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RHUTHUN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET                                                                            Issue No 34 June 1993 

THE ROOFS OF St. PETER’s Part V by Peter Randall 

[Note much of this article is based on original work by a former Warden of Ruthin, the Rev Lewis Pryce]


On inspection of the carvings of the north roof, many are of plants, fish and animals. Some of the animal and plant designs have already been considered in previous articles in the ‘Broadsheet’ in respect of the families recorded in the roof.Similar to stone masons, the Tudor carpenters appear to have taken their inspiration for individual designs from the world around them. Few would have been able to read or write, but could use the skill of their hands to produce such carvings which have been admired through the ages. However, each design would have had to be approved by the Master Carpenter in overall control of the layout and design of the roof.The majority of plant designs on the panels, and on the roof bosses, are of the Tudor Rose. A few of the other variety of plants are here illustrated; Lily, (fig.1); Thistle, (fig.2); Acanthus, (fig.3); Plantain, (fig.4); Daisy, (fig. 5); Rose, (fig.6); Rose, with buds,(fig.7); four petalled flower, (fig.8); flowers around the centre of a Cross, (fig.9).


An amusing carved panel illustrating the humour of a carpenter shows a High Court Judge with a long pointed nose, smelling a nosegay, a sweet scented posy of flowers used at the time by judges and gentry to ward off pungent smells and the plague (fig.10).
During the Tudor period, cartographers were beginning to produce maps and sea charts. Drawn in the sea areas around the land masses, ships, monsters, and fish were depicted, mainly from the imagination. Various designs of fish are to be seen in the roof, including one with two tails (fig.11); a pair of crossed dolphins (fig.12); a spiral Whelk shell (fig.13); and an octopus (in a diver's helmet!) (fig.14).

Many varieties of fish are used in heraldry and may be used as a pun on the name of the family using a species as part of their coat of arms, e.g., The Lucy family by using a Pike or Lucy [see Broadsheet No: 26].
There are four interesting and most unusual carved panels being designs of window tracery. Fig. 15 is a simply Gothic tracery of four lights, similar to those used in Tudor houses; fig. 16 shows a six light tracery of the 15th century; fig. 17 is a more elaborate eight light tracery also of the 15th and also the 16th centuries, being of the Perpendicular period of architecture. Fig. 18 is a Rose window of the same period.



The majority of the original window tracery in St. Peter's Church was replaced during numerous restoration schemes. As a result of which, there appear to be no records of the tracery or glass. Were the four panels sketches for windows of a church being worked out by the Master Carpenter with the Master Mason who would have been responsible for cutting the window tracery? It appears that whoever made the designs was conversant with the current thinking of window designs of the Tudor period.
These four window panels in the roof leave an intriguing mystery as to why they were carved and to what purpose
(The next article will deal with the geometrical designs.)



Part I of this article ended with an introduction to the political activities of William Cornwallis-West. This deals with his varied interests, giving an interesting insight into his life and times.

William's political opinions were to the right of the Liberal Party but, nevertheless, he was returned unopposed in 1886 when he stood as a Liberal Unionist. The seat in 1892 was challenged by the Liberal John Herbert Roberts, and William, again standing as a Liberal Unionist, was severely defeated.

William Cornwallis West appears to have had some conflicting qualities. He founded, in 1876, the Arts Treasures Exhibition of North Wales and the Border Counties at Wrexham. This was too large and too extravagant for a provincial venue and he lost some £4,000 over this venture. He lost heavily on an attempt to establish a Winter Garden at Rhyl as this, too, was failure being far ahead of its time. He was a Major in the Denbighshire Rifle Volunteers, but he did not hold a regular commission. Later, he was made Honorary Colonel of the 4th Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers. From that time he always used the title "Colonel". He was also a barrister, having been called to the Bar in 1862.

The contrasts of opinions are particularly marked in his evidence to the Royal Commission on Land. Col. Cornwallis West was one of the landlords who gave a ten per cent reduction in rent to mitigate the effects of the agricultural depression. On the other hand, he denied any knowledge of pressure brought on tenant farmers to conform to the political wishes of the landowners, or the fear of many to appear before the Commission to give evidence. This was in spite of many farmers claiming intimidation.

His agent towards the end of the century was J. Probert, and we can glean a little about the contrast in social attitudes from the evidence to the Royal Commission. For example, Cornwallis West said: "The question of language does not affect us in the Vale of Clwyd as it may do elsewhere, for nearly the whole population speak English. It is found so much to the advantage of everyone to know the English language that parents are fully alive to the necessity of having their children thoroughly taught it, and so far as I can form an opinion from my own experience, if exists at all, is very much exaggerated. " Yet, throughout the hearing, farmer after farmer spoke through an interpreter. When pressed on this subject, Probert regretted he was monoglot English.

According to Probert, the labourers were well housed on the estate. He claimed that each cottage had a kitchen, back kitchen, pantry and three bedrooms. This paints a far rosier picture than did Lleuffer Thomas in the Royal Commission for Labour, who stated that the majority of the labourers' cottages in the Vale had only two rooms, one downstairs and the other a sort of unpartitioned loft. Perhaps Cornwallis West was then one of the more enlightened landowners. According to the estate records, he also paid relatively well.

However, through his various ventures and an estate that had cash flow problems for many years, William handed his son George an inheritance which was desperately short of capital. George married Jennie Jerome, the widow of Lord Randolph Churchill and mother of Winston. With an unhappy divorce and a shortage of money, George had no option but to sell, and so many of the townsfolk of Ruthin had the opportunity to buy their own homes. This was really the birth of Ruthin as we know it today.

This is only a brief resume of the Wests, one of the more colourful dynasties in Denbighshire. Their tenure lasted a century, but theirs were turbulent times and without their firm leadership, Ruthin might not have evolved in such a fortunate manner. Certainly, some of the legislation that came into effect during the 1800's would not have met with their approval. The Secret Ballot Act, the Public Health Act, although both Liberal sponsored, eroded their authority and as the populace became modestly more affluent, their economic dominance also waned. The Wests were not unique in these matters. It was happening all over England and Wales, but this is an interesting case study close to home.



Arnold J. James & John Thomas, Wales at Westminster, 1981; Caernarvon and Denbigh Herald;
P.D. Randall, "The Pews of St. Peter's Church, Ruthin", Transactions of the Denbighshire Historical Society, Vol.29, 1980, pp.161-175. D. Canradine, Patricians, Power and Politics in l9th Century Towns, 1982.



In issue No: 10, June 1987, under the above headline we sought information on a cautionary and gruesome 17th century ballad. Probably by the strangest of co-incidences, Mr. Peter Howell Williams of Llanelidan, to whom we are most grateful has kindly provided more information on the ballad entitled "A Warning For All Murderers".

The account is based upon an article by William E.A. Axon, LL.D., who found this two part ballad amongst the Roxburge Collection at the British Museum. It was originally published by one Henry Gossom c. 1 635 and is of interest if only because its subject matter was a certain David Williams of Ruthin.

Our hero was modestly wealthy with an income of some L100 p.a. which was the subject of the envy of his three unscrupulous cousins. Mrs. Williams, who was expecting a child, and her husband decided to take the air by strolling around their estate. This gave the dastardly cousins the opportunity they were seeking, and, disguised as "broken soldiers", they attacked them both, killing the unfortunate father-to-be and fatally wounding mother-to-be. Mrs. Williams lived long enough to give birth to a son who, of course, inherited his parents' wealth thereby frustrating the evil intent of his heinous relatives.

Most would have felt justice done had the story ended there, but the Sword of Damocles still had work to do. Some twelve months later, one of the murderers was playing cards at a house being visited by the child and its nurse. The one-year-old crawled under the table and bit the ankle of his wretched relative whose wound became fatally septic.

Some time later, cousin No. 2 was enjoying a merry binge, when this precocious infant chanced by, saw his opportunity, removed a large hat-pin from its coat and plunged it into the man's thigh. Needless to say, death was the result and the child had a sound beating for his efforts but showed no remorse.

Not surprisingly, cousin No. 3 became apprehensive and took great pains to avoid his youthful kinsman, but one day fell asleep on the field of harvest. Just then, the young boy appeared with his playmates and recognising the man, plunged a bramble stick far down the man's open throat. This caused the victim to awaken rather suddenly and in trying to remove the bramble, caused infinitely more harm, which was obviously fatal.

Before shuffling off his mortal coil, victim No. 3 confesses all thereby completing a somewhat gruesome cycle of justice


On 14th January, 1783, Jane Williams of Llanfwrog was brought before the Justices of the Peace at Quarter Sessions accused of stealing on 28th December, 1782, one linen sheet valued at ten pence. In spite of heated denials of the offence, she was found guilty and handed over to Joseph Stoddard, Keeper of the Gaol at Ruthin. Stoddard was ordered on the following Monday, between the hours of one and three in the afternoon, to publicly whip her from the county gaol in Clwyd Street, through the Market Place (The Square) to the house of William Evans, Innholder, known as "The Sign of the Anchor" in the parish of Llanrhydd, and back again to the said gaol and then to discharge her out of his custody.



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS - Clwyd Record Office, Ruthin: QSD/50/1/9


Bachymbyd, or Bachymbyd Fawr [this is a nearby farm of the same name] is not located within the bounds of the former Ruthin Lordship but it is sufficiently near to be if interest in that context. It is situated in the commote of Cynmeirch in the cantref [Note township] of Ystrad and in the Parish of Llanynys, but within the Honour or Lordship of Denbigh. Although located within close proximity to the Ruthin ­Denbigh road, it is not visible.

The first recorded owner of Plas ym Bachymbyd was Llewelyn ab Madog (d:1343) descended from Goronwy, Prince of Tegeingl. but the architectural history of the house naturally does not reach that far back. There was certainly a house on the present site by not later than the early 16th century, and by that time, the estate was in the possession of the Salusbury family of Llewenni. That house is said to have been built and designed by Inigo Jones for Col.William Salesbury, but was never completed owing to civil strife, presumably the Civil War.



Bachymbyd has been described as a large residence of red brick built in 1666. More accurately, that was a re-building by Charles Salesbury following his inheritance and the restoration of the monarchy. The house consisted of a long central block of seven bays, three stories in height, the upper one having dormer windows, and one hipped two-bay wing. Originally, there were two wings. It has stone quoins and dressings, and several mullion windows. The initials "C.s.E." appeared over the entrance beneath which was a shield bearing the arms of Charles Salesbury, impaling those of his wife, Elizabeth Thelwall, daughter of John Thelwall (d:1686) of Plas Coch.

Most of the main features are visible in our illustration above  (with acknowledgements to the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth) taken from a cartouche (one of several) illustrating the margins of a rare William Williams map (of 1720) of Flintshire and Denbighshire. It has to be said that a comparison of the entrance illustrated bears a considerable likeness to that at Pool Park except that the latter is two storeys high. The caption beneath reads: "This prop 't of Bachymbyd and ye hund. of yrchmyn:udd is humbly deicat'd to ye Hon'd Sir Walter Bagot, Bart." The arms, of course, are of the Bagot family.

His power and influence in Dyffryn Clwyd must have been extensive as he also owned the greatest part of Tref Maes Maen Cymro, Tref Bryn Caredig and other lands in Gyffylliog and Derwen Anial.

Not surprisingly, there have been many alterations to suit changing needs and fashions. It is at present a matter of speculation whether Sir Walter Bagot demolished the second wing and transferred the balcony and doorway attributed to Inigo Jones, to Pool Park. On the other hand, the work may not have been undertaken until the major alterations of the early 19th century. While one cannot be certain, other parts might also have been transferred. For example, the magnificent staircase at Pool Park is elaborately decorated with carved panels and figures which, it has been suggested, are far older than the house and must have been brought in. More recently, K.W. Favell, remodelled (c.1960) Bachymbyd' s gable end where the second wing had been.
Owners ‑ Bachymbyd township, or at least a portion of it, was in the hands of the Owain Goch clan who forfeited their lands following their participation in the struggle for Welsh independence at the turn of the thirteenth century. The next recorded owner of Plas ym Bachymbyd was Llewelyn ab Madog (d.1343) descended from Goronwy, Prince ofTegeingl. His power and influence in Dyffryn Clwyd must have been extensive as he also owned the greatest part of Tref Maes Maen Cymro, Tref Bryn Caredig and other lands in Gyffylliog and Derwen Anial.

The Salesbury involvement with Bachymbyd seems to have begun with John Salesbury towards the end of the 15th century, the member of the family who expanded the estate quite considerably by the purchase of several parcels of land, including Pool Park.

The history of the estate, and of its owners, was characterised by mixed fortunes. An initial period of thrift and acquisition was succeeded by one of some profligacy and one Capt. John Salesbury, who inherited in 1608, was compelled to mortgage Bachymbyd in November 1608, for £3,000 to John Williams of Hafod Lwyfog, a London goldsmith. In June, 1611, John Salesbury surrendered all rights to Bachymbyd in favour of John Williams for £6,300, a transaction that amounted virtually to a sale.

John's brother Col. William ["Hosannau Gleision" -'blue stockings'] inherited in 1611 and his character was in marked contrast. His loyalty and defence of Denbigh Castle for Charles I as its Governor are legendary. He not only restored the estate lands, with difficulty, but added to them. He brought a case before Chancery in 1613 alleging that when his brother John had been seriously ill, one Elen Owen insinuated herself as John's nurse. John had been residing at "a little farmhouse called Poole Parke to remain private and with little expense ". She even managed to persuade him to transfer to her own home at Fernyll, co. Salop, where John lived for two years before his death. William alleged that Elen was but one of a number of conspirators seeking to gain possession of the estate.

Charles Salesbury, second son of Col. William (d: 1660), Lord of Rug and Glyndyvrdwy, inherited the Bachymbyd estate, then valued at £1,300 per annum. Charles married Elizabeth Thelwall of Plas Coch. He became High Sheriff of Denbighshire in 1661. In some accounts, Charles Salesbury is described as "Knight of the Royal Oak," but in fact, the Order was never actually instituted although Charles was one of seven Denbighshire gentlemen deemed fit and qualified for this contemplated order of knighthood.

The only surviving child of Charles' marriage, a daughter and heiress Jane, married Sir Walter Bagot of Blithfield on 25th June, 1670. Sir Walter Bagot, 3rd Baronet, of Blithfield, Staffordshire, succeeded his father Sir Edward in 1673, and represented the county of Stafford in seven Parliaments. Sir Walter and Jane had five sons, Edward, his successor, and four others, and five daughters. Sir Walter died 15th February, 1704, in his 60th year and his wife on 20th July, 1695 in her 45th year, and both are buried inside Blithfield [Church]. Jane, by her Will dated 15th July, 1695, provided for the erection of Almshouses in Llanfwrog parish and for the payment of an annual sum of money for four poor men and six poor women [Broadsheet Nos: 31 & 32].

The Bachymbyd estate when associated with the Salesbury family clearly had Bachymbyd as its pivot, but following its transfer to the Bagot family, this moved to Pool Park, up until then, it would seem, "a little farm house". It may therefore be assumed that its location attracted Sir Walter who presumably then adapted or even built anew the house which remains today. Close by Bachymbyd and near the roadside are the remains of three Spanish chestnut-trees known as "The Three Sisters". According to legend, Sir Walter Bagot lost a favourite dog while shooting in the vicinity. This was found by the Salesburys and duly returned. On calling to give due thanks, Sir Walter met his future wife, Jane. The trees are said to have been planted by Col. William Salesbury's three daughters - Dorothy, Margaret and Jane, as tokens of mutual affection.

Bachymbyd in 1928 was occupied by a Major Tom Gee. In November of that year, Bachymbyd Fawr [247.446 acres], was put up for auction but was withdrawn at £8,500. Another auction was arranged in April, 1930, but was again withdrawn and subsequently sold by private treaty.




W.M. Myddelton, Chirk Castle Accounts, 1666-1753 (.Manchester University Press, 1931), pp. 270,324, 396, 492. ‘Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Wales – Denbighshire’. 1914; 
Arch.Camb, 1887, (Denbigh Meeting), p.351.
Edward Hubbard, Buildings of Wales – Clwyd (Penguin Books/ University of Wales Press, 1986).
Denbighshire Free Press, November, 1928.
Lloyd, Powys Fadog Vol: III, pp.63-65; Vol. VI, pp.25, 28; 
Clwyd Record Office, Ruthin, NTD/91;
Bachymbyd MSS., National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth. ‘Calendar of Salusbury Correspondence’; Board of Celtic Studies No: 14; ed. W.J. Smith;
Transactions of the Denbighshire Historical Society, Vol: 13, pp.147-8;
 William Davis, Handbook for the Vale of Clwyd, (1856), pp.118-9.

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