RHUTHUN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET Issue No 31 September 1992
“A CONSPICUOUS ENCOUNTER” during the agricultural depression
by David Rickman
The slump in agriculture from 1870 to 1914 (`the Great Depression') saw 300,000 farm workers leave the land, rents dropped, and arable cultivation decline. Following repeal of the Corn Laws of the 1840s, imports of wheat exceeded home production by 1875 and prices fell 50% between 1874 and 1904.
A government commission reported in 1882 - "There is agreement as to the extent of distress which has fallen upon the agricultural community. Owners and occupiers have alike suffered from it. All without distinction have been involved in a general calamity. The two most prominent causes are bad seasons and foreign competition aggravated by increased production costs and heavy livestock losses."
Farmers in the Vale of Clwyd were no less affected than elsewhere as events at one Ruthin farm demonstrate.
Penstryt farm, Llanfwrog, was owned at that time by the Ruthin Castle estate, and Hugh Hughes, born in Capel Garmon in 1842, took the tenancy in 1881. He was well respected locally, was father of eleven children, a Sunday School teacher at Sebuel, Mwrog Street [now `Bethania] and, in 1891, a Ruthin town councillor.
Several letters among the estate documents [now at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth] dated 1885/86, written by Hugh Hughes accompanying rent payments, indicate that by 1885 he was unable to meet full commitments because of the prevailing trading conditions, and tell of the problems, viz., "It is very bad - cannot sell [stock] and prices are very low." "I had a very bad fair - only three sold." "I did not get an offer at the fair, and many are the same as me." "I am farming for 19 years and never been short with rent before."
By November, 1885, he had decided he could not continue and wrote to the agents, viz: "I am sorry to give the farm up, but after four years trial, I see that it is too dear; it is better to leave if you cannot let it for fair rent." He signed the quittal form giving twelve months notice of leaving.
The situation appears to have worsened and in October, 1886, the agents decided to obtain a distress warrant and to hold a forced sale to recover the rent debt.
What happened is vividly described in two press cuttings sent to Colonel Cornwallis-West, M.P., - the owner - by Romeike' s Agency (Information Service) in London. There were St. James Gazette and The Echo of 8th October, 1886, and of similar content, ‑
"A Sale But No Buyers. From tithes to rent. The Welsh farmers are quite naturally disposed to extend organised resistance from parsons to landlords. Yesterday, the farming stock of Pen-Street, Ruthin, was put up for sale under a distress warrant for rent due to Col. Cornwallis-West, M.P. A large crowd assembled at the hour fixed for the sale, but the auctioneer (George F. Byford) could get no serious bids for the effects. When he had sold a horse for £3 (afterwards resold to the tenant) the sale came to a standstill; and as the auctioneer left the premises with the bailiffs, they were followed by some of the crowd and pelted with rotten eggs. Then the people held an indignation meeting, and speeches of the right sort were delivered by the triumphant farmers (Mr Danie Roberts, Bathafarn) who had baffled the law. This is, we believe, the first conspicuous encounter between 'the ordinary law' of landlord and tenant and Celtic 'leaguery' south of the Tweed, and the 'party of disorder' have won an encouraging success."
Feeling was running high amongst the farmers, and at this turn of events Col. Cornwallis-West wrote to the estate solicitors: "Sir, The enclosed [press cuttings] are sent to me by an agency. I shall be inundated with protests and roundly taken to task unless explanation is given. I do not think I am called upon to do this, but I think a letter giving the facts be inserted the moment settlement is reached - probably tomorrow.
It should be stated personally I do not interfere or know much about the matter (not being at home) - that the tenant refused to come to a settlement, and if action was not taken, half a year’s rent was irrecoverable - that the tenant was given carting on the estate - that £250 had been spent on the farm by me - that he himself gave notice to quit - but that I am willing he should hold on rather than do him any injustice and with a further reduced rent.
I am convinced that if no letter appears, I shall be considered harsh and tyrannical, and my position as Member for this division will be rendered more difficult. I would suggest a letter be sent the moment a settlement is made."
George Byford's settlement account shows that agreement was reached. Hugh Hughes had raised £100 to clear his rent. He continued to farm Penstryt until April, 1896, when returning from a sale he contracted acute pneumonia and died suddenly at the early age of 53. The obituary stated the funeral was the largest in the neighbourhood for many years with 39 vehicles in the procession. Hugh Hughes was interred at Rhiw, Pwllglas, on 28th April, 1896.
Acknowledgements: Ruthin Castle Estate Papers, National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.
THE BOROUGH OF RUTHIN IN THE 1830s PART 1
The Report of the Commission on Municipal Corporations in England and Wales, 1834, is an awesome but informative document. The section on the Borough of Ruthin throws revealing light on the local community and, of course, upon its governance. As we stand on the threshold of another re-organisation of local government, it is timely to review the Commissioners findings, to contrast them with today's circumstances, and perhaps finding some common ground.
The Corporation of Ruthin was described as being a corporation by prescription. Its legal foundations rested upon several manorial charters, granted by the Lords of the Manor. The first was granted by the great grandfather of Reginald de Grey whose own charter, dated 27th September 1394, was an Inspeximus, or review, of that original. The report refers to at least two subsequent manorial charters, including one of 28th July, 1495/6 which was produced for the commissioners.
There were also royal charters, including two by Henry VII in 1504/5 and in 1507/8, which could not be found but documents of James I confirming earlier charters were produced. [Note for the whole of its existence the corporation operated seemingly without any evidence to justify its existence and organisation.]
The Commissioners decided to regard the charter of 1507/8 as the legal basis of the corporation.
The seal of the corporation was granted in 1810, the original of which is to be seen in the Clwyd Record Office, Ruthin, but it appears to have been based upon one of more ancient origin. The commissioners had sight of such a one on a letter of 1712 in the possession of the lady of the manor, Maria Myddelton.
The Officers of the corporation were: 2 aldermen, 16 town councillors or Capital Men, 4 Serjeants, 2 Leave Lookers, 1 Town Crier, and four Constables. In addition, there were still the manorial officers, viz., a Steward of the Lordship and a Recorder. The two latter officers were appointed by the Lord/Lady of the Manor. The Steward, originally with an allowance of £20 per annum for life, was Frederick Richard West, and his function was to preside at the two Courts Leet of the borough and of the Lordship, either in person or by his deputy.
The Steward's deputy was then George Adams, Esq., a solicitor, alderman of the borough and the agent of the Lady of the Manor. He was paid £50 per annum. The deputy also had a sub-deputy, then a Mr Samuel Edwards, a Denbigh solicitor. The Recorder was a Mr William Cole, another Denbigh solicitor who was also Clerk to the Aldermen. He had formerly enjoyed an annuity for life of £4.
The two aldermen were elected annually by a jury impannelled at the Michaelmas Court Leet. The Common Council were elected by the Aldermen, all of whom had to be burgesses, most of whom were required to serve on the jury. The jury summoned were 22 in number, of whom 9 were common councilmen /sic]. The Aldermen served as Petty Sessions justices. The role of the four Serjeants was to attend upon the aldermen and were described as the bodyguard of the corporation, but were especially responsible for the preservation of the peace within the borough. Until two years previously, they had been clothed by the corporation.
The Leave Lookers were also appointed by the borough jury of the Leet Court and their functions were to inspect the weights and measures and to "search the provisions", forerunners of our consumer protection officers.
The Town Crier and the four Constables were appointed by the aldermen and councillors for one year, with one constable acting in each of the four wards of the town,- Castle Street, Clwyd Street, Mwrog Street and Well Street. In addition to his "ordinary" duties, the Crier exercised the duties of peace officer and as Keeper of the Lordship Gaol, at an annual salary of £3, having been recently reduced from £5, with small fees on making proclamations.
The Crier lived in what had formerly been the ancient borough gaol, last used some 40 years previously by a debtor, and since superseded by the county gaol.
The commissioners quoted from a case of about 1678, that the aldermen "ever had a gaol of their own, and frequently committed offenders for the breach of the peace…”
"The Freemen" were in fact the burgesses of the borough and were elected upon nomination at a meeting of the aldermen and council, requiring the consent of the two aldermen and a majority of the councilmen' [sic] for election. The burgesses on admission swore to "bear scot and lot", i.e., to share the financial burdens of the borough by paying lawful taxation. Other duties were to serve on juries and to bear municipal office when duly elected.
The privileges enjoyed by the burgesses included that of voting in the election of Members to serve in Parliament for Denbigh and the Boroughs of Ruthin and Holt. They were exempt from heriots [the gift of the best live beast to the lord of the manor upon the death of the burgess] on payment of 1 shilling in lieu. They were also exempt from payment of tolls at both Ruthin and Denbigh. Prior to the enclosure of the common lands, they also exercised right of common on the wastes within the borough.
At the time of the commissioners’ visit, there were 282 resident burgesses and 36 non-resident. On 6th October 1826, 21 burgesses were elected and within three months, a further 90.
The main task of the Commissioners was to report on the method of election of Aldermen and councilmen. They had been informed by the deputy steward that it was the usual practice for the agent of the lady of the manor to address a letter which was delivered to the foreman of the jury in their retiring room recommending two persons to serve as aldermen, and that these two person were invariably elected. It was also reported that none was recommended except those who shared the same political interests as the lady of the manor. Furthermore, the entire council shared these same interests. The power of impannelling the jury of the leet court was left to the deputy steward, agent of the lady of the manor, who selected whomsoever she pleased.
Prior to 1819, the Biddulph party was the prevailing power, but in that year the Chirk Castle estate was divided and the interests of the new lady of the manor prevailed. She appointed Mr Humphrey Jones, her own attorney, as chief steward of the court, but afterwards Frederick Richard West succeeded to that office. Mr. George Adams, her agent, was appointed deputy steward and his sub-deputy was Mr. Samuel Edwards, her own attorney.
The revenues of the Council in the year 1831-1832 amounted to £178.4s.4d., derived from: well-wishers on charter day,- £2.4s.; rent from corporation lands, £49.17.6d.; income from weighing machine, £10.; Tolls, £110; and a balance of £6.2.10d brought forward. Prior to 1826, regular accounts were not kept. Over a period of 30 years, accounts had been kept on only four occasions, but there were signs of improvement.
The weighing machine, provided by the corporation in 1828 at a cost of £150, was used principally for weighing coals by any inhabitant who wished to do so. A charge of 2d. per load was made. Its operation was let on auction, formerly for £13 but then for only £10 per annum.
Tolls were levied upon all goods sold at fairs [RBS NO:15] and at the weekly auctions. The Saturday market was for meat, etc., and Monday's for corn, etc. Five fairs were held yearly, each lasting for two days. The November fairs were preceded by a civic procession. Tolls on dairy produce were levied by measure and on cattle at the rate of Id. per head; sheep 6d. per score and pigs 6d per cart load or Id per head if driven. The lady of the manor levied additional tolls - for example, 6d. on every horse sold.
Although rates were not levied by the Corporation, Poor Rates were levied from 1834 by the Board of Guardians. The rate was based upon a valuation of one-third of the value of houses and two-thirds upon the value of land. Each year produced an income of £1,355. Of this sum, £790.19s.6d. was paid for the relief of the poor; £72 was paid to the County rate; £121.2s was paid towards the rents of lodgings for paupers as there was no Workhouse at this time; £38.18s.10d. was paid in respect of bastardy.
In addition to this large proportion of public money being spent on the relief of poverty, the report identifies other means of assistance from voluntary sources. A society of ladies was reported to have contributed towards the relief of the poor who, in general, were said to be "comfortably provided for." Although most if not all country churches had charitable funds at their disposal, the poor appear to have gravitated towards the town "where there is something to be had from incidental relief". This was said to spring from considerable funds left by charitable donors and an example was cited as a farm left by Gabriel Goodman, Dean of Westminster, which produced £45 per annum. A weekly distribution of bread was made out of these funds every Saturday.
The Aldermen also nominated two churchwardens who, with the Warden of Ruthin and his churchwardens, recommended the names of persons for admission to the hospital (almshouses) to the President of Christ's Hospital, the Bishop of Bangor in whose diocese the parish was then located.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS -Clwyd Record Office, Ruthin, DDIDM11011 88.; W.O. Hart, Introduction to the Law of Local Government ; 4th edition ( Butterworth, 1949)
POOL PARK (See also on this website Arnold Hughes' paper on Pool Park.)
The name 'Pool Park' is enshrined as an identifiable entity in Ruthin's long memory. Archaeological evidence confirms that the area was settled from the very earliest times.
The Clocaenog forest conceals several prehistorical earthworks, somewhat damaged by forestry operations, particularly in the area known as Bryn-y-Beddau ["Hill of the Graves"], originally surmounted by a pillar, and a large tumulus, Bedd Emlyn ["Emlyn's Grave"]. Another area was known as Llys y Frenhines ["The Queen's Court"] were once was located Cadair y Frenhines ["The Queen's Chair"]. Lord Bagot in 1813 removed both the pillar and chair and re-located them on a slight eminence to the front of Pool Park mansion.
The chair has been compared with the coronation chair of the O'Neils of Castlereagh, Belfast, and to the coronation chair at Westminster Abbey. It has been conjectured that it was customary to instal a new chieftain in this chair on its eminence, overlooking his territory.
The pillar carried an inscription - "A im ilini Tovisaci", thought to be of the 5th/7th century. There are additional inscriptions in the rare Ogam script to the same effect.
The Ruthin Lordship, at the time of its grant to Reginald de Grey in 1284, comprised five `parkes' of which 'Poole' Park was one.
By the reign of the impoverished Charles I, ownership of large portions of the Lordship had already devolved upon many owners; e.g., Bathafarn [RBS NO:28] had been sold to John Thelwall, Similarly, Pool Park had been purchased by John Salesbury of Bachymbyd [d: 1580] as part of his build-up of an estate, thereby gaining power and influence. John then leased Botegir, Llanfihangel, for one thousand years, and Pool Park for thirty-one years to one Owen Lloyd. The main Salusbury family, based at Llewenni, spawned many branches among which one of the most important was that of Bachymbyd and Rug.
It would appear, if only because they were known as "of Bachymbyd and Rug", that the Salusburies did not regard Pool Park as their principal residence. Thomas Needham, High Sheriff of Denbighshire in 1617, was in occupation and was known as "of Pool Park". Needham had married Eleanor, widow of Sir Robert Salisbury of Bachymbyd and Rug. The mansion was sometimes occupied as a dower house and at various times, no doubt, by younger members of the Salisbury family.
Charles Salesbury inherited Pool Park and Bachymbyd as the result of a family rift. William Salesbury quarrelled with his son Owen over his marriage to Mary Goodman. William settled the greater part of his estate on his second son Charles, including Pool Park, while Owen had to settle for Rug. On 25th June, 1670, Jane Salisbury [1650-1695], the sole heiress of Charles of Bachymbyd and Rug, married Sir Walter Bagot [1644-1704], the third Baronet of Blithfield, Staffordshire. This marriage carried a substantial estate in this area to the Bagot family.
Sir Walter and Jane had five sons and five daughters, thereby ensuring the Bagot succession, but Jane died early having made provision in her Will for the founding of almshouses in Llanfwrog, for four poor men and and for six poor women. The charity is no longer in operation, [the charity still exists at Hafod, Mwrog Street, Ruthin. See RLHB No. 32, p 4 for a correction] and the houses were recently renovated and integrated and are in private occupation. Both Sir Walter and Jane were buried at Blithfield.
Clearly, the present house was not the first on the site and William Davies, in Handbook for the Vale of Clwyd, described it as a rebuilding. Davis' illustration [reproduced above] shows Pool Park mansion probably as it appeared soon after its construction in 1826-9 by John Buckler and his son J.C. Buckler. The ground floor was faced with stone while the upper floors were faced with intricate and heavy patterns of black and white, although sadly these features were obscured in the 1930s. The sale catalogue of 1930 refers to "a valuable oak interior, including a noble staircase richly carved and figured".
The "Superintendent" of work at Pool Park was an architect of the name of "Ward" and he had an apprentice John Jones [1810-69] of Llanfairtalhaearn, who was to pursue an interesting career, including an involvement under Paxton as one of the superintendents at the construction of the Crystal Palace. Jones was the bard "Talhaiarn", the composer of songs and light verse.
It is said that the doorway and balustrade of the mansion were by Inigo Jones, having been transferred from Bachymbyd Fawr. It has also been suggested that the internal oakwork is of greater age than the present house, so that it too may have been transferred from Bachymbyd.
There were two major sales of the Pool Park mansion and estate in the first half of the C20th, the first taking place on 7th November, 1928, when the mansion was withdrawn at £20,000. Prior to the auction, the Forestry Commission had acquired 1,200 acres and 40 farms and small-holdings had been sold to the tenants. Other important portions of the estate, including Bachymbyd Fawr, Rhydycilgwyn and Bodtegir, were also withdrawn.
A second auction sale on 28th April, 1930, realised another £11,000 but the mansion was again withdrawn, with private negotiations taking place behind the scenes.
The Bagots were not regular residents at Pool Park as their principal residence was at Blithfield, Staffordshire, so that there were several tenants, including the Elkington family. Mr George Richards Elkington [1801-1865], a very successful Birmingham businessman who had introduced the electro-plating process, died of paralysis at Pool Park on 22nd September, 1865. Slater's Directory of 1868 records that his son Frederick was then in residence. Subsequent tenants included R. Blezard, Esq., [c.1896], followed by Sir Ernest Tate, in occupation since since 1912 and whose lease expired in c.1928.
The Tates appear to have been very popular and generous in their support of at least two local Churches, Llanfwrog and Efenechtyd. On their departure for Galltfaenan, they were presented with a silver salver by the parishioners of Llanfwrog, where they had been instrumental in the provision of the present Rectory and the Church Institute in Mwrog Street.
The sale catalogue of 1928 reveals the extensive nature of the Pool Park estate. It comprised some 17,550 acres which was divided into five distinct portions, viz., the area immediately around the mansion, the Hiraethog estate, the Llanynys estate (including Bachymbyd), the Llangwm 'sporting' estate (including Bodtegir), which seems to have been valued as a grouse moor, and the Petrayal estate. It seems reasonable to suppose that this make-up reflected the position as it had been in John Salusbury's time, with only marginal adjustments.
It would seem after private negotiation that, and not uniquely, the opportunity was taken to adapt a local historic mansion into a hospital, this time for the mentally ill under the main hospital at Denbigh. So, for 60 years, the house has fulfilled a valuable purpose in the service of the community. It appears that the mansion is on the market again, its use as a hospital having been discontinued. The question "What next?" remains unanswered, as yet.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS :Transactions of the Denbighshire Historical Society, Vol.19, pp.8-23 ; Burke' s "Peerage and Baronetage" ; Lloyd, History of Powys Fadog , Vol.1 V, pp.330-339, Vol.VI, pp.25-32; Smith, B.B.C.S., N0:14 -"Calendar of Salusbury Correspondence", pp.14, 180; Clwyd Record Office: DD/DM/ 21513 ; NTD139 ,NTD191 ; Hubbard,: Buildings of Wales - Clwyd, PenguinlUniversity of Wales Press; William Davies, Handbook for the Vale of Clwyd, ; Dictionary of National Biography; Dictionary of Welsh Biography; W.M. Myddelton, Chirk Castle Accounts, AD 1666-1753,  Manchester; Denbighshire Free Press, 30th November 1928, 19th April, 3rd May, 1930.
POST SCRIPT- POOL PARK This appeared in Broadshhet No. 32
In our piece on Pool Park in issue no. 31, reference was made to the almshouses, known as "Llanfwrog Hospital". They were founded and endowed in 1605  with a legacy from Lady Jane Bagot, although they were not actually built until 1708 by Sir Edward Bagot.
It was stated that the charity was no longer in operation. It is pleasing to point out that this is not the case and that the Trustees of Llanfwrog Hospital are still active under the Chairmanship of Mrs. Margaret Roberts. We are grateful to Mr. Roger Wilyman who, on behalf of the trustees, writes to say that the original almshouses were sold in an unimproved condition in the early 1970s as the trustees had not been able to negotiate rights for vehicular access and services for the carrying out of an improvement scheme. Since then, the trustees' objective has been to provide new accommodation in Llanfwrog and they are hopeful that this will be achieved in the near future. The board which was attached to the front of the original building has been renovated and relettered and is in safe keeping.