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The Diary of Thomas Jenkins

Fireworks, Arson, Accidents, and Death

1857 - 44 years old

Jany 9
Took 5 shares in the Llandeilo Lead, Zinc and Copper Mining and Smelting Company.
Jany 15
Put up tables at the Shire Hall sufficient to dine 156 persons, in readiness for the Public Breakfast which is to take place on opening the Llandeilo extension railway.
Mar 27
My proposal for insuring my life for £200 having been accepted, I paid my first yearly premium to Christmas 1857 £7.5.10
July 16
Ann confined. Attended by Dr. Prothero. George William was born at 15 minutes before 2 p.m. (Thomas Jenkins now takes a trip to Ireland.)
July 30
Arrived at Queenstown at 8 ½ a.m., Cork at 10 ½ a.m. By rail from Cork to Passage, and by steamer to see the 'Niagara' and 'Agamemnon' steamers opposite Queenstown, they having on board the Atlantic telegraph wire ready to lay down between Ireland and America. The American ship 'Niagara' is the largest vessel now afloat.

1858 - 45 years old

Mar 15
Eclipse of the sun.
Aug 4
Made an artificial leg for Wm. Thomas, Allt, Llanfynydd £1.0.0
Aug 21
To Golden Grove, received orders for ottoman seat and cushions of Lord and Lady Emlyn.
Sept 29
Made elm coffin for Herbert Ambrose, aged 29, complete £1.12.0 The face and head of the body covered with lice and they continued alive until the day he was buried.
Oct 15
Distilled lot of amalgam. Recovered 6 lbs mercury and 16 lbs block tin at 1/3 1/2d
Nov 29
Attended meeting at the 'Kings Head' (now listed as being one of the most haunted pubs in the British Isles!) to arrange for the reception of Lord Dynevor and family to Dynevor Castle. Subscribed 10/-
Dec 1
To Carmarthen to procure the Militia Band and £6.12.0 fireworks.
Dec 3
Made 30 torches. Labour and materials 15/9d.
Dec 6
Lord Dynevor and family arrived at 6 p.m. Town illuminated. Made 20 fireballs 8/6d. Erected arch at park entrance.
Dec 7
Dynevor Castle took fire at 8 p.m. (from one of his fireballs?) Assisted at extinguishing do.
Dec 10
Divided 5 tons 13 cwt. 0 qtrs. Coal among 56 poor, bought with the surplus money collected towards the Dynevor rejoicing.

1859 - 46 years old

Jany 3
Made inventory and valuation of the effects of the late George Wood - £67 and Bonds £600. (Thomas is now doing a great deal of legal work.)
Jany 7
Attended Quarter Sessions on Petty Jury. Tried 2 cases.
Jany 8
Received invitation to supper at the 'Cawdor Arms' from Lord Dynevor as one having been instrumental in extinguishing the fire at Dynevor on the 7th of last month.
Jany 16
Fire at Rhyd-y-ffynnon last night, the man having accidentally set the straw on fire. 2 cows burnt to death and the whole of the cow-house, barn, stable, cart-house and pig-sty with their contents and one mow of oats. (What follows is a bizarre string of fires throughout the area. There is an 'epidemic of arson' and a firebug must be loose! Fires reported in the next four days at: Maes-Evan's cow-house, Aberglasney's barn, Maes-Evan's barn, and Tynewydd which is hit twice again in the next three weeks.)
May 5
Went to Aberdauddwr and to Bethel to trim box around Sarah Davies' grave. (His sweetheart has been dead for eight years now and it is 19 miles uphill on foot all the way north.)
Sept 4
Went by train to Llandybie at 7 p.m. Took Louisa with me. The train delayed at Llanelli, had to walk home (to Llandeilo) and carry Louisa on my back the whole distance. Arrived at 12 night.
Sept 5
Marked out the ground for reservoir at Penlan-fawr 200ft by 121ft.

1860 - 47 years old

Feb 10
Went by rail to Pontardulais. Walked to Penlle'r-gaer, Mr. Dillwyn Llewelyn for Lord Emlyn to see the armoury and rifle ground. Walked to Swansea, thence by train to Llanelli. (Dillwyn Llewelyn was the son of Lewis Weston Dillwyn, F.R.S. of Swansea China 'fame'. The father has 'acquired' the Penlle'r-gaer Estate by marrying the heiress, Mary Llewelyn.)
Mar 17
Finished rifle-stands for 64 rifles including varnishing and numbering for the Llandeilo Volunteer Rifle Corps. £7.14.0 or 2/5d per rifle.
Apl 26
Appraised Captn. W. Griffiths' furniture under distress for rent.
June 23:
Made 21ft 1in cushions in crimson moreen for Llangathen communion. James and self carried them to Llangathen Church at 11 p.m.
July 14
Made coffin for a still born child, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Evans, 'White Horse' 5/-
Aug 2
Made sundial post and fixed the dial in Llandeilo churchyard
Aug 4
Made and erected a lobby, with spring folding doors in Llandeilo Church.
Sept 3
Left at 4 a.m. in phaeton. Carmarthen at 6 ½ a.m. Left by 2nd class train 7.2 a.m. New Milford at 8:36 a.m. Went to see the 'Great Eastern' steamship, the largest ship afloat, 24,000 tons burden. Then to see the Channel Fleet lying off Milford. Went on board the 'Centurion' 81 gun ship and the 'Royal Albert' 121 guns
Oct 10
Entered Wm. Williams in small debts court under 'Bill of Exchange Act for £10.17.6. Paid into court 10/2d the first legal proceedings I ever took against anyone. Made a coffin for Elizabeth Lewis, aged 9 days, daughter of John Lewis, Mason.
Nov 5
Walked yesterday and slept at Aberdauddwr. Walked to Dolaucothi to see John Johnes Esq. respecting some furniture required by him. (George Borrow in his travels through Wales, stopped at Dolaucothi to envy Mr. Johnes his idyllic existence in 'the most pleasing a locality I had ever seen'. Twenty years later, Carmarthenshire was shocked when Johnes was murdered by his butler and Johnes' daughter narrowly escaped.)
Nov 6
Made oak communion table and chairs for Caledfwlch new church. £8.10.0.

1861 - 48 years old

Apl 8
Enumerated 34 inhabited houses, 2 uninhabited. 60 males and 63 females. Allowance for do. 20/- and 4 miles at 6d...£1.2.0.
Apl 13:
I was appointed Parish Constable for the parish of Llandeilo-fawr. May 28: Went in 'Castle' phaeton with J. Samuel to Gwynfe House to fit up water-closet.
June 30
Slept at the 'Farmers Arms'. Dined and took tea with Mr. Oliver and walked home by Cross Inn (Ammanford). Saw the comet, the first night it has been visible here owing to the cloudy state of the atmosphere: It presents a most beautiful appearance situated north and about 18 deg from ursa major. It does not set through the night.
Aug 5
By train to Swansea. Went to the Mumbles and back in time to see a balloon partially inflated, but they failed to get sufficient pressure of gas to complete the inflation. The comet still visible to the naked eye.
Aug 9
Made 2 deals, stained communion chairs for Llangathen Church 25/d each.
Sept 2
Joseph Williams returned from America. Bought a cheese from him weighing 150 lbs for 6d per lb which was made by Mrs. Anthony Morris in America. Cut up and sold it at 10d.
Sept 20
Charles was born at 12 night.
Jany 6
To Llanelli with dining room glass for Lord Dynevor and to see it safe on the South Wales line.
Feby 14
Dd. James of Ynysau, near Pumpsaint, died on a chair at the 'Castle Inn', he having only come in 15 minutes previous to his death.
Sept 3
Went to Llanelli to see the Horticultural Show. Rosa's comet is now visible and was at its nearest point to the earth on the 30th last month.
Nov 29
Water first turned into the main pipes of the Llandeilo waterworks.
Dec 6
To Pant-y-ffynnon to see work at 'Dynevor Arms' done by Thomas Evans, Carpenter, for Mr. Howells, Cross Inn.
Dec 8
Appointed Referee by the Court in the case of Howells vs. Evans. (Howells eventually won.)

1863 - 50 years old

Mar 2
Commenced fitting up tables at the Shire Hall for a dinner to be given to the poor in commemoration of the Prince of Wales' marriage.
Mar 10
Finished up laying out tables in the Hall and Dynevor School to the Poor and tea for the schoolchildren in commemoration of the Prince of Wales' marriage to the Princess Alexandra of Denmark. Let off worth of £15.16.0 of fireworks on the 'Castle' field 8 p.m.
Mar 31
Slept at Aberddauddwr. Attended Mrs. Davies' funeral to Bethel, Cwmpedol. She was buried in the same grave as her daughter Sarah Davies (his former sweetheart) There were 400 persons at the funeral
May 8
Made an oak, covered, coffin for Catherine Price, who destroyed herself by cutting her throat with a fowl-carving knife, and cutting off about 32 inch length of her windpipe and gullet, at the age of 77 years. She was the widow of the late Revd. Daniel Prytherch Price who died May 1, 1845.
Aug 20
Tendered for building Llandyfan Chapel £8.
Sept 21
Having been very ill for some days past from the effects of cold and indigestion, Dr. Prothero prescribed ¾ grain of morphia. T.J. Davies made up prescription but by mistake put in 3 grains, which I took. Luckily, in an hour after I vomited the whole back, retained my consciousness, but spent a terrible night.
Oct 28
Made oak, polished coffin for Edward Peter, aged 3 years and 7 months who met with an accident on Friday last by running with a stick in his mouth against another child £0.15.0.
Nov 26
Arthur Decimus born at 9:10 p.m.
Dec 26
Made new gates, according to my own plan, approved for lower entrance to upper churchyard. £4.0.0.

1864 - 51 years old

Apl 23
Attended as Juror at inquest held at the 'Castle' inn on the remains of Owen Hopkin, aged 7 years, son of Sarah Hopkin of the 'Angel' who was burnt to death this evening by lighting a fire in the pig-sty with common Lucifer matches. Suggested to the Coroner that it would tend to reduce the chance of such accidents if Bryant and May's safety matches only were patronised, which matches can only be ignited on the box.
May 30
Went with Mr. B. Morgan, Pen-y-banc, to see turnip cutter to Golden Grove and, in returning along the railway by Pentre-cwm we saw Thomas Davies have his leg broken by tipping a load of gravel. We had to rake the gravel off him with our hands. Sent for a doctor and got him carried on a door to the house. I cut his trousers, stocking and shoe open and placed the foot in its right position and applied a wet cloth to the fracture to keep it from swelling 'til the doctor came.
June 7
Made plan for proposed school chapel to be built at Gorslas near Crosshands, Mynydd Mawr. Agreed for plan and estimate £1.10.0. July 26: My estimate was accepted for building school chapel at Gorslas £353.0.0.
Aug 2
Mary James of Trallwm gave into my possession her bed and bedding she being incapable of managing her affairs.
Aug 10
I was appointed Clerk of the Works, Llandeilo Gas Co. Ltd.
Aug 24
Made a pillow of Cat's-tail typha grass cones from the old river in Dynevor Park as an experiment, having entertained the notion for many years past that it would be equal to down.

1865 - 52 years old

Jany 4
Lighted the first gas-light at the 'Rose and Crown' next at Mr. James, Draper.
Jany 8
James Thomas, Attorney, died at 5:15 p.m. aged 71. Completed laying out body by 7 p.m. Left the room in charge of nurse and servants Returned at 8 p.m. and found that the clothes surrounding the body had taken fire accidentally and burnt the legs and part of both hands. Had I not, before I left, removed the bed-hangings the chance was that the whole house would have been burnt down.
Jany 9
Sat up in charge of the house 'til 4 a.m. Soldered up zinc coffin.
Mar 18
Fitted up billiard table at the 'Cawdor Arms'.
Apl 28
To Gorslas to lay the foundation stone of the school chapel.
Apl 14
Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America, murdered at Ford's Theatre, Washington at 11 p.m. and died at 7:22 the following morning.

1866 - 53 years old

Feby 16
11 p.m. Fire at Medical Hall, occasioned from pot of spermaceti ointment on hob setting soot in chimney on fire. Water from hoses thrown down the flue.
July 2:
Attended inquest on the body of Thomas Evans who was found yesterday morning in the river about 100 yds above the bridge. Inquest held at 'Railway Tavern' at 8 a.m. Verdict - Accidentally drowned while bathing (being at the time in a drunken state, although he was a good swimmer.)

1867 - 54 years old

June 11
To Swansea for mahogany for counters, having contracted to fit up Bank room for the National Provincial Bank of England.

1868 - 55 years old

Feby 13
Viscount Emlyn attained his majority. Seven bonfires, firing of cannon, fireworks etc.
Oct 30
10:30 while at supper felt shock of earthquake.
Oct 31
Found on enquiry that others in town had been much frightened, having felt it more severely, and it was more or less felt all over the district. At Glanbrydan the pheasants and fowls were screaming. Accident to downtrain owing to engine wheel breaking near Glanrhyd Station. The engine overturned. Third Class smashed to pieces. I was on the spot 10 minutes after the accident and a more complete wreck of carriages and I never saw. There were about 15 injured, 6 were carried to Glanrhyd farm with fractured ribs and limbs and not one life lost so far.

1869 - 56 years old

Mar 11
Mr. T. Hughes, Druggist's house took fire. I was called up at 4:40 a.m., there at 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. the whole of the premises burnt out. Saved most of the stock and furniture. If we had not sufficient water and pressure, the other houses right and left would have burnt. Everyone worked with a will. The fire-engine was telegraphed from Carmarthen but when it arrived there was nothing for it to do. The cellars were saved by my preventing the men from opening the trapdoors, which had been attempted twice. I got down through the shop floor together with Wm. Samuel to the gas-meter and set that safe.
Mar 29
Made plan and elevation of stone bridge, proposed to be erected over the river Amman near the church. Span 50 ft
May 20
To Cefn-y-parc to see the barn, stables and cow-houses that were burnt down three weeks ago. The fire was caused by the servant-girl taking matches to the barn to get a light to search for hens' eggs.
Dec 20 -23
Old window at Llandeilo Church, south aisle, and replacing memorial window of the late Dr. Prothero.

1870 - 57 years old

Feby 3
Assisted with Mr. James, Draper, Mr. G. Hughes, Ironmonger and Mr. Jno. Bowen 'Castle' on the occasion of the marriage of Mr. Ellis to Miss Lizzie Gulston.
Mar 10
Alfred C. H. Jones Esq. of Pantglas attained his majority. Horsenoses and illumination and fireworks.
Apl 1
John Davies, aged 25, crushed at Llandeilo Station between the luggage trucks and platform. Died in 2 ¾ hours afterwards.
Apl 2:
Made oak coffin, black and gold, complete for John Davies.
Aug 1
Terrific thunderstorm. The electric fluid struck the east chimney at Bellevue House, followed angle on outside to end window, broke glass and loosened all the iron cross-bars, then down rainpipe, crossed yard to sink-trap in drain and loosened same, throwing up the drain brickwork
Oct 21
With Mrs. Evans 'White Hart' to Mr. N. Davies' office, she having been deserted by her husband since 1853, wishing to obtain protection for her property. Cost 9/6d. Certificate of marriage 2/6d and 6d to David Gwilliam for searching the register.
Dec 5
Made valuation for probate of the effects of Jane James, Gin Shop, together with Thomas Evans. Total evaluation £78.15.0.

Last entry in Thomas' diary, and in the following October of 1871 he died and was buried in the upper parish churchyard of the town in which he had so faithfully served. Thomas Jenkins' grave is beside that of the rest of his family and he lies surrounded by so many of his friends and associates all laid to rest in hundreds of caskets that he hand crafted. One wonders if he had already made his.

We also have an informative and amusing article on Thomas Jenkins by Byron Rogers.