RHUTHUN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET
Published Quarterly in March, June, September and December
Edited and published by A. Fletcher, P. Randall and D.W.Williams from Plas Tirion, 30, Well Street, Ruthin, Clwyd, LL15 lAW.
HELLO AND WELCOME
We hope to publish a "Broadsheet" of interest not only to the ever growing number of local historians but also for the interest of those local inhabitants who are proud of the traditions of the town and district. We may also appeal to those newcomers among us who may wish to blend more naturally into their new surroundings!
We are committed to produce three further quarterly issues in 1985 If we seem to be meeting a demand, we hope to continue and perhaps expand a little. If not, that will be that. Now for the good and the bad news: we are printing 250 copies of Issue No 1 to distribute free of charge, after that further copies of Issue No 1 and all subsequent issues will cost 20p per copy.
We are non-profit-making and aim to be non-political, non-sectarian and unaffiliated. If that sounds boring, we claim a kinship with the RUTHIN LOCAL HISTORY GROUP which meets at the Library every third Monday (Editor's note - no longer true - please see Home Page, Programme). We shall try to keep in touch with that and with other related groups.
We must gratefully acknowledge and thank Mrs Seed Knowles of Llanarmon yn Ial, editor and publisher of "Local History Review, Llanarmon yn Ial Area", for her inspiration and guidance in the conception and production of this Broadsheet. Our ambition is to emulate her example and success.
Your editors will themselves be producing articles and/or paragraphs, but it is important that we have plenty of material and your participation in providing that material is essential to the success of the Broadsheet. We hope you will allow us to use it as we think fit in short articles or paragraphs. So, you do not have to be eminent scholars or established authors.
So, if you like the show so far, and feel that you could hazard 20p on each subsequent Issue (the next will be in June) please return the order form enclosed. Copies will be distributed by hand, assuming we can recruit hands. If you would prefer postal deliveries, simply provide us with three stamped addressed envelopes to ensure deliveries for the next three issues.
THANKS FOR YOUR INTEREST AND SUPPORT!
BYGONE WELL STREET
[Note the writer is describing Ruthin in 1985]
This is based upon material gathered from Ruthin guide books, including one published circa 1910 in the "Borough" series, Rhuddenfab's and others more modern. A significant part is based upon the recollections of "Un Hen" published in the Free Press in 1944, followed in 1945 by the recollections of a Mr E.F. Evans, an old Ruthinite then residing in Sussex. Also freely utilised is material gathered by Mr W.J. Pritchard in his quest for long-lost Ruthin pubs.
Those looking to attribute the origins of the street have found a possible reason in that near "Pyrocantha House" (formerly called Tay—y—Sarn).There was a well in the street which provided pure spring water in abundance. However, the fact is that originally, as we see from the Ruthin Lordship Records (1594, 1630, 1631) the Street was referred to as "the Welshe Streete al's Talysarne." Most of the larger houses in the street were erected in the early 17th century as winter residences for the gentry who would spend their summers at their nearby country mansions.
We have here a vibrant mixture of shops, pubs and residences, but not only that, the street itself was a market place. On market and fair days, cows would be on sale from the top of the street as far as the Hand. From there to the railway bridge, pigs would be sold.
So, making our way from St, Peter's Square down the hill, we immediately come to No.2 Well Street, reputedly built in 1399 and surviving Owain Glyndwr's fire of 1400. An advertisement in the "Borough" guide claims that T.J. Roberts the Chemist's shop had been established since 1888.
The building seems to have served many useful purposes, and before assuming the role of Chemist's Shop it was the Post Office for some 70 years, until the present Post Office premises were built on the Square.
Rhuddenfab tells us that originally it served as "Ruth's Inn" which manifestly was not the source of the town's name. Over the parlour window there was an oak beam on which was carved the face of "the very amiable hostess" Ruth. Unfortunately, this beam was removed when that part of the house was incorporated into Mr John Roberts' Draper's Shop at No.1 Well Street, where our- journey should have commenced. This is now "Boots the Chemists'". These premises once accommodated "The Raven Bach", "H.Q." of the Bowling Club of the time.
No.2 Well Street also has a claim to have been an Inn under another name, viz., "The Rush Inn".
No. 3 "Market Place" was the "Golden Hart” hotel which must have been re—built towards the end of the last century with a tower, which can still be seen, atop of it. A Mr Edward Jones was the licensee. We next see it advertised as "The Corn Exchange", run by Mr T.Roberts.
Rhuddenfab advertises the premises as a high class grocery business under the direction of Mr J. Oliver Jones. We now know it as the "Co—op".
No.3 Well Street was kept as a china shop by a Maria Edwards and after her death it became a draper's shop under the name "Lunt and Griffiths". In more recent times it became Mr Bradwen Parry's Furniture Shop, and is now a Video Centre.
Mr R.G. Joyce, watchmaker, kept a shop at No. 4, and he was followed by Mr Thomas, another draper.
Tudor House is No. 5 and a fine painting of a biblical subject was once found, much damaged by lime and paper, on one of its walls. Mr J.J. Bancroft operated a chemist's shop on these premises and built Glasfryn (Stanley Road?) to which he retired. His business was taken over over by a Mrs Hughes, a former dispenser to Dr J.R. Jenkins of Colomendy. The premises eventually became the butcher's shop of Messrs A.M. & R.H. Williams who also had a pork shop at the junction of Upper Clwyd Street with Clwyd Street. Their home farm was Pen—y—Bryn, Llanfwrog.
No.6 Well Street was once covered with several coats of rough cast which were removed to reveal black and white gables. The house is said to contain fine old wood—work in an excellent state of preservation. It was here that Isaac Clarke, first publisher of the Welsh National Anthem, had his printing works. Mr Arthur Williams had his printing works and shop there too. His printing workshop was later operated by Mr Price. The shop is now "Siop Nain".
Cross Keys, half—way down the hill on the right, had a fine oak staircase and wainscotting. Opposite at No. 9, was once "The Punch Bowl" and has the date 1634 carved in "alto relievo" over one of its windows.
Further down the hill was a grocer's shop which displayed in its windows huge blocks of sugar which would be cut up to make "lump sugar".
Crown House (No.11) was occupied by a Mr William Lloyd, Town Clerk. One of the previous occupiers were the Rutters, an old London family who owned a peppermint and lavender distillery near the Galchog, Llanfwrog. This was opposite Fir Grove and alongside a rivulet running from "Ffynnon—y—Galchog" and the place is still called "Distill House". The Crown was also one of Ruthin's many pubs.
There was then Mr Charles Goodman Jones' chemist's shop with its large bottles of coloured liquid, illuminated from behind, after dark, with gas jets. This probably became Roberts the Fishmonger (No.14).
Opposite was "The Hand" (No 17), not a mere pub but also a brewery run by a Mr William Edwards. We also have a Mr R. Roberts, Brewer and Maltster, advertising beer at 50/— for a 36 gal. cask.
DW. [David Williams] (To be continued)
RUTHIN IN THE MID 19TH CENTURY
The size of Ruthin, at least measured by the population, has not grown much since 1851. In that year its population was 3,339 and now it is about 4500.  The franchise, has however greatly changed. In 1857 there were a mere 234 electors (men, of course!) who were allowed to vote in the election for the member of Parliament. These electors were drawn from Ruthin, Llanfwrog, Llanrhydd, Llanynys and Llanfair D.C. At the castle lived the Member of Parliament, F.R. West, his wife Theresa and their family. He had represented Ruthin since 1847 but retired due to ill-health in 1857.
The three eldest children in the West family were born in Florence and this is perhaps indicative of the cosmopolitan nature of the upper class of the period. Besides the castle, there was their London home where they spent much of their time. West himself was born and bred in Hampshire and it is from this part of Britain that many of his household were recruited.
Domestic service was the principal occupation for young women. Not many of them made a career in service but left when the opportunity for marriage arose. Consequently local girls tended to fill only the more humble jobs in the large households. This is the period when a fitch of bacon cost 4¼d per lb. Ham was a little more expensive at 4½d with butter at 9d per lb.
At night, Ruthin would have been a dark town. It and Llanfwrog were lit by a mere 38 lamps. If it was moonlight the town did not go the expense of lighting the lamps. The moonlit period was defined as "from the first quarter of the moon until the second night after the full moon.
Besides being a dark town, it was probably dirty as well, at least by modern standards. The Council were reluctant for the Borough to take upon itself the responsibility to effect the necessary sanitary measures. To help to meet the demands for sanitary reforms, the sergeant of police was asked to take on the role of "Inspector of Nuisances". This was a part-time appointment for which he was paid £5 per annum which may be compared with his Police pay of £60 per annum.
It was also a time of protest, the Vestry for example, refused in the middle of the decade to authorise the Church rate, heralding in the modern system of voluntary contributions. The townspeople objected to the renovation of St. Peter's to such an extent that West had to intervene and use his authority as the local landowner to enforce his views. The Warden, Rev Buckley Owen Jones, was just beginning his long ministry as Warden (1851-1900) and had not yet gained the authority to push his plans through on his own volition.
The Rev E.L. Barnwell, Head Master of the Grammar School, was at the centre of the unrest at St. Peter's. He and West seemed to clash over a number of issues, particularly politics. Barnwell was Chairman of the Committee for the election of the right wing Whig candidate, Townshend-Mainwaring whilst West favoured the more liberal Tory, James Maurice. Although these political tags have little relation to our modern concept of political parties, it was Mainwaring who was elected in spite of the Ruthin suppport for Maurice. But this election in 1857 caused a great deal of controversy. [Ruthin was one of four towns which elected an MP for Denbigh Boroughs]
James Maurice was a public spirited gentleman. He served several times as Mayor of the Town. He was also Chairman of the Board of Guardians and Governor of the National School. There was a long doggerel supporting him in an election campaign whilst extolling his skill as a horseman, goes on....
"In the Streets! How excessively small (With his speech dash'd off at a blow Not got up beforehand Oh no..)"
The Grammar School (now Ruthin School) has produced many distinguished sons. However at this time at the school (aged 17 in the 1851 census) was D.R. Thomas, later to become Archdeacon of St. Asaph and to write a definitive history of the Diocese.
Near Derwen is a spring called Ffynnon Sarah which, according to a guide book of 1857, "was in great repute for its efficacy in the cure for cancer." This was once dedicated to St. Saeran, the Celtic Saint who founded Llanynys Church.
THE OLD SHIP INN was a familiar landmark to Ruthinites of five centuries as they made their way about Penbarras. It was located at the bottom of the Mold Road and the entrance to Wernfechan passed between it and the Machine. It was demolished in 1967 to permit the formation of a much needed improved entrance to Wernfechan and while the building was lost to posterity, nonetheless the opportunity was taken to undertake a detailed study of the structure and timber. It is estimated that it had been constructed between 1400 and 1402 in the form of a timber framed structure on dwarf stone walls, the cavities being filled by wattle and daub. There were five large timber crucks with four internal bays. No chimney as such had been provided originally, smoke finding its own way out of the building through a hole in the roof. It probably began life, in part if not wholely, as a farm building, was once used as an Inn, and spent the last 60 years of its life as a grocery store and house in the ownership of Mr 0.Maldwyn Williams.