chronicle of 5th May 1900:

Ellen Lovell… applied for a separation order from her husband, Seth Lovell, on account of his persistent cruelty… The parties were married about 17 years… and they had had 16 children, of whom ten were alive.Elizabeth Lovell, a daughter of the parties, who gave evidence very reluctantly, spoke of the abusive language used by her father to the complainant… Reverend Father Jones said that the parties were married by him. The defendant had always been a drunkard and a very violent man.The Bench granted a separation order, gave the custody of the children less than 16 years of age to the complainant, ordered the defendant to pay 5/- a week towards their maintenance, and bound him over to keep the peace.

In 1894 there is a reference to Uriah Lovell, eldest son of Nathaniel and Sarah, who was in court, according to the 7th July issue of the local newspaper, “for being drunk and disorderly.” And in the 7th January 1899 issue of the North Wales Chronicle, Adolphus Lovell found himself in court, charged with “obstructing the highway by allowing his grinding machine [to be] unattended for an unreasonable time,” for which he was fined 5/- and 8/6d costs.

Poaching was the topic in the local newspaper in its references to Robert Lovell, probably Nathaniel’s son. In 1879 he came to the notice of the local police.The North Wales Chronicle of 11th October 1879 recorded that, “Robert Lovell and Esther Lee, two gipsies (sic) were committed to gaol for two months in default of paying a fine of £3 and costs for being in unlawful possession of a ferret, two nets, and a couple of newly-killed rabbits.” In an article in the same newspaper, dated 17th March 1888, Robert Lovell is charged with stealing a ferret, which he then tried to sell for 2/6d. In its 13th October issue of 1888 the North Wales Chronicle reported that, once again, Robert Lovell had been charged with poaching, together with a Robert Evans, a shoemaker, and a William Jones, and the Petty Sessions of 26th February 1889 found Robert Lovell and William Jones in court once more, charged with taking salmon from the river; both were fined 10/- and costs.

However, a happier outcome was published in the 5th December 1891 issue of the local newspaper, concerning Edwin Lovell, Nathaniel’s youngest son. Under the title ‘The Merionethshire Bigamy Case,’ Ann Vaughan, alias Lovell, pleaded guilty to having, at Llanyell, feloniously married one Edwin Lovell, her former husband, John Vaughan, being then alive. The article declares that the woman, who was “clean and smart looking,” explained the cruelty inflicted upon her by John Vaughan, so that she left him and “took to Lovell and thought it more decent to marry him than live with him without marrying.” As a result of her plea, “Ann Lovell was sentenced to one day’s imprisonment, and left the court thanking the judge. There was slight applause in court, which was suppressed.”

Copyright © 2012 Anne-Marie Ford