RHUTHUN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET Issue No 57 March 1999
in Ruthin !
ONE of Ruthin's former local historians, Mr. R.J. Edwards of Church Gates, lived in London in 1898 and took that opportunity to examine documents at the Public Records Office. Robert Edwards wrote to the Denbighshire Free Press in May, 1898 to share recently acquired knowledge of Ruthin in the Civil War of 1642-1645.
He reminded his readers that in 1637, some five years before the war began, King Charles I levied Ship Money, a tax brought out of moth balls. This had formerly been levied upon the coastal areas only, so its application to inland areas, though logical, was far from popular. North Wales was to raise £4,000 to furnish a ship of 400 tons. Denbighshire's share was £1,117, of which Denbigh was to raise £32 and Ruthin £19.4s.1d. The introduction of this tax took the quarrel of the King with his Parliament directly to his taxpayers' pockets and was one of the direct causes of the civil war.
A despatch of 29th October, 1644, from parliamentarian Sir Thomas Myddelton of Chirk Castle, gives an interesting insight of the effect of the conflict upon Ruthin. Sir Thomas, then resident at "The Red Castle" (i.e. Powys Castle), had learned that royalist forces were busy fortifying Ruthin. This was being undertaken under the direction of Col. Francis Trafford, Col. Mark Trevor, Col. Washington and others. Sir Thomas, of course, had vested interests in both Chirk and Ruthin castles, for he owned both.
Sir Thomas gathered together a small force and marched to Ruthin where he found that the streets were strongly barricaded. They were opposed by Colonels Trafford and Trevor with 120 horse and 200 men. Myddelton's foot soldiers attacked and cleared the barricades making way for the horsemen who galloped through. The Royalists made a poor showing and Trevor's cavalry was pursued 'almost to Denbigh'. They returned with 24 prisoners. The surviving Royalist cavalry took refuge in Denbigh castle. Captain Sword was ensconced in Ruthin castle with 80 men. On his return to Ruthin, Sir Thomas was called back to Oswestry so he cut short his sortie after destroying turnpikes and other fortifications.
Myddelton reported that the castle was large and strong although, apparently, roofless but he thought work on a roof might shortly begin. The walls were under repair. He thought Ruthin with its good buildings would be an ideal base for a garrison and only 5 miles [sic] from the enemy at Denbigh. Neither side yet had garrisoned Ruthin or Denbigh and Myddelton warned that if the Royalists were to station men there, then they could harass parliamentary efforts in north Wales. He therefore implored his superiors to let him station some of his men at Ruthin. This, he argued, would also be of great benefit in any campaign against Chester.
A further despatch emphasised his recommendations and requested an early decision as it appeared that royalist Col. Francis Strafford might forestall him. An assessment of Myddelton's motives, - whether based upon strategic necessity or a natural desire to regain control of his own property, - must be speculative. Sir William Brereton, the Parliamentary commander, sent Myddelton an additional 500 men, but he said that while he would do everything in his power to support Myddelton, he really could not see how Chester would benefit.
Sir William, on 10th February, 1645, described his efforts to frustrate Royalist attempts to recruit men in north-east Wales. This he did by marching up and down Flintshire and Denbighshire, scattering forces being assembled for the King. These amounted to 3,000 or 4,000 men, mostly unarmed, so that they fled first to Ruthin and then to Denbigh. These tactics undermined Royalist efforts, but Brereton despaired of meeting these embryonic forces on the field of battle.
Col. Francis Trafford was a veteran with military experience on the continent and in the north American colonies. His military career began in 1626, if not earlier. He had also served in Northumberland in 1639 during the first Bishop's War. His usefulness was somewhat limited as he was a Roman Catholic, so he was given permission to travel to Baltimore to advise the colonists on how best to defend themselves against the Indians. He returned in 1643 to participate in the war at home. At the conclusion of the first Civil War, he moved to Ireland as governor of Antrim where his health failed and he then retired to France, living there in penury. He may well have died in France.
Trafford had been assisting Col. Mark Trevor, of Brynkinallt, though born in Ireland on one of his father's estates where he gained experience of battle - against the Irish. He was an enthusiastic cavalry man and fought at Marston Moor where it is said he wounded Cromwell in the neck. Following the Restoration, he was created Viscount and Baron, honours thought to be due at least partly for his wounding of Cromwell. He came to Ruthin in the company of Prince Rupert in August, 1644, and the Council minutes record this occasion. Prince Rupert appointed him governor of the town and castle before leaving Ruthin for Bristol.
This appointment did not detain Trevor in Ruthin for he was engaged in various border skirmishes and actions during 1644. However, in October of that year, he was back in Ruthin with a Captain Sword whom Prince Rupert had appointed deputy governor. Trevor had learned that Myddelton was taking a keen interest in the town and castle which, by then, was "half restored". Trevor had returned in the nick of time as Myddelton arrived on 19th October. Myddelton's small force evidently made at least a token and unsuccessful attack on the castle.
What of the inhabitants of the town? They would surely have been frightened by the fighting that took place in their usually quiet community. But they hardly felt at peace even when there was no fighting. "The Councell Booke of Ruthin" is unusually silent for the first year of two of the war. Ruthin men had undoubtedly been pressed for service for one side or the other, depending upon who their landlords may have been. Great consternation had been caused by the unruly behaviour of Royalist troops billeted in the town and area. Irish troops who could not be accommodated at Chester had been billeted in Ruthin - probably on the innkeepers. The demands of the troops, presumably for food and fodder, were the subject of complaint but, more seriously, martial law had been imposed without proper authority. Robberies had become commonplace and the markets were facing ruin. Lord Byron, governor of the city of Chester, while staying at Plas-y-Ward, was formally petitioned and he ordered Col. Trevor to remove the causes of reasonable complaints by their own loyal supporters. It is interesting that Byron stayed at the Thelwall residence at Plas-y-Ward, for this branch of the family were enthusiastic parliamentarians. They had presumably taken up residence elsewhere "for the duration".
Myddelton's foray, while modestly successful, had been achieved at a relatively high cost. It was reported that he had left behind some 100 dead. However, this action was not the last that the town experienced. By 1646, the outcome of the war had been effectively determined but Ruthin's final 'Act' was yet to be played. Major General Mytton's parliamentarians were back in town 24th January, under Brereton's command. The siege of the castle began in March and it is very surprising that the Royalists seem to have been wrong-footed. Brereton reported that the castle was relatively `unprovided' and that he had high hopes of reducing it quickly. In the event, the siege lasted some six weeks and articles of surrender were signed on 8th April. The actual hand-over took place on 12th April. Even though the siege was of short duration, a spirited defence had been mounted. Mytton reported to Parliament that the siege had cost him more time and ammunition than he had originally anticipated.
The articles of surrender were relatively generous, and the troops were permitted to march from the castle in good order with flags flying and bands playing. Of Captain Sword there was no mention, and it has been suggested that he could have been killed in the action. The articles were signed by a John Raignolds as Deputy Governor
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Denbighshire Free Press, 4th May, 1898 -Denbighshire Records Office; The Councell Booke of Ruthin, transcribed by Norman Tucker, Denbighshire Historical Society Transactions, Vols. 9, 10, 11; Denbighshire Officers in the Civil War", Norman Tucker, (privately published); North Wales In The Civil War, Norman Tucker, Gee, Denbigh, 1958.
MOTT, C.C. and E.M.
The kind gift of a well-thumbed book, always a pleasure, was coupled with a comment to the effect that the authors were local. Perhaps not surprisingly, none of the readily available reference books obliged with illuminating information. The hunt was on.
The ever obliging National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth in responding to an enquiry produced much useful biographical information, together with a list of books published by these two people, husband and wife. The date of Charles' death lead to funeral accounts in the Denbighshire Free Press and in the North Wales Times. Furthermore, certain natives of Llanbedr even now recall the two Motts with affection and that Charles Mott's widow, Elizabeth, resided at Plas Coch in Ruthin until some time in the 1940s.
The Motts evidently settled happily in this district and made useful contributions to the local community, both in terms of public duty and in the realms of sport.
Charles Cheape Mott was born 6th April, 1865, the son of Charles John Mott of Clifton-upon-Dunsmore, Rugby. He attended Rugby School and was admitted to Selwyn College, Cambridge, in 1888, gaining his B.A. in 1891 and his M.A. thereafter. At college, he seems to have been an all-round sportsman, excelling at cricket and gaining great success on the running track and in shooting. He spent twelve months as a clerk at the Bank of England, but after graduating, he taught at Cheltenham College. During W.W.I. [1914/1919] he served as Major, Special List, with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and commanded Prisoner of War camps.
Charles married Elizabeth Marion Gammel, daughter of a Scottish clergyman, in 1897. Thereafter, from about 1900, they lived at The Berth, Llanbedr until, finding it too large for their needs, he built "White Gates" (where he was resident in April, 1930), now known as "Tandderwen", Llanychan. Charles became a prominent J.P. He died at the age of 65 on 27th November, 1930, at Liverpool, after surgical treatment at the David Lewis Northern Hospital.
Cricket must have been one of Charles' ruling passions having played for the Warwickshire cricket XI and was elected "Quidnunc", a distinction reserved for those who gained a place in that XI. For ten years he captained his home county team in Staffordshire and became a member of the M.C.C. He strove to foster interest in the game, and started a 'Cricket Week' at Denbigh, which became very popular. He was a loyal supporter of the Vale of Clwyd Cricket Club and captained Llanychan Village Cricket Club, reputed to be one of the best in North Wales.
Their published books, written jointly, were:-A Thoroughbred in Training, Hutchinson, 1907; Betwixt and Between, London, Hutchinson, 1921; Clent's Way, London: Chapman and Hall, 1923; A Man of No Family: a tale of what actually happened, London, Hutchinson, 1906; The Sting of the Whip, (London: G. Allen and Unwin, 1930).
Their novel, The Sting of the Whip, told of life on a Welsh farm, reputed to be recognisable as one in the Llanychan area.
Elizabeth M. Mott had a volume of poems, Dryad's Trove: Poems, published by Hutchinson in 19
Acknowledgements: National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth - North Wales Times, 6th December, 1930; E. Walford, The County Families of the United Kingdom (1899); Crockford's Clerical Directory, 1899; Alumni Cantabrigiensis, Part II - 1752-1900; Kelly's Handbook, 1931; The British Library General catalogue of Printed Books to 1975. Denbighshire Record Office - The Denbighshire Free Press; I am grateful to Mr. John Williams for his kind gift of The Sting of the Whip.
By repute this must be one of the better known houses in the immediate district, yet it would seem that very little of its history has been recorded. Locally, the person most closely identified with this house is Stanley Weyman [RLHB No: 38], but its origins are shrouded in mystery. Its close proximity to Bathafarn might suggest that it once formed part of that estate, but no evidence has been found to confirm that. Again, Archdeacon D.R. Thomas suggested that it might have formed part of the Llanbedr Hall estate but, there is no evidence.
Mr John Williams [RLHB No: 38] has suggested that the house was built c.1620. There are certain clues in parts of the structure which support this view. The only other firm dating evidence is a set of initials and a date in moulded plasterwork mounted on a roof timber, viz., "ER., MR., 1748". A note in Chirk Castle Accounts identifies 'ER' as Eubule Roberts, son of Thomas Roberts of Llanrhydd who married Anne, the daughter of Eubule Thelwall of Nantclwyd. The unusual name 'Eubule', often used by the Thelwalls, seems to establish the connection beyond reasonable doubt. A wall monument in Llanrhydd Church commemorates Thomas, who died on 7th June, 1708. Thomas Roberts and Ann also had two daughters, Jane and Mary, the latter born six weeks after Thomas' death. A second tablet commemorates Anne's death on 9th July, 1746.
The second pair of initials 'MR', and the date, do not of course refer to 'Anne', who had been dead for two years in 1748. Eubule married again, - to Mary, the daughter of John Massie of Coddington, Cheshire. It may have been that the inscription marked the date of that marriage and, possibly, major changes to the house. Eubule died on 7th April, 1765 at the age of 60 and is described by Griffiths as 'of Llanrhaiadr Hall'.
Roberts' connection with Llanrhaiadr Hall is uncertain, but Eubule Roberts may have been of the Roberts family of Hafod y Bwch, Maelor Cymraeg. The Hafod y Bwch heiress, Catherine, married Humphrey Parry of Llanrhaiadr Hall in 1714. This Parry family had other connections in this area, notably with Llwynn Ynn [RLHB No: 24] and Plas Newydd, Llanfair D.C.
Another well-known name tenuously linked to Plas Llanrhydd is that of Dorothy Myddelton, widow of the last Richard Myddelton, Esq., of Llansilin, who died in August, 1700. It transpires that she too was daughter of Eubule Thelwall of Nantclwyd so it is a reasonable assumption that following widowhood she took up residence with her sister, Anne Roberts. Dorothy was Richard's second wife and was described as 'of Chester' in a deed dated 28th April, 1714. When she made her Will on 22nd February, 1748-9, Dorothy was living at Plas Llanrhydd and was buried at Llanelidan on 15th May, 1751, aged 82, according to her wishes. She bequeathed £20 to Llanrhydd Church.
The record of Plas Llanrhydd owners/residents is sparse. However, Pigot's trade directory of 1828/9 records that Arthur Badley resided at Llanrhydd House. William Ll. Griffith, esq., was there in 1830 when he married Elizabeth Williams, daughter of John Williams, a tanner of Llanfwrog. Unfortunately, Elizabeth died in1836 at the age of 36. The Tithe Apportionment Schedule of 1841 records that William Griffith was the occupier and the joint owners are recorded as W.H. Richard Garnons and Mrs Jane Taylor. The Garnons are recorded (Pedigrees) as being of Pant Du, Llanllyfni, Caernarvonshire, and Richard married Dorothea F[f?]oulkes, daughter of Rev. John Ffoulkes, Vicar of Whitford, and of Mertyn and Llanrhydd. Richard Garnons died at Colomendy on 8th August, 1841 and was buried at Llanferres.
Again, the Caernarvon and Denbigh Herald of 15th August, 1857 records, as does the church guide, that a new window by Powell was installed and provided by one George Johnson of Plas Llanrhydd. The Johnson family appear to have continued their association with Plas Llanrhudd until the early 1950s. Church records contain correspondence with the "B.C. Johnson Trust - Llanrhydd Estate" regarding a possible extension to the church cemetery. Captain Bertie C. Johnson had been resident in Mexico for several years but had returned to the UK by December, 1948. Stanley Weyman took up residence here in 1895 and remained there until his death in 1928.
An architectural history of the house would undoubtedly reveal that it has changed extensively over its uncertain life-span. An important feature of the house has been the magnificent entrance gates, though sadly maltreated over the years. The main pillars and supporting panels appear to be reasonably sound but the gates themselves are in need of repair. The main casualty has been the overthrow, or the arch surmounting the gateway. It is believed that this was damaged in the immediate post-war period when the property is thought to have been acquired for its timber. Large vehicles passing beneath possibly caused the damage or the wrought ironwork itself was carelessly removed.
At all events, the overthrow was repaired and restored [c.1963] but it would appear that further damage was sustained accidentally and the present owner is having it restored again.
One of the leading authorities on wrought ironwork, the late Mr. Ifor Edwards, held these gates in high esteem. He regarded them as being of equal standing to the famous 'Black Gates' at Leeswood Hall, Mold, and with those at Wrexham Church and Rug, Corwen. It is not possible with certainty to ascribe their creation to a particular craftsman or date, and they may originally have been made for some other property, but Mr Edwards inclined towards Robert Bakewell of Derby as their maker in view of certain similarities of style. Others have suggested the Davies Brothers of Groes Foel, Wrexham.
Acknowledgements: D. Gwynne Morris Ruthin and District - A portrait in Old Picture Postcards, S.B. Publications ; CCA2; p.336, n.1866; Transactions of the Denbighshire Historical Society, Vol. 12, pp. 41-50 ; Ifor Edwards, Davies Brothers, Gatesmiths, Welsh Arts Council ; RCAHM; Samuel Lewis, Topographical Dictionary of Wales, 1833; Denbighshire Record Office, NTD 611, DD/WY/6759; D.R. Thomas, Vol. II, p.117; Guide -Llanrhydd Church of St. Meugan; Pigot's Directory, 1828-9; Griffiths, Pedigrees of Anglesey and Carnarvonshire Families; Lloyd, Powys Fadog, Vols. III & V,; Llanrhydd Church Records, PD/73/1/32, Denbighshire Record Office; Gerald Thelwall, The Thelwall Family History (unpublished). Thanks are also due to Mr. and Mrs. J.M. Lee, the present owners, for allowing the author to view the house. [anon.]