Watkins v Evans 1859

Usk Observer – Sat 30 Jul 1859

Pontypool Police Court

[Before Wm Williams Esq and the Rev C A Williams]

“THE UNFORTUNATE PARISH OF GOYTREY.” – WATKINS            v EVANS. Mr Price, Abergavenny appeared for complainant, and Mr Llewellyn, Newport, instructed by Mr Alexander Edwards, for defendant. – Complainant who claims to be the legitimate surveyor of highways for the aforesaid parish applied for a distress warrant for £8 8s 4d against the Rev Thomas Evans, rector of Goytrey, for parochial rates. In stating the case, Mr Price said, that his client Watkins was elected to the office of surveyor for the parish of Goytrey, in March 1858, which he held until March, 1859, when in the ordinary way he would have retried, if the inhabitants had properly elected someone to succeed him, as pointed out in the statute of the 5th and 6th of William 4th, which ordained, that they were to meet for that purpose on the 25th of March. The inhabitants did not comply with the statute, for they met on the 24th instead of the 25th of the month, and elected Nicholas as surveyor, which appointment must be considered null and void, as being contrary to the Provisions of the Act of Parliament.

Mr Llewellyn: I have nothing to do with what has been done previously, but I shall expect you to prove that your client has been legally appointed.

Mr Price: My client was appointed in March, 1858, and continued in office until the same month in the present year, when the inhabitants, failing to appoint a successor, he, according to the 5th sec. of the minute, can remain in office, and continue to act until his successor has been appointed. After adverting to the power vested in the Magistrates of appointing a surveyor, in case the parishioners failed to do so, Mr Price called

Mr Watkins, who said, I reside in the parish of Goytrey and was appointed surveyor in March, 1858. I produce my ledger, from which it appears that my accounts were passed in March, 1859, signed by the chairman and a number of parishioners, who did not elect any person to be the surveyor on the 25th of March, or in 14 days afterwards. I continue to hold, and act in the office. I made this rule on the 11th of May; it was published on the 15th of the same month. I placed it on the church door. The amount owing by the Rev Thomas Evans was £8 8s 4d, I demanded it on the 9th and on the 11th instant, the first time I went for it I was ordered off the premises, and have never yet received the money.

Mr Llewellyn: I object to this case going further until Mr Watkins proves his appointment.

Mr Watkins, in answer to Mr Llewellyn said there was a book in which his appointment was entered.

Mr Llewellyn: I want Mr Watkins to prove how or in what manner he was appointed.

Mr Price: His being in possession of the office was sufficient proof of his appointment.

Mr Llewellyn: According to the 6th clause, notice shall be given by the chairman of the parishioners meeting to the person elected, and why is it not produced. You ask us for the payment of a rule, but first, show how you can legally demand it, and if the appointment is not proved, I shall ask the Magistrates to dismiss the case.

Mr Price: We don’t care how we were appointed. Here are our books; we have been recognised by all the parishioners, as the surveyor of the parish. They have paid rates which we levied, and it is now too late to go into the appointment.

Mr Watkins: I collected three rates, and Mr Evans has paid me rates.

Mr Llewellyn: And perhaps he ought not to have done so. However, I shall ask the magistrates, to dismiss the case if the appointment is not proved.

Mr Price again repeated his objection to go into the appointment, for the reasons he previously advanced, viz; that his client had been the recognised surveyor, by all the parishioners, and that it was not too late to go into that matter. He would let Mr Llewellyn have any of his papers, relating to the appointment, if he called for them, but he would not produce them as part of his own case.

The bench said that the appointment should have been proved.

Mr Price, still objecting, said: I’ll undertake to make the justices proceed with the case. It has gone off previously on many little points, and it is time that it should be properly settled.

Mr E B Edwards entreated Mr Price to go into the appointment of Watkins, when he very reluctantly produced a notice signed by Mr Evans, signifying that Mr Watkins had been appointed.

Mr Llewellyn, looking at the document, said this appointment appears to have been made on the 18th of March, and if Nicholas’s appointment was deemed bad that was made on the 24th how could Mr Watkins’s be good, that was made on the 18th of that month. After referring to the QUEEN V BEST, Mr Llewellyn said that Mr Watkins had not produced the notice convening the vestry meeting of March, 1858: nor had he produced the minutes of the said meeting. These points are reserved for the consideration of the bench.

Mr Watkins, examined by Mr Llewellyn: I don’t know when the paper produced was given to me. I received it in time to go to the special sessions. I was present at the meeting of March, 1858. The book produced contains the minutes of the meeting. Mr Evans was ill, and asked Captain Bird to act for him as Chairman of the meeting. The minutes were not entered into the book at the meeting; Mr Bird had a piece of paper before him, on which they were entered. Mr Bird scratched out his name in the book as chairman of the meeting and erased several of the minutes for which he submitted others. The Rev Thomas Evans subsequently signed the book as chairman.

Mr Llewellyn here read the erasures and what had been substituted for them, which appeared to be that a motion was made that Captain Bird should be the surveyor, with someone to act as his assistant, to which an amendment was proposed that Mr Watkins should be elected as surveyor, and that the meeting separated without appointing any additional surveyor, signed J Bird, chairman.. A portion of this had been erased, and it now read as if Mr Watkins had been duly appointed as surveyor, (signed) Thomas Evans chairman.

Mr Watkins examined by Mr Price: Mr Evans claimed to be chairman of the meeting. Votes were taken at the meeting I had nothing to do with the writing. As it stands now it is Mr Evans’s writing. He subsequently signed the minutes, as being those of the transactions of the meeting.

Mr Llewellyn: The original meetings were those which ought to prevail, and if my friend denies that, he is a bold man.

Mr Watkins to Mr Price: The book was not at the vestry meeting.

Mr Llewellyn, after whispering with a witness, said: The book was at the meeting, and I will prove it by an individual present.

Mr Price: That appears to me to leave something less that nothing to do with the case. It was immaterial whether the appointment was good or bad, and how, or in what manner, does it affect Mr Watkins?   He has acted as the recognised surveyor for twelve months, and even if he were to say at the time that he was not the surveyor, the parishioners would not have believed him. Every body in the parish knew that he was the surveyor. The Rev Thomas Evans knew it, and signed his appointment, and after doing so, I would ask how he would dare come into the court that day to repudiate his own transactions. The minutes themselves were not legal evidence unless attested and sworn to by individuals present. They declared that Watkins had been appointed surveyor, and the appointment had been signed by Mr Evans, whose conduct would be very bad if he asked them to believe in the illegality of the appointment, and he challenged him to get into the box, and prove the minutes to be false.

Mr Watkins examined by Mr Llewellyn: I attended the meeting held on the 24th of March last. William Nicholas’s name was mentioned as being elected surveyor. There was no one else proposed, and he was called, and in the face of this I still hold myself to be the legitimate surveyor (Mr E B Edwards, here read the appointment of Nicholas as surveyor), I attended on the 9th of April, before the magistrates to pass the accounts. I did not give in the name of Nicholas, as being appointed surveyor, because I thought the appointment illegal, according to the Act of Parliament. I told the magistrates that the appointment being made on the 24th of March was null and void.   I never told the bench that my appointment, made on the 18th of March, was good. No objections were made to my appointment. I am aware that Mr Nicholas acts as surveyor and has made a rate. The magistrates told me to call another meeting of the parishioners.

Re-examined by Mr Price: The magistrates told me to call another meeting of the parishioners, I did so, and Mr Evans removed the notices of the meeting. I did not receive any legal notice of Mr Nicholas’s appointment.

William Harris, examined by Mr Price: I am assistant overseer, and do the duty and attend the vestry. I was present on the 16th of April, and sworn before the magistrate on the day. I swore that the parish meeting was on the 24th, and not on the 25th of March, I have been examined since and swore to the same thing then. It was taken down in writing. I left it here with Mr Edwards, clerk to the justices. I received a notice from Mr Evans to come and swear that. Nobody else told me that I must come here and swear it again. I told Nicholas that I had.

Mr Price asked Mr E B Edwards for the affidavit, which Harris had made, which that gentleman read, but at the solicitation of Mr Price, he refused for some time, to enter it into the minutes of the case, but at length complied with the request.

Wm Harris examined by Mr Llewellyn: I had a copy of the notice calling the meeting, for the 24th of March, (reads it). The notice was duly placed on the church door. I produce the minute book, from which it appears that the meeting was held on the 24th of March. These minutes were taken at the meeting. It was Mr Evans’s hand writing. Wm Nicholas was appointed surveyor.

Wm Nicholas, re-examined by Mr Price: I am a farmer and nothing else. I held the office as surveyor of the highways, for the parish of Goytrey. I got the appointment on the 24th of May last. I had the motion from the chairman. Mr Watkins was not appointed at the meeting. At the former meeting Mr Bird had the show of hands and Mr Watkins had the votes. (the witness subsequently denied that he knew anything about the votes). The other party went away from the meeting in a rage. I went away in a rage. I believe Mr Evans was chairman, but don’t know who was chairman. Mr Evans would quarrel with any one who wanted to be chairman; there was no chairman for they all sat upon a bench. (laughter). Mr Watkins was surveyor last year. I paid him three rates. I was present when Watkins’s books were passed. He asked me to produce my appointment, when I went for the books, I took the appointment I had from the chairman. I will swear I have talked to no one of the illegality of my appointment. Some people have spoken to me about it. I wished to be out of the office as there was so much unpleasantness. On the 18th of March 1858,. Mr Evans voted for Mr Watkins.

The Rev Thomas Evans examined by Mr Price: I am rector of Goytrey, and was present at a parish meeting held on the 18th of March 1858. There was considerable discussion about the appointment of surveyor. The show of hands were in favour of Mr James. The votes were not taken by me. I voted for Mr Watkins, and gave him all I had, which were six in number. Mr James left the meeting under the impression, that he had been elected surveyor. This is my writing in the book produced (as chairman of the meeting). I believe I wrote it on the 4th February 1859. Captain Bird left the neighbourhood last summer. The alterations in the book had not been made since that time. The whole of the notice produced was in my hand-writing, (respecting the appointment of surveyor). I am aware that Watkins objected to Nicholas’s appointment. There was a meeting called by Mr Watkins, for the purpose of appointing a surveyor. Mr Morgan proposed Mr Watkins but I refused to put it to the meeting because it had been packed. I declined to make an entry in the minute book of it.

Br Mr Llewellyn: Captain Bird, was already in the meeting when I arrived at the meeting, in March, 1858. There was no poll demanded. There was no time for taking votes. I was chairman when Nicholas was appointed. And I believed his appointment to be a legal one.

Mr Llewellyn and Mr Price having finally addressed the bench, the magistrates retired, and after a short absence returned to the court and said the summons would be discharged, as they believed the appointment of 1858 had not been a valid one whilst that of 1859 had. Mr Price spoke of taking the matter to a superior court.


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