Grievances at Goytrey 1870

Free Press Feb. 6th 1870


A very pretty quarrel is going on at Goytrey. The rector, the Rev. T. Evans, and some of his parishioners do not pull very well together, and last week he headed a performance which has by no means added to his popularity, judging by the number of respectable signatures appended to a document of which we have obtained a sight. The present “bone of contention” is the Penstair Lane.

The general feeling in the parish seems to be that this lane is perfectly useless to the public, that it would indeed be better abolished, as in that case trespasses of sheep, etc, would be prevented, and that the parish ought not to be put to the expense of repairing it.

Some years ago the same opinion prevailed, and at a parish meeting, at which the present rector presided, permission was granted to Col Byrde to put up gates so as to stop up the lane. Mr Evans, since then, for reasons best known to himself, thought proper to alter his opinion. Mr Berrington and other justices who viewed the road came to the conclusion that it was unadvisable to put the parish to the expense of repairing it.

At the last meeting of the Pontypool and Usk Highway Board Mr Evans attended, and bluntly said that “the justices who viewed the road were quite incompetent to form an opinion on the subject.”   Mr Berrington on hearing this polite remark, rose to leave the room, but was persuaded by the chairman, Mr Greenhow-Relph, to remain.

A memorial presented by Mr Evans was laid on the table, but was not read. A desultory conversation followed, and it was decided to adjourn the question until the March meeting. Mr Evans objected to Col. Byrde copying the names of the memorialists, saying, “I protest against it, because it is liable to abuse; I know a pressure has been brought to bear.” Col. Byrde said no one had a right to impute such motives to others; but as that remark had been made, he must say that if there had been any pressure it was brought to bear by the other side.

The chairman and other gentlemen present saw no impropriety in Mr Byrde taking a copy of the names. Mr Evans was afterwards walking off with the memorial, but was requested to leave it behind, as it had now become public property. The Board had thus decided that the question ought to stand adjourned until the next meeting. Mr Evans’s zeal however would not, however, allow of such delay.

On Wednesday in last week he sallied forth, at the head of ten men, whose courage had been stimulated by a little beer, and the party sawed off the gateposts of the gates which he, as chairman of the parish meeting, had allowed to be so desirable. The party are said to have returned to the rectory, and celebrated the result of their expedition. Which has reminded the neighbourhood of the rage of “Rebecca and he daughters” against turnpikes in manner befitting its importance. In less than half-an-hour Mr Jones, on of those who sided with the rector, enjoyed a specimen of the beneficial results of the overthrow of the gates, as some 60 or 70 sheep, belonging to Mr James, trespassed on his land!

A paragraph was sent by someone to the Observer, triumphantly announcing that Penstair road question has been thus “summarily and finally settled.” Having heard the views of parishioners on the subject, we are inclined to think that the writer of that paragraph has “counted his chickens” a little too soon, and the last has NOT been heard of the matter.

The parishioners are joining in a memorial to the Highway Board, stating that the general feeling is that the lane in question is quite useless to the public, and ought not to be retained on the books as a highway liable to be repaired at the expense of the parish; that they consider that the gates put there by Coo. Byrde, by authority of the parishioners, were a public benefit, and prevented the trespass of mountain sheep on the adjoining land, and were no hindrance to anyone who might ever want to use the said lane; that they are perfectly satisfied that no one would ever had stirred the business if they had both been incited thereto; and that they therefore hope that the gates will be maintained and that the parish may not be made to incur any fresh liability.


Since the article, headed as above, in the preceding column, was put in type, we have received the following communications of the subject:-

To the Editor of the Pontypool Free Press.

Sir,- An article in the local papers of last week (which could have emanated but from ONE source) referring to the Penstair road, might, if unnoticed, mislead the public into the belief that his abandoned lane on the side of the mountain was REALLY some useful highway, from which some of the parishioners had removed obstructions.

The matter being thus brought to the notice of the public through the medium of the Press, as well as through the public proceedings of the Highway Board, no apology from one of the public is necessary for begging you to insert a brief statement of the FACTS of the case, for the enlightenment of you numerous readers.

The question (an insignificant one in itself) of the maintenance of the accommodation gates on either end of the road, by authority of the parish meeting, and continued by the Highway Board, was recently brought before the Board by the rector of Goytrey, to whom, either the gates, or the owner of the property along this old lane, seem to have given moral offence and he avowed to the Board that he will leave no stone unturned to get them removed.

The chairman himself inspected the road, but the surveyor had omitted to make a report on it, saying that he did not know what to say, as he had never seen any traffic on the road since he had been in office.

The past resolutions and the report of the justices who viewed the road were read at the meeting and the settlement of the question was, and in compliance with the rector’s own wishes, postponed till the next meeting, fixed to be held on the 11th March.

But what course, do you think, Mr Editor, the rector has taken in the meantime?

Repudiating and setting at naught the authority of the Highway Board, to which he had appealed on two successive Board meetings, and taking the law into his own hands, and aided by his “TEN PARISHIONERS,” viz: –


His farm servant

His groom

His carpenter

His carpenter’s man

His school servant

His occasional labourer

The two employees who do his hauling.

The parish clerk.

– The parish clerk’s son bringing up the rear with CAN or JAR

– Armed with tools and fortified to boot from the NANTYDERRY PUBLIC, this gallant band, under the order of the chief, marched to the mountain side, when they accomplished, unmolested, the sawing away of the posts level with the ground, and removal of the gates so obnoxious to the rev gentleman; and all the work of destruction being completed, the party, shouldering their weapons, returned to Nantyderry in triumph, for mutual congratulations on the NOBLE (?) feat they had performed.


And what is the consequence? The very next day, there was an inroad of mountain sheep on the lands below the road, which would have been prevented by the gates. This has been again repeated, and the long closed POUND at Penplenny has again been re-opened to receive the STRAYS, causing bitterness and angry feeling all around.

But what will the Highway Board say, Mr Editor, to this infringement of its authority, and to the rector, who by virtue of his office as a magistrate, is a member of the Board?

Will the chairman who inspected the road and was about to submit the question for decision – will he thus have his office and his posers superseded?

Will the Waywardens, the representations of the Parishes forming the Board, submit to be thus stultified by the action of one of the members of their Board, taking upon himself to act in violation of their resolutions?


If AUTHORITY is really rested in these Boards by the Highway Act, and if RULE and ORDER are to be maintained, their authority must be re-asserted and enforced, and such proceedings as have been enacted at Goytrey must not be suffered to recur

I remain Sir,




To the Editor of the Free Press


This is to give you a veritable story

Of a modern edition of an old Rector foray.

In a country parish, a parson and clerk

In a frolicsome mood feeling up to a lark,

They looked dup their cronies, to make their band “ten,”

If I tell you who they are you’ll judge of the men.

The Rector comes first, in his hat with broad brim,

His clerk “Jones,” with his son, following him;

Then “Harris,” his carpenter, joined by his mate;

And “Gough” is the tenant that lives near his gate;

His “Groom” and his “buttons come next in the roll,

Followed sharp by the laddies who carry his coal.

Banding together at Nantyderry

A taste of the beer just making them merry,

The Worshipful Leader, on mischief bent,

Gave the word “Forward,” and off they went,

Armed with picks and hatchet and axe,

“One,” “One,” they march, not fearing attacks,

For the foes they seek are wily “pests,”

Which have been to the Rector such troublesome ghosts,

Till, at length, he has taken the law in his hand,

Declaring a “gate” shall never there stand;

On this old poking lane, oh, oh, he ne’er drives

Nor ever will want to, as long as he lives,

Three gates there were along the steep,

To keep from wandering mountain sheep;

They opened with latch, so easy and fair,

That none who passed through ever cared they were there,

But the Parson may wish on Alpine mule

To tread this road to Pontypool;

“He’ll see that these mighty obstructions are gone,”

And marshals his forces for cutting them down;

Then with saw and with hatchet they go,

Unmindful of whether “Law’s” with them or no,

To destroy other’s goods may be very good fun,

But hardly fit work for a clergy “mun.”




Free Press Mar 5th 1870


To the Editor of the Free Press

SIR – Whoever “Verax” may be, his version in your last impression is incorrect.

It gives a brief statement of facts and a birds-eye view of matters toughing Penystair road, and the gates illegally placed on it.

It is clear he is extremely sorry to have to part with these gates, which have already answered one purpose, namely, to diminish the traffic on the road that the term “abandoned lane” may be more applicable to it than when the gates were placed on it.

When a man screens himself behind a fictitious name, one naturally suspects there is some weakness in the cause he pleads. He can then abuse and ridicule with impunity. “Verax” comes forth under a mask, but forgets that abuse is not argument, assertion is not proof, and that ridicule is the weapon of small minds.

“Verax” has certainly not made veracity his study for

1 The gates were NOT put on the road “by authority of a parish meeting.”   The gates on Miss Cooke’s property were placed there by authority of the vestry, and a minute on the vestry book, showing such authority, was duly entered. But when the owner of a portion of the land along Penystair lane expressed a wish, in a parish meeting, to place gates on the lane, there was not one favourable response, and the subject was dropped. I was in the chair. Notwithstanding the ominous silence, he took the law into his own hands, put up the gates, and at a subsequent parish meeting, was, in my presence, angrily charged by a farmer with being “found of monopoly.” So far from pleading the authority of a previous parish meeting in self-justification, he made no reply whatever. There is no minute on the vestry book showing the alleged authority.

2 The gates were NOT “continued by the Highway Board,” nor is it true that the Surveyor, as “Verax” intimates, had omitted to make a report on the road on the ground that “he knew not what to say as, he never saw any traffic on it since he had been in office.” What he said was, “That as the Chairman had gone over it, he did not think he was required to make a report.”

3 The land is NOT a mountain road, but one of the roads on the hill side, leading to the road from Blaenavon on one side, and to Pontypool on the other side; viz., from the upper parts of Goytrey and Llanover.

In 1866 the vicar of Blaenavon wrote to the Highway Board, to complain of the gates which had been placed on this road, stating that this lane was a direct communication between his two small farms. Mr Pruett, a freeholder, and the late Mr William Jones, a leaseholder on the hill side, complained to the Surveyor of the same obstructions, and they were delivered by Mr Henry Williams to make their case known to the Highway Board.

I happened to be present as they were repainting my churchyard wall. Not knowing how to lay the matter in due form before the Board, they requested me to write to the Board for them. I did so. The result was, a letter from Col. Byrde (then in Ceylon) to the Chairman of the Board in which was insinuated that I was actuated in the matter by personal feeling.   This letter appeared in the Pontypool Free Press, and was replied to by me through the same medium.

After this, in January 1867, Mr Keats wrote to me, stating that Mr Frank Byrde had come to the Board to say that he “assented to the removal of the gates.”

For some time, I and others thought these obstructions were removed. At the meeting before last I had Mr Keats’s letter before the Board, and again called their attention to the grievance. I then discovered why the gates were not removed by Mr R. Byrde after all.

He had called at a subsequent meeting to ask the Board to allow the gates to remain until the return of his father from Ceylon.

The subject, therefore, of those gates has been from time to time, forced on the attention of the Highway Board. Whether it be true or not that the Board desired the gates should be removed. I know not, but the permission applied for by Mr F. Byrde for them to remain for a time, would seem to imply that fact.

But, Mr Editor, what was done when H. C. Byrde, Esq., returned? Was the grievance redressed? Were the rights of complaining and long fore-bearing landowners and tenant-farmers respected? No. Two Justices are, with a high hand, called in to view the “abandoned lane,” (and they are not invited according to the Act, by the Surveyor), for the purpose of relieving the parish, forsooth, of the heavy burden of maintaining this useful cattle thoroughfare, which, according to the parish books, only cost a few shillings for the last 20 years!!

Whether the only landowner, who seems so much to desire such a consummation, was present with the two Justices, has not yet transpired.

The report was NOT read, as “Verax” states, at the last Board meeting

Finding from such proceedings of which I was not before aware, that there was no disposition on behalf of the gentlemen who put up the gates, to respect the property of others, whose properties would be depreciated in value by practically closing up the road, I did say at the Board (and I repeat what I said) that “I shall feel it my duty to leave no stone unturned to protect the interests of others, and now my own, as a landowner.

Having bought a farm in the neighbourhood of the road in question, and on which is a mill, I admit that a regard for my own rights partly induced me to press this matter again on the attention of the Board.

It was but reasonable to try to increase facilities to get “grist” into the mill.

I, therefore, got up a memorial to the Board. It was signed by me and the parties who felt aggrieved that this road was practically lost to them. It bore the names of the Vicar of Blaenavon; Mr Turner of New Barn; Mrs Rosser of Pantglas; Mr Nicholas, of Yew Tree Farm; Mr Davis, of Goytrey Mill; Mr Charles Jones, of Carnllech; Mr Pruett, landowner; Mr Meredith, of Hendre Glyn; and others. The memorialists requested the Board to “remove the obstructions so long complained of,“ and I may add, so patiently tolerated.

Col. Byrde was present at the Board, and took down the names of the memorialists.

The subject of the memorial was at my request postponed until the next meeting as I simply wished a fuller Board, and I had not then the remotest intention as to another course of proceeding.

But, in the meantime, Mr Editor, what were the measures adopted with a view to create alarm in reference to this road question, among the heavily burdened ratepayers of this parish?

A partisan of H. C. Byrde, Esq., one of his Opposition British School Committee, takes round a memorial with a very effective tale, so as not to fail to obtain signatures, viz., that if Penystair road should not be closed as it was, the ratepayers would be compelled to widen it to the legal width, and that it would cost them £200 !!! But this tale was not sufficiently potent to serve the purpose with come. The same tale-bearer among the people, therefore, added that if the road should be opened, the Rector would compel the parishioners to spend the above sum above it!!!

This I discovered more and more when sending round a counter memorial, and I have been told this fact by the parties themselves.

Finding this determination to deny us everything in the shape of fair play, there appeared to me and to others no alternative but to take down the gate illegally put up, and never expressly sanctioned by the Board, and at once to clear the road of all the obstructions that had given to it the appearances of an “abandoned lane.”

The parties more immediately interested in the removal of these gates gave orders and were present when the work was done. But they took these steps at my suggestion, and under my protection; and I am prepared to bear the consequences of these acts, which, I maintain, are neither an offence against the law, nor an infringement of the authority of the Highway Board, and certainly never intended to be the slightest disrespect towards the Board, its Chairman, or its surveyor.

We may be told that we have too many roads in this parish. We have about 19 miles.

Were the district owned by about half-a-dozen landed proprietors, no doubt some roads could, without injustice, be closed up.

But this parish, in extent, is 3,330 acres, and there are about 40 freeholders and several leaseholders belonging to it, who being all ratepayers, are entitled to road accommodation,

And, surely, when one resident gentleman and landowner perniciously seeks practically to deprive other and smaller landowners of any kind, or any extent, of road convenience, it seems to me that his conduct is of oppression that ought to be firmly resisted.

When I purchased the farm along which the Penystair road goes for Col.. Byrde (then in Ceylon), there were such fences along that road as could, without much outlay, be made good enough, to keep “the strays” from the road.

But when he came to reside in the parish, he left the fence, in one part, to go to ruin, and in another part, upwards of 170 yards of the road fence, with a wide bank along it (so that the road could be widened about 20 feet in the clear,), were taken into his field. I do not know whether the bailiff had authority from his master to do this. “Verax” will perhaps in his next effusion, assert that the taking of this road into the field, as well as the putting up of the gates, was “by the authority of a parish meeting.”

When the fence was entirely removed what neighbouring farmer could send a flock of sheep or cattle along the road? especially when there were sheep already in the field, or on “the abandoned lane,” now rendered here invisible and fit for the inspection of the justices.

Since the farm is leased on a term of several years, the landlord has not quite the same excuse for meddling with this public highway. Let him restore the road fence which his servant, with or without his authority, removed, and let him encourage the new tenant, who gets possession in May, to make good the fences throughout.

The road in question was useful in times past.

Tradition affirms that along it were carried, on mules, stones to build some portions of the ancient castle of Raglan.

Along it came the stones to build my church, 24 years ago, and also stones to build my schoolroom.

Along it came stones to build several railway bridges, and who can tell of what essential service this road might be to the public in time to come?

Now, Mr Editor, it is clear that the whole drift of “Verax’s” communication, and especially of his peroration, is to stir up the Highway Board to a spirit of antagonism, and to believe that “rule,” “resolution.” and “authority” have been set at naught by a member of the Board. I am not aware of any resolution of the Board in reference to these gates, except the one which authorised their remaining at Mr F. Byrde’s request, until his father should return from Ceylon.

It is well known, Mr. Editor, that a Highway Board is not appointed for the purpose of allowing nuisances on Highways (and gates across roads, illegally placed, are regarded by the Act as nuisances); not for the purpose of acting in subserviency to the dictum of an interested landowner to the injury of the rights of others (which the Usk Board will never do); but for the purpose of doing impartial, even-handed justice between man and man, without any respect of persons.

For the information of Verax,” I will in conclusion, add, that gates be again placed across the Penystair road, I have reason to believe that, in accordance with justice and law, they will experience a doom precisely similar to that which befell the others. And if he will ride up to the fresh air on the hill side to clear his verifying faculty, and take a comprehensive view of all improvements there effected, he will find that the “abandoned lane,” nearly a mile in length, has been put in good order, at the sole cost of.

Mr Editor,


P.S. Further communications on the above subject, unless they bear the writer’s name and address, will, of course, will be treated with that feeling usually called forth by anonymous letters

The vulgar lines of bad poetry beneath notice, except to remark, that the writer does not evidently know the difference between “Syntax” and Prosody.

Free Press, April 16, 1870


To the Editor of the Free Press

Sir, – The public and the Editors of the County papers must be pretty well tired with the subject of the Penystair road and the futile attempts made by the Rector of Goytre to justify his acts by misrepresentations, but I must beg your indulgence for once to enlighten some of your readers respecting the statements of the rev gentleman, by way of a summary to his proceedings.

I will only refer to matters of fact, and will not take up much of your space. First of all, notice the beginning of this newspaper controversy by an announcement in the county papers by the Rector himself: – That the question of the gates had been “summararily and finally settled by ten parishioners.” Intended to convey an impression that independent parishioners had removed them, – these parishioners, it seems, being himself and his servants and labourers.

Then notice the refusal to a parishioner the right of representation to the Highway Board he claims for himself, and because Mr James., of Upper Goytrey House, takes his friends to join him in a letter, he is called by the Rector a “tale-bearer” and “Partizan”. Surely, Mr Editor, this is not very fair dealing, or fair speaking either. Mr James had surely the same right of petition as the parish clerk had to apply for signature over and over again on behalf of the Rector: and if Mr James found that the parish might be involved in a new era of law expenses, it was certainly a very natural apprehension after past experience of the heavy law experiences the Rector had been the means of leading the parish to incur the remembrance of which is still fresh in the minds of many of the poor people of Goytre, yet the expression of the views held by Mr James and his friends is termed by the Rector as “pressure.”

The question of the transport of stones does not affect the matter, as the gates were no obstruction to traffic, but if it did, there is abundant evidence adverse to the Rector’s assertions on this point.

All questions of “traffic” is well no to have had no influence whatever in this matter. It is patent to everyone who knows the facts of the case that there was no “traffic” on the road, and that it was of no real use to any one.

That the sawing away of the posts and the removal of the gates was a malicious act, originating solely in personal feeling on the part of the Rector of Goytre, is universally believed and it will be long before this belief is effaced from the minds of many now living in this parish or neighbourhood, despite all that is said and written to the contrary.

The statement put before the public that Col. Byrde with “high hand” procured two justices to view the road and make an order, at the time the gentleman was away in Ceylon, should at least clear the rev gentleman fr0m such free use of such terms as “Unscrupulous” in writing of other. Does not such a mis-statement as this cast discredit upon the whole of his version of the matter? “Ex uno disce omnes.” (One specimen is enough to judge by.) Then notice the complaint made by the Rector of unfair treatment by the chairman of the Board that he did not let him know he was going to inspect the road, in which he omitted to mention that he had changed his postal address from Pontypool to Abergavenny, which called the delay in the receipt of the chairman’s notice.

It was the Rector, in fact, who had requested the chairman to inspect the road and yet he joined Mr Bateman in his vehement attack upon him at the meeting of the 11th of March and actually denounced his visit to the road as “unauthorised and “contrary to the rights of his office” which he himself had asked the chairman to make.

The Rector’s attempts in his various letters to make it appear that 170 yards of the lane had been taken in Col. Byrde’s field, simply because the thorns and briers had been cleared away from the bank when there was no hedge, speaks for himself. It needs no comment.

If anyone is sufficiently interested to take a country walk to Goytre and see that celebrated Penystair road, he will be in a position to estimate the value of the Rectors merits (?) in his boasted championship of parish rights, which it would be far better for himself, and the parishioners, if he had let alone.

I am, sir, your obedient servant, FINIS.


For any comments or suggestions regarding this item please use the Contact tab at the top of the page.