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RHUTHUN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET                                                                      Issue No 60  December 1999


Be Prepared For Christmas on a Monday

“If Christmas-day on a Monday be, 
A great winter that year you’ll see,
And full of winds both loud and shrill;
But in summer truth to tell,
High winds shall be there, and strong, 
Full of tempests lasting long;
While battles they shall multiply,
And great plenty of beasts shall die.
They that be born that day, I ween,
They shall be strong each one and keen;
He shall be found that stealeth aught;
Tho’ thou be sick, thou diest not.”

                    “Bye-Gones, December 1876/7.”


Recent governments have saved money by reducing expenditure on the armed forces, even the reserves. It was forever thus and it is interesting to view the C19th situation and the response of the local community.

Training Ruthin’s Volunteers then was handicapped by the lack of adequate headquarters. Their first was in Record Street, adjacent to the yard of the Cross Keys’ hotel (now ‘Castle Mews’, opposite the present Branch Library).  They then moved to Castle Street, where the Sergeant Instructor lived opposite the Constitutional Club with the armoury being located in a passageway.  These premises, probably Gorphwysfa now, became the Conservative Club by February, 1886.

These premises provided minimal accommodation, perhaps an office, armoury and living quarters for a permanent member of staff.  There was no room for drill or physical training in inclement weather, or even for lectures. There was certainly no indoor rifle range.

A Drill Hall was needed, but this was not something the government would wholly fund, though assistance would be available towards the cost of a rifle range, armoury and certain other features. So, a major voluntary effort was required. Normally, the government paid capitation grants towards the cost of uniforms, accoutrements and incidental expenses, which amounted to some thirty shillings per efficient man. Hence the need for annual inspections. This was not sufficient to maintain the unit and, moreover, the treasurer was personally liable for any deficiency! The two Ellis brothers, R. Gregson being Captain and in command, and Lieutenant Saxon Gregson Ellis, also treasurer, made a public appeal justifying this ambitious venture. By September, a site had been acquired in Borthyn from the owner and Colonel of the Regiment, Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, Bart., A.D.C., at a cost of over £50. 

A further sum of £1,400 was required to construct the hall as such, an armoury, a magazine, store-rooms, and a house for the permanent sergeant instructor. It was also hoped, if sufficient funds could be raised, to provide 'a moveable gymnasium' for use in the drill hall, a library and a reading room.

The appeal quickly raised the sum of nearly £700 as a result of donations, principally from Sir Watkin, who in effect returned the £50 cost of site acquisition. Captain R. Gregson Ellis, and Lieutenant Saxon Gregson Ellis each contributed £50 while Major Cornwallis West gave £25.

Major Cornwallis West also gave the use of the castle and grounds for a three day very Grand Bazaar. An army team of five organised the event and a substantial portion of county society, no doubt encouraged by West as Lord Lieutenant, assumed patronage or responsibility for stalls and other attractions.

This took place on 11th - 13th September, 1884. The popular Volunteer band played under the leadership of Bandmaster John Edwards, founder of the well-known local family. The proceedings were simply and formally opened by Mrs. Watkin Williams Wynn. Major West utilised his vote of thanks to provide interesting information about the background to this venture. He emphasised the importance of the volunteers to the nation and their very low cost. It provided a reserve force of some 200,000 or 250,000 men at a cost to the country of only £500,000. Conscription would have been the only alternative.

The press description of the stalls and their contents is quite breath-taking and clearly a great deal of enthusiasm had been invested in the project. The stalls were inside the castle itself while in the grounds all sorts of amusements and demonstrations took place, ranging from bee-keeping, art and other exhibitions. One of these included eight 'curious old charters' and manorial grants relating to Ruthin with the Great Seals of kings and queens still attached. There was also humour in the form of 'The Healtheries' [?] and especially from a Chinese band. Needless to say, there was also a luncheon tent.

The proceedings were not without an input of culture, which took the form of a Grand Concert in the Drawing Room at 5 p.m. and a Grand Theatrical performance at the Town Hall later in the evening. A late train ran to Denbigh and Rhyl. Friday's activities concluded with dancing in the illuminated grounds and a Grand Fireworks Display. This splendid event climaxed on the Saturday with, in addition to the bazaar, a rural fete and sports, rounded off with an auction of unsold items from the bazaar.
Takings at the gates over the three days yielded some £65 and it was later reported that one third of the total amount required had been raised.  The volunteers themselves had subscribed £100.

The culmination of these and doubtless other less spectacular events occurred on 29th July, 1885 with the laying of two foundation stones for the Drill Hall.  This ceremony took place with due pomp and circumstance and the first stone was laid by Mrs. Cornwallis West, using a suitably inscribed silver trowel.  A similar trowel was presented to Miss Gregson Ellis who laid the second stone.  Under both stones, on either side of the original front door [not now used as such] were placed two bottles. The contents of the first were not disclosed in the press report, but the second and smaller bottle contained a full roll of the company. After the ceremony, the company proceeded to Plas Newydd, Llanfwrog, the home of the Ellis's, for refreshments.
A Captain Knight of London, prepared plans for a building measuring 70' by 40', to be built of local limestone, doubtless obtained from the nearby Graig Ddwyart quarries on the way to Rhewl. The contractor who had submitted the lowest tender, A.H. Davies, was a sergeant in the company.

Remarkably, six months later on 22nd February, the new Drill Hall was opened officially. Fund-raising efforts had brought-in £1,200 but it was announced that £300 still had to be found. It was hoped that another bazaar would achieve that. Certain of the provision originally envisaged had been omitted, for example, a house for the sergeant instructor though it was still intended to build one on the site. The armoury, gymnasium, small rooms for reading and for instruction purposes, had also been omitted. West, in a speech from the platform, again used the occasion to call for greater government support of the volunteers. Not only were they inadequately financed, but the men were giving of their own money as well as their time. He also informed his listeners that the Denbighshire battalion was composed of 800 men. Captain Ellis was given credit for initiating the movement to provide this new facility.

Col. West, having formally opened the building, invited Captain Ellis to address the meeting and he reflected upon the past work of Ruthin's Volunteers. Ellis stated that their first company commander had been Major West, followed by Major Llewelyn Adams until he retired in 1883. At that point, Ellis was given command and the company now numbered 114 rank-and-file, 14 more than the authorised establishment.

He said that through lack of facilities, they had drilled in the station yard, or anywhere else they could find. One report refers to a drill ground on the Corwen Road, possibly at Felinysguboriau or Cae Gwynach, but this was more likely to have been used by the Yeomanry Cavalry Unit. In the event of poor weather, parades had to be dismissed and it had been difficult to maintain efficiency. He went on to say that once the debt had been cleared, they would proceed with the building of a house for the sergeant instructor thereby saving the rent of £12.10s. per annum which they now had to pay. However, this never materialised.

The Drill Hall functioned as such for the better part of 100 years. It was at this base that our local terriers trained, assembled and departed for active service in two world wars, possibly for other campaigns, as well as a good many social events. It was also a local centre for the WWII Home Guard. Even since its closure as an early victim of defence cuts some thirty years ago, it continued to serve the local community well. Following its purchase by the former Denbighshire County Council, it has provided accommodation for the pupils of Borthyn School and has served as a Youth Centre. This substantial edifice, born of local enterprise and locally raised funds, will doubtless continue in service into the next millennium, a monument to worthy endeavour.

Acknowledgements R.J. Edwards, ‘reminiscences’, serialised in the Denbighshire Free Press c.1900; Denbighshire Free Press, 13th September 1884; 1st August, 1885; 1st August 1885; 27th February 1886; North Wales Guardian, Wrexham, 23rd June 1883.









A document of 20th October, 1609, refers to a Howell ap John ap Howell of Corfedwen, Llandyrnog and to Piers Howell, his son. Corfedwen, or Caerfedwen, was the name of one of the six townships of the parish. Townships often derived their name from the principal house within its area, so it is not impossible that Corfedwen was the original name of this house.

A few years after 1664, there is an indistinct churchyard inscription "John Powell of Glan-y-Wern[?] died ??January, 1690." Another gravestone reads: "???? Powell of Glaniwern, elder son and heir of John Powell, died 26th August, 1748, aged 71". This was possibly Henry who bequeathed £100 for the apprenticing of one or two poor boys to be appointed by the heirs of the Glan-y-Wern estate. There is also a flagon and a credence paten in the church given by Henry Powell in 1746.

Henry was appointed High Sheriff of Denbighshire on 10th December, 1724. His estate was quite extensive, if not numbering amongst the largest in north Wales. In October, 1740, Henry Powell acquired further property in Llanrhydd, Llanfwrog, Llanfair D.C., Ruthin and Cilcain.

The parish register lists no fewer than 17 children of the Henry Powell of Corfedwen who died in 1672, the youngest of whom was William. Powell names continue to appear fleetingly in various documents, e.g., William, Henry, and Elizabeth, as the children of Rev. William Powell, Dean of St. Asaph in 1731. Whether this Dean of St. Asaph was Henry's son cannot be certain.
By 1759, in spite of their numbers, the male line of the Powells had been extinguished when Henry Powell's heiress, Catherine, married Hugh Clough. However, a deed of 23rd October, 1739, whereby Clough, Sir George Wynne of Leeswood and a merchant, John Holwood of Flint, formed a partnership in relation to lead mining in Gwernaffield, cites 'Hugh Clough of Glan-y-Wern'. This was some twenty years before Clough's marriage to the Powell heiress.

The Cloughs had more than one residence, principally Plas Clough, to choose from and in 1753 Glan-y-Wern was occupied by Arthur and Margaret Bennett, presumably on lease. Their daughter, Mrs. Barrett, was buried in Llandyrnog in 1813. Charlotte Barrett, who died aged 86 in 1866, is commemorated by a memorial window provided by her daughter Margaret E. Mesham of nearby Pontruffydd.

Documents of 1792, describe Rev. Roger Clough as being 'of Eriviatt'. Another document of September, 1804, refers to John Foulkes of Eriviatt. It also places Hugh Powell Clough, James Henry Clough and Richard Butler Clough at Glan-y-Wern, though Richard is described as 'the late'. In 1803, Richard Butler Clough acquired common land at The Green, Denbigh, - quite close to Plas Clough. It is described as being "in the township of Banister Uchaf, near the toll-gate on the turnpike from Denbigh to Pontryfydd Bridge; another .... next to Denbigh turnpike and the intended road from Denbigh-Trefnant."
The Cloughs appear to be at the centre of the Glan-y-Wern stage in the years 1813, 1814 and 1816, previously referred to. Thus, its construction may reasonably be attributed to them.

Then, disaster struck. They had established a private bank in 1794 at Llanrwst and Denbigh under the name "Clough, Mason and Co." The depression following the Napoleonic wars occasioned the collapse of many private banks, including this one. It transpired not to be a total disaster for when the firm's assets were realised, it was found that they were solvent. However, in this process the family estates of Glan-y-Wern and of Bathafarn, Ruthin [see RLHB No:??] were put up for sale on 29th October, 1818. The catalogue quoted "Messrs Clough & Co. - bankrupts". Ironically, the solicitor handling the sale was Mr. Frederick B. Clough, solicitor, Ruthin. The extent of the land holdings becomes apparent from the particulars which, within the Bathafarn estate alone, included property in Llanrhydd, Llanynys, Llangynhafal, Llanychan, Llanrhaiadr, Gyffylliog, Henllan and Llanarmon. Glan-y-Wern is described as "a new structure on the site of the ancient residence". Plas Ashpoole and Castell were also up for sale.

The Maddocks family probably purchased the estate in 1818. The east window of the south aisle of Llandyrnog church commemorates John Maddocks of Glan-y-Wern who died in 1837, and Sidney (presumably his wife) who died in 1852.
Colonel Philip Stapleton Humberston, born in 1812, was in residence in the second half of the Cl9th. Humberston was a Cheshire man who had been M.P. for Chester [1859-65] and he presumably retired to Glan-y-Wern. He was one of the principal contributors in 1878 to the restoration of Llandyrnog Church, and provided two stained glass memorial windows, one being dedicated to his wife Elizabeth who died in 1876. He was Hon. Colonel of the 2nd Volunteer Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment. He died at Glan-y-Wern in 1891 and is commemorated at the church by a brass plate.

The estate was again up for sale on 13th September, 1893. It had grown somewhat and comprised some 2,051 acres. This included land/property in the parishes of Llandyrnog, Llangwyfan, Llanrhaiadr, Nannerch, and Ysceifiog, and the ancient residences of Plas Llangwyfan [dated 1589] and Fron Yw [1655]. Glan-y-Wern and the home farm were withdrawn at £16,500, but Hugh Robert Hughes of Kinmel purchased privately.

There was yet another sale in 1913, following Hughes' death. By this time, it had dwindled to 1,500 acres. This sale gave the Maddocks family an opportunity to return. The hall and farm were initially withdrawn at £15,000 but then sold privately to Major Maddocks, a descendant of the earlier family. 'Major' Maddocks was later styled 'Brigadier-General W.R.N. Madocks, CB., CMG., DSO.'.

The General, himself a distinguished soldier, had an even more distinguished antecedent in Field Marshal Lord Napier of Magdala. However, his status did not protect the General from misfortune. His son Kenrick was killed in a motor-car accident in France on 1st April, 1928 while another, Gwyn, a Lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards, was killed just eight months later in a flying accident at Brookland.


SOURCES:  Transactions of the Denbighshire Historical Society, Vol. 39, [1990];  “Churchyard Inscriptions”, Llandyrnog Local History Society [1994]; Denbighshire County Record Office: NTD/274, DD/DM/944/1, DD/GA. Flintshire County Record Office, Hawarden: D/DM; D/M; D/HE; D/JL; D/NA.


GLAN-Y WERN,   Llandyrnog

Hubbard states that the dates 1813 and 1814 are to be found on the building so it is not an ancient house. Someone else said on 14th March, 1816, "Glanywern ... will be a very good house when it is finished ... ..." Yet, in Llandyrnog churchyard, there is an inscription "David Lloyd of Glan-y-Wern, died 24th January, 1664." Thus, there must have been an earlier house of the same name.

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