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RHUTHUN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET                                                                          Issue No 53 March 1998



By Elwern Jones

My research into my genealogy on my father's side had come to an abrupt halt with my 4 x Gt. Grandfather, Cadwaladr Thomas, blacksmith, Penlan, Gwyddelwern (1719-1793). I had found his grave in the village churchyard and also his Will in the National Library, Aberystwyth. A friend had mentioned several times that she wanted me to see an old Welsh bible in her possession, which she thought had come from America. Although she said the name Cadwaladr Thomas was in it, I didn't get too excited as it was a fairly common name. However, I found on one page "Cadwaladr Thomas his pen and ink 1747", but then on another page we found the name "Lowry Thomas, Penlan". Written over her name was "Mary Hughes, Parc, Clocaenog." I had no idea who Mary could have been - which led to yet more research!

Mary was Lowry's sister, and both are named in Cadwaladr's Will. Mary had married Morris Hughes, Parc, Clocaenog in 1792, one of ten children born to Richard Hughes and Catherine (Tudor) of Sarphle, Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog. To say the Hughes’ were a prolific lot would be an understatement! Each of their ten children produced between ten and thirteen children, as also did their grandchildren. At the time of Richard's death, he had 168 living descendants, a fact which was written on his tombstone - and they all lived to their 80/90th years! Many notable families have descended from Richard and Catherine Hughes, including the well-known printers of Wrexham, Hughes a'i Fab. One of the founders had a great granddaughter, Adelaide, who married Sir Herbert Lewis the former Member of Parliament. Another grandson was John Ceiriog Hughes often referred to as the Burns of Wales, (Ceiriog). Also, there was Rev. John Hughes, Liverpool, the author of "History of Welsh Methodism."

It could be said that Richard and Catherine Hughes, Sarphle, were the real founders of the Methodist movement in Llanarmon D.C. Richard first invited an itinerant preacher to Sarphle, knowing that they could be ejected from their farm if the landlord got to hear about it. This happened, and as they were loading their horse and cart to move to Hafodgynfor, that same itinerant preacher arrived and challenged those who had come to help and to say farewell, to have the courage that Richard Hughes had shown, and invite him to preach at their farms. Two or three farmers responded and that gave rise to the birth of the Calvinistic Methodist Movement in that district in about 1740. Morris Hughes, Parc, their son, was also a staunch Methodist as also was Morris's grandson Hugh Hughes, Parc, then Llwynedd, Llanbedr. By 1886, the farmers of Denbighshire started protesting strongly against paying tithes to the Established Church. Nonconformity was crucial in the Tithe War and the landlords were seen to be the political arm of the church. This may have induced Hugh Hughes and his large family to emigrate to America. Land was cheap there and prospects brighter. In March 1891, Hugh left with his two eldest sons. Mary, his wife, being pregnant with their eleventh child followed in October of that year, when the child Jane Grace, was only three months old.

I was able to visit Hugh and Mary's descendants in New Hartford, New York State in 1992. They were amazed to hear about the other branches of the family which had remained in Wales. Communication in the early days had been very sparse, which is understandable. However, we were a very happy party sitting down to "te bach" with real bara brith! They are now even more proud of their Welsh ancestry and possess an English translation of part of the history of the firm of Hughes a'i Fab, together with a little book of Ceiriog's poems, albeit in Welsh!

None of this would have come about without my friend's insistence that I see the bible which had once belonged to 4 x Gt. Grandfather and his two daughters, Lowry and Mary.

But the story does not quite end there. In September 1996, while I was at Aberystwyth, a letter was read out in the Clwyd Family History Society from a Mr. Paul Jones of Albany, New York. Mr. Jones wrote: "through a unique series of circumstances, I am in possession of a large, heavy, Welsh bible. The entries in the family section from 1845-1887 are for a Hughes family of Denbighshire, North Wales. I am willing to ship it wherever you may suggest. It weighs 15 lbs and would cost $140 to ship from the United States to Wales. I do hope you can find a good home for the bible either here or in Wales." He enclosed photocopies of the two pages relating to the family - Hugh Hughes, Parc, Clocaenog, b.1845 and Mary Jones, Tantryfan Bach, Llansannan, b.1848. Then followed the names and birth dates of all eleven children, ending with Grace Hughes, b.1891, the little girl who had sailed with her mother and eight other children to join her father and two elder brothers. The third child listed was none other than John Jones Hughes, b.1873, and it was with his daughter that I had been staying in New Hartford in 1992. I wrote to tell her about this bible and after having been in contact with Paul Jones, she wrote "WE HAVE THE BIBLE", - a large, leather-bound, silver clasped Bible.

Now, how did a Hughes, Parc, Clocaenog, bible arrive in a Unitarian Church in Albany? We'll probably never know, but it now has pride of place in that New Hartford home. Co-incidence? Luck? Call it what you will, but I shall always be grateful to my friend who just happened to have my family bible and just happened to be at that meeting when Paul Jones's letter was read out.


The scaffolding recently surrounding St. Peter's Church spire, and its subsequent flood lighting, have focused attention on the town's most prominent feature, unique in the Vale of Clwyd

In October 1880, the Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald reported on a debate in the Council Chamber about the church clock. This attracted bad publicity over the whole of north Wales and comment in the 'Herald' referred to it as a disgrace.

The contention arose because the town council had to decide whether or not to renew their annual contribution of £3.10s.0d. {£3.50p.] towards the cost of repairing and rewinding the clock. The proposal in favour was proposed and seconded and an amendment was then put forward by Mr. Hugh Jones. Mr. Jones thought that it would have been just as reasonable if Mr. Cornwallis West [of the Castle] had requested aid towards the cost of repairing and winding the castle clock, as the Churchwardens had done. The church should wind its own clock and many ratepayers resented making this payment from public funds. It was further argued that in another twelve months there would be a new and magnificent clock in the tower of the town hall.

Mr. T.P. Roberts in seconding the amendment claimed that the Church of England [disestablishment had not yet occurred] was the wealthiest church of the dominions. St. Peter's had pew rates amounting from £70 to £100 per annum. It had two collections every Sunday for curate funds. The chairman ruled Mr. Roberts out of order and asked him to focus his argument on the question of winding the clock and not on church politics. Mr. Roberts persisted. The Town Clerk intervened in support of the Chair, and was told by Mr. Roberts that his advice was not required. The situation degenerated and the Chairman prepared to vacate the Chair.

Mr. John Jones, draper, courageously entered the fray stating that he felt that the question to be addressed was whether or not the clock was of benefit to the town. There were precedents elsewhere, he said. By this time, reason had flown through the window and the councillors were thoroughly wound-up. Language not customarily utilised in diplomatic circles was exchanged, and some councillors left in disgust.

An argument arose as to whether the church clock was visible from all parts of the town, or whether the castle clock was better placed. The question was then asked whether the clock would continue to be maintained in the absence of the council's contribution. Mr. Joyce had indeed told the town clerk only that day that he would certainly cease winding the clock if no payment was forthcoming.

The result of a vote was five all, with one abstaining. The chairman immediately used his casting vote in favour and another discussion began as to whether the chairman was entitled to do so. The town clerk ruled that the chairman did indeed have a casting vote and the proposal was declared carried. Hugh Jones announced that he would have the motion rescinded at the next meeting and have the curfew bell stopped instead.

The matter seems trivial and petty, but the underlying agenda was rather more significant. Here is church versus chapel at a time when tithes were a major political issue. The nonconformists bitterly resented making payments of any kind towards the wealthy established church. Why, the nonconformists reasoned, should they who had to finance the construction and maintenance of their own chapels and support their own ministers, contribute directly or indirectly to the already ample church coffers?


Dean Gabriel Goodman (1528-1601) of Westminster [RLHB Nos:4, 23] was obviously regarded with pride, especially within family circles, so much so that descendants in the family were destined to carry his name. Such a one was a Gabriel Goodman who died on 11th January 1673 at the early age of 38. He descended from Gawen Goodman, Dean Goodman's eldest brother. His obituary described him as a counsellor-at-law, who, with other accomplishments had "a true and solid piety without the show or affection for it." The obituary also refers to Dr. Gabriel of Westminster as founder of an Hospital and Free School in Ruthin, and again to Dr. Godfrey Goodman who had bequeathed a tenement in Yale for the weekly relief of the poor of Ruthin together with substantial land holdings in Llanberis, Caernarvonshire. Gabriel, the barrister, was Bishop Godfrey's sole executor. Dr Godfrey's generous bequests [RLHB No: 23] doubtless ensured not merely the survival of Dr. Gabriel's Hospital, but its subsequent maintenance, extension and improvement on frequent occasions.

Another obituary commemorated the memory of Roger Mostyn, grandson of Sir Roger Mostyn, who died on 6th August 1712 at the age of 73. Roger had in 1679 married Susannah, daughter and heiress of Charles Goodman of Glan Hespin [RLHB No: 33] and relict of Gabriel Goodman of Ruthin, the Gabriel Goodman referred to above who had died in 1673. Roger and Susannah had three sons, all of whom died in childhood. Susannah herself died in March 1728/9 and was buried at St. Peter's Church, Ruthin.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Miss Jane Brunning, Denbighshire Record Office; PD/90/5/13.


Brynhyfryd's history as a school is well documented, but its previous existence as a private house is little known. It does not rate a mention in Hubbard's The Buildings of Wales:Clwyd.

However, the first reference to Brynhyfryd in the title deeds in November 1825, is on the occasion of a release by John Jones and his wife Martha of Bedford Place, St. George, Bloomsbury, Middlesex, to one Edward Jones. It seems likely that, having thus acquired the land, Edward Jones then proceeded to build 'Brynhyfryd'. Jones features in Pigot's Trade Directory of 1822 when he was listed as "attorney of Castle Street" and in 1828/9," of Record Street". He appears again in Slater's Directory of 1844, in which he was described as "attorney, and clerk to the trustees of Ruthin, Denbigh, Mold, and Wrexham Roads" with his address given as 'Brynhyfryd'. He appears again in two further editions, of 1850 and 1856, but in the latter, he is listed simply among the gentry, perhaps implying that he had by then retired.

Edward Jones's property comprised some 30 odd acres, extending from Llanrhydd Street to the Mold Road, and a large plot on the north side of that road, now the housing estate, 'Bryn Eryl', including that portion on which Brynhyfryd Chapel [RLHB No: 11] once stood. This chapel had been erected by Jones, at a cost of £1,200, in the period c.1836/38, apparently as a philanthropic gesture. It served initially as an English Congregational Chapel. Thereafter [c.1857/59], it was utilised rent free for two years by Lady Huntingdon's Connexion and, later still, as a Sunday School for St. Peter's Church. It was said to have had accommodation for 400 people. Its use during WW2 as a food storage warehouse, and a lack of maintenance, seem to have been its downfall. It was eventually demolished, though some of the front facade was left standing until the site was required for housing purposes.

At Brynhyfryd, further land was added to the original acquisition on 19th December 1855. Two of these plots had been occupied by Robert Nicholls, surgeon, and William Jones, apothecary. Another portion had been occupied by Thomas Jones, farmer and the fields were known as "Cae Bryn Poplas", "Cae Park" and "Cae Bryn Mawr". Some of the out-buildings on this little estate were described as cottages, warehouse, stables, and shippons, implying a former use as a small-holding.

The next record relates to a transaction between Edward Jones of Hooton Grange, Chester, and Maria Hope Jones, his wife, on 16th June 1863, when Marcus Louis acquired Brynhyfryd and its land. Louis was born at Abergele, the son of Mark Luke Louis and his wife Elizabeth. Elizabeth was widowed by 1881 but lived at St. Asaph where she was described as head of a household of three other persons, her unmarried daughters Sarah and Rosetta, together with a granddaughter Elizabeth aged 19 years.

Marcus had sisters, Sarah Anne Catherine, and Catherine Matilda, both of whom had been baptised at Denbigh in 1820 and 1836 respectively, and Rosetta E. He had been born in 1826 at Abergele. There was also a brother.

His father, described as an impecunious French teacher, had left France, settled initially at Denbigh and subsequently lived at Abergele, where he took up a post as tutor at Gwrych Castle. Mark Luke Louis was quite a prolific writer on travel subjects, including one little book, Travels, with Miscellaneous Remarks, which was published in 1826 and printed by R. Jones of Ruthin. Jones, of the Taliesin Press, was also to print in 1829, Richard Newcome's An Account of the Castle and Town of Ruthin. Another of Louis's publications related to the north Wales coast from Rhyl to Llandudno, when the latter was no more than a few miners' cottages.

Marcus Louis's career as a lawyer began with the locally renowned Joseph Peers under whom Marcus became articled. He gained a reputation as a conscientious advocate and was very well-known throughout north Wales. Marcus was twice married. In St. Peter's church, Ruthin, there is a wall-tablet in memory of "Henrietta Lloyd, wife of Marcus Louis, died 17th June, 1879". His second wife was Isabella Maria, born in Brighton. He and Isabella had a daughter Elizabeth and one son, also Marcus, who died at an early age.

Louis was a prominent if not popular figure in the civic life of Ruthin. He apparently conducted his duties as a town councillor, for example, with a certain arrogance, which did not endear him to his fellow councillors. He nevertheless served three terms of office [1864, 1877/8, 1878/9] as Mayor. At the time of his first wife's death, Louis was Mayor and a special meeting of the Council was convened so that a vote of sympathy could be passed, but most unfortunately not enough Councillors attended to make a quorum.

In October of that year, the Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald, possibly being unaware of the bereavement Louis had so recently sustained, commented that he should adopt a less superior tone. It noted that following unpleasant clashes in the Council Chamber, Louis had absented himself from subsequent council meetings. It went on to suggest that perhaps he should not, seek re-election in the forthcoming elections.

In April 1888, he was being driven in his carriage to Corwen to catch the Bala train to attend Merionethshire Quarter Sessions when his coachman noticed him slumped on the floor. He was taken to a house in Corwen where he died a few days later at the age of 62. He was buried at Llanrhydd on 8th April.

His will of 1886 refers to his wife Isabella Maria and their daughter Marcia Isabel Louis, baptised in 1884, who in 1889 was described as "an infant under the age of 21 years."

Brynhyfryd was sold for £4,560 to John Watkin Lumley of Rossa Fawr, near Denbigh, on 1st May 1889. Lumley was described as "of Denbigh" and also "of Tanygoppa, Colwyn Bay". It remained in his hands for only a very short time for on 30th July 1898, it was conveyed to the County Governing body for school use. One of the fields alongside the Mold Road comprising ten acres, opposite the present site (then owned by Cornwallis West of Ruthin Castle) of Ruthin School, was sold separately to W.R. Evans, Clerk of the County Council, who resided at Heulfre. This was the field known as Cae Bryn Mawr and in May 1909, it was offered for sale as a building plot for 50 houses but, fortunately, was acquired for the school.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Denbighshire County Council, for permission to examine the deeds; Denbighshire Record Office, Denbighshire Free Press 1888. 1889, and Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald, 1879, microfilms; Trade Directories.

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