RHUTHUN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET Issue No 42 June 1995
The Council appointed a Sub-Committee to arrange festivities which included illuminating the Town Hall and St. Peter's Square, providing flags and flag poles. The Square was decorated with bunting and a stage built over the pavement fronting the National Westminster (then the 'National Provincial') Bank. From this stage, an All Ladies Orchestra, led by Mrs. Morris, provided music during the week.
On V.E. day, the Mayor (Councillor T. Howard Davies) sent a telegram to the Prime Minister on behalf of the Town Council and all the townsfolk offering "our good wishes". A reply was received from Mr. Winston Churchill as follows: "I have been deeply touched by all the messages of good will which have reached me at this time. Thank you so much for your kind thought."
Ruthin's Victory Parade took place on Sunday, 13th May, the first Sunday following the cessation of hostilities in Europe, which was observed as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer. The Mayor had a guard of honour comprising two repatriated prisoners-of-war who had arrived home the previous day, Trooper Raymond Humphreys and Private John Benesche. Also included were another two local men on leave, Commander Smith, R.N.R., and Private Sidney Roberts, Welsh Guards. The Mayor was supported by members of the Borough Council, the Army Cadet Corps' Bugle Band, members of the Civil Defence (attending their last public parade), and Sir Henry Morris Jones, the local M.P. This group paraded through the streets of Ruthin to a Thanksgiving Service at St. Peter's Church in the morning and in the evening to a service at the Tabernacle Welsh Presbyterian Church in Well Street. That night, there was community singing on the Square from 8.45 p.m.
As their camps were over-run by the allied advance, other Ruthinian P.O.Ws arrived home, viz., Private George Griffith and Sergeant R.W. Jones. News was received that Captain E. Talog Davies, peacetime solicitor and Coroner of West Denbighshire, had on 3rd May been wounded in the shoulder by a sniper's bullet having served in the forces since the outbreak of war.
For the first three nights of Victory Week, the Cinema was showing "The Girls He Left Behind" with Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda, Phil Baker, Edward Everett Horton and Eugene Pallete, with Benny Goodman and his orchestra. For the second part of the week, the film was "Rhythm Serenade", with Vera Lynn, supported by Peter Murry-Hill, with comedy provided by Jimmy Jewell and Ben Warriss, plus Jimmy Clitheroe.
Twin foals, a colt and a filly, were born on V.E. Day to a shire mare owned by Mr. Vernon Kellet of Tyn y Maen, Clawddnewydd. They were named 'Joe' and 'Winnie'.
All the local communities had established "Welcome Home" funds and presentations were made to all who had served in the forces. A typical example was Llanbedr D.C. who planned to give each ex-serviceman or woman £10 in savings bonds (equivalent to approximately £200 in today's money).
Part of Ruthin's effort was a Grand Carnival on 16th June with a tableau procession with prizes for the best tableau, the best decorated bicycle, the best fancy dressed collector, the best decorated pram with baby, the best dressed adult, the best dressed child, the best comic character, etc. The Carnival Queen was crowned by the Mayoress. There were sports, bowling and tennis tournaments and the day ended with a dance at the Town Hall.
A 'V.E. Baby Show' was held on Saturday 2nd June at the Town Hall. Entrance was by birth certificate or National Registration card. Admission was 6d (today, 2½p). The winners were, in the under 6 months class, 1st, Margaret Edwards, Llanfwrog; 2nd Baby Davies, Corwen; 6-15 months Haydn Davies, Ruthin, 2nd Sandra Robella, Ruthin. Babies of serving or ex-servicemen of Ruthin, under 6 months, Alan Jones, Llanfwrog, 6-15 months, 1st - Susan Patricia Jones, Llys Mynon; 2nd - Alan Aubrey Meares, Ruthin. Where are they now?
All the schools were closed on 8th and 9th May. The Mayor declared another school holiday on 30th, and arranged a special afternoon cinema show followed by tea at the Town Hall for all the schoolchildren.
Presiding at the June Council meeting, the Mayor referred to the great success of the V.E. celebrations held in the town and on behalf of the Corporation, he extended warm thanks to all who had helped with the arrangements. He expressed his appreciation of the orderly manner in which the inhabitants had conducted themselves during those hectic days. Everyone, he said, seemed to have done their best to show their feelings of gratitude and thankfulness that the Germans had been defeated and that the war in Europe had come to an end.
"If one can judge from the number of congratulations one has received on these efforts, particularly the illuminations and dancing on the Square, which was the high spot of the week, it must be agreed that Ruthin was in the forefront with its celebrations." said the Mayor. He continued, saying that some credit for this could be ascribed to the Sub-Committee appointed by the Borough Council, while the Town Clerk (Mr. D.E.H. Roberts) absolutely towered, head and shoulders above everyone else in his efforts. During those few days, Mr. Roberts did a tremendous amount of work, which must have taxed his energies to the full. Others whom the Mayor mentioned included Mr. Thornton (the electrical engineer) who had been responsible for the illuminations; Mrs. Morris and her band for providing music during the week and giving their services entirely free; Mr. Tom Berry of the Lang Pen Co. (of the munitions factory in the old gaol) for fixing the stage on the Square; Mr. R.E. Butland (shop in Castle Street) who declined to accept any remuneration for relaying announcements; the Manager of the National Provincial Bank (Mr. Carey Griffiths) and Mr. Hinckley for the free use of their premises, and Inspector Tom Edwards and the local police for co-operation and assistance received.
The Deputy Mayor (Alderman T.E. Lewis) endorsed all that had been said by the Mayor, adding that his Worship had very generously defrayed certain expenses connected with the celebrations, thus obviating any charge on the rates. The Council, he said, felt very grateful to the Mayor for his action.
CLWYD'S HISTORIC GARDENS.
The Spring 1995 issue of Cadw's Heritage in Wales gives an interesting and perhaps surprising insight into the historic garden heritage we have in Clwyd. Many are open all the year round and others are sometimes open under the Yellow Book scheme.
Chirk Castle and Erddig are perhaps fairly obvious examples, but all in all there are said to be 74 such gardens registered in Clwyd. One of the local examples is that at Garthgynan [RLHB No: 37] and, a little further afield, those at Whitehurst and Llangedwyn Hall in the Tanat Valley.
Many parklands associated with large country houses have also survived, e.g., Wynnstay, Ruabon. Brynbella, the scene twelve months ago of the spectacular sale, also has a park which takes maximum advantage of the magnificent local environment.
The garden at Voelas, near to Ysbytty Ifan and Pentrefoelas, also sports a natural water feature - a mountain river which tumbles spectacularly over large boulders.
Nearer the coast, Bodelwyddan Castle is set in beautiful parkland with splendid flower gardens, which Clwyd County Council has carefully restored. Nearby Kinmel Hall and Bodrhyddan are among some of the finest examples of these 18th century gardens.
Perhaps one of the most notable historic gardens in this area was that at Llannerch, St. Asaph. These unfortunately no longer survive. They were created in the mid-cl7th by Mutton Davies and were most elaborately contrived with Italianate water features and hydraulic statues. Sadly, only two paintings survive with other corroborative evidence.
Acknowledgements: The Historic Gardens of Wales Cadw, HMSO, 1992,
DICK NANCY Part 2
by John Williams.
This article concludes the life-story of one of Ruthin's more eccentric 19th century characters, Richard Jones [1797-1876], who preferred to be known by his alias.
Dick enjoyed his work and boasted that he had prepared last resting places for a thousand people for every digit on his hands. There were not many churchyards in north Wales that had not seen his handiwork, but he regarded Llanfwrog as his "pleasure ground". In these surroundings, he was at his best as a conversationalist, using his remarkable memory and his wide knowledge of the people whose graves he had dug over a period of 50 years or so. He knew who had married whom, the number of children of each union, where each person had lived, and how often he or she had moved house. He had an "index-like" knowledge of people's foibles and unusual experiences, more especially of their wills and the disposition of their possessions.
Dick took great pride in his work and seldom delegated the locking of the churchyard gates at the close of day. Mr. Evans would sometimes work late engraving new names on tombstones. Dick would wait, and, as they left together, would finally address his 'prisoners' in Welsh as he locked the gates: "I have to leave you now. Don't forget, no quarrelling whilst I'm away. Unless something untoward happens, I shall he here again in the morning."
He developed the art of dressing graves as a hobby. More than once, he had been asked to send a picture or drawing of a specimen of his work for the gentry in England. After burial, he would shape the soil above a grave in the form of a coffin. By the first Sunday after the burial, he would have covered it with whitewash for a second time and would have placed a double row of holly around it. There would also be straight lines of holly from head to foot and from elbow to elbow, firming a cross. If the deceased had been someone of importance, there would be further embellishments of trimmed sprigs of yew and an attractive border of a mixture of yew tips and flowers.
As an "old-fashioned churchman", Dick had little or no sympathy for the ways of nonconformists. Extempore prayer was not at all to his liking, especially in his earlier years. He could not see why The Book of Common Prayer could not be used on all occasions. However, his second of four marriages took place in a nonconformist chapel and from then on, he became a little more tolerant of their Ministers. He was once moved to tears by a prayer "from the breast" by a Wesleyan Minister above the grave of a friend, but his attachment to the Anglican tradition remained to the end.
Although he regarded Anglican clergymen as the salt of the earth, he had a fund of stories about them. For example, the Mayor was in the habit of giving his copy of the periodical The Field to the Rector, the Rev. James Jones, when he had finished with it. One day, while at a loose end, the Rector rang for the maid and asked her: "Mary, has The Field come from the Mayor?" She replied: "Please sir, has the mare come from the field, you mean, sir?" The Rector then said: "I mean what I say, Mary - has the newspaper-called The Field come from the Mayor's?"
Shortly before his death, he was said to have remarked to a friend "One good thing, my brother Ned has provided me with a substantial top coat" - a reference to his coffin that in his lifetime he had used as a pantry. In some forty years anticipation of his own fateful day, Dick had prepared his own grave (or "parlour" as he called it), brick lined in the shape of a coffin and carefully whitewashed.
Dick died on Sunday, 19th March 1876. Lewis Jones reported his age as 79 years, but the burial register quotes the age of 77. He was given the high honour of a full obituary notice in the Caernarvon and Denbigh Herald of 1st April 1876. This emphasised his specialist knowledge of all the graves in the surrounding cemeteries, reporting that there was nothing he enjoyed more than shovelling soil over former enemies. For example, he had served one month's imprisonment for assaulting a parish clerk and sometime later relished interring the magistrate for a far longer sentence. He was given a princely funeral on 24th March. All the shops along the route from Prior Street, where he had lived latterly, were closed and the town's shopkeepers escorted the coffin to its "model grave".
Based on Hynodion Dick Nancy by Lewis. Jones (Rhuddenfab) published by Hughes & Son of Wrexham towards the end of the 19th century.
POOL PARK POSTSCRIPT
This unusual view of 'Pool Park' is reproduced with the kind permission of Mrs Blodwen Davies, Llanfwrog, whose late husband Mr Jim Davies was Superintendent when Pool Park was a hospital. The original bears the date '1823' in manuscript and the word December', which suggests that it may originally have illustrated an almanack, calendar or diary. Pool Park's appearance today is quite different. As pointed out in our article in September 1992 [RLHB No: 31], William Davies (William Davies "Handbook for the Vale of Clwyd.") referred to 'rebuilding' work, as opposed to repair or renovation, undertaken in the period 1826-9 by John Buckler. A much-weathered yellow sandstone tablet on one of the smaller ancilliary buildings survives and is inscribed: "This stone was laid by the Rt. Honourable William, Lord Bagot on 6th 1u1v, 1827." It seems reasonable to assume that our illustration may have been made on the eve of the 'rebuilding'.
It all started with Mr. Churchill's historic announcement that: "as from one minute after midnight on Tuesday, 8th May, hostilities will end officially. Wednesday, the 9th will be celebrated as Victory in Europe Day." However, somewhat earlier, on 9th April, Ruthin's Borough Council had instructed its Finance and General Purposes Committee "that the necessary preparations for V.E. Day be put in hand."
Others too began to anticipate the end of hostilities. The Denbighshire Free Press for 5th May carried an advertisement of the Denbigh Smithfield Garage, Co., Ltd., "they wish to inform their clients that on the announcement of the European 'cease fire' the garage will CLOSE FOR TWO DAYS, with the exception of emergency calls for hire and petrol."
Originally, the Woodlands Hall estate doubtless formed part of the Pool Park estate of the Salesbury's and, later, the Bagot's [RLHB No:31]. However, Woodlands Hall is not an edifice of antiquity, but there is no known record of its building. Its history as revealed by records available at the Clwyd Record Office at Ruthin, begins with the purchase of the estate by Maurice Jones from Rev. John Youde [RLHB No: 39] in March 1766, for £1,000. It was then known as Bryncrach, which might translate as 'barren hill'. There is some confusion about this as 'Bodyngharad' (comprising some 70 acres), of the township of that name in the parish of Llanfwrog, seems also to have been known as Bryncrach. They may have formed part of a single estate. In any event, Thomas Jones of Llanfwrog, tanner, purchased Bodyngharad from Margaret Youde, the Rev. John Youde's widow, for £900 in October 1799.
After that, the estate exchanged hands on several occasions. For example, following Thomas Jones the tanner's death, his only surviving brother, William Jones of St. George the Martyr, Surrey, sold the estate to James Hargreaves of Rhysog for £1,450. Hargreaves died on 18th August 1821 and his estate passed to his eldest son, another James Hargreaves. At about this time the name 'Woodlands Cottage' came into use as an alternative to 'Bryncrach'. In June 1826, Hargreaves sold his estate to Hugh Jones of Coed-y-Gawen [RLHS No: 20], described as 'gent', though it is not known whether he was of the same family as that of Maurice Jones. The next record of 14th May 1859 relates to an Inland Revenue document regarding the property of Richard Jones, draper of Chester into whose possession "Woodlands House and Bryn Crach Farm" had passed under Hugh's Will. Richard Jones [b.10th June 1836], related to Hugh, owned other property in the parishes of Efenechtyd (e.g. Rhuallt, tenanted by John Price Williams for £55 p.a., and Vron Segur) and Gyffylliog.
In a mortgage dated November 1861, Hugh Jones, described as 'of Garthgynan' [RLHB No: 37], was one of three mortgagors with Ellis Jones of Plas Llanynys and Roger Jones of Caergroes. The latter two Joneses were Hugh's trustees and executors.
In April 1874, Richard Jones of Chester concluded a lease of Woodlands to Frederick Elkington of Moseley Hall, Birmingham. By September 1884, Richard Jones had died, and his estate was administered by his widow, Dorothy Ann Jones of 58, Bridge Street Row, Chester, and Samuel Spencer.
A trade directory of 1886 lists Miss H.H. Bremner as the owner of Woodlands and she seems to have been the last owner of the hall as a private residence. Miss Helen Harrison Bremner, the daughter of John Bremner of Prestwich, Manchester, died at the age of 78 on 28th April 1939 and the estate was put up for auction on 24th July. The gross value of Miss Bremner's estate was £54,785 and she had clearly lived in some style. There were legacies for a companion, a nurse, two gardeners, a maid, chauffeur and other servants.
The well-illustrated sale catalogue stated that the estate comprised approximately 108 acres, with a small home farm and one or two cottages. Perhaps this home farm was the original 'Bryncrach'. The catalogue gave interesting descriptions of the principal rooms. The then lounge had a carved oak overmantel with walnut panels depicting battle scenes. Walls, fireplaces and ceilings of other principal rooms were rich in oak and walnut carvings, said to have been collected from various parts of the continent. The contents of the house were auctioned over three days. The house and estate were withdrawn at £3,250 but were subsequently sold for a higher figure in the saleroom.
The late Dr Trevor Hughes, in his book , Ruthin - A Town With A Past" [pp. 116-117], said that Will ("Berry") Roberts, a local craftsman, spent a great deal of time at Woodlands engaged in wood-carving for Miss Bremner. Berry seems to have been an exceptional craftsman employed at many big houses in England and Wales, including Hyde Park House, "now the Yacht Club".
Local examples of his fine workmanship include the main door of Ruthin Town Hall and some carving at Manor House, Well Street. Dr Hughes said that Berry could not draw and that, as a child, Dr Hughes drew a design of branches, leaves, grapes and roses from which Berry could work.
The carved panels, etc., at Woodlands are quite complex and intricate, the designing of which would have required skills that Berry evidently did not possess. This leaves the enigma of separating Berry's work from that which seems to have been imported. One could speculate that he might have made the frames within which the imported panels were set.
It is said that Miss Bremner was a reclusive figure. She had three hobbies, - music, forestry and photography. The 1939 sale catalogue referred to a fully fitted photographic dark room. The passing of Miss Bremner marked another step in the decline of landed estates, to be further hastened by the impending Second World War. Even though the house may not be steeped in history, its association with the wide property interests of the local Jones family and the presence of so many beautiful carvings, combine to make Woodlands Hall an interesting feature of our local heritage.
[the property is now Woodlands Hall Hotel and Caravan Park]
Acknowledgements: Clwyd Record Office, Ruthin DD/DM/1003: Denbs. Free Press.