[Reprint of] 'THE REBECCA RIOTS IN RADNORSHIRE' in the Hereford Times
Most historians agree the Rebecca Riots ended in 1844. However, this newspaper article from 1879 complicates that idea. It opens,
"...the "Rebbecaites" have again brought themselves into prominent notice in the country, and their movements form a subject much discussed not only in the localities where they exist but throughout the kingdom..."
This refers to an ongoing rural contestation focussed on the River Wye in Radnorshire, sometimes called the 'second' Rebecca riots. Local people, frustrated with restrictions on salmon poaching, took on the title and dress of Rebecca and her Daughters and hunted for salmon despite regulation and efforts by authorities. This contestation lasted, on and off, from around 1856 until 1879, increasing in severity over time. Indeed, this article elaborates of the later period in this contestation that,
'The measures taken by the Chairman and the Board of Conservators to secure the protection of the fish in the fisheries in 1878 and 1879 have...resulted in other and more extensive outbreaks of Rebeccaism than have occurred for many years past. Every increase in watchers seems to bring forth increased strength on the part of the poachers.'
Three things are especially notable here. The first is that Radnorshire is fairly far from the epicentre of the original Rebecca riots. This stands as testament to the reach of Rebecca's meaning as an identity of protest. Second, that this largely concerned fishing freedoms and not toll gates demonstrates how Rebeccaism had become a versatile outlet for protest. Third, that even over a decade later these poachers took on the mantle of Rebecca speaks to the riots' temporal reach. In essence, the dress and name had evolved past simple disguises; Rebecca had become a recognised (sometimes feared, sometimes renowned) identity of Welsh protest.