Highway Board Hostilities 1866


One of the early days in November has acquired a tolerably wide notoriety in connection with kegs of gunpowder, barrels of pitch and other inflammable and combustible materials. In the same period the calendar marks the anniversary of the battle of Inkerman. Appropriately, therefore, has next week been chosen for the firing of the first gun in the combat between the Highway Board and the parish of Goytrey. The cause of war is the refusal by Goytrey to pay £100 out of £140 demanded by the Board – the £100 being wanted for the new work on the Pontypool road. Particulars of the earlier stages of the discussion we gave the week before last. Since then the parishioners have met in vestry, and having been informed by the Waywarden that the Board had sent him a call for £140, to be paid in two instalments, – £100 in November and £40 in December, – they resolved to pay the £40, which the amount of the surveyor’s estimate for ordinary repairs, and to refuse the larger amount. This determination the Rector, as chairman, was directed to communicate to the Board. A special meeting of the latter was held at the Town Hall, Usk, on Monday last, to consider the position of affairs. The work on the road has been done under two contracts, let to Abraham Williams, a labouring man living in Goytrey. The first contract amounted to £165. The other tenders were £142, £167, £260, £281, £214 and £226, all except that at £142 including hedging.   The surveyor’s estimate for the work was £206. It was stated from the first by practical men that Williams had taken the work for too little money, and this was found to be the case. Considerable delay took place after a commencement had been made, in consequence of a misunderstanding between the Board and one of the landowners; but at length Williams went on, until he had drawn all his money upon the first contract – the work being at the same largely in arrear. As a kind of Hibernian mode of enabling him to finish the first, the Board let Williams a second contract, at £90, for an additional piece of the road. This second contract, we believe, is said to have been completed, but to finish the first a large additional outlay is required – estimates ranging between £50 and £100. The Board consider that Williams has done work enough to cover the amount paid him, but the road not being nearly finished, and in an impassable state, what was to be done? This was the problem which the Board met on Monday to solve.

Mr G. R. Greenhow-Relph, who is a member of the Board ex officio, said he understood the Board went to work on the road under an order of two magistrates that it should be widened. Now, he had been told in Pontypool, on Saturday, that one of the magistrates signing the order did not belong to the division. If that were so, then the order was illegal, and if objections were raised he thought there would be difficulty in meeting them, and in enforcing the calls made by the Baord.

The Chairman (Mr Thomas Watkins) said that the Land Clauses Consolidation Act gave the necessary power. The magistrates’ order was made some years ago, and promises were given on behalf of Goytrey that the work should be done, but it was not done.

Mr Relph considered that the road in question was what might be called an outside road, as regarded Goytrey, those neighbouring parishes to which it would be a great convenience might be reasonably asked to contribute.

Mr John Morgan, of Little Mill, said that if the Board persisted in a course of unfair treatment towards Goytrey they would embark on a sea of litigation. The parishioners were determined to resist. They would employ a solicitor, and would fight the question to the end. The only way to meet the difficulty was to do justly by Goytrey and call upon the neighbouring parishes, which were benefited by the road, to contribute pro rata.

The Chairman said that when the question came before the Board twelve months ago, a committee was appointed to consider it, and Mr Relph was on that committee.

Mr Relph: I was; but that makes no difference, if the magistrates’ order is illegal. Mr Stretton, who signed with Mr Little, was not a magistrate of the division. The fact of his occasionally acting on the division did not make him so.

The Chairman said it seemed to him that members of the Board were picking holes in their own act. They had much better consider what course they would take for completing the road, for it could not be left now as it was – they would be liable to proceedings for obstructing a public highway.

Mr John Morgan: Do that which is fair and just, and not throw the whole burden upon Goytrey.

Mr Gwatkin, Waywarden for Goytrey, said that his parish was determined to resist. They had resolved not to pay £100 called for, but the £40 only. They had paid 2s. 2d. in the pound road rates in one year.

The Chairman: You defy us, then?

Mr Gwatkin: Just so, sir.

The Chairman said he knew Llanvair would not contribute to the road.

Mr Edward Price said Kemeys would not. He had called a parish meeting to consider the matter, and the result was a unanimous refusal. Kemeys had gone to great expense in improving the road leading to the Black Bear. Having done this without assistance, he did not see why the should be called upon to help Goytrey.

Mr John Morgan: Well, if Llanvair, Kemeys, and Bettws refuse to contribute, the matter will have to be fought out.

The Chairman said Llanvair had expended £400 in making a new road from the Chain Bridge to Pantygoitre.

Mr Relph said it was a pity there should be litigation on the subject, and he again urged that Goytrey ought to be assisted.

Mr John Morgan asked by what authority the contractor obtained payment of the £100, on the first contract, before the work was two-thirds finished?

The Chairman having, in reply to a question, said that the contractor had not been required to give sureties,

Mr Morgan remarked that therefore there was the greater necessity for making advances to him.

The Chairman said that as the contract provided for a portion of the value of work done being always held in hand, it was considered the Board would have security enough. The contractor said that the Board made the first breach in the contract by stopping the work, owing to a difficulty with regard to Mr Cook’s land. If the Board would pay him for the remainder of the work by measurement, he would go on and finish it.

Mr Relph said that Col Byrde had offered to get the road widened for £100.

Mr Gwatkin: And now it will cost £600.

The Chairman said that other roads made by Colonel Byrde cost a good deal to keep in repair.

Mr Price, of Usk, said it was Mr Gwatkin’s fault that the contract was let to Williams.

Mr Gwatkin said he thought no one could be more competent than a man who could do the work himself; and the work had been done satisfactorily, only that it could not be finished for the money.

The Chairman said that there was no doubt that the contract was taken at too low a price. If Mr Gwatkin had thought it was so, he should have objected at the time.

Mr Gwatkin said that Goytrey had paid £322 for less than half the work to be done. He also stated that Mr Stretton and Mr Thompson, two magistrates, had ridiculed the outlay on the road as extravagant.

The Chairman: The £322 includes the repairs and working expenses of more than twenty miles of roads.

Mr Gwatkin: If we pay the present call, we shall have paid £290 for about half the work. In three half-years Goytrey will have paid, in poor rate and road rate, £900.

The Chairman said that some of the richest landowners in the county were ratepayers in Goytrey, and to get up such a howl as this was most disgraceful to the parish. The question now before the meeting was how was the work to be finished?

Mr John Morgan: I beg to propose that the work be suspended until some arrangement can be made to provide funds for its completion.

Mr Gwatkin: I beg to second that.

Mr Relph asked if the Chairman felt that the Board had broken the contract.

The reply, if any was made, did not reach the further end of the room.

Mr Morgan said that the contractor ought to have been paid only pro rate, according to the work done.

The Chairman said that when a disagreement arose between the contractor and the surveyor to the Board, as to the amount of work done, he (the Chairman) got two other surveyors to measure the work, and upon their certificate the work was paid.

Mr Relph: Has any money been paid the contractor without a surveyor’s certificate?

The Chairman: After the disagreement, the surveyor gave certificates at my request.

Mr Morgan: You ought not to have interfered.

The Surveyor, Mr Henry Williams, explained the first or second fortnight after the contractor began, he asked for a sum of money. He (the Surveyor) measured the work, and not finding an adequate amount done, refused his certificate. The contractor then went to Mr Watkins, who seemed to think enough work had been done for the amount of money asked for, and at Mr Watkins’s request he gave the certificate, and had continued to do so since.

The Chairman: By the agreement I was made referee, and when a dispute arose I took that which I considered the proper course.

Mr Relph said it was always desirable that the Chairman should have the support and confidence of the Board, but he could not help considering it unfortunate that the Chairman should have exercised his opinion contrary to that of the surveyor.

Mr Price, of Usk, urged that it was the duty of the Board to support the surveyor, and not allow him to be insulted. He should move that the Board have nothing further to do with the contractor, and that the surveyor finish the work.

The motion having been seconded,

Mr Morgan moved his former resolution as an amendment, and Mr Gwatkin seconded.

The Chairman said there were many parishes paying at a higher rate per mile than Goytrey.

Mr Gwatkin said it must be remembered that all the outlay in Goytrey was made upon eight or ten miles of road. The upper part of the parish got very little done for it, and the ratepayers there were very dissatisfied.

The votes were then taken, and the proposition that the surveyor carry on the work was declared to be carried by six against five

The meeting then separated.


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