top of page

RHUTHUN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET                                                                      Issue No 58 June 1999

Pay as you go !


There is an ever increasing call for tolls on our roads and for ‘smart cards’ to enter our city streets. Car parking charges are ever a thorn in the motorist’s side or, to change the metaphor, a drain on his pocket. Yet they might be trivial amounts when compared with the charges made by the tolls. This is not the forum to discuss the Rebecca Riots, whether they were a protest against the rural tolls or whether the tolls were just a symbolic icon of the poverty of rural Britain. Nevertheless, the tolls were a source of discontent. It has been suggested that drovers, for example, made detours to avoid paying them, though historical evidence points to the contrary. 

In the  Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald of February 1842, the tolls between Wrexham, Ruthin and Cerrigydrudion were offered for auction. These were: Llysfasi, Garth, Llandegla, Bwlchgwyn, Adwy'relawdda (sic) and Llanrhaiadr. Why the last one should be on this route is difficult to imagine, however, between Wrexham and Ruthin there were six toll gates. Between Ruthin and Cerrig there were four, - at Clawddnewydd, Baradoys [Paradwys], Llanfihangel and Cerrigydrudion.


"A tollgate at Halkyn, c.1880."
Original watercolour by Frances Grey.
(from post-card published by Clwyd Record Office reproduced with the kind permission of the CountyArchivist, Flintshire.)

Riding one's horse or leading a pack pony/horse would cost one penny or, to quote, "Every horse or other beast drawing any coach, chariot, berlin (an old-fashioned four-wheeled covered carriage with a seat behind covered with a hood), chaise, hearse or chair" would cost four pence. Note the cost is for every horse so a four-in-hand would presumably have cost sixteen old pence or one shilling and four pence at each toll. Thus, it is clear that to travel from Ruthin to Cerrigydrudion in a coach would have cost five shillings and four pence in tolls alone. A labourer at that time was paid nine pence a day or four shillings and six pence per week. This puts the toll charges in perspective. It would have cost more than a labourer's earnings for one week, in today's terms, well over £100.

In the advertisement, it was claimed that the toll gates from Ruthin to Wrexham showed a profit in the previous year of £1,480 - a huge return. Naturally, this is above the expense of collecting the tolls and, one presumes also, the cost of capital. A toll keeper was expected to maintain its own stretch of highway. West [of Ruthin Castle] in his evidence to the Royal Commission on Land in Wales showed that his estate earned him £10,000 per annum. Again, this puts the sum in context. From Ruthin to Cerrig, a profit of £59 was suggested, - certainly equating to the salary of a headmaster. 

With this order of return in mind, it is small wonder that the Rebecca Rioters centred on the toll gates. Although some weak attempt has been made to put these charges in today's values, suffice it to say that they would add substantially to the cost of a trip to the supermarket!






Ruthin seems to have been on the periphery of the Tithe Wars, but nevertheless feelings had been as intense as elsewhere. The Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald of 24th March, 1888 reported an incident that was not without its amusing aspects. The anti-tithe warriors had prepared an effigy of the Rev. J.F. Reece, Rector of Llanfwrog [1882-1907], and after waiting for an opportunity for maximum effect, they eventually placed it in a donkey cart and carried it about the town. The intention was, of course, to end on a triumphal note with a public burning. This was not to be as supporters of the Rector overturned the cart and the effigy smashed. People were hurt in the ensuing melee, but the remains of the effigy were eventually burnt. That, however, was not to be the end of the matter.

A month later, Isaac Jones, nick-named 'Ike Burton', was summoned by Evan Jones of Tyddyn Calchwr, Llanfwrog, and by Edward Jones, alias 'Ned yr Ardd', for assault. Isaac issued counter summonses. The press report does not identify the chairman of the magistrates, but it would appear that he may himself have been a member of the cloth, and in view of the involuntary involvement of the Rector of Llanfwrog, he offered to withdraw from the bench, but was persuaded to remain by the solicitor for the complainants.

The actions complained of had occurred on the occasion of the March fair [the 19th] and the police had been expecting trouble. The 'Force' was amply reinforced by the arrival of the Police Superintendent. In an attempt to defuse the situation, a public meeting was arranged presumably to discuss the issues but to no avail.

The effigy in its humble donkey cart was led down Llanfwrog by a boy until they reached a quiet crowd awaiting by Pont Howkin. Then a figure emerged from the Park Place Inn, took off his jacket and with stick in hand, advanced menacingly. The lad was Evan Jones' son and Evan, seeing this ominous figure, went forward and was struck a blow across his left shoulder. In the struggle, the stick was taken from the assailant.

A defence of libel, in mitigation, was advanced and tortuous discussions arose from this. Was the Rector of Llanfwrog being libelled? - or was it the system? Evidence was taken as to who hit whom and on other finer points.

The court then moved on to the counter summons brought by Isaac Jones against Evan Jones. Isaac's solicitor tried to demonstrate that the carrying of an effigy in this way was extremely provocative. It was said that Isaac had merely approached Evan with a request to turn back or he would otherwise strike down the effigy. When Isaac had proceeded with his threat, Evan had rushed at him and the scuffle had arisen from that. Evan had then been joined by Edward Jones, involved in the other case, and it was he who had committed the assault. The solicitor suggested that this had been an innocent and harmless, even dignified, demonstration against the tithes. The opposing solicitor objected to the remarks of his opponent and threatened, if the magistrates did not silence him, to pull him down! The Chairman ruled against the introduction of political elements into the case. On resuming, the solicitor pointed out that Isaac had been motivated by a desire to protect the honour of the parson of his parish and his spiritual advisor.

Isaac, by all accounts a well-known local `character', entered the box to put his [s]ide of the case. His very appearance seems to have caused amusement as did the manner in which he gave his evidence, which apparently was accompanied by lively demonstrations of what took place. He claimed not to have been drunk, but suggested that Evan might have been. He also made the point that all of those involved were all "Methodies", to the great amusement of the court.

The Police Inspector gave inconclusive evidence, but pointed out that Isaac was well-known for his 'capers' about the town and that he had once been ejected from a meeting at the Town Hall.

The magistrates retired to consider their verdict and returned with a Solomon-like decision to dismiss the charges with each party defraying their own costs. This verdict was underlined with comments to the effect that it was quite wrong to carry an effigy of anyone for whatever reason about the public thoroughfares.

This effigy case was one of the more trivial incidents amongst many that took place at this time, many of which were much more serious, involving troops, dispossessions and other unhappy incidents. They are redolent of religious intolerance, its political undercurrents, and matching fears within the establishment of social upheaval and instability which pervaded that time.

There was another case, of a more serious and felonious nature. Mr. Marcus Louis had acted for the defence in the original hearings but had since died. It was suggested that the case be withdrawn out of respect for Mr Louis. This, and the cross-summons, was withdrawn. An interesting footnote about Isaac Jones occurs in the same issue of the Free Press of 21st April, 1888. Isaac was charged with unlawfully resisting Police-Constable Thomas in the execution of his duty. He was fined 5s- and 17s.6d and the magistrates had not been pleased to hear allegations that the policeman had threatened to throw someone over the bridge.

Life was like that, then.  




Mr George Adams, with his wife Lucy, came to Ruthin c.1818 as agent, it is thought, for the Ruthin Castle estate. It is not clear where he originated, but he and his family had some affinity with the Isle of Man. His first home in Ruthin was Clwyd Bank in Clwyd Street, but he then moved to Plas Efenechtyd, where he remained for many years. Two sons, Llewelyn [bapt: 26 June 1821] Alfred Walter [bapt: 21 February 1826] and a daughter Ellen Arianwen [bapt: 10 November 1824], were born there. Alfred Walter became an advocate at Port Erin, one of the partners in the firm, Harper and Adams. He also became Clerk of the Rolls with a salary of £1,000. He died a bachelor while writing a letter. Another son entered the customs service at Peel, also in the Isle of Man.

The new owner of the estate, Frederick West, decided that he needed his agent closer to hand and so built Colomendy in Castle Street. By that time, there were three Adams sons and all three were educated at Ruthin School.

The family evidently prospered. George became a Ruthin Alderman and, following the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835, the first Mayor of Ruthin in that year. He also acquired property, more particularly in Llanarmon yn Ial, Rhuddlan and Rhyl. He paid £500 for a `messuage' (new) on Rhyl marsh in 1838. This was at a time when Rhyl was in its formative stages. This property was the subject of further legal transactions and variously described as 'land adjoining beach on Rhyl marsh' on which there was a house, baths, library, billiard room and bowling green. The house was called `Adelaide Cottage' and was sold to the Baths Keeper for £580 in 1855. It would seem that this house became a shop, described as being in the High Street. Adams was described on the conveyance as 'of Plas Gwyn, Rhyl, later of the Isle of Man'.
It would appear, then, that Mr. George Adams had left Ruthin for Rhyl, and then went to live near Douglas. He and his wife were eventually interred at Kirk Braddan.

Of the three sons, Llewelyn was the only one to remain in this district. After completing his education, he became articled to Mr Joseph Peers, solicitor, who was Clerk of the Peace for Denbighshire for 51 years [RLHB No: 30]. In 1845, Llewelyn commenced practice on his own account and in that year married Miss Caroline Jones, daughter of Mr. Price Jones of Berth, then residing at Plas Llanrhydd with her stepfather, Mr. Henry Nichols. The wedding took place at Birkenhead.

Llewelyn and his wife moved to reside at Ty Mawr or Pentre Coch Manor [RLHB No: 52], 20 years after their marriage, i.e., in 1865. They had three sons (one named Arthur) and two daughters, Caroline, who married General Thomas Alphonso Cary, and Miss Edith Adams. The General and his wife also resided at Ty Mawr following their marriage. Cary was of a military family and had served in the West India Regiment and on the Gold Coast. At the time of his marriage, he was a Lieutenant Colonel with the Somerset Light Infantry at Colchester. He died in December, 1922 and he too was buried at Llanfair D.C. Cary's wife, Caroline, was a talented artist and some of her delightful water-colours of Ty Mawr and its area have survived. None of the sons remained in this area, one went abroad, another worked in London and the third in Coventry.

A Trade Directory for 1850 records that Llewelyn had an office in Well Street, but in 1854, following his appointment as clerk to the Ruthin justices, his offices were in Clwyd Street. In c.1865, he was appointed Clerk to the Ruthin Highway Board. This continued until the Board ceased to exist with the formation of the Ruthin Rural District Council. He also held several estate agencies, including Rhagatt, Corwen, and was solicitor for the Ruthin enclosure of commons. He occupied a variety of other positions, including the clerkship to the Lord Lieutenancy, Church Warden, solicitor of the ill-fated Ruthin-Cerrigydrudion railway, and was involved in securing the Act under which the Ruthin Water Company was established.

On the death of Mr Joseph Peers in 1884, Llewelyn gained perhaps his most important appointment, as Clerk of the Peace with his office at 5, Castle Street. Then, following the creation of Denbighshire County Council in 1888, he became the first Clerk to the County Council.

Llewelyn was regarded as a good lawyer and was described as a man of strong character, a fluent and ready speaker, with abundant, if sometimes caustic, wit. Outside his work, he had taken a great and active interest in the Rifle Volunteers on their formation in 1860. He became one of its officers, progressing to the command of the company before retiring with the rank of major. As Churchwarden, he was actively involved with the Warden, the Rev. Bulkeley Owen Jones, in the church's restoration.
Mrs. Llewelyn Adams died on 31st August 1884, at Edinburgh, where she was buried. Llewelyn died at the age of 77 on 29th December, 1898, and was interred at Llanfair D.C. "Bye-Gones" of 4th January, 1899, reported that he had developed a malignant tumour on his tongue a few months before his death, making it difficult for him to take nourishment.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Denbighshire Free Press, 1898, “Bye-Gones” 4th January 1899; Ruthin School Magazine, February, 1899, Denbighshire and Flintshire Record Offices. 




The name 'Plas Newydd', Llanfair D.C., is commonly associated with two properties, the house and the farm.  While this paper focuses on the house, the farm is not without interest and certain well-known families have for long been associated with it.
The 'Plas' is reputed by the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments to have been built in 1631. The Commission went on to state that although some of the original windows had then survived, the house had been so modernised that there was little left of historical interest. Edward Hubbard agreed that it was of the C17th and pointed out a surviving date inscription internally of '1678'.

Quarter Session Records state that a ‘John Wynne of Plas Newydd’ was one of three local overseers appointed on 13th January, 1656 to superintend the repair of a bridge, called 'Pont Newydd', over the River Clwyd in the township of Eyarth. This seems to be the first reference to this 'Plas' and so it may have been built by the Wynne family.

There is some confusion as to the identity of this John Wynne, for this was a time when family surnames of Welsh families were still in a state of flux. Lloyd, author, of Powys Fadog, states that John Wynn Jones of Plas Newydd, married Jane Parry at about this time. Their son, Richard Wynn Jones, married Douce the daughter and co-heir of John Williams of Ruthin, DD. Richard and Douce had two children, Richard Jones, alias Wynn, who died on 24t  August 1666, and Anne, their heiress.
Anne Jones married Hugh Roberts of Havod-y-Bwch Fawr, Wrexham, and they had a son John Roberts. John came into a third estate, Llwyn Ynn, by marriage. John became prominent in local affairs and married well on three occasions, - to Susan, or Susanna, Parry, the heiress of Llwyn Ynn [died January, 1721/2], to Jane the daughter of Sir Walter Bagot, and to a Katherine whose origins are unclear. John died in September, 1731 at Plas Newydd and it was said that he was worth about £2,000 per annum, a considerable sum.

Ownership in the Cl8th is unclear. There is, however, an interesting reference to a 'Captain Shackford', resident of Plas Newydd, in Pennant's "Journey to Snowdon (c.1778) in a caption to one of John Ingleby's water colours, which depicts Llanfair church with Plas Newydd in the distance. The charity board in the bell tower of Llanfair church also includes the name of "David Shuckforth of Plas Newydd, (1792)", who presented the church with items for the Communion Table. It would seem likely that Shuckforth was a tenant.

The Parry's themselves, into whose ownership the house had passed by marriage, resided at either Llwyn Ynn [RLHB No: 24] or at Llanrhaiadr Hall. The schedule of the Hartsheath MSS suggests that title to the property passed to Robert Parry in 1780.
An agreement was concluded on 5th March, 1841, for the purchase of the Plas Newydd estate by Elizabeth Anne Jones, a spinster of Ruthin, from James Lloyd of Bala. The purchase price was £13,250. The property was conveyed to Joseph Ablett of Llanbedr Hall on 24th June, 1841, while Miss Jones reserved the right to grant leases. The consideration was again £13,250. Then, on 16th October, 1847, Plas Newydd farm was leased to William Kellett, previously resident at Derwen Hall.

It would appear that Elizabeth Anne [23/vii/1786 - 25/iii/1869] herself resided at Glan Hesbin, Llanfair D.C. [RLHB No: 33]. She was the daughter of John Chambers Jones [24/v/1750 -27/xi/1833] of Bryn Eisteddfod, Glan Conway, a Liverpool merchant, and a distinguished member of society having served as High Sheriff of Denbighshire in 1819. John's first marriage was to Jane, daughter of Maurice Jones of Gelligynan and they also had a son Hugh.

Llanfair's local historian of the 1930s, E. Powell, reported that the then occupant of Plas Newydd was C. Williamson, Esq. Powell also reported that John and Mary Puleston occupied Plas Newydd farm at the beginning of the Cl9th and their son, John Henry, was born there on 2nd June, 1829.  


References: Powys Fadog, Vol. III, p.58; Chirk Castle Accounts, 1666.1753, compiled by W.M. Myddelton, published by Manchester University Press, 1931; RCHAM Inventory, 1914, Vol. IV, Denbighshire; Edward Hubbard, Buildings of Clwyd, Penguin/UWP, 1986; Nicholas, Annals and Antiquities of the Counties and County Families in Wales [1872]; E. Powell, History and Antiquities of the Parish of Llanfair D.C - Denbighshire Record Office, DD/DM/2/17; thanks also to Miss Jean Kellet for her assistance in researching this article.

bottom of page