From Policeman to Defendant: Samuel Livewell Davies

Samuel Livewell Davies was my 3x Great-Grandfather.  I have always wondered whether his middle name was pronounced live-well (as in “I live for genealogy”) or live-well (as in, “I feel a-live“).  And more to the point, did he “live-well?”  It’s probably debatable.

Samuel Livewell Davies

This photo has been widely shared on Ancestry and is purported to be Samuel Livewell Davies.

Samuel Livewell, son of David Davies and Ann Williams, was born on 28 August 1841 in St. Asaph, Flintshire.  Taking his first bawling breaths, little Sam, was far removed from the exciting events taking place in London.  On the day he was born, Sir Robert Peel took power from the Whigs and became Prime Minister for the second time.  Whilst Tories were celebrating, Ann was delivering her 6th child safely into the world.  The two events both created ripples, albeit in very different ponds. 

Whilst Sir Peel was repealing Corn Laws, Samuel Livewell Davies was tottering around Pen-rhewl, attending the local Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, no doubt with his older siblings in tow.  Samuel wasn’t the baby of the family for long, by about 1843 he’d been joined by David and Ann’s 7th child, baby Martha.  Hopefully, David’s occupation as a gardener meant that at least some fresh produce found it’s way into the little Davies’ hungry bellies.  Maps dating from 1871 reveal a patchwork of gardens and fields surrounding the Pen-rhewl and Pen-y-cob area of St. Asaph. See https://maps.nls.uk/view/102342339

In April 1861, Samuel had reached the dizzying heights of 19 years of age.  He was working as a carter and still living in the same village, St. Asaph.  Perhaps it was this work which took him to neighbouring Dyserth, where he met his wife-to-be Elizabeth Williams.  Although, why they decided to travel 7 miles from Dyserth to the Bodlondeb Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Abergele, in order to get married, is a mystery.

Marriage doc of Samuel Livewell Davies and Elizabeth Williams

On 3 September 1864 the couple were married and it would soon prove to be a very fruitful union.  The couple’s first (known) child, David Samuel Davies was born on 21 June 1865 and their last (known), Congress Griffith Roger Davies on 12 May 1886.  There were 21 years between the siblings and 17 other children with the Davies’ having 19 children in total. Sadly, 9 of these bairns had died sometime before the 1911 census.  Myself, and other family-historians, have managed to discover 13 of these children, leaving 6 inter-census infants missing.

The frequent birth of children has meant that most of the years of Samuel and Elizabeth’s lives can be accounted for.  For example, known child No 3, Charles Llewellyn Davies’ birth certificate dated 29th Jan 1868, reveals that Samuel was working as a Police Constable in Holywell.  It would be a fleeting career change (he was a plasterer at the time of his wedding), lasting less than a year.  Tantalisingly, a fellow genealogist and Davies’ descendent has noted on Ancestry that they were told by family members that Samuel was the tallest constable in Wales.  This “fact” needs verifying!

Newspaper reports reveal that Samuel Livewell Davies was identifiable as P.C. 7. 

Samuel Livewell Davies newspaper report
Flintshire Observer Mining Journal & General Advertiser; 7 Feb 1868, Page 4, Column 5

Samuel’s short career hit it’s first stumbling block in May.  The Flintshire Observer, 15 May 1868 (“Drunk, Rioting, Resisting and Assaulting the Police”, Page 4, Column 1) reports on a strange case, in which, Sam was accused of assaulting the defendant:

P.C.7, Davies, said that he heard a noise in Cross Street soon after midnight…He went there and found a crowd of Irish persons, whom he bade go home quietly.  The officer then removed one person…towards home.  He then heard another row, and returned to find the defendant and “Johnny” [crease in paper]…scuffling.  The officer then requested them to desist [crease in paper]…Johnny did “not care a d-n for any two policemen in town, for if they locked him up they would have to let him out on Monday morning to go to the militia” and attempted a kick at the officer.  The two men continued rowing, and the defendant attempted a most serious assault upon the officer by running against him with his head.  Other officers then came and Kelly was removed, but the defendant would not go home through persuasion, and the officer seized him, to take him into custody, but so many persons attempted to interfere that the officer had recourse to the use of a thin stick which he carried to keep off the people, – with some difficulty he maintained the hold which he had upon the defendant, and ultimately he was removed to the lock-up…The defence set up was that the defendant had been unnecessarily attacked and severely beaten by the officer, but the evidence adduced in support thereof was very conflicting. A good character having been given to the defendant by his employer…The Chairman said they considered the case was fully proved…”

The original article can be viewed in full at the National Library of Wales, Welsh Newspapers Online

A fortnight later, another report featuring Samuel appeared in the Flintshire Observer of 29 May 1868 (“An Old Offender” Page 4, Column 3, retrieved from National Library of Wales, Welsh Newspapers Online).

Samuel Livewell Davies newspaper report

Many men tried their hand at a career in the police, and many men, like Samuel Livewell Davies left the force promptly.  Reading the above newspaper accounts it is not hard to understand why!  Battered and bruised, Samuel decided to return to work as a plasterer.  By 1869, and the birth of his 4th known child, Hugh Roger Davies, Samuel and family had returned from Holywell to St. Asaph.

They did not remain in Samuel’s childhood parish for very long.  Despite the ever growing size of their family, the Davies’ moved around a great deal.  Known child No 5, Thomas Livewell Davies was born on 8 Feb 1871, some 80 miles from St. Asaph in West Bromwich, Staffordshire.  The stay in Staffordshire would not be entirely happy.  A few month’s after Thomas’ birth, his older brother, Hugh Roger died.  He was buried on 10 August 1871 at Christ Church.  He was about 2 years old. Hugh’s death was followed by the birth of another Hugh, in 1874.  This makes a 2 year gap between Thomas’ birth and that of the next child.  It may be during this two year gap that at least one of the “unknown” children was born and died.  It’s feasible that Elizabeth could have suffered a stillbirth, in which case the birth and death of the infant would have been unlikely to have been registered.  For more information on stillbirth see,  https://www.familytreeforum.com/content.php/374-Stillbirth.

Further sorrow was to come, as the 2nd baby Hugh fared no better than the first.  He had a private baptism on 5th August 1874 and his death was registered shortly afterwards in the September quarter of the same year. More children followed, but thankfully these survived; girls Elizabeth Ann and Harriet Mary were born in Tipton, Staffordshire in 1875 and 1877 respectively. 

Alice Georgina Davies

Alice Georgina Hill, formally Davies

By 4 Nov 1879 the Davies’ family had moved again.  My 2x Great-Grandmother, Alice Georgina’s birth certificate reveals that the family were residing back in Dyserth, Flintshire (or Denbighshire, depending on the year and how the county borders changed)!  The family didn’t settle there long, by Feb 1881 the Davies’ had moved two miles up the road to Meliden, Prestatyn.  Here, Thomas Livewell Davies attended the Meliden National School and eldest child, David Samuel worked as a Gardener. Presumably Samuel was moving around for work, perhaps seeking employment on various building projects.  In between their stint back in Dyserth and Meliden there may have been a brief stay in Holywell.  The birth of a Hugh Davies was registered there in Q4, 1879.  Mother’s maiden name Williams.  I need to order the birth certificate.

On 21 Nov 1881, Elizabeth delivered another daughter, Jane Theodora.  This child was born at Nant, Prestatyn – around 3 miles up from Meliden towards the coast.  Yet by 29th March 1883, and the birth of known child number 12 (Beatrice Martha), the family were back in Dyserth.  All this moving must have made the children’s limited schooling very disjointed, but at least they had some education.  The girls; Elizabeth Ann, Harriet Mary, Alice Georgina, Jane Theodora and Beatrice Martha all attended Old Colwyn National School, Denbighshire at various dates from Nov 1885.  However, all the girls left the school on 11 July 1887. Once more the family moved.  By now there 10 children (youngest Congress Griffith Roger was born 12 May 1886).  Although the eldest of the Davies’ brood had, by this time, entered adulthood and were working, it still could not have been easy to pack up and move yet again. Indeed this next move would take them 50 miles north. 

The 1891 census reveals the Davies’ residing in Golborne, in what was then, Lancashire.  Here their lives would take on a different pace as the first of their children married and left home.  Eldest son, David Samuel married Lydia Hill on 29 August 1891.  He’d joined his father’s profession as a plasterer and his sister Elizabeth Ann witnessed the union. 

Elizabeth Ann Davies

Elizabeth Ann Mason, formally Davies

At first, the marriage did not seem to be a happy one, see the below report from the Leigh Chronicle & Weekly District Advertiser dated 2 June 1893 (Newton Petty Sessions Saturday 27th May 1893, Page 8, Column 5, retrieved from www.findmypast.co.uk):

“NEGLECTING TO MAINTAIN HIS WIFE. – David Samuel Davies, plasterer, of Golborne, who did not appear, was summoned for deserting his wife and family.  Lydia Davies deposed that her husband, the defendant, left her on March 30th, 1892, and had not given her a penny since.  She was at present living with her father at Bamfurlong.  He was earning between 35s and 40s per week.  W Williams deposed that he was present at Golborne Parish Church when the complainant was married to the defendant.  An order of 10s per week was made.”

According to the National Archives Currency Converter these earnings were equivalent to 5 days work as a skilled tradesman, which means that although David was by no means “well off” he earned enough to make ends meet, and possibly to have a little left over to save for emergencies. Presumably Samuel earned the same, if not slightly more, as a more experienced plasterer.

Whatever caused David to neglect Lydia the couple seem to “make up” as they went on to have at least 4 children (one of whom was named Samuel) before emigrating to the US.  New York Passenger Lists would describe him as, “5’10” tall, fresh complexion, brown hair. Tattoos of Lady, fly, (family?) and American Eagle on arms”.  So he was pretty tall for the period – I wonder whether there was any truth to the rumour that his father was the tallest copper in Wales?

Before David left for America, “the land of opportunity”, we need to rewind to 1901.  The census, taken 31 March, reveals that David was living in Cheshire, and Samuel Livewell Davies was listed at his address on the night of the census.  I had always assumed that Samuel was visiting David.  Samuel’s wife, Elizabeth was living in Worcestershire in 1901, along with their children.  By 1911 Samuel can be found back at home with his wife, the couple then residing in Kings Norton, Worcestershire.  However, recent findings have made me question this assumption.  Something strange seems to have happened to Samuel around 1901 – again we need to turn to the newspapers:

The Birmingham Daily Mail, 23rd October 1901 (“Charge of Shooting a Son” Page 3, Column 6)

Samuel Davis, an elderly man, of Nursery Cottages, West Heath, King’s Norton, was brought up this morning at King’s Heath, charged with unlawfully and maliciously shooting his son, Thomas Livewell Davis, a plasterer, with intent to do him grievous bodily harm, last night.  The son heard that his father had become possessed of  revolver, and last night saw him at the door with one in his hand.  Some time after he saw him take the revolver from a shelf.  During the scuffle which ensued for possession, it went off, the bullet entering the son.  Superintendent Chare asked for a remand for a week, as he did not know how the wound would progress.  The remand was granted.

Group photo of Thomas Livewell Davies and family

Above photo supplied courtesy of Ancestry user Steve Joyce, a descendant of Thomas Livewell Davies. Thomas pictured far right. Bride (centre), Thomas’ daughter Mary with groom to left, Neville Faulkner. Far left adult bridesmaid is Thomas’ daughter, Grace.

This shocking event seems out of character for a man that had previously never been in trouble with the law – whom in fact had briefly been a P.C. himself. The case was widely reported although the accounts vary on what actually happened, leaving quite a confused picture.

The Birmingham Daily Gazette, 31 October 1901 (“Father Charged with Shooting His Son”, Page 5, Column 4)

“Extraordinary Case At West Heath – At King’s Heath yesterday Samuel Davis, an elderly man, of Nursery Cottages, West Heath, was charged on remand with shooting his son, Thomas Livewell Davis, on October 23, with intent to do him grievous bodily harm.  The facts took close upon two hours to elucidate.  The prisoner some time ago was summoned by his wife for using threats towards her, and the Bench bound him over to keep the peace for six months.  On the day before the shooting occurred he told his son, who lived in the same row of cottages, that he intended to blow out the brains of Police-constable Bayliss, who lived near him, and added that he had a good mind to cut his own throat.

On the following day prisoner visited a son-in-law at Smethwick, to whom he declared that he had a row with a policeman, and that he intended to finish the job.  He said he should get a revolver, “Shoot the policeman, someone else, and then shoot myself.”  Alarmed at the language used, the son-in-law made a hurried journey to West Heath, arriving there before the prisoner returned.  One of the prisoner’s daughters barricaded the door with the mangle, but prisoner burst his way in, and announced that he had come well prepared, and would do it that time.  He was then left to himself.  About eight that night Thomas Davis, hearing that his father was possessed of a revolver, went to the door, and asked when he was going to let his wife and family in.  Prisoner told them they could come in, and he should not hurt them.  He had been seen with a revolver in his hand, but as he was then apparently without it, two of the daughters, with Thomas Davis and the son-in-law, entered.  Prisoner was searched, but nothing was found save a cartridge in his great-coat pocket.  The house was searched, but no weapon could be found, and the prisoner remarked that he had no revolver, so they need not search.  He had been frightening the people with a bicycle pump.  Shortly afterwards he asked to go to the rear of the premises, and Thomas Davis was in the act of stooping to unbolt the door when his father seized a revolver from a shelf.  A struggle for possession followed, in which the revolver went off, Thomas Davis alleging that it was done purposely.  The bullet passed through his clothes, and ripped the flesh above the hip.  It was also understood, but the fact was not made quite clear by the witness, that before getting possession of the pistol the hammer fell again, catching between Thomas Davis’s thumb and finger, otherwise it would have gone off again.  The father was disarmed with the assistance of Police-constable Calloway.  Prisoner told the officer that had he been left five minutes longer he should have shot himself.  He wanted to die, for then he should get some rest.  He had placed the revolver to his forehead, but it would not work.  He denied that he intended to shoot his son.  Prisoner reserved his defence and was committed to take his trial at the Worcestershire Assizes.”

Worcestershire Chronicle, 16 November 1901 (“Worcester Winter Assizes – Father and Son” Page 8, Column 2)

“Samuel Davies (61), plasterer, was indicted for shooting his son, Thomas Lurwell [Sic] Davies, at West Heath, King’s Norton, on Oct. 22…The prosecutor said that on Oct. 21 he tried to persuade his father to go back to work, but he refused, and said that next day he intended to buy a revolver, blow out P.C. Baylis’ brains, someone else’s, and his own.  Next day prisoner shut his wife and family out – six in all – and on prosecutor going to try and get them admitted, prisoner came at him with a revolver.  There was a struggle, and in the course of it prisoner fired, and the bullet, grazed witness’s hip.  Prisoner pulled the trigger again, but witness’s finger was under the hammer, and the revolver missed fire.  Eventually the weapon was taken from prisoner.

In reply to his Lordship, witness said that the revolver did not go off accidentally in the struggle.

Henry Hardwick, son-in-law of prisoner, said that prisoner repeated the same statement to him about the purchase of a revolver.  He corroborated as to what occurred when the shooting took place, and said that after the occurrence prisoner said, “If you had left me another five minutes I should have shot myself.”

P.C. Calloway corroborated as to the shooting.  Prisoner told him that he meant harm to no one but himself; the affair was an accident.  He bought the revolver to kill himself, and had tired to do so once, but had failed.

Prisoner gave evidence on oath, and denied that he intended to shoot his son.  His domestic relations had been very unhappy, and he intended to put an end to his life.  When his son came in he was about to hand the revolver to his son when the latter commenced struggling and the weapon went off accidentally.

The learned Judge said a man in family trouble, as prisoner pleaded that he was, had no right to try to find a solution of it in the use of a six-chambered revolver.

The jury found the prisoner guilty of wounding…

Samuel was sentenced to 8 months hard labourer. I have searched Find My Past’s newspapers and criminal records collection but found no mention of the earlier skirmish with the law, as noted in one of the paper reports. But what drove Sam to pick up a gun?

Criminal record of Samuel Livewell Davies
Samuel Davies; Piece No: 213; Series: HO140; Session Date: 12 Nov 1901; Court: Shire Hall, Worcester. Retrieved from Find My Past: England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935.

Had the family fallen on hard times? Is this what drove Samuel to pick up the gun? What had P.C. Baylis done to warrant Sam’s wrath? Was Samuel suffering from a mental illness?

The answers to those questions are most likely lost to time. Happily though, Samuel Livewell Davies can be found on the 1911 census. He was residing with his wife Elizabeth at 20 Lifford Lane, Kings Norton.

Elizabeth Williams

The photo opposite has been widely shared on Ancestry and is purported to be Elizabeth Davies (nee Williams).

A number of family members were residing with Samuel and Elizabeth in 1911, including their daughter Elizabeth Ann and a collection of grand-children. On the face of it this suggests that Samuel had made his peace with his wife and at least some of his children.

Incidentally 20 Lifford Lane would be home to Elizabeth Ann for many years and several photos of the address have been shared on Ancestry. This one, kindly shared by aiconnections with tag line ” Gwen (holding cat) with her mum and siblings” is my favourite:

Group photo of Elizabeth Ann Davies / Elizabeth Ann Mason and family

There is one more report of Samuel in the newspapers and this time it is a much happier report.

Birmingham Daily Gazette, 17 August 1912 (“Helped a Constable”, Page 8, Column 2, retrieved from www.findmypast.co.uk):

“Presentation to a Stirchley man- An interesting event took place last evening at Stirchley Police Station, when Samuel Davis, of 20 Lifford-lane, Stirchley, was presented with the sum of 15s in recognition of his service to the police in helping to effect the arrest of a man whom an officer was attempting to take into custody.

On the evening of July 30, Constable Anker (168B) had occasion to arrest man named George Boston, of 8 Lifford-lane, who became very violent, kicked the constable, threw him to the ground, and doubtless would have made good his escape but for the timely arrival of Mr. Davis, who though an elderly man, helped the officer to secure his prisoner and get him to the station. In the struggle, however, Mr Davies was himself badly kicked about the body and lost his eye-glasses. It was in order to recompense him for this loss that the men decided to make the above presentation.

Superintendent Boulton, in handing the gift to Mr. Davis, spoke in high terms of the bravery he had displayed though he had attained an age at which many men would have shrunk from doing what he had done.

Mr Davis suitably responded, and the officers, nearly the whole of whom were present, gave him three hearty cheers.

I am pleased that Samuel seems to have stayed out of any further trouble, and in fact showed himself to be a man capable of bravery. It just goes to show that our ancestors, just like us, are multi-faceted and complex. They can’t always be boxed into “good” or “bad” categories – and sometimes their behaviour is simply mystifying!

Samuel most likely died in 1919. Ordering his death certificate is on my to do list – along with continuing to search for his “missing” children and verifying whether he really was the tallest copper in Wales!

For a full list of sources, please feel free to contact me.


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