3rd February 1899 – The Liability of Country Tenants to keep their Hedges Pruned
An Interesting Case
Alfred Williams, Josiah Lewis, Henry Crump, William Jenkins and James Rowlands, were summoned to show cause why they should not be ordered to prune certain hedges on the highway at Goytre.
Mr T. Watkins, solicitor prosecuted on behalf of the Pontypool Rural District Council.
Jenkins, Rowlands, and [afterwards] Lewis, appeared in court, whilst Crump was represented by his son; Alfred Williams being the only one not represented.
Mr Watkins read section 65 of the Highways Act, respecting the cutting, pruning and plashing of hedges and empowering the local authority to prosecute.
In September last, the Rural District Council received a petition from the inhabitants of Goytrey [and strange to say, most of the defendants signed it] calling attention to the bad state of the roads and hedges.
Defendants were served with notices on the 5th of November to prune their hedges. Subsequently question was called to attention at the Parish Council. Nothing could be done to the roads until those hedges were cut. No wind or sun could get into them.
Rowlands, an old man of remarkable assertiveness, who, throughout the case provoked amusement by his persistent interruptions and expressions of opinion, boldly asked for the cases to be heard separately. His request was acceded to, his case was heard first.
Mr Robert Derrett, surveyor to the Pontypool Rural District Council, produced the petition signed by the inhabitants, and read the part relating to the fences, which were described as dangerous. Rowlands name was among the signatures. Witness handed the roadmen certain documents, copies of which were produced, this was on the 5th of November, the Rural District Council had also received a requisition from the Parish Council.
Defendant – When were you over that way mister?
Witness – Thursday
Where did you see this hedge you are complaining about? – On the road
What road? – The witness described the road
What sort of hedge was it? – You have cut a portion of it
What day of the year do you plead? – From the 30th September to the 31st March
Did you ever see a man plash a hedge in September? – Many trees are planted in October
Rowlands, Not one sir – You have brought me here today on a thing that is just beginning. Christmas is the time for plashing a hedge.
Witness – It’s the orders of the Council
The chairman told Rowlands he had had the whole of December, and the whole of January, two months, to do what was required of the hedge, he [the Chairman] knew as much about hedges as the defendant did.
Defendant said he always did the hedges between January and April. In April he preferred to do them. There was 85 yards done already, and he had about as much again, which he would do in 3 days if the weather was fine.
The Chairman advised him to do this.
Defendant: I am quite willing, what about my expenses Sir? I can’t come down here without my expenses, [laughter]
The Chairman: You have not done what you had notice in November to do. The Council had full power to summon you. They had a perfect right and you are here because you neglected to do your duty, and no one can pay you for neglecting to do your duty.
Defendant: Begging you pardon, the time is not expired until next March. There is a piece there by the house that will shade the house and the Rectory. Am I to do that or not? I do not know why I have been brought here today and lose time. If you had summoned me in April I should have done it.
The Chairman: I don’t summon you. You get it done as soon as you can. The law states you must get it done before 31st March. We have only to make an order.
Defendant: It’s to early to be done.
The Chairman: The order is that you are to do it in ten days or the Council will do the work and charge you with the costs.
Defendant: It can’t be done in ten days; I am short of stakes, [laughter]
Mr Watkins also asked that defendant should pay costs, but the Chairman said as this was the first case of this kind, the Bench did not think it advisable to order the costs to be paid.
The next case taken was that of Jenkins, who did not dispute his liability. He said he did the greater part of the hedge last year. He was leaving the farm on 2nd February, and expressed the opinion his landlord could claim damages of him if he pruned the hedge at this stage, besides, the trees were very good shelter for the house in rough weather.
The Chairman: If we make the order you will be safe from your landlord then?
Mr Derrett said the trees in question were 150 yards away, and were not a shelter to the house.
It’s nothing like a hundred yards sir.
The Bench granted the order applied for.
The third case, Josiah Williams was heard next. Williams said that any reasonable man would know it was not the time to trim the hedges now.
The Chairman – I had my trees done for the convenience of the County Council, although I was not obliged to do so as they are ornamental.
Defendant – I did 157 perches last winter.
An order was made in this case, defendant at this time expressing his annoyance at being compelled to come there and lose time over such an affair.
Crumps son pleaded that the road was to bad for a man to work on that side of the hedge next to the road – else his father would have done it
Col. Hair – It is to be hoped you will have finer weather – similar order made.
An order was made in the remaining case, that of Alfred Williams.
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