Broad Oak Toll House PaintingOne of the first Turnpike Acts to affect the Monnow Valley was passed in 1771. Before this date communications in the area were very difficult. Each parish was responsible for its own roads and these roads were maintained by the statute labour that each farmer had to provide for six days annually. The work was supervised by the highway surveyor who was selected each Easter and who had to serve unpaid until the next Easter. Stones would be hauled off the fields, put into carts and taken to the roads where they would be broken up and spread out, no doubt making a rocky and uneven surface. Many roads were only rough tracks through open fields where drivers, meeting with a large pool of water would divert onto the cultivated land. The main highways were little better. The main road from Monmouth to Hereford was so narrow that it was necessary to use outriders blowing horns to warn travellers approaching in the opposite direction

Along the main roads, passengers and goods were carried by stagecoaches and wagons. During the winter and in bad weather, in the remoter and hilly districts such as Garway, wheeled vehicles did not attempt to travel and the only method of carrying goods was to use packhorses.

Skenfrith Bridge Photo courtesy of George WellsIt was during the reign of George II (1727-1760) that the first signs of the coming Industrial Revolution were seen. The new industries were attracting more people to the towns and the general population was increasing rapidly. Because of this rapid growth in the population, extra food was needed and therefore better farming methods and the means to transport the increased food production from the countryside into the towns was required.

The Turnpike Acts at the end of the 18th century enabled private corporations to put stretches of main road in good order and to levy tolls on the road users. The money collected would be used for the upkeep of the road and their profit. The name turnpike comes from the description of the type of gate used to regulate the traffic past the tollhouse and were usually a long, single armed barrier turning on a pivot. The first gates were probably fitted with spikes (pikes) to prevent drivers from forcing them.

In 1827 a new stretch of road was opened between Broad Oak and Skenfrith with a new bridge constructed over the river Monnow near the Bell Inn. Tollhouses were built at Broad Oak (see painting) and at Kentchurch. (The tollhouse at Broad Oak was only demolished in the 1950's). The surveyor reported that the road through Garway was in a terrible state as follows:- It is generally very badly laid out, a worse could scarcely have been found. It abounds in inconveniently short turns and sharp pitches with two long and dangerously steep hills, one at Demesnes and the other at Pembridge Castle. The road is so narrow in many parts as not to allow of two teams passing each other. The road through Garway will require to be lifted and reformed throughout, and because of its length, (nearly five miles), will be a serious burden to the parish.

Horse  Cart at The Turning Photo Courtesy of George WellsDuring most of the the nineteenth century the population increased and Garway parish became more self- sufficient. The population of the Parish reached a peak of 578 around 1871. But Garway remained a very isolated area until the invention of the motorcar and even up to the Second World War very few people owned their own transport. Garway is not a nucleated village and has never had just one centre but consists of four distinct hamlets, Broad Oak, the Common, the Turning and Garway Hill. Each of these hamlets developed their own little shops and facilities. In 1875 there was a Post office, a butchers and a general shop at the Turning. At the common there was a carpenter and wheelwright, a blacksmith and farrier, a shoemaker, a beer retailer. At Broad Oak were the Broad Oak Inn and a beerhouse, the Southwell Arms. There was also a grocer and draper. All the shops on Garway Hill were in the parish of Orcop. There were two carriers to Monmouth on a Saturday, James Ruck and Sarah Roberts.

Bus outside Market Garage Pontrilas 1930sBy 1901, the population had fallen to 346. In 1905 the centre of activity seemed to have shifted more to Garway Common where there was Thomas Lewis, shopkeeper, William Phillips, butcher and farmer, Artis Ruck, blacksmith, cycle dealer and agricultural repairer, Mrs Ruck, dressmaker and the Garway Inn. There was still a post office and a shop run by Andrew Sims at the Turning (see photo of horse and cart outside this shop). Mrs Sarah Lewis who lived on the common was carrier to Ross on Thursday and to Monmouth on Friday.

By 1934 life was changing although communications outside the immediate area were still difficult. The Post Office had moved from the Turning to the Common where Miss Lawrence, the postmistress had a grocers shop. The shop at the Turning was still owned by the Sims family. Artis Ruck was still the blacksmith and Mrs Ruck the dressmaker. The main difference was that Jardins Motors ran a daily bus service between Ross and Abergavenny that passed through Broad Oak and a service to Hereford on Wednesday. Only General Bate, at Glanmonnow and a few of the wealthier farmers owned motorcars.