RHUTHUN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET Issue No 51 September 1997
LLANBEDR D. C.’s GENERAL CUSTER
by P.D. Randall
At the rear of Church House, Llanfair D.C., there is to be seen a carved stone plaque with the names of the four Church Wardens with the commemoration date of MDCCCXXXI, the date the house was built by Robert Roberts, stonemason, Mwrog Street, and Edward Williams, carpenter, for the sum of £140.
The top name on the plaque is "Jonathan Beever, Esq.", a gentleman who lived at Cefn Coch, Llanfair D.C. On the 15th July 1824, he married Anna Maria Peers, daughter of Col. Joseph and Dorothy Peers of Plas Newydd, Llanfwrog, at SS. Mwrog and Mary's Church, Llanfwrog. She was the sister of Joseph Peers whose memorial is the clock tower on St. Peter's Square, Ruthin. [RBS No 30] He later married in 1826 a niece of Jonathan's, a Caroline Beever whose only child of this marriage, Joseph, died in 1855. Five children were born to Jonathan and Anna Maria at Cefn Coch between 1826 and 1858, two sons and three daughters. [Ed note: a chronological slip here]
The sons were educated at Ruthin School, the then Headmaster being Dr. Charles Williams, and both eventually became clergymen. William Holt Beever, the eldest, was baptised at Llanfair church on 5th June 1827, became an M.A. and a Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford. In 1850, he was appointed Headmaster of Cowbridge School, an appointment which he held until 1863, when he resigned. The reasons given, the death of his daughter and, "…. the other the death of his only brother, the Rev. Frederick Beever.
The Rev. Frederick John Holt Beever, M.A., baptised on 31st August 1830, was also educated at Ruthin School and became, like his brother, a Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford. During the Crimean War (1854-1856), he volunteered as an army Chaplain and shared in many of the battles and privations as well as in the honours of that war. On his return to Wales, he did not settle having acquired a taste for travel and further adventure. He eventually went to America as a chaplain and tutor to a large family, who were about to settle in the unexplored far west.
Whilst there, an outbreak of Sioux Indian unrest occurred and the Rev Beever took part in an expedition against them. In the course of the operations, it became of vital importance to apprise the force occupying an outlying fort of impending danger and of the plan of co-operation with the expedition. The Rev. Beever undertook the perilous task of conveying the despatch through enemy country and started with two guides. Whether the guides were guilty of treachery, or whether they were themselves surprised cannot be known. They were caught in a well-planned ambush and the Rev F. Beever was killed, but not before he had proved his valour. When his body was found, it was pierced by many arrows, mutilated and scalped. No less than six of the Sioux Indians were lying dead around him, killed by the bullets of his revolver which his hand still grasped.
In June 1876, Sioux Indians under their leader, Chief Sitting Bull, laid a similar ambush for the American 7th Cavalry under General Custer. What followed was the greatest single defeat suffered by the United States army in Indian history - the Custer Massacre.
References: Llanfair D.C. Christening Registers, Llanfwrog Marriage Registers, Ruthin School Magazines, September, 1887 and February, 1888.
WEST AND RUTHIN CASTLE 1847 I
In.1826, there was a General Election which was to create friction between castle and cottage in Ruthin for decades to come.
F.R. West, by far the largest landowner in the contest, after exerting pressure upon his tenants, could only poll an equal number of votes to his rival J. Ablett. He then petitioned Parliament on the grounds of malpractice by Ablett and was awarded the seat. This rankled West for years that he had not the support of his tenants. Unlike Price of Rhiwlas and Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, he did not evict - that might have reflected upon the income of the estate - but the anger lingered on.
The Town Hall in Ruthin was the property of Miss Henrietta Myddelton (part of the complex division of the Chirk Estates). On Tuesday, 9th November 1847, to the amazement of the town the Corporation found themselves locked out of the Town Hall. People stood around in the Square, for in those days the central part of the Square was occupied by the Town Hall, talking and speculating what the outcome of this outrageous act by West would be. Mr. Cole, the town clerk wrote a note to West pointing out that mid-day was the last moment that the Council had to elect a new mayor and chief magistrate. The reply was curt and to the point, it was Miss Myddelton's town hall and until such accounts and maps were handed over to him the town hall remained locked.
Faced with the ultimatum, and not wishing to release the documents to West, the mayor cleared the Wine Vaults of customers and the meeting was held there, Mr. Robert Lloyd, auctioneer, was elected mayor. Robert. Jones, bookseller, and Mr. John Madocks of the bank were elected aldermen. This avoided the crisis, but Lloyd was faced with having to continue council business. He declared the meeting closed until the following Monday the 15th November. No doubt hoping that by then the matter might have been resolved.
One can imagine the Square that Monday morning, small groups standing around gossiping not wishing to be seen taking sides on this delicate matter. The mayor had been told that the keys would be given to him on the Friday or Saturday, but this had not been the case. The town watched to see what action he would take. He really had few options, whatever his decision was it would offend West so he took the bold step of recruiting the aid of the blacksmith and, accompanied by the police, he mounted the stairs to break down the door to the council chamber. It may be remembered that the police at this time were local police paid by the council. They broke into the council chamber and the election of councillors took place. Thomas Jones Esq., Pryce Roberts Esq., both surgeons of Castle St., and John Jones, agent, of Borthyn, were elected as councillors.
After the meeting the door was replaced on its hinges, a new padlock was purchased, and the mayor kept the key. Whether West's claim that the town hall was Myddelton property is interesting speculation. In an interview to the press the mayor pointed out that meetings had been held there for over two hundred years. Further, fairs and markets were held in the basement and revenue always went to the council.
One sad outcome of this fracas between castle and corporation was the blacksmith lost his contract with the Castle. This was, of course, a severe blow to him. He would have had many customers, but the Castle with its many horses would have been a prestigious customer. One can imagine farmers, tradesmen and minor gentry claiming they used the same blacksmith as West. In modern day terms it would have been similar to a company losing the Royal Warrant.
The connection with the 1826 election is tenuous. However, the Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald suggested that West was still brooding over that election result. In retrospect, it is impossible to say. It seems incredible and the action petty. After the changing of the locks by the mayor there appears to have been no repercussions and West retreated back into the Castle.
References: Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald 13 and 20 November 1847
RUTHIN'S COUNTY OFFICES
and their connection with Liverpool Anglican Cathedral
by D. Gwynne Morris.
The ‘County Offices’, now nearly 90 years old, were built in 1908/9 on land donated by the Ruthin Town Council, part of which had been leased to a local monumental mason. The building designed by the then County Architect, Mr. Walter D. Wiles, was first occupied at the beginning of April 1909 by the staffs of the 'Organiser' of Education and of the Deputy Clerk of the Peace.
Now that there are moves afoot to build new offices for the new Denbighshire County Council, it is interesting to note that the total contract sum for the original building was £6,500. The work on what was then a prestigious building went, not to a local contractor, but to a larger company from outside the district, that of W. Hopkins and Son of Birmingham, with Mr. William Hopkins himself in charge. The heating system was sub-contracted to Messrs. Dilworth and Carr of Preston, the re-enforced concrete floors to Messrs. Homan and Rogers of Manchester, while the work for the strong rooms went to another Manchester company, Messrs. Kilpatrick. The Clerk of Works was a local man, Mr. W. Pierce Williams. It is likely, too, that the 'workers' on site were local men.
The Denbighshire Free Press gave a detailed account of the structure of the building, proudly stating that on entering the main door at the corner of Market Street and Wynnstay Road, access was gained to an octagonal vestibule 16ft in diameter with the main staircase beyond. Both were panelled and fitted-up in Austrian oak and polished granite columns. The building itself was of tooled limestone facings from Eyarth Quarry (which had generously been placed at the disposal of the County Council by the Ruthin Town Council), with dressings of Runcorn stone. The main entrance was flanked on either side by polished emerald pearl granite columns 22ft high, the steps of 'Idle' stone and the roof covered with green slates. The account ends with the statement The Red stone for the ashlar dressings was obtained from the Runcorn quarries, the same stone that is now being obtained for the Liverpool Cathedral.'
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Denbighshire Record Office, Ruthin, MFD/93, Denbighshire Free Press.
BATTLE OF MAESMAENCYMRO
The countryside is littered with the sites of ancient battles, many long since forgotten, others remaining only in folk-memory. The Battle of Maes Maen Cymro is one of the latter, though by today even the name is almost lost. However, the name did survive as one of the six townships of the parish of Llanynys, though by now its use has discontinued. It is doubtful whether many of the current residents of Rhewl would be able to direct a traveller to the site.
J.E. Lloyd, in his "History of Wales" (Vol. 1, p. 465), was advised by Ezra Roberts of Ruthin that the township lay in the neighbourhood of Rhewl railway station. By now, of course, the railway station too has disappeared. He does, however, go on to comment that this would have been on the border between Dyffryn Clwyd and Cymeirch in the commote of Rhufoniog.
Another source (the "Denbigh Inventory" of the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments in Wales (1914, p.167) records there is a field, Cae Groes Fam, which is an apparent reference to a medieval cross, probably commemorating the battle although the official inspectors of 1914 found no surviving remnants of such a memorial. The name, however, has survived and is currently applied to the area where the minor road forks to the right from the A525 Ruthin-Denbigh road, in the direction of the former railway station. More specifically, if a field name is an accurate pointer, the site would appear to lie to the left of the A525, between the road and Buarthe.
Having identified the possible site, the question remaining concerns the battle itself. It was fought in 1118, when Hywel ap Ithel advanced from Gwynedd into the territories of Rhos and Rhufoniog in Dyffryn Clwyd. Ap Ithel was supported by the Lords of Powys while his adversary Owain ab Edwin enjoyed the support of the Norman knights of the Earl of Chester whose territory included Rhuddlan. Hywel won the day but was himself mortally wounded and died some six weeks later.
This seems to have been only one of many such battles of that period that were fought over the coveted territories of Is Conwy, particularly following the arrival of the Normans. Indeed, battles/skirmishes were fought in that area 'as recently as the seventeenth century, during the Civil War. Nearby Bryn Caredig, which gave its name to another Llanynys township, has traditional associations with one of these conflicts. Another such association remains with that large field to the left of the A525 on leaving Rhydycilgwyn, Rhewl, and which is overlooked by the remnant of the ancient forest Coed Oerllwyn. An early issue of this Broadsheet (RLHB No: 6) refers to these associations, pointing out that the small bridge which carries the A525 is also named "Pont yr Afon Waed" (`Bridge over the River of Blood').
TY GWYN, LLANFWROG.
Llanfwrog is an attractive part of Ruthin and Ty Gwyn makes a major contribution to this. The Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments in Wales describe this as a late 16th century box-framed house, later reduced by the addition of stone gables with the tall square stone single flue chimneys typical of Denbighshire. In the Victorian period, further alterations were made. The present owner, to his great credit, has restored the house as closely as possible to its 17th century appearance.
An early resident was John Price, sworn a burgess of Ruthin on 22nd October 1687 and Alderman for 1695-6. He was also Churchwarden at Llanfwrog from 1692-3. Price was thus a person of some standing. Before living at Ty Gwyn, he had resided at Trevor Mill in Gyffylliog parish for which he paid a rent of £5.5.0d. per annum. He was buried at Llanfwrog on 5th June 1730.
John Price was succeeded by Robert Conway, a tanner of Clwyd Street, from 1707 to 1730, when he occupied Tv Gwyn. Robert was one of the sons of Jacob Conwy of Plas yn Llan, Efenechtyd, a branch of the Conways of Bodrhyddan. Robert, too, was a burgess of Ruthin and was sworn Alderman on 17th October 1729 for the following twelve months. He had a second term as Alderman from 1733 to 1734. His allegiance seems to have been to St. Peter's church, rather than Llanfwrog, and he was churchwarden there for four successive years, 1728-31.
Robert had married Anne Davies of Galchog Uchaf at Llanfwrog church on 25th July 1707. They had two sons who both died young and a daughter Katherine, who was baptised on 29th June 1708. Anne was buried at Llanfwrog on 25th July 1712. His second wife was Cassandra Bradshaw whom he married at Llanfwrog on 7th September 1713. This marriage was blessed with three sons and two daughters, who both died young. Robert, born in 1715, matriculated at Jesus College, Oxford, where he took his B.A., and went on to graduate M.A. at Kings College, Cambridge in 1754. He probably was the Rev Robert Conway who was Rector of Llanelidan from 1771-1780; Benjamin, a familiar Conway family name, was baptised at Llanfwrog on 19th April 1721; Charles, baptised at Ruthin on 7th July 1727. Cassandra was buried at Llanfwrog on 17th January 1732/3 while Robert was buried there on 4th August 1755. Robert does not seem to have remained at Tv Gwyn for very long for a document of 1733/4 refers to him as Mayor of Denbigh in 1733. In fact, an indenture of 1754 describes him as ''late of Ruthin, now of Denbigh". In spite of this, however, his burial at Llanfwrog suggests that his loyalty remained with Ruthin.
Acknowledgements: Chirk Castle Accounts, AD 1666 - 1753 compiled by W.M. Myddelton, 1931: Manchester University Press: pp. 358 n.1997; 483, n. 2661.
RANDOM GLEANINGS - PENBARRAS
"A name in common use for the lower part of Well Street, Ruthin, more especially for the boundary between the parishes of Ruthin and Llanrhudd. Note - There can be no serious doubt that "Barras- in the above name is a corruption of the word 'Bars'.
The following summary of a conveyance of l486 is conclusive on the point: Edward ap John ap Gruffydd, burgess of the town of Ruthin grants to Richard Deyken, tanner of the same place, one burgage with garden adjoining in Well Street…lying
outside the bars, between the land of the late John Burges on the east, and the barn and river called Foul-brook on the west."
Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments in Wales, Inventory of the County of Denbigh, 1914,