RHUTHUN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET Issue No 39 September 1994
ROOFS OF ST PETER’S – PART 6
by Peter Randall
In Rhuthun Broadsheet No: 34, carvings of plants, fish and window designs were considered. This issue illustrates some of the geometric designs. The master-carpenters had some knowledge of geometry which would have been passed onto the carpenters and wood carvers. Most of the work would have been done in the carpenters' workshops, possibly near to the site of the church. Some may have been recruited from Chester, but no doubt local craftsmen would have been employed where possible.
During the Gothic period of architecture, 1201-1500, geometrical tracery windows became fashionable in parish churches throughout the country. This type of tracery was adopted by the master-carpenters in the construction of wood screens, reredos, etc., in particular rood screens, good examples of which can be viewed in some village churches around Ruthin.
Unfortunately, the churchwardens’ accounts for St. Peter's Church date only from 1687, so there are no records of costs prior to this date. However, cost information can be gleaned from earlier Churchwardens accounts from other parish churches.
In 1496-8, the parish of St. Mary-at-Hill, London, paid a master-carpenter 21d. (old pence), for three days work, carvers 8d. (old pence) per day and other workers 5d. At St. Margaret's, Westminster, a screen and loft were built for £38 in 1510. No doubt similar wages would have been paid to the master-carpenters and carvers working on St. Peter's roofs. A selection of twenty of these elaborate but elegant designs are here illustrated (Fig. 1). They give an indication of the variety of geometrical designs to be found in the north roof. Although the carvings are more than 400 years old, they still appear as crisp and sharp as the day they were carved, a lasting tribute to the skills of those Tudor carpenters and carvers. As one views the panels of the north roof, it is not hard to imagine the pleasure the Tudor carpenters had with their compasses and set-squares, working-out the intricate geometrical designs for their work. They are in no particular order, but are interspersed with panels of known families, initials, with flora and fauna themes.
One design in particular appears over twenty times in the north roof, normally in rows of six together. Another, of three interwoven circles, has been adopted by Clwyd County Council as the symbol of the Ruthin Craft Centre, taking this early 16C design into the 20th century (Fig.2).
CHESS IN EDWARDIAN RUTHIN
by David C Castledine
The earliest mention of a Ruthin chess club is in reports in the North Wales Times and the Denbighshire Free Press in 1903. By this date games were played regularly in north Wales – at Wrexham, Rhos, Ruabon, Hawarden, Mold, Denbigh, Llandudno, Colwyn Bay, Bangor and the North Wales Chess Association (NWCA) was set up in 1908. A Ruthin chess team from the local Conservative club played at least two matches against a Denbigh chess team which consisted of players from Denbigh Conservative and Denbigh Liberal Clubs.
It appears that matches took place on Saturday evenings and lasted about 2½ hours, probably from 7.30 p.m. to 10.00 p.m. If a game on one board finished early, a second game was played, probably with reversed colours. Any unfinished games when time was called would be adjudicated by the other players present as a win for one side or as a draw.
On 28th November 1903, at the Constitutional Club Assembly Room (Conservative Club, Love Lane) Denbigh beat Ruthin by 6½ - 4½. The Ruthin team (with results) in board order was:- Charles Aldrich (Captain) [one draw]; F. Williams [one win, one loss]; R.O. Jones [one win]; D. Griffiths [two losses]; R.P. Davies [two losses]; H. Bobbie [one win] and Rees Williams [one win, one loss]. The return match was played on 19th December at Ruthin Conservative Club and Denbigh won by 8 - 4. W.G. Hodgson was added to the team on board 4. Play lasted for 2½ hours. Charles Aldrich scored a win and a draw against J.T.D. Halford (founder of the Denbigh club). F. Williams lost both his games; R.O. Jones' match was adjudicated a draw because it was still in the middle game; an error by W.G. Hodgson turned a draw into a loss. D. Griffiths won by default. H.T. Bobby and R.P. Davies lost both of their games. R. Williams at the call of time had an end game position of bishop and two pawns against a bishop. He had a certain winning move, which was not easy to find and the game was adjudicated a win for him. Whilst play was in progress, visitors were given light refreshments.
Matches were played at the Constitutional club (or Conservative club) which for several years was at Gorffwysfa in Castle Street. Charles Aldrich (1845-1921) was a very keen player and competed at quite a high standard. He was a native of Northampton and had moved to Ruthin to work for the railway company. Later, he was an accountant and managing clerk at Ellis’ Mineral Waters. He taught several members of his family to play and his two oldest sons also played in a Ruthin team: - Charles, junior, a schoolteacher, and Ralph. Mr Hodgson was headteacher at Borthyn school and a Mr Williamson of Derwen Hall was another player. In more recent times (1950s), Denbigh Liberal chess club had a chess team and their best player was Aneurin Dryhurst Roberts. A Denbigh and District chess club was formed in 1984 and the present Ruthin chess club was formed in 1989.
Sources: Denbighshire Free Press and North Wales Times, 5 and 26 December 1903. I am grateful to Trevor and Richard Aldrich of Denbigh for information about the Aldrich family.
RUTHIN THROUGH THE A.A. HANDBOOK, 1927
In content, the Automobile Association Handbook has not altered greatly over the years and it is interesting to examine the entry for the Ruthin of sixty-seven years ago.
Firstly, it gives the population as 2,782. This shows a decrease of some eighteen per cent from 1851. The middle of the nineteenth century marked the zenith of the market towns of Britain, when agriculture ruled supreme. Since 1852, the population of Wales has increased by over two hundred per cent which dramatically emphasises the decline in the town. This is indicative of centralising the population through industrialisation and the movement of young people to areas where opportunities for long term careers present themselves.
Secondly, the basic commercial facts of the town. Licensing hours were 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays. Market Day was Monday and early closing day was Thursday with the last post at 6.45 p.m.
Two hotels were listed in the town. Firstly, there was the Castle Hotel, St. Peter's Square, and its telephone number was Ruthin 49. This was a period when telephones were not the norm. There were 25 bedrooms. Single rooms cost 4s. to 6s. per night and double rooms were from 6s.-6d. to 12s. (remembering that 5p = ls.). A cold lunch was 2s.-6d. and hot lunch was an additional ls. Tea was ls-6d. and dinner 5s. There was parking for 25 cars at an overnight charge of 2s.
The other hotel was the Wynnstay with two stars while the Castle Hotel had three. Again, the telephone number was simply Ruthin 40. There were 14 bedrooms and parking for 6 cars. Lunch was 3s., tea and dinner were the same price as at the Castle. A cold lunch was 2s.-6d. and hot lunch was an additional ls. Tea was ls-6d. and dinner 5s. There was parking for 25 cars.
The only garage listed was R. Beech and Sons on St. Peter's Square and Well Street with space for 30 cars and 30 motor cycles. It was open on Sundays and there was an overnight call-out service.
Finally, to complete this nostalgic peep into the past, there was an urgent plea for motorists to keep to the left on the roads!
Previous issues [e.g., RBS No: 37] have carried reports of the discovery of various minerals, including gold, in and around Ruthin but none of these finds came to anything. Landowners were of course always eager to discover new sources of wealth and elsewhere some were very fortunate. However, for every success there must have been many failures. Nevertheless, the quest continued into the 20th century.
A Free Press report of 29th March 1902, reported on "The Mining Operations near Ruthin - Traces of Gold Discovered." This dwelt on extensive mining operations by the Bron Eyarth Mining Company, presumably in the vicinity of Bron Eyarth Farm on the Corwen Road, about 1½ miles from Ruthin. The mineral sought was iron, but the 'adventurers' would have been perfectly happy to have discovered any worthwhile mineral. Who these 'adventurers' were was not disclosed except that it was hinted that subscribers to the share capital would be welcomed. The land was part of the Ruthin Castle estate and no doubt the Cornwallis-Wests were very hopeful.
A shaft was being sunk at the rate of 12 to 15 ft per week and was being worked in 24 hour shifts. Deposits of barytes had been discovered as well as iron and iron pyrites. There were indications of lead and of gold. Tests yielded gold at the rate of 5 dwts and some grains to the ton of excavated material. On that basis, how much would be required to produce sufficient for a single wedding ring?
PLAS TOWERBRIDGE, sometimes referred to as "of Llanbedr", sometimes as "of Llanrhydd", and Caerfallen (dealt with in R.B.S. 39) go together like a pair of gloves. While not proven, it seems likely that Plas Towerbridge was originally the demesne of a large estate and that quite early on Caerfallen was detached as a portion for a dowager or a younger son. The name was undoubtedly derived from the ancient Turbridge family brought here by one of the early de Greys of Ruthin as a manorial official. The original estate was no doubt presented as a reward for faithful service. Their arms were described in heraldic terms as "Or, a bridge of three arches in fesse."
Little is known of the early Turbridge family, but, as has been seen from the Caerfallen account, the family survived locally at least until the 17th century when Caerfallen not Plas Towerbridge was the family base.
The Plas Tower Bridge estate was quite extensive and has been described as a "lordship or manor", with land in Ruthin, Llanrhydd and Llanbedr. The description "Lordship" seems hardly accurate as the estate could have formed only a small fraction of the Lordship of Ruthin within which it was situated. Undoubtedly, the size of the estate would have varied significantly as a reflection of the fortunes of the several owners. There are schedules of deeds which refer to land in Caer Groes, Llanbedr. and Bodyngharad, Llanfwrog with other properties in eight different parishes in Denbighshire and Flintshire. By contrast, the home farm in the 19th century comprised only 86 acres.
One of the last references to a Turbridge of Plas Towerbridge is to Robert, graduated B.A. from St. Edmunds Hall on 15th June 1593 and who became a student at Lincoln's Inn in 1594. Thereafter, references appear to "Robert of Lincoln's Inn". He was still so described on 5th November 1602.
Perhaps it was this Robert Turbridge that married Anne, daughter of Samuel Mostyn of Calcot, Flintshire, and who had a daughter also named Anne, Robert's heiress, and apparently the last of the family. She married John Myddelton of Gwaenynog at St. Hilary's Chapel, Denbigh on 27th May 1685 and the estate then passed into the Myddelton family with whom it remained until the beginning of the nineteenth century.
One of these Myddeltons, William, described as "of Plas Towerbridge", attracts attention. He became High Sheriff of Denbighshire in 1741 [and High Sheriff of Flintshire in the same year using the address "Skiviog" (Ysceiviog)] and Receiver General for North Wales 1739-1741. William was born on 25th November 1696 and matriculated at Brasenose College, Oxford. in 1715. He married Catherine Shaw of Denbigh and the marriage articles are dated 26th March 1723. His eldest son John became a Colonel (1724-1792) and it was he who entertained Dr. Johnson at Gwaenynog. John's brother was Robert (1728/9-1797), a clerk in Holy Orders. who eventually inherited the estates from his brother. As High Sheriff, William acted ex officio as Returning Officer and in 1741, instead of electing Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, who had polled the most votes, he foolishly declared his kinsman John Myddelton of Chirk duly elected. For this he was sent to Newgate. lost his doubtless well-paid sinecure as Receiver General for North Wales and had to beg for pardon from the House of Commons.
The Rev. Robert Myddelton sold the Plas Turbridge estate on 4th March, 1803, to the Rev. Hugh Jones of Hawarden - "The manor of Plas Tower Bridge, a mansion and 31 acres, also 109 acres near Ruthin." The purchase price was 6,000 guineas. Five years later, ownership passed to Sarah Youde and Henry Jones of Plas Tower, farmer.
The Youde family became extensive landowners, apparently as a quirk of fate. The first Youde to come to notice was a Frenchman ("Heude") despatched from the French Court on an errand to Sir Gruffydd Jeffreys of Acton, Wrexham. He stayed to marry Mary, a ward of Judge Jeffreys and daughter of John Hill of Shrewsbury. A descendant, the Rev. Thomas Youde, also of Brasenose College, married Sarah Lloyd of Clochfaen and Plas Madoc, Ruabon. Thomas Youde's mother was Dorothy, daughter and heiress of John Jones of Ruthin who possessed considerable property in Evenechtyd, Gyffylliog, Clocaenog and Llanrhydd. John Jones may have come into his wealth through his marriage to Mary Thelwall, sister of Eubule, Principal of Jesus College, Oxford.
Thus, from an apparently fortuitous marriage, the Youde family eventually came into possession of the ancient estates of Clochfaen and Plas Madoc, land originally in Thelwall ownership, and possibly the Plas Turbridge estate if it is correct to assume that the Jones in question was the H.J. Jones referred to below.
By 4th March 1823, Plas Towerbridge belonged to the trustees of Henry Powell Jones deceased. On 17th June 1825, the will of Hugh Jones devised the property to two nephews in succession for life and then to the son of one of them intail. On 8th February 1856, John Jones, Agent, Ruthin, presented an account to Edward Jones of Frodsham – "to attending you and your son, Mr H.J. Jones." A little later, on 23rd May 1856, steps had been taken to disentail the estate. By the end of the year, Edward Jones had removed from Frodsham to Stansty Cottage [presumably in Rhos Street], and had leased Plas Towerbridge to Robert and John Parry.
On 4th June 1860, John Jones, the agent, rendered an account to Robert Jones, master of the schooner "Mary Bollard". It is not clear who the nautical Robert Jones may have been, but was presumably one of the family of the owners. A little later, another document of September 1868, described Henry Powell Jones as 'Captain' [sailor] of The Prince of Wales, Ruthin, the public house located in Upper Clwyd Street, since demolished. Edward Jones' of Frodsham's will was granted probate on 15th April 1873 leaving the property to Hannah Roberts, a widow of the Wynnstay Arms. On 8th August 1873, Hannah engaged Ebenezer Lewis of Ffynnogion as her valuer, while Henry Powell Jones engaged William Edwards of the Brewery, Ruthin. and she sold the estate to Jones.
Jones then on 15th November 1882, leased Plas Towerbridge to Mr Myles Christopherson, and two years later H.P. Jones was resident at Greenfield Cottage, Greenfield Road. From this time into the beginnings of the 20th century, there are records of four parties, one of whom was William Saxon Gregson Ellis, one of the Ellis' Mineral Water Manufacturing family.
So, this property, close to the heart of the Ruthin Lordship, and once in the ownership of a proud Marcher family, seems to have acted out its history in a somewhat prosaic and uneventful manner.
References: Clwyd Record Office, Ruthin - DD/PP/176; DD/DP/177, file iv; 'High Sheriffs of Denbighshire'; Jones-Mortimer, privately published (1971); No. 428, Wynn; Chirk Castle Accounts, 1605 - 1666; W.M. Myddelton (1908), Chirk Castle Accounts, 1666 - 1753; W.M. Myddelton (1910), Pedigree of the Family of Myddelton of Gwaenynog, Garthgynan and Llansannan.