Queen’s Commission Hears Welsh Tollgate Grievances

A commission appointed to look into the grievances behind the Rebeccaite uprising was doing a fact-finding tour of South Wales, but, so it appears from this account, they didn’t go out of their way to let people know they were coming so that people could lay their grievances before the committee.

The late Disturbances in Wales.

Her Majesty’s Commission, appointed to enquire into the causes which have led to the discontents and disturbances which have prevailed in South Wales, visited Llanelly on . The Commissioners present were Mr. Crips and Mr. Clive, with Mr. Rickards the secretary; Mr. Frankland Lewis having proceeded from Brecon to Swansea. It not being generally known that the Commissioners would visit this town on , but few persons went before them. The chief complaints detailed to them were against the tolls and against the tithes exacted under the local Act. It was stated to them, that within a radius of one mile of the town there were, before the Rebecca disturbances, no fewer than twelve turnpike gates and bars on the Three Commotts and Kidwelly Trust. In , there being a dispute between the tithe payers and the lay impropriator as to the amount of tithes which the former ought to pay, an arrangement was entered into generally, by the tithe-payers with the lay impropriator to pay him 2,100l. a year, and a Private Act of Parliament was obtained fixing this sum as the amount of the tithes on the then average price of corn, the amount to be regulated by the future average price of grain taken every five years. The parishioners contended that they came to this arrangement, on a representation made to them that the apportionment of this sum would not exceed 1s. 6d. in the pound rental, instead of which it amounted to 4s., 5s., and even 6s. in the pound. Since the Private Act, the General Tithe Commutation Act has come into operation, and those who did not assent to the Private Act have commuted their tithes under the General Act, and their payments of tithe do not amount to more than 2s. 6d. in the pound. The parishioners therefore compalained, that in assenting to the private arrangement they had been deceived, and prayed that it might be abolished. The Commissioners are understood to have stated to them, that they could not interfere in the matter, as it was their own agreement, and the lay improprietor had got the best of the bargain. These formed the chief topics of complaint. The Commissioners afterwards proceeded to Swansea. — The Commissioners arrived at Swansea on evening, and commenced business on , when Mr. Vivian, Mr. Penrice, of Kilvrough, Mr. Cuthbertson, Clerk to the Neath Trust, and other gentlemen conversant with turnpike tolls, were examined as witnesses. We understand their enquiries were principally directed to the way in which the turnpike laws in this district have been administered, and the probable causes of the disaffection lately prevalent in this part of the county. Mr. Vivian, we have been given to understand, strongly recommended the consolidation of the Trusts of the county, with the view of removing the grievance so frequently complained of by farmers — of being compelled to pay two gates often situated within a few yards of each other, but which do not clear one another, in consequence of their being erected at the extremes of two separate trusts.

Important Opinion.

The Commissioners of Enquiry, who are now sitting in this town, have recently obtained the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown, on a practice affecting the administration of the turnpike laws, which has prevailed to a considerable extent in Carmarthenshire, and has been the subject of much complaint on the part of the poorer class of farmers. It frequently occurs that the farmer, having carried his produce to a town or market, and paid toll at the gates, returns on the same day, carrying home in his cart some articles or goods for a friend or neighbour, which he conveys either gratuitously or in consideration of some small payment for his trouble. It has been a common practice with certain toll-collectors to charge carts thus repassing on the same day with a second toll, applying to such cases a clause contained in most local Acts, which renders stage carriages and vehicles carrying passengers or goods for pay, hire, or reward, liable to toll for every time of repassing. The Commissioners, considering that the practice in question proceeded upon a mis-application of this clause, and that the additional toll was legally chargeable only on vehicles of the nature of stage-coaches, carriers’ carts, and such as regularly ply for hire between certain places, referred the point to the Attorney and Solicitor General, who have given the very decisive opinion hereafter stated. This authoritative exposition of the law, will doubtlessly be received with much satisfaction in those parts of Carmarthenshire where a contrary practice had prevailed, and it is possible that not only there, but in this and other counties, it may have the effect of putting an end to an exaction which has pressed heavily upon the poorer class of toll-payers. It will be observed, that the Commissioners have taken the opinion of the law-officers upon three different local acts, in all which the words used are slightly varied, in order to preclude any distinction which might be taken upon the wording of particular Acts:—

Case respecting the Tolls payable under the Kidwelly Turnpike Trust Act, the Main Trust Act, and the Whitland Trust Act. In re Kidwelly Turnpike Trust.

By one of the sections of the Local Act (page 14), regulating the management and repairs of the Kidwelly Trust, it is enacted. “That the Tolls thereby made payable for or in respect of horses or beasts drawing any stage coach, diligence, van, caravan, or stage waggon, or other carriage or cart conveying passengers or goods for pay, hire, or reward, shall be payable and paid every time of passing or repassing along the said roads, or any or either of them:” then follows a provision respecting a change of horses, which is not material to the present case.

Your opinion is requested upon this section of the Act:—

  1. Whether a cart, upon which toll his been paid, on passing through a turnpike-gate, with a particular load, is liable to a second toll, on repassing through the same gate on the same day, if such cart: in place of its former load, contains any goods or articles carried by the owner of such cart cor another person for money, such owner not being a carrier by trade, nor accustomed to ply between particular places, nor to carry goods for pay, hire, or reward, except only in such occasional cases as above described?
  2. Whether the construction will be the same, supposing such goods or articles to be carried in the manner described for another person gratuitously?
In re the Main Trust.

Your opinion is requested upon the same two questions as stated in the former case. The words of the corresponding section (page 11) in the Main Trust Act, are slightly varied:– “Be it further enacted, That the tolls hereby made payable for or in respect of horses or beasts drawing any stage coach, diligence, van, caravan, or stage waggon, or other stage carriage or cart, conveying passengers or goods for pay, hire, or reward, shall be payable and paid every time of passing or repassing along the said roads,” &c.

The only difference between the wording of this section and that of the Kidwelly Act is, that in the latter Act the descriptive words last used are — “or other carriage or cart:” in this Act the words are — “or other stage carriage or cart,” &c.

In re Whitland Trust.

Your opinion is requested upon the same two questions, with reference to the corresponding section in the Whitland Trust Act, page 9.

“Provided, nevertheless, and be it further enacted, That the Tolls by this Act granted shall be paid for or in respect of horses, beasts, or cattle, drawing stage carriages, of whatever description, conveying passengers or goods, for hire or reward, for each time of passing, and for each time of repassing upon the said roads.”

Opinion.

We are of opinion, that, in neither of the cases here put, could a second toll be legally demanded.

Frederick Pollock.
W. W. Follett.
Temple, .

I think it right to add, that I have some impression that, as to one Local Act, I gave an opinion, that private carts used for hire were liable to a second toll; but on looking at all the Acts before, as it appears to me now to be clear, that they have all of them the same object, and ought to receive the same construction.

Frederick Pollock.

I’m sorry to report that I forgot to note where I found this article.