An incident in the Noah’s Ark in Whitmore Lane involved the police and their chief, Jeremiah Box Stockdale. A ship was in dock, nothing unusual about that, and its crew made their way up to Whitmore Lane area for some drinking and to meet some of the local prostitutes. Giovanni Forempo, Antonio Segowitc and Giuseppe Samucow entered the Noah’s Ark, a tiny establishment, not even listed as being licensed by the police. Beer was flowing and money was passing hands. The girls were on the lookout for sailors with money. One of the girls, Ann Howells, found a sailor and did just that, relieving him of 18/- (90p).
Nothing much was said at the time, but it was a lot of money and on returning to their ship in Bute West Dock they decided to return the following night to the Noah’s Ark to find Ann.
They entered the pub and Giuseppe asked Ann to return his money. It was a tiny, unruly, terraced, street pub frequented by criminals, drunkards and prostitutes, probably lit only with candle or paraffin light. Coal fires burning in the grates and the room smoke-filled.
What the sailors should have been aware of was that the girls worked together and were as wily and hard as any man. The sailors looked around for Ann Howells and they saw her. She ran to the tap room where the landlord’s daughter, Catherine Thomas, was working. Ann ran out into the street and found some local men to come in and deal with the sailors. The local hard man, James Loynes, was nearby with his associates.
The Glamorgan Canal ran through today’s Mill Lane before heading for the sea lock. It was close to Charlotte Street and therefore all the other streets, pubs and houses of ill-repute in the area. The men who worked the barges bringing goods down from Merthyr to Cardiff were a hard-working set of individuals and amongst them were some very dubious characters. One of them was James Loynes. He was young and fancied himself as a fighter.
Loynes rushed in with the other men and the doors of the pub were locked and barred, trapping the sailors. Loynes grabbed a poker from the grate and hit the Giuseppe Samucow as hard as he could across the head. The strike was so brutal the man fell to the floor bleeding profusely and rendering him immediately unconscious.
It was said that men were coming in through the windows until the doors were unlocked and Loynes escaped. Guiseppe’s two friends sought assistance from a druggist in a shop nearby before conveying him back to the ship. He was put in his bunk but died in the late afternoon next day.
The subsequent inquest concluded his skull had been smashed. James Loynes was circulated via a bill (poster) and word of mouth as wanted for wilful murder.
The police had to use their local knowledge in every aspect of their job, after all it was all they had to work with. No intelligence rotas (printed, local collated intelligence circulations between police stations) to speak of, no other way of finding wanted persons or information other than asking questions and using a little gentle persuasion. This seems to have occurred in this case. The officers were aware of a gang of local bullies who worked the Whitmore Lane and Charlotte Street area. This intelligence enabled important documents (bills) to be dispatched to the Glamorgan Constabulary and finally into the hands of PC Wright.
PC Wright had been told that Loynes might be hiding on a barge that was plying its way down to Cardiff. He found and checked out several barges on the move near Upper Boat (approximately eight miles north of the docks). Today that area has changed completely, and the canal has disappeared. PC Wright’s presence on a bridge was noticed by a boy who gave a ‘wink’ to the crew of a moving barge. The officer must have thought that he was in big trouble when three men came out of the cabin and threatened him. However, behind them was James Loynes who allowed himself to be taken into custody quiety, even telling the officer, ‘I was going to come back and give myself up to Superintendent Stockdale.’ He was taken back to Cardiff, probably by Taff Vale train.
Loynes denied striking the blow but agreed he was the man wanted in connection with death of the sailor. He appeared at the Town Court and was committed for trial at the Quarter Sessions. He was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, dodging the death penalty.
It was noted by officers at the Quarter Sessions that the three women involved as witnesses, Ann Daley, Anne Howells and Catherine Thomas, were vague in what they saw, so vague as not to be trusted. We can imagine Stockdale and his men were used to that.
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This tale of Victorian policing comes from Horrors of the Dead House. As a former police officer, John F. Wake brings his investigative expertise to the macabre true crime stories that haunt Cardiff’s streets.