Rector’s Reply 1866

Free Press December 22 1866


23 Half-Moon street, Piccadilly, Dec 13th 1866.

To the Editor of the Free Press

Sir,- Before I left home this week, I observe red in your paper of Saturday last, an attack upon me in a letter addressed by col. Byrde to the Usk Highway Board. I feel obliged to your correspondent, who, it appears was present at the last meeting of that body, when the letter was read, for having procured a copy of it. But for this, to one fortunate circumstance, I should have remained in entire ignorance of the entire burden of that communication, which, doubtless, the writer had no idea when penning it, would ever have found its way to the Press, to give the assailed party an opportunity of repudiating his undeserved attack, and of showing to the public that the dissatisfaction stated by me to exist in the upper part of my parish, respecting the gates on the Penystair road is real, and that, consequently, the representation to the Board is not only calculated to mislead, but (of course from ignorance of the case) wholly inconsistent with the fact. When, owing to the chance of proper grounds and reasons, argument fails, abuse is convenient, and often resorted to.

I had no idea of interfering with the Penystair road question, although long aware of discontent about it, until I accidentally saw the surveyor, some time ago, near my church, when two of my parishioners, the one a freeholder, and the other a leaseholder in Bwrgwm, were having an excited conversation with him about road matters, and also about the three gates put up by col. Byrde on the Penystair road. We represented to the Surveyor that it was illegal, and a positive injustice to the owners and occupiers of land on the side of the hill in Goytrey and Llanover, to allow these gates to remain on a parish road.

He observed that he could do nothing in the matter when a complaint was made – and suggested that one of the two more particularly interested, should write to the Board or to him, and formally complain of the objection. Some hesitation being, however, felt by my two parishioners in reference to the task of writing to the Board, I offered to write for them. Hence “the Rector’s championship,” volunteered in a matter so evidently disinterested to Col. Byrde.

I can truly say, I hope that whatever the Rector sees the attempt of might to overcome right, he will never be wanting in his duty to his parishioners to maintain their ancient and just right to all parish thoroughfares.

I distinctly remember the conversation at a parish meeting on the subject of putting gates on the road, and I well remember the caution, on the part of the few present, with which Col. Byrde’s wishes were received and the entire absence of response to those wishes. He thus tells the Board – “Nor can I believe there has been ‘the complaint or dissatisfaction’ represented that the gates in question have been allowed to remain, for though I have personally spoken of them to many in the parish, I never heard one single word of objection expressed to their existence.”

I distinctly remember a parishioner, who had always felt aggrieved on the point, expressing to him his dissatisfaction and objection, and also the dissatisfaction felt by others in the upper part of the parish, that gates had been put on the road. – and, surely, Col. Byrde’s memory must be exceedingly defective if he does not recollect when at a parish meeting he was much annoyed at having been told, in my hearing, by one of the farmers, in alluding to interference with the road in question, that “it was a monopoly.”

I never said to col. Byrde that this road was useless. I could not say so with truth – but could and might have said that it was “comparatively useless” – like two other roads in Bwrgwm.

Since such road are occasionally used they cannot with justice to the public be shut up, or so interfered with as to have gates put on them. A few sheep may, perchance, stray along the roads and get into Penystair fields, but where the “young cattle and donkeys” are to come from I am unable to conceive. But col. Byrde has no more reason to complain than others on this head. Has no the lord of the manor provided for such an evil? Has he not put a good gate on top of the main lane leading to the mountain in order to prevent sheep coming down? And if they should jump the gate, has he not provided for each parish a pound in which they can easily be lodged? Farmers on the hill side are not in the habit of taking the law into their own hands by putting gates on the adjacent roads, and thus infringing public rights, but trust to the mountain gate, or have recourse to the pound. Why should not Col. Byrde be satisfied with the same manorial provisions and keep his fences in good order? It is well known in Goytrey that a parish road cannot legally be shut up except by Court of Quarter Sessions – and, I believe, that Court cannot do it – if there should be an objection raised by a landowner who is interested in such a road – unless a better and, in all respects, and to all parties, a more convenient one is made with a view to supersede it. But let a landowner pull down one fence along a parish road and put up a few gates at certain distances, and in no time let him put up Notices at each end to this effect:: “any one found trespassing on these lands will be prosecuted, “ the parish road is then practically lost to the public. There might still remain to tell the tale, a pathway where the old lane was, but who would venture to send his young stock to market through what he is forced to regard as the property of a gentleman rising in the neighbourhood?

Now for the extraordinary proofs given that the road is of no use.

  1. Col. Byrde says, “Anyone going from Llanover to the upper part of the parish would not go out of his way to choose this lane when he had a more direct and better route up the Bwrgwm road.”   Of course not – it would be absurd in him to do so., unless he wishes to have a very fine view of the surrounding country. But any one going from Rhyd-y-llwyfen, and the region beyond, in the upper part of Llanover, with young cattle or sheep, towards Mamhilad, or to Usk, or to Pontypool markets, would he not go along the Penystair road rather than round by Pencroshopped, and then along the turnpike road, and, thus, much increase his distance?
  2. The following is the second proof that the road in question is of no use. “Any one going from Llanover to Pontypool would unsurely not go so far from the main road which invites them in preference.” Certainly, not unless the person were after the Llangibby or the Monmouthshire hounds, and wished to take that direction, in which case, the Penystair road would be very serviceable in saving the fields of the neighbouring farmers.
  3. The third and last proof is the following – “Even anyone going to Pantyscan farm, which also belongs to me, would go up the lane by New Barn or the Bwrgwm road.” Let those acquainted with the locality judge whether there is any proof of the uselessness of the road in questioning this remark. Any one going from Newbarn or from the Cwm in Mamhilad, to Bwrgwm in Goytrey, would take this road as his direct and nearest way. Such are the proofs!

Now for a “detail of a few facts connected with the road to show how far credence is to be given to my representation.” Destroy the Rector’s credibility as a witness, and his testimony is of no value.

1.Col Byrde tells the Board that he has a tolerably distinct recollection of that lane at various periods for 35 years, and it never was in different condition to what it is now, overgrown, dilapidated, and unused.”

He has forgotten to add that he has spent about 25 years out of the 35 out of the country. The road during my incumbency of about 24 years has never has never been so neglected as it is now. Before the farms referred to were bought for Col. Byrde a few years back, the road was in a better condition, notwithstanding the heavy hauling of stones along it from the Penystair quarry for the rebuilding of Goytrey church- for the erection of my school-room and teacher’s residence and for the making of various railway bridges.

  1. The second fact is – “There never were within my recollection any fences other than at present., along the fields of the Penystair and Pentrebach farms, adjoining that lane.”

I can only say that last Monday I walked the whole of the lane myself and found fully 180 yards of the fence pulled down, entirely cleared away, and converted into arable or meadow land. Col. Byrde can hardly be aware of this, for he tells the Board that “it is not true that the lane has been partially taken into his land.” He also says that “the gates are always open.” If so, what is the use of them? I found the three shut, and between the second and the third, three hurdles placed across the road which I had to get over.

  1. The third fact adduced is – “I have never seen during my residence at Goytrey either a horse or mule, or ass travelling that lane that I can recall to my own remembrance.” Col. Byrde will surely admit that those who have regularly resided, from year to year, in the parish, during his long absence of about 25 years in India, must have seen traffic along the road – such as carrying lime from the mountain in Llanover to Newbarn, to Upper Goytrey House, and to farms in Mamhilad, to say nothing of the fact that farmers from the said farm used, in former years, to send their young cattle along the Penystair road to their coedoa, or rough pasture on the hill-side in Llanover.
  2. The fourth fact is – “Neither have I met with any parishioner who can remember any parish outlay on this old road.”

Col. Byrde has certainly taken no pains to ascertain this point. For any old ratepayer who has attended, for some years, parish meetings would at once set him right. Neither has he taken much, if an, trouble, to consult the Parish Books, to see whether any entries have been made, from time to time, o fpayment of labour on this undoubtedly parish road. The Parish books, which I have examined, would convince any one on this point, and also show that the sums expended on it, at distinct intervals, and explicitly entered, have been very trifling. Besides, this road has, within my recollection and at my suggestion, been repaired by the parish.

In conclusion, I will observe that, however plausibly it may be insinuated that I was actuated by unworthy feelings in addressing the Surveyor, and not by a disinterested desire to maintain parish rights, the several members of the Board, at their last meeting, had before them the fact, that others had remonstrated with that body against the continuance of the gate s, and the damage done by Col. Byrde to the Penystair road – which was a complete refutation of all his insinuations.

Having, I think, convincingly replied to the various particulars to the Highway Board, the readers of the Press can now judge whether I have not fully shown that there is another side to the Penystair-road question, whereby is verified a saying of old, as it is true –

“One tale is good until another is told.”

I shall feel obliged, Mr Editor, by your kindly inserting this letter – and, I remain,

Yours truly, THOMAS EVANS, Rector of Goytrey


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