"Who is for an outing? I am! and I am! and I am!. Let us get up a party, I know several that would join us. But where shall we go to? I vote that we go to the Golden Valley; it is quite a new country; everybody talks about it although it is a sort of unknown region. Now that the Golden Valley Railway is opened up at Dorstone, we can make an excursion there and back in the day".
These were the words used by the Reverend Thomas potential use to the attention both of his Dorstone parishioners and of others further away. The fact that these words were spoken in 1882 and refer to the undiscovered nature of this remote part of Herefordshire gives some clue as to how the district lived late in the Victorian era.
The population of the district was slowly decreasing even in those days. The land thereabouts was largely rented to farmers by local landowners and absentee landlords such as Jesus College, Oxford and Guy's Hospital, London. Besides farmers and farm labourers the rural community included a few gentry, and a fair sprinkling of tradesmen. The Golden Valley offered its farmers good soils on which corn, roots and fruit were grown. The plentiful rainfall in the Valley also meant good grass for pasture so the farm economies were truly mixed ones, especially if a rich potential for trade in timber was included. The horse was the prime mover for transport and haulage, with public services offered by two carriers, one to Hereford on Saturdays and Wednesdays, and another to Hay market on Thursdays.
Herefordshire was blessed with rail transport of a kind from the very earliest days of the railway age. Hay, to the north of the Golden Valley, and Pontrilas to its southern end were each on a route of one of these early developments. The 3ft 6in gauge Hay Railway was opened in 1816, whilst coal was first hauled by horse-drawn tram on the cast iron plateway of the Hereford Railway through Pontrilas in September 1829. Later there were discussions of other powered by steam locomotive to bring the mineral riches of South Wales to Hereford and beyond. The proposed Great Eastern and Western Railway Company deposited plans in 1845 which would have brought a steam railway on a sweeping curve through Pontrilas village, partly alongside the existing tramway. There was at least one other speculative venture to link Newport and Hereford via Abergavenny before an Act of 1846 gave powers for the formation of the Newport, Abergavenny and Hereford Railway and the purchase by it of the Hereford Railway. Pontrilas was already busy enough for the Hereford Railway to provide a siding alongside a corn mill on the River Dore, a wharf and a weigh machine. The coming of the Newport, Abergavenny and Hereford Railway in 1853 naturally stimulated further growth when the principal intermediate station on the Hereford to Abergavenny section was built there. The Scudamore family, local estate owners, had an inn built at Pontrilas, supposedly to keep the navvies who were building the NAHR all under one roof for their evening's entertainment. More expansion followed when a steam-powered sawmill, a brickyard and the Wrekin Chemical Company's works were sited alongside the railway. The chemical works produced a range of materials including tar by a process described as 'destructive distillation of wood'. A small produce market was opened by local auctioneers. The line was taken over by the West Midland Railway in 1860 and soon afterwards, in 1863, it passed into the hands of the GWR.
Beyond the northern end of the Golden Valley a railway connecting Hay with Hereford and Brecon opened in 1864 after previous schemes which would have put Hay on routes between South Wales and the West Midlands had failed. By the 1870s Hay was first and foremost a market town, drawing support and valuable trade from a broad agricultural hinterland including the area around Dorstone. Here, there were thriving, regular markets for livestock, corn, produce and, to a lesser extent, wool, as well as a special annual sheep fair, hiring fairs, pony sales and Christmas live and dead meat markets. By 1875, the opening of the Hereford, Hay & Brecon Railway had affected some local trades by the influx of competitive manufactured goods from outside, but the typical industries of a small rural town were all present. Some local firms like Robert Williams and Sons were well established supplying the local farms with diverse ironmongery such as milk churns and hay rakes, and assisting the process of farm mechanisation by offering reaping machines. That Hay is a border town is emphasised by the fact that the HH & BR's station was in England whilst the majority of the remainder of the town was in Wales. At
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