John Evans 1796 -1864. A Hatter who lost his hat and his life through drowning.

The following sad tale is one that appears all too common in the columns of the local newspapers during the mid Victorian era.  Stories of drunkenness’ followed by the inevitable accident and in many cases death by falling into the river. No one can be sure if Mr Evans committed suicide as a result of his illness but now we know his story, brought to life as it were by the local newspaper reports of the time. His name appearing in the the St Davids Burial Register is now just more than a name ………it is a story of human tragedy. May he rest in peace.

 

About one o’clock on Friday morning last, the body of John Evans, a hatter, who resided at Catherine street, in this town, was picked out of the river, nearly opposite the endowed schools. On Friday evening an inquest was held upon the body, at the Shire Hall, before James Rowlands, Esq., in the absence of J. Hughes, Esq., the coroner, when the following evidence was taken: David Llewellyn deposed: I work in the Tin Works. I was walking on the Quay, below the bridge, between 11 and 12 o’clock last night, when I met a policeman-Sergeant James and another man, who asked me to come with them to search the river, as they had found a hat. We went and discovered the body of a man under the Priory, in the water, on the bank on this side. The face was downwards. He was covered with water. There was about a foot of water over him. We hooked the body out of the water, and laid it on the bank. We then had it taken to his house in Catherine street. One of the men with me recognised the body. The deceased had on dark clothes, but no hat. He was not soiled with mud. His face and hands were very white. When laid on the bank a little water oozed from his mouth; but I am not sure, as it was rather dark. It was moonlight. There were no marks of any violence upon him so far as I could observe. James Davies deposed I live in Goose street, and am a labourer. I was going up the river last night, about half past seven o’clock, in a boat, with two or three persons, and when under the Priory I saw a hat floating on the water. I took hold of it and pulled it out. It was an ordinary black silk hat, with a black band round it. It appeared to be a new hat, and I should think it had been in the water but a short time. I put the hat in the boat, and thought very little of it. I then rowed up as far as the Lead Mine works, and back to the Quay. It was a high spring tide at the time. I showed the hat to P.C Johns, between 9 and 10 o’clock, and shortly before 10 o’clock Eliza Jones came to my house and looked at the hat. She said the hat belonged to John Evans, the deceased. I told her to take the hat away and show it to somebody, in order to be sure of it. She showed it to James Thomas, hatter, who recognised it as one he had made for the deceased. I went down to Thomas’s house, and then I went with David Thomas, his son, and Police Sergeant James to search the river, when we met David Llewellyn. That was about half-past 11 or 12 o’clock. I told them where I had picked up the hat, and we went up to the place, and found the body just in the spot where I had picked up the hat-about four or five yards from the bank. It had about a foot of water over it when we found it. It was moonlight, and I could see so much as that. The other men rose the body to the surface of the water, and I then went into the river, and carried it out in my arms and placed it on the bank. I recognised the body immediately, as that of John Evans. We then took the body home to Catherine street. His hands were clean, and partly closed. He had on black clothes, which were not at all soiled. He had no hat on. We laid it on some chairs in his house. The body was very stiff. We took it home on a stretcher. About four hours and a-half had elapsed between finding the hat and the body. I saw the deceased in the early part of this week. He was then in drink. I saw him in a public house. Margaret Thomas, who resided next door to the de- ceased, deposed: I saw him on Wednesday night. He was then drunk. I saw him last alive about 8 o’clock yesterday morning He was then in his own house. I asked him to breakfast with me. He did not come, and I again went to see after him and found he had left his house and locked the door. He was quite sober. He said he had not much stomach for breakfast, but he did not complain of any illness. He appeared weak and was trembling a good deal. He has been drinking heavily for the last fortnight. I have seen him drunk daily. John Lewis Brigstocke, printer, deposed: Yesterday afternoon, between two and three o’clock, I was coming from the Market-place into Red street, when I met John Evans, the deceased. He was walking very fast, and appeared heated, as if he had walked a great deal. He came and shook hands with me, and said, “I am nearly breaking my heart; I am nearly dying.” I told him not to give up in that way, that he would be better again. In answer to that he said, “No, I am nearly dying.” He then left me and went into the Market. He was drunk, but was not staggering. Police-Sergeant James deposed: I was present when the body of the deceased was found. It was nearly one o’clock this morning. I had the body taken home. I saw no marks or bruises about the body neither were the clothes torn or disordered in the least. I found a door-key and two-pipes in his pockets. There was no money about him. I thought the body had been in the water a long time, as it was quite frigid. When laid upon the bank, a little water run from his mouth or his nose. I have known the deceased for about three weeks, and during that time I have often seen him drunk, or half drunk. Margaret Thomas recalled: The deceased was my brother-in-law. I don’t know his age exactly. He was about 67 years of age. He was a most harmless man. The Jury immediately returned a verdict of “Found drowned.”

The Welshman July 1864

 

The burial entry for John Evans.