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RHUTHUN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET                                                                            Issue No 32 December 1992


Part ONE - Evolution and Function
by Andre Berry

Archaeological Sites Management Officer, Clwyd Archaeology Service 

Assigning a date to the genesis of the parks and forests of the Lordship of Ruthin is sadly imprecise. The influences that lead to their development, however, are somewhat easier to trace and are attributable to classical and Islamic traditions. Parks were a common feature of Italy and Gaul and although utilitarian in function, their landscape value was not overlooked. <1>

The Normans brought the concept of the park to Britain. With it was to come a new species - the fallow deer, an animal much more suited to husbandry within a contained area than were native red and roe deer.

It seems unlikely that William the Conqueror himself introduced the fallow deer although it is to him that we owe the concept of the forest as attested in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle (1087): "The king (William) set up great protection for deer and legislated to that intent, that whosoever should slay hart or hind should be blinded…he loved the high-deer as if he were their father".

In 1086, the Domesday Book recorded the first forest in north Wales some 10 leagues long by 3 leagues wide and encom­passing twenty hides including Bagillt, Hawarden, Sychdyn and Kelsterton.<2>  However, parks and forests were not to feature in documentary records of Dyffryn Clwyd until the first Edwardian conquest of Wales in 1277.

In the period between the Norman and Edwardian con­quests, the fortunes of the Perfeddwlad were in a state of constant flux, subject to the aspirations of successive Welsh princes. The continual exchange of control of land between the Welsh and English was hardly conducive to the establishment of parks and forests which could thrive only under a stable regime with effective legislative control. So it is that the evolution of parks and forests in the Lordship of Ruthin is closely linked to the building of the castle of Ruthin and the relative stability that was to result from the grant in 1282 of the castle and Cantref of 'Deffrencloyt' to Reginald de Grey, the justiciar of Chester.<3>

By the close of the 13th century, eleven forests are recorded in the lordship together with five imparked woodlands and an additional twenty-seven areas of reserved woodland.<4>

The application of forest law was to subsume many of the traditional common rights of the indigenous population and was the cause of much resentment. Such resentment must surely have been fuelled by the grant to the burgesses of Ruthin of the rights of housebote and hayebote [the rights to take timber for housebuilding/ repair and the repair of gates and fences respectively], and of common pasture in the wood of Garthlegfa [Galltegfa- SJ 106 578]<5>

The lord's rights were jealously guarded and were ensured by the appointment of foresters and woodwards. The foresters held the forest in one of two ways, either by farming (i.e., renting) them from the lord, or by receiving a fixed stipend which may or may not have been supplemented by fees from various sources. The forests and parks of the lordship were protected by at least ten foresters and seven parkers. Initially of Anglo-Norman descent, they were soon succeeded by Welshmen".<6> Five such parkers of Welsh descent are known for Bathafarn Park - John ap David ap Gruffith ap Deis, Thomas ap Gruffith ap Evan, Richard ap Gwilym, Lewis ap Robert and Ifor Gruffith ap Llon ap Eignon. <7>

Originally intended to protect deer and wild swine as sources of meat (venison) and the herbage upon which such animals depended (vert), the parks and forests were to develop rapidly into a source of income for the lord through a system of fines and licensing for the taking of timber and grazing of livestock.

The administration of forest law was through the forest courts associated, in the lordship of Ruthin, with the Hundred Courts of which there were four - Dogveylin' , `Colyan' , 'Llannerch' and `Aberquilar'. At these courts were heard the 'pleas of the forest', the presentation of actions against those attached in the forest committing an offence or trespass of the vert. Those for the Court of Dogveylin are noted as being held in the grove of `Gethlivor'. Offences of the venison were viewed much more seriously and, as such, were tried at a higher level.

The keepers of Bathafarn 'used if any persons attempted to cut down any oaks or timber trees within the compass of the [park] to take their axe and tools from them and keep the same until they should content them the said keepers for such trespass or offence'.

The nature of these offences is clearly seen in some of the proceedings of the Llannerch Court of the Forest (Friday after the Feast of St. Bartholomew, 1295):
"Ievan Thloyoch was attached in the forest of Thlunbrand. He appeared and does not deny. Therefore he is in mercy.
Madoc ap Anian of Thoth    attached because he cut greenwood in the forest
Maddoc ap David attached with his cattle feeding in the forest Kenwrick ap Thomas attached for carrying away old wood from Nant Clwyd
IervethVaghan attached because during the time when Maddoc ap Llewellyn made himself lord with the lease of the said Maddoc he cut one tree
Anian Cryyth attached for that he cut down boughs of oak for his oxen without licence
Kenwrick ap Maddoc Kethen attached with eleven beasts in the lord's forest....
Helen ap Griffin attached because he cut rods in the forest without licence....
lorwerth Goch attached because he cut and carried away green­wood out of Nant Clwyd `

It is of interest to note the preponderance of Welsh names. Whether this can be taken as the manifestation of the resentment of the indigenous populace to forest law or of the prejudice of the early Anglo-Norman foresters is unclear. Offenders found guilty were said to be in mercy, from the Anglo-French `a merci'. They were then usually `amerced' or fined by the court, the fine being known as an `amercement'. <9>

Agistment provided the author­ised means by which cattle and pigs could be turned into the forest to graze the herbage of the ground. Pannage, the profit derived from the agistment of the mast [or fruit] of the trees, principally acorns, rather than the herbage could provide significant income in good mast years. The burgesses of Ruthin, for example, gave by name of pannage in the wood of Garthlegfa 'the tenth pig, or the seventh if they did not have so many, and a penny for each pig where there were fewer than seven'.

Sadly, whilst there is much docu­mentary material contained within the Public Record Office relating to the Lordship of Ruthin, most remains to be catalogued and transcribed. Consequently, our knowledge of the diversity of the use of the Lordship’s parks and forests must be by inference. Material relating to the adjoining Honour of Denbigh and Royal Forests within the Vale suggest a well-developed system of exploitation and utilisa­tion. Timber was used for construction, the bark was used for tanning and the branchwood was sold, presumably for hedging. The `rooeres' or 'dry and leafless oaks' were highlighted for fuel. The more palatable foliage of ash, hazel, elm and lime served as fodder for cattle, though some were not above using oak as attested in the above proceedings of the Llannerch forest court! Even the honey from the wild bees did not go unrecognised as a resource <10>

The lord's hunting interests also extended to the protection of known nesting sites for woodland raptors such as sparrowhawk, which were most prized for falconry.

The thirteenth and fourteenth centuries were to be the zenith century, many areas were leased or disparked and sold. Bathafarn Park, valued at £200, is recorded as having been sold in fee simple to John Thelwall prior to 1592. By 1630 the parks of Brynkyffa, Towne Park, Ruthin; Clockaynog and Poole Park are recorded as sold, valued respectively at £60, £400 and £400 for the latter two combined<11>'.


1. RACKHAM, 0.. (1986) ,The History of the Countryside. Dent, London, p 122
2.TAIT J.,(1925)’ Flintshire in Domesday Book’, Flint. Hist. Soc. Trans. Vol 11, pp 1-37.
3. TAYLOR I., (1974) The King' s Works in Wales 1277-1330; HMSO, London. p 228
4 JACK,R 1., (1969) ‘The Welsh and English in the Medieval Lordship of Ruthin’, pp23-49, Trans. Denbs. Hist. Soc. Vol. 18, p.31.
5. JACK, RI., (1969) ‘The Medieval Charters of Ruthin Borough;’ pp.I6-22, Trans. Denbs. Hist. Soc. Vol. 18, p 18.
LINNARD, W., (1982) Welsh Woods and Forests: History and Utilisation. National Mu­seum of Wales. Cardiff,) p33
7.NATIONAL LIBRARY OF WALES, (1973) Schedule of Bathafarn Park and Llanbedr Hall
Deeds and Documents, pp.11 - 12.
8. ROBERTS, RA., (1893) Ruthin Court Rolls Temp. Ed. 1. Cymmrodorion Record Series NO: 2, p. 10.
9. JAMES, N.D.G. (1991) An Historical Dictionary of Forestry and Woodland Terms. Blackwell, Oxford, p.4..
10 .PUB LIC RECORD OFFICE, (1930), Various references, Register of Edward the Black Prince, part 3, 1351-65.
11. JACK, RI., (1970) Records of Denbighshire Lordships: III The Lordship of Dyffryn-Clwyd 1630-5; pp.8-23, Trans. Denbs. Hist. Soc. Vol. 19, p22.


The Report of the Commissioners on Municipal Corporations, 1834, gives interesting insights into the economy of the town and district, said to rest principally upon agriculture. Fifty years previously, flax dressing, spinning and weaving had provided employment to many, but the trade in Irish linens had superseded that activity.

The incidence of unemployment was not, of course, recorded but it was implied that this was on the increase as work provided by several local landed gentry in the improvement of their estates was ending. Agricultural wages were 9s. per week, but at harvest time this rose to 2s. or even 2s/6d. per day, "with their meat".

Perhaps the only extravagance in which agricultural labourers could have indulged was the drinking of beer. In Ruthin, there were 36 public houses and 10 beer houses to cater for this demand. The Beer Act had reduced the price of malt liquor by ld. per quart, but there were complaints that the quality had deteriorated.

Several companies of tradesmen had formerly existed under the town's charters. By then, only the Company of Cordwainers [shoemakers] survived with some 30 members, and a committee of two stewards, a warner, an attorney, and secretary. Among the records produced by this company was a bond dated 15th February, 1799, by which members agreed not to employ, under a penalty of £5, any journeyman corvicers who had not given satisfaction to their masters. They produced another document of c.1669 which referred to a charter granted to the company by Henry VII in 1495/6.

The company exercised real authority over five trades practiced in the town, viz., tanners, curriers, skinners, saddlers, and shoemakers, although in ancient times each had formed separate companies.

The role of the 'warner' was to gather tolls from 'foreign' shoemak­ers who attended the market place. The 'warner' rented this function for £1.5s. per annum and was paid a salary of 4s. per annum. It would appear to have been the practice for the various trades to operate at fixed locations in the market place, marked by `ancient stones let into the pavement'.

The income which the company derived from the rent paid by the warner was used, after payment of his salary, for the purchase of torches for the annual Plygain Service held each Christmas morning. The commissioners had not been able to discover to what purpose the fees on admission were applied, but did not find it too difficult to speculate on learning that the company held their quarterly meetings at various public houses.

Religious life was well catered for, there being 'two Churches of the Establishment' in the borough, St. Pe­ter's and Llanfwrog - Llanrhudd being just outside the borough. The language of the Sunday services at St. Peter's was English, except that there was an inter­mediary lecture in Welsh. Services on Wednesdays and Fridays were performed alternately in Welsh and English. By tradition of long standing there was a Christmas service at 6 a.m., which was attended by the Aldermen, stewards and members of the ancient company of Cordwainers who arrived in procession, illuminated by torches. This was the Plygain' service [see RBS. N0:8], trans­lated into "dawning of day" or "Cock­crowing" and this service was conducted in Welsh. The services at Llanfwrog and Llanrhudd were entirely in Welsh.

There was also ample provision for the Dissenting populace. The Calvin­istic Methodists, for example, had only some 160 members resident in the town, but extraordinary numbers from 1,200 to 1,500 people from the town and from some two miles radius were said to at­tend evening service. The chapel, pre­sumably Rhos Street Chapel, now the post office garage and fore runner of Tabernacle Chapel in Well Street, was claimed to have the incredible capacity of 2,000, holding two services in Welsh each Sunday. Their Sunday School had some 300 scholars, with some adults, and some 46 teachers.

The Baptists, worshipping in Mwrog Street, had 110 mem­bers resident in the Borough, but here again as many as 4/500 from the district were reported to be attending the two Sunday services, conducted in Welsh. Their Sunday School had an average of 200 scholars, with some 30 teachers.

The Wesleyan Methodists, then presumably worshipping in the Mill Street Chapel, had an average congregation of some 250, of whom 60 were estimated to be from within the borough. The report refers to "the service" being usually in Welsh, and a Sunday School of about 140 children and 10/12 teachers.

The Independents' or Congregationalists' Chapel, at the top of Well Street, had a reported capacity for 500, with a congregation of some 300, of whom some 70 resided in the borough. Their two services were conducted in Welsh and their Sunday School had an attendance of some 200, including about 30 teachers.

The Society of Quakers had only three members in Ruthin [RBS NOs: 11 & 12].

Education provision in the borough, as seen from the above references, enjoyed a considerable Sunday contribution from the dissenting community not only in respect of the children but also some adults. However, the principal school was that founded by Gabriel Goodman and referred to as "that of Christ's Hospital". This pro­vided free education to all boys born in the borough and in, the parish of Llanelidan, upon payment of an entrance fee of one guinea. The official comple­ment of the school was 120 pupils but at the time of the Report there were only 47 pupils of whom 22 were boarders. The commissioners commented that there were only 12 free boys, indicating that the inhabitants "from some sinister cause" did not avail themselves of this opportunity as might be expected. This, too, in spite of the attraction of six exhi­bitions to the universities.

In addition, the report identified two national schools supported by subscrip­tion which could each accommodate 60 children. Only about 40 children at­tended each school. The English lan­guage was taught in the schools but the catechism was in Welsh, the predomi­nant language,  so much so that an inter­preter was always provided at each as­size court.

This, then, was what the Commis­sioners found and their report culmi­nated in the Municipal Corporations Act, 1835, the object of which was to regular­ise the method of electing councillors, the appointment of officers, and the au­dit of accounts. It also provided some Police and Bylaw powers, otherwise its effect on public services was negligible. From this time on, local government as we came to know it evolved slowly with services developing under the man­agement of separate ad hoc Boards.
Central government had no confidence in the old Municipal Boroughs, deservedly called "Rotten". As the new machinery produced reliability and integrity, central government confidence increased and the ad hoc Boards were abolished with their powers and duties transferred to local authorities. Clearly, that new-found confidence has not survived, and the process which these two articles have described is now being thrown into reverse.



Clwyd Record Office, Ruthin, DD/DM/101/88.


Arms of ”Lloyd of Penyfed, Llangwm and Cwm Penaner, Cerrig-y-Drudion"

Rhydwrial, in the parish of Llanrhudd has joined the ranks of the lost houses of Dyffryn Clwyd. On its site now stands a house of very recent vintage. The original was described by the Royal Commission of Ancient Monuments as "a storeyed, originally half-timbered, box-framed, three unit, lateral chimneyed house. Has been much altered and the half-timbered walls have been replaced. Location of original entrance not known. Unusually tall, square, Denbighshire-type stone chimney." The commission's file did not ascribe a date and Edward Hubbard does not refer to it in his The Buildings of Wales - Clwyd.

A conclusion from all this could be that it was not a distinguished house architecturally, nor very significant so­cially. Its origins are unknown but nev­ertheless there are interesting family associations. Another conclusion may be inferred from its location- its possible association with the Thelwall family within whose territorial influence it lay.

More information is doubtless awaiting discovery, but at present Rhydwrial's association was with the Lloyd family. The first who comes to notice is Edward Lloyd of Llysychill, alias Llanferres. A settlement was concluded on 23rd June, 1716 in respect of Edward's marriage to Anne Wynne of Eyarth. This settled Rhydwrial, described as a capital messuage, upon Edward Wynne of Eyarth [Anne's brother] and Jenkin Owen of Llanfwrog, presumably as trustees of her marriage portion of £30.

Critchley Lloyd "of Rhyd Wrial, Llanrhudd and of Bryneglwys", a descendant of Owain Brogyntyn, in 1730 married Margaret Jones of Penyved, Llangwm and Cwm Penaner, Cerrigydrudion. Margaret Jones' brother John, a "Doctor of physick" of Bryn Banon, in 1730 married Elizabeth Welchman, niece, ward and heiress of Edward Salusbury of Galltfaenan.

Critchley's son Rev. John, rector of Bettws Gwerfil Goch, married Anne, sister and eventual heiress of Simon Thelwall of Blaen. Rev John Lloyd's son inherited much land and in 1810, married Anna Maria, daughter of John Mostyn of Segrwyd and Llewesog in Ceinmeirch. He became known as "Col. John Lloyd Salusbury of Galltfaenan, Rhydwrial, Penyved, Penaner, Panty Mel, Dinmael, and Blaen.

A lease of 1767, devized lands at Coedrwg, Llantysilio, Rhydwrial, and other lands, from Rev John Lloyd of Bettws G.G. to Dr Jones, referred to as "of Galltfaenan", breaking the entail. Dr Jones and his wife had four chil­dren, all of whom were childless. The youngest Margaret died c.1791 and left Galltfaenan to Col. John Lloyd as the eldest son of her cousin, the Rev. John Lloyd, on condition that he took the name and arms of Salusbury. Col John died on 27th March, 1852 and was bur­ied at Henllan. Col. John's eldest daugh­ter and heiress Anna Maria, married Townsend Mainwaring, of Marchwiel Hall and M.P. for the Denbigh Boroughs 1857-68.

In 1778, Mary Lloyd of Rhydwrial married Richard Myddelton [1726-95] of Chirk Castle as his second of three wives. Mary presented Richard with one daughter Harriet, a spinster who inherited the Foxhall, Denbigh, estate [Note and the Ruthin Castle estate], which she bequeathed to her nephew Frederick Richard West. Mary died at Putney Lodge and was buried at Mortlake 22nd March 1788.



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS -History of Powys Fadog, Vol. VI; Calen­dar ‘Galltfaenan MSS’, Clwyd Record Office, Ruthin; Myddelton, Chirk Castle Accounts, 1666-1753.


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