Rosemarket Widow Lives for Two Years in a Garden

The following is a story of an old poor Woman living in Rosemarket who was made homeless in 1903 and was published in the Western Mail.  


20th January 1905


 A pathetic story comes from Pembrokeshire. Mrs. Martha Davies, a widow of 60 or thereabouts, is a native of Rosemarket, an old-world village midway between Haverfordwest and Pembroke Dock. She was born, she lived, married, and reared up a family of four children in an old cottage in the village. It was from here she buried her husband and saw her four children leave the parental nest.

The cottage was tumbling down and was an unsafe dwelling, and two years ago the poor old lady, now alone, had to leave. Another person bought the land on which the cottage stood, and proceeded to erect a modern dwelling on the site. Meanwhile, old Mrs. Davies had gathered her household goods around her in the garden, and for two years she has camped out in the midst of her goods.

Pembrokeshire has the reputation of possessing a mild climate, but it is also notorious for its wet weather, and it has been known to rain every day for seven consecutive weeks.

For two years this poor old creature has had no shelter by day or night from rain or winds, heat or frost, save what is afforded by a box bed, a sort of cupboard.

Now the new house is completed, and Mrs Davies, and her belongings have left the garden and camped by the roadside. She can hardly be removed for obstruction, but she must not light a fire either for cooking or warming herself, or she will be dealt with by law.

The Pembroke Guardians (in which union is Rosemarket) allow the old lady 2s. a week.

At one time she gathered and sold watercress, but she is now past doing even that. Such is the present pitiful state of affairs.

 It was reported again in The Weekly Mail the following day.

21st January 1905WIDOW'S SAD PLIGHT.


I have personally interviewed Mrs. Martha Davies. of Rosemarket, Pembrokeshire, and I send you herewith a. photo, taken by Mr. Bowen, of Haverfordwest, showing the poor old woman standing amidst the wreck of her household goods, the relics of her demolished home.

The story published in another column of this issue is slightly modified in some minor details, but, the broad fact remains that this poor old widow, 66 years of age, has been for nearly two years left homeless and desolate, unsheltered day or night from the rigours of the weather, and, latterly, even unable to light a fire to obtain a little warmth or to cook the poor and scanty food which a parish allowance of 2s. a week her solo subsistence, enables her to purchase.

All this has been going on for two long years right in the heart of a good-sized village, not more than five miles from the town of Haverfordwest, and within three miles of the populous town of Pembroke Dock.

The story if; hardly credible. I wonder has any one of the readers of the "Weekly Mail" ever been exposed for one single day and night during such weather as we are now experiencing.

Try to imagine what over 700 consecutive days and nights must it be like with no other shelter than is shown in the picture, the side of an old hovel or barn to break the force of the wind, and a cupboard, on which the old lady is resting her right arm, to creep into at night, not to lie down, but to crouch, huddled up for warmth till daylight come again.

That is the experience Mrs. Davies has undergone for two years.

Across the road a substantial modern cottage has been erected on the site of her old home, where she lived for 40 years; All around her the villagers are snugly housed; and the poor old widow is left to shiver, alone and friendless by the roadside.

When I visited the spot, the old dame was walking about the lane picking up the bundle of sticks shown in her arms for a neighbour.

I told her I wanted her to talk to me about the circumstances which led to such a state of things, and her permission to take a photo of herself and her belongings. It needed some tactful persuasion, and the promise of some little monetary help, before I could get her consent; but the old lady was at last convinced that my mission was a, friendly one, and I succeeded.

She is a sturdily built woman, evidently of an iron constitution, and, despite her long exposure, she enjoys the best of health. Neither rheumatism nor any other physical disability has yet fallen to her lot, and she assured me her appetite is so good that she can eat anything; but she added, pathetically, "I only get 2s. a week, and you can't get a great deal of food for that."

She by no means looks her age, and she was warmly clad in a grey skirt, with the inevitable coloured apron over it, a dark jacket, and a man's cap, with a small red and black shawl tied over it.

Her story, shortly put, is that she was born at Rosemarket. At: eighteen she was married, and when she was 24 and had a family of five' children her husband, who was in the Navy, went down in the Wash off the Irish coast.

The widow and children were penniless, and for a short time went to the workhouse.

Then Mr. Williams, the carpenter, took the widow and children out of the house, and took them to live with him, Mrs. Davies acting as his servant up to his death, which occurred after she had been there eight years.

When Mr. Williams died Mrs. Davies kept on the house, but not the land, a small farm attached to the house and remained there until the house was pulled down, two years ago.  She had reared four children, three daughters and a son who married and went away, leaving the widow alone with a little girl, her granddaughter, who is now a girl of fourteen or fifteen, and in service at Steynton.

Asked if her children contributed to her support, the old dame shook her head mournfully, and said, "No, I never have a, penny from any one of them. My boy's in Cwmtillery, I believe; but I have never had a line from him for ten years." "But your neighbours?" she was asked. "Don't they do anything?" "My neighbours," she said, fiercely, "are brutes." "But," was added, "something must be done for you.

It is not right that a woman of your age should be left homeless like this by the roadside. "Oh," she said, "one of the neighbours has now offered me a room for 1s. a week; but how can I pay Is a week and live on 1s? It is little enough as it is."

We then turned our attention to the furniture, and the old body pointed pathetically to the hard usage this had undergone. The cupboard bed, she said, had been broken when pitched into the "grip," so that she couldn't open it out, and her only shelter at night was to creep into the cupboard and huddle in a half-crouching position.

The picture shows what ravage has been wrought; amongst the "furniture" generally, which, broken as it is, is yet sacred to the old body, because it is all that is left of her last "home."

I left the old woman and saw the Rev. Atterbury Thomas. "What can I do?" he said, she "The old lady refuses to budge from the spot. and seems to imagine we should build a house for her.

She occupied the old house for many years as a subtenant of Mr. Henderson, of Rushmore, who had the land, but didn't require the house. Then Mr. John Rees, the builder, took the land on which the old house stood, and as it was tumbling down, he pulled it down, and built a new house for his daughter, Mrs. King.

When the house was pulled down, she would go no farther away than the garden. About three months ago her things were put where they are now."

Mr. Thomas made further statements showing that he had not been unmindful of his duties as parish priest, but that Mrs. Davies had shared in various charities.

Short of building a, house over her, he did not know how to deal with the case.

He was perplexed, and sincerely anxious to help her, but her obstinate clinging to the spot thwarted all his efforts Inquiries among the neighbours bore cut the clergyman's testimony.

All united in declaring that she had always been a hardworking woman, but all were at a loss to know what to do in the matter.

Mr. W. J. Jones, the mayor of Haverfordwest has interested himself on behalf of the old woman, and is prepared to receive subscriptions. 

The following update was reported on 20th January 1905 

Rosemarket Widow.


At the fortnightly meeting of the Pembrokeshire Board of Guardians on Thursday (Mr. N. A. Koch presiding) Mr. Roberts, delivering officer, brought on the case of Martha of Rosemarket.

Martha Davies, he said, was receiving 2s a week. Her age was 65, and she lived at Rosemarket in an old hutch.

The Chairman: Oh, that is a case where she won't come into the house [workhouse]. What about her?

Mr. Roberts said she was receiving 2s a week, and he found from Mr. Barrah (the guardian for Rosemarket) that he had visited the case and had asked her to come into the workhouse.

She had promised to come in, but did not do so. She had now got a house (a room?) in Rosemarket.

Mr. Barrah: I have seen her twice this week, and tried to persuade her to come into the house, but she said she would lay down and starve by the roadside first. She was in the house once in her young days, and that was quite enough.

The Chairman said the district council had had the case before them, and had attempted to deal with it. That has been going on for about four years.

Mr. Barrah: About two years. The reporter, however, has been painting the case with a big brush. (Laughter.) Part of what is said is true.

The Chairman said it was a, difficult case. If the guardians were to be logical they would refuse to give out relief, and if she would not come into the house allow her to starve by the roadside.

Mrs. Williams: What would the papers say about that? (Laughter.)

The Chairman said of course they could not do that.

Mr. Barrah: I have had two letters from Mr. Cremer, agent to Mr. Lort Phillips, asking if we could not stop her out-relief, when she would be bound to come into the house.

The Chairman: We cannot let her starve. Is she totally unable to do anything?

Mr. Roberts She does a bit of weeding when she can get it.

Mr. Egerton Allen: She must be a very tough old lady to stand this exposure for two years.

Mr. Barrah: I saw the room and the person, and Mrs. Davies would be comfortable so long as she took care of herself.

She has a. very long tongue. (Laughter.)

Mr. Barrah asked should not her children be asked to keep her?

The Chairman: Are there children?

Mrs. Williams: Yes, there are four one son and three daughters.

Mr. Roberts said the son was a single man, living at Blaina. Cwmtillery.

Mrs. Davies had not heard from him for about ten years, and he had not contributed anything towards his mother's support.

He was living under the name of Davies Jones, but his real name was William Davies.

He was earning on an average 30s. per week.

Mr. Egerton Allen proposed that Mrs. Davies be allowed an extra shilling per week, and that proceedings be taken against her son to compel him to contribute to his mother's support.

Mr. Barrah seconded this, and it was resolved to increase the relief to 5s. per week for two weeks.

The Chairman asked should not the medical officer see her and ascertain if she was able to work? The Relieving Officer pointed out that the old lady was 65 years of age, and that ended the matter.