Welsh Land Settlement Society and Set Up
The Committee next met on 8th July 1936 and agreed to complete the equipment proposals and to let the holdings to unemployed men from the Special Areas in Monmouthshire. They also agreed to grant a lease of the whole fully equipped estate to the WLSS with covenants, including the restriction on recruitment to this County only. The lease was agreed as 21 years with a 7th year break clause and options to renew for 14 years or 21 years.
The annual rent for the property was to be £1,132p.a. Where houses were being erected and not occupied there would be abatement of rent ranging from £17 p.a. to £20 p.a. dependent upon the type of house. Heads of lease terms were drawn up and the Council signed up to a commitment amounting to £28,130 covering the sub-division of the existing premises, erecting new houses, buildings, fences and gates, constructing new roads, drainage of the land, etc. The WLSS were allowed to build bigger farm buildings if they wanted to and were allowed to sub-let.
The WLSS requested the removal of retained shooting rights, pollards, saplings and underwood by the Council and these were omitted. Consent of the Council was required should the WLSS wish to sub-let to persons other than unemployed applicants from the Monmouthshire Special Areas, however, this was not to be unreasonably withheld. The clauses prohibiting the disposal of manure, hay, fodder and root crops produced in the last year was to be omitted. The Special Panel would deal with the issue of the Council allowing the conversion of pasture into tillage.
The final budget costing came in at £28,306 which included the following:
Erection of 41 new houses £15,700
Erection of 38 Farm Buildings £ 4,600
Adapt Existing Buildings £ 630
New Fencing £ 3,050
New Water Supplies £ 1,700
New Drainage £ 105
New Roads £ 2,345
Printing Plans £ 20
Cost of raising loans £ 156
Later it was agreed with Captain Crawshay and the WLSS Director Mr T Griffiths that the housing would be as approved by the Land and Rents Panel, adapted for a hot water system. They would also feature roughcast or cement rendered walls and the sanitation would be by means of a detached earth closet. The existing farm house would be occupied by the Warden, which would be redecorated beforehand together with a new bathroom, hot water system and WC. The existing farm buildings would now be adapted to provide Central Farm buildings for breeding young stock and storage of implements and feedstuffs. This is a variation to the approved scheme and needed the consent of the Ministry. The WLSS had formed a Sub-committee for selection of tenants and the Mon CC Committee wanted their Chairman to be part of same.
The following month Mr Griffiths of WLSS requested variation to the scheme to allow 6 ½ acres each and for additional buildings. Progress was reported as plans had been prepared for the new road. Tenders were to be sought. Mr W Bundock had been engaged on a labour only basis to erect the fencing. It was agreed that his charges would be £2-10-0 per 100 yards in average ground and £3-5-0 in rocky ground. He would also position gate posts and hang field gates at 7/6d pergate and posts.
It was at this time District Commissioner Crawshay wrote to the Committee asking them if they were contemplating submitting any further schemes in 1937. The Committee replied that there were no other schemes being considered, however, the opportunity would not be lost on them for the future.
Captain Crawshay came up with further requests to vary the scheme in addition to those already asked for. Proposed farm buildings for certain holdings should be dispensed with and instead two new buildings to be provided for the Central Farm being, an 80ft by 30ft farrowing shed and an 80ft by 20ft with a loft over to be used for grading and packing for eggs and market garden produce. In addition, Ruffetts Wood to be efficiently drained to enable a proper reclamation of land plus post and wire fencing to replace the dead and useless hedging along the Portskewett Road.
The Committee agreed to the fencing, although with the proviso that the WLSS would replace the hedging with quickthorn. After consultation with the Ministry Captain Crawshay’s proposals for the extra buildings or adaptations to the existing buildings were not accepted.
Not to let matters lie, Captain Crawshay felt that the success of the venture required the model to be right in the first place. The Special Leechpool Panel were directed to work closely with the WLSS to see what alternatives are possible.
The County Land Agent gave an update and reported that work on a direct labour basis was being carried out on the adaptation of Leechpool farm buildings, Harpson’s Barn and to Leechpool Farm House. Fencing had started at piecework rates. The County Surveyor had not prepared plans and estimates for the new road, consequently the work was carried out by direct labour and partly piecework. A major part of the road track had been excavated, a passageway 30ft wide had been cut through Ruffetts Wood and about 200 yds between Harpson’s Barn and the new Hutments had been metalled. The WLSS had already placed 30 men on the farm and were pressing for the erection of the new houses, plans having been prepared for the first 18 houses. The Land Agent had agreed to a quotation from Caerwent Quarries Ltd for 300 tons of 1 ½ down at 7/6d per ton (less 2 ½%) delivered, 300 tons of clean spawls at 5/3d per ton nett delivered and 300 tons of mixed spawls at 5/- per ton nett delivered.
The Ministry again wrote to the Committee in early May 1937 to inform them that they were unable to contribute towards losses for pig rearing or grading but were prepared to consider revised estimates. The estimates of £1,255 for farrowing and grading sheds were deleted from the Committee’s estimates and the WLSS informed that any additional buildings would be at their own expense. Also, the Leechpool and Harpson Farm buildings would have to be sub-divided for the use of four tenancies as originally planned. However, it was agreed that the £50 p.a. additional rent agreed by the WLSS would be reduced to £21-10-0 p.a. in lieu of the hot water supplies provided in the cottages. The Ministry duly approved the whole scheme on 2nd June 1937 and agreed to make a contribution of £747-10-4 towards the first year estimated losses of £996-13-9, 75%, and to make contributions to future losses at the same rate. Captain Crawshay wrote to the Committee on 8th June stating that the Commissioner also approved the revised scheme and that the Council would receive a refund of 12 ½% of the losses each year that were referred to in the Ministry’s letter.
Mr Wilkins was requested to arrange an approved Guarantee for Performance of Contract of which the Council would pay 75% of the premium with Mr Wilkins paying the balance. Cottages were required to be built 50ft back from the boundaries of existing highways with Nos 3 and 4 setback 80ft.
Mr Rabbitt had withdrawn his tender of £1,631 for erecting 14 sets of buildings that included two pens and a food store for keeping pigs and the next lowest tender was accepted from Mr J A Sparkes of Cromwell Road, Newport in the sum of £1,657-14-0.
Invitations for tender were now approved for the erection of houses at holdings numbered 13, 14, 15, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42 and 43 plus farm buildings on 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 36, 37, 38, 39, 42, 43 and 44.
Following a sub-committee meeting at Leechpool on 26th October 1937 they reported at the following Committee meeting that work in progress included the construction of the new road, adapting two sets of farm buildings, fencing/ditching with water services and the erection of 22 cottages. All except the cottage building was being done by direct labour. Mr Sparkes had also begun to perform his contract for 14 sets of farm buildings. The trainees were interviewed by the sub-committee who generally stated that they were satisfied with their prospects they felt the cottage building was too slow, expressing concerns over their health should they have to live in the hutments over the winter. They were also worried about the strain on their finances in having to keep their homes in another district for so long. It was their view that the contractor was not employing sufficient manpower to the contract. In answer to these issues raised the sub-committee said the first new cottages should be available in 5 weeks (end of November 1937), although a lot of the delay was outside the control of the contractor due to the poor water provision on site, which was being put right by Chepstow RDC arranged to lay new water pipes. Upon completion the contract would be let for the remaining 21 cottages. Alderman Gibbs and Councillor Jenkins were requested to interview Mr Wilkins with a view to his employing the full complement of men to fulfil his contract by the due date.
On 4th November 1937 Mr J Cecil on behalf of the trainees wrote to the sub-committee asking for financial assistance towards transport costs to their homes at weekends. The sub-committee decided they had no legal powers to offer the support requested. Councillor Jenkins had asked Captain Crawshay to have sickness quarters provided at the hutments, which he had agreed to and they agreed to look at ways in which living conditions could be improved during their time living at the hutments. The trainees would be re-imbursed for their bus fares home at Christmas by WLSS. The Committee were making efforts with the Unemployment Assistance Board (UAB) to obtain increased assistance for the men during their training.
On 17th December the sub-committee awarded Mr J W Rabbitt of 147 Malpas Road, Newport the contract for the erection of 11 single cottages and 4 pairs, subject to satisfactory guarantees, in the sum of £7,667.
Early in the New Year, the trainees wrote once again complaining of the delay in building the houses, with their living conditions contributing to poor health. Work on the last group of houses was due to commence by the end of January and Mr Rabbitt was asked to begin without completing the Guarantee Bond, which could be dealt with later. The UAB could not give additional unemployment benefits although may be able to contribute towards their weekend transport costs subject to the WLSS also contributing. Tenders were being sought for the final 16 sets of farm buildings, particularly as the new tenants were complaining of disadvantages due to lack of buildings.
Mr Rabbitt’s tender of £1,004 was accepted for building 8 sets of Type DS2 farm buildings at Numbers 13, 14, 29, 30, 36, 37, 38 and 39. Watling Ltd of Rochester were the lowest tender for 8 sets of Type DS4 farm buildings at numbers 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 42, 43 and 44, in the amount of £1,798.
Mr Byrne at Leechpool Cottage was awarded a rent reduction of 1/= per week as he lost about ¼ acre to the WLSS, and as this cottage was deemed to be in a dilapidated state a grant was to be made to the Public Health Committee for a grant under the Housing (Rural Workers) Acts towards the cost of re-instatement.
It was noted that the agreement with the UAB for financial support would expire on 15th June 1938 and the Leechpool Panel were required to complete as many holdings as possible before then. Mr Wilkins was told that if he didn’t make greater progress the Committee would be compelled to impose penalties under the contract. The Committee, subject to Ministry approval, would arrange for the hire of a 20 seater motor bus every weekend and pay 1/3rd of the cost subject to the UAB and WLSS each contributing a similar sum. This would enable each trainee to visit their homes once each fortnight. Unfortunately, this became every 4 weeks and was paid for by the Committee and WLSS only. The first occasion was on 26th and 27th March at a cost of £5 on a coach supplied by Mr W Williams of Rhymney. It being cheaper to use public transport the Easter weekend was done this way instead.
Having received applications to connect water supplies to the new glasshouses these were offered to the 33 holdings completed to date for a lump sum of £20 p.a. off the Council’s main.
It was alleged there was a public footpath running through the farm and, wanting to achieve an amicable settlement with the Parish Council, agreed that the public could use the new road subject to them foregoing their claim.
By the summer of 1938 it seemed that the scheme was settling down and there was little mention in the minutes of Leechpool other than Mr F R Jones at No. 41 asked the Committee for a boarded floor to the living room and a flush lavatory at the house. He was told that he could carry out these requests at his own expense subject to the satisfaction of the County Land Agent!