Death on the Canal - 1805, Meredith Arthur
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.


The Western Mail of February 5th 1908 reported on the death of Alfred Bowden:

“PONTNEWYDD MAN DROWNED. The body of a man named Alfred Bowden (52), a saddler in the employ of Messrs. Guest, Keen, and Nettlefolds, was found in the Monmouthshire Canal on Tuesday near the Cwmbran Gardens, Pontnewydd.”

Western Mail, 05 February 1908

The Pontypool Free Press of February 7th added a few more details:

Pontypool Free Press, 07 February 1908

Alfred Tidball Bowden was born in 1854 to Harriet and William Bowden in Tiverton. He was baptised on September 17th 1854 at Dulverton in Somerset, where he was still living with his mother and older brother Robert at the time of the 1871 census. Within a few years Alfred had moved to Newport, where he married Mary Jane Rees in 1876. In November 1878 Alfred appeared in court accused of stealing a purse and almost £10 from Isaac Scott. The case was eventually dismissed.

Monmouthshire Merlin, 22/11/1878 South Wales Daily, News 19 November 1878

By 1881 Alfred was working as a harness maker, and living with Mary and their daughters Lilly Ann (b. 1877) and Sarah Jane (b. 1881) at #1 Dock Street in Newport. In October 1886 Alfred was declared bankrupt. Nevertheless, on the 1891 census the family were living at #95 Commercial Street in Newport. Alfred was still working as a harness maker, while Mary was at home with Lilly, Sarah, and Mabel Harriet (b. 1883).

By 1898 the family had moved to the Cwmbran area, where Mabel died aged just 13 in the second quarter of the year. In 1899 Lilly married George Herbert and set up home in Newport. Meanwhile Alfred was summoned to the Cwmbran petty sessions in the June of 1899 for being drunk and riotous at Oakfield. P.C. Stephens deposed that Alfred had ‘invited him to toe a line across the road,’ for which he was sentenced to a 7s 6d fine or seven days imprisonment.

County Observer and Monmouthshire Central Advertiser Abergavenny and Raglan Herald Usk and Pontypool Messenger and Chepstow Argus, 17/06/1899

On the 1901 census Alfred was working as a saddler at Cwmbran Colliery, and living in Spring Vale with Mary and Sarah. His drinking continued to be a problem however, and in August 1904 a warrant was issued against him for threatening Mary Vernon with a glass bottle. He was bound over for six months in consequence.

Western Mail, 29 August 1904

After Alfred’s death in 1908, his wife Mary stayed in the area. On the 1911 census she is listed at #25 Spring Vale, working as a shopkeeper. Mary died in 1927. I think Sarah married Thomas Rowlands in early 1911; here they are listend on the 1911 census living at #12 Spring Vale.

1911 census

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Weird Wales