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Death on the Canal - 1879, Abraham Lewis

Death on the (Mon & Brec) Canal

I did the basic research for this blog series a couple of years ago. Then, as usual, flitted along to the next thing that caught my interest. Now I'm trying to flesh the cases out and present to you my justification for not being a fan of walking along the canal on dark and lonely nights... For more canal deaths, check out the master post.


This week's case begins with a short report in the South Wales Daily News of Saturday 20th December 1879. The body of Abraham Lewis was found in the canal, near the blast furnaces, at about 09:00 on Tuesday 18th November. Abraham was 33 and had been working as a roller at the Patent Nut and Bolt Company's forge. He had been missed since the evening of Monday 17th November and left behind a wife and several children.

South Wales Daily News 20th December 1879

The Pontypool Free Press and Herald of the Hills of the same day included more detail in their report. Abraham lived at 12 Forge Row with his wife and their four children. He had left work at about 19:00 on the Monday night but never arrived home. His wife and others went out searching for him during the night, but his body was only found at around 09:00 the next morning.

Pontypool Free Press and Herald of the Hills 20th December 1879

Records search found his entry in the burial register for Llantarnam, listing his burial date as Sunday 21st December. The ceremony was performed by Edward Prothero.

Abraham Lewis burial record 1879

I think this is the right Abraham on the 1871 census, living at Monmouth Row in Trevethin with his in-laws, wife, and their two infant children Jonah (b. 1869) and Keziah (b. 1871).

Abraham Lewis 1871 census

Keziah having an unusual name for the area made it easy to trace the family into the 1881 census. They were still living at Forge Row, with Sarah now listed as the widowed head of the household who worked at the Nut and Bolt factory. Jonah and Keziah were both still at school, along with their two younger siblings, Sarah (b. 1873) and William (b. 1875). They shared the house with four boarders aged between 12 and 19.

Keziah Lewis census record 1881

On the 1891 census the family, minus Keziah, were living at Star Row. Sarah was listed as a house keeper with Jonah as a 'Bolt factory man', Sarah the younger as a tin works washer, and William as a tin works boxer. They also had a boarder, 18 year old Frederick Smith, who worked as another tin works boxer.

By 1901 Sarah had moved to Abbey Road in Llantarnam. Keziah was living back at home, as was William who now worked as a general labourer. They shared the home with Sarah's grandson - and presumably Keziah's son? - John 'Jack' Aspland (b. 1893), and a 33 year old boarder named William.

Keziah Lewis 1901 census

Ten years later nothing had changed, with the 1911 census finding them all still at 14 Abbey Road. Just about the only difference was that Jack had now finished school and was working as an assistant hewer below ground at the colliery. Keziah died in 1931 and was buried on May 30th by John Donne. Her last address was given as 14 Abbey Road.

Keziah Lewis Burial Record 1931

If I'm following the right Aspland, Jack married Catherine Watkins in 1914 and eventually died in Cwmbran on April 1st 1961.

For more like this please click the image below:
Weird Wales


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