RHUTHUN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET Issue No 62 June 2000
by MRS MARGARET ROBERTS MBE
The Llanfwrog hospital was founded in 1695 when a charity was founded and endowed with a legacy from Lady Jane Bagot funded from farm rents. The farms in question were Bryn yr Eryr and Gardevni (sic), Bettws G[werfyl] Goch] mountain farms of 141 acres; with Derwydd and Derwydd Bach, comprising 57 acres, and Ty Isa Derwen of 29 acres in Llanfihangel G[lyn] M[yfyr]. Also involved was a water corn mill, Melin y Wig, with two cottages, eventually sold by Lord Bagot £545 in 1819.
Surprisingly, the bequest was overlooked and the legal documentation loss until it emerged in the muniments room at Blithfield the main Bagot residence. It was then brought to Ruthin and implemented by Lady James’s son, Sir Edward Bagot. It transpired that the bequest could not be wholly funded as intended by Lady Jane and the shortfall was made up by Sir Edward. It was further supplemented in 1738 by Miss Elizabeth Bagot, afterwards Countess of Uxbridge by 300 pounds
The hospital was not constructed until 1708 on Bagot land previously tenanted by John Price of Ty Gwyn, adjoining.
In 1838, the parliamentary commissioner inquiring into charities reported “the state of the hospital has not been attended to; the building is in a most dilapidated condition, indeed it will not long be inhabitable unless substantial repairs are speedily commenced. Two of the tenements are and have been unoccupied for some years - probably the reduction was in consequence of the falling in the 2 houses.”
In 1852, the charity devolved upon a board of trustees with rules approved in 1854. The board was comprised of ‘four competent persons residing or carrying on business in or near the area of benefit,’ viz, the parishes of Llanynys, Llanfwrog, Efenechtyd, Clocaenog, Gyffylliog and Derwen. The first trustees were the Hon. William Bagot, the Hon. and Rev. Hervey Charles Bagot, Frederick Richard West, Rev. James Jones, Rector of Llanfwrog, and Rev. Thomas Hughes, Rector of Clocaenog. The charity’s income amounted to £92 pounds per annum, plus interest on £1,900 in the hands of Lord Bagot at 4%.
Provision was for ten single almspeople, four poor men and six poor women. All were to be of good character and could be removed at any time for immorality drunkenness or quarrelsome behaviour. Nor could they absent themselves for more than one day without permission. Nor were they permitted to let or permit any stranger to occupy their homes. These rules were displayed on a board in one of the porches. The board has survived and after refurbishment was installed in the new almshouses. As recently as 1937 a new rule was proposed by the rector that residents should attend Llanfwrog church at least once every Sunday .
The trustees paid each resident the monthly sum of 12 shillings (or 60p in today's currency). Every second year each man was given a coat or hat and a pair of shoes and stockings and each woman a gown or hat and a pair of shoes and stockings. At Christmas they were also given coal worth £1. The matron was paid an annual sum not exceeding £4.
The Rector of Llanfwrog preached a sermon on the 24th July each year, the anniversary of Lady Jane Bagot’s death. The trustees paid him 10 shillings (or 50p in today's currency) and on the same day the residents were given one shilling (or 5p today) for tea. The tradition of the sermon is still maintained but with a slightly higher fee.
After due payments had been made there was a residue of £19 to cover repairs, the manager salary and other contingencies. By the standards of the time ‘the inmates’ were probably well served.
In January 1889, the trustees agreed to pay the residents an extra 1 shilling per week. As the commissioner had noted, the almshouses - each of which consisted of one living room/bedroom and a tiny kitchen - had fallen into a very bad state of disrepair. They had no indoor water supply or sanitation. It was 1950 before the trustees sought to install electricity, and in 1952 it was reported that further repairs, painting and colour washing had been carried out. By 1957 it became apparent that the sanitation situation was very serious - further repairs and Elsan toilets were required.
The Rules of the charity were updated in 1962. Monthly payments to the almspeople ceased and a rent of 10 shillings per week was introduced. The trustees instructed Messrs Peckover Burrill and Owen of Denbigh to inspect the almshouses and to report on modernization possibilities. They suggested that the ten units be converted to 3 double units and 4 singles. The lowest tender received was for £7,381 12s 9d and the only way the trustees could have funded such a scheme would have been to sell one of the farms, but the agent advised against that.
Furthermore. the hospital’s isolated location made it unsuitable. Some years before, an old lady had missed her footing on the path in the dark, fallen in to the stream and drowned. The only access was across a privately owned field and over a narrow bridge across the stream. There was no longer a bus service into the town and the shop at Brynffynon had closed
There was also doubt as to whether the new proposed septic tank drainage system would work satisfactorily. Danger of flooding had precluded two units from being occupied for several years Later, even after renovations and flood prevention work, a new owner suffered serious flooding. Thus the trustees decided to sell the almshouses and seek a more suitable site on which to build four new units. The first offer was for only £150 pounds, but some time later they were sold for rather more. The then borough council re-housed the three remaining residents in modern accommodation. The trustees assisted the residents with removal expenses and the purchase of some extra furniture.
Meanwhile the trustees sought the assistance of Glyndwr District Council, the Clwyd Alyn Housing Association and Cymdeithas Tai Cymru in finding an alternative site. They considered purchasing and converting Llanfwrog Church Institute, but their enquiries were fruitless.
Coal or groceries had been distributed to the needy in these six parishes at Christmas. When the tenant at Bryn yr Eryr retired in 1992, the trustees decided to discontinue the Christmas gifts and invested the money, which with the proceeds of the sale of the farm, went towards building new almshouses. The farm was sold in 1994 and about the same time a small site, Hafod in Mwrog Street, appeared on the market. The charity commissioners approved its purchase.
Messrs Jones Peckover prepared plans for 4 new almshouses. The trustees also required a new scheme to administer the new almshouses and this is dated 6th of November 1997. On 10th March 1998, the trustees accepted a tender and contracts were exchanged on the 9th of September 1998. Work commenced in June.
The project was completed and officially opened by the chairman of the trustees, Mrs Margaret Roberts MBE, on 4th of March 1999. The first resident, Mrs Joyce Lewis, was presented with her key. The residents pay no rent, but pay a weekly maintenance charge for the upkeep of the building. All four units were occupied by the summer of 1999.
A NINETEENTH CENTURY WEDDING
Eyebrows were raised in Ruthin when the Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald was delivered on a March Saturday morning in 1871. It announced that the marriage had been arranged between the oldest daughter of the Warden, Reverend Buckley Owen Jones and Fleming Brisco, the third son of Sir Robert Brisco of Crofton Hall in Cumberland. Further, a list of subscriptions had been opened to fund the celebrations.
On the 13th of April there were great celebrations in the town as the happy event took place. It is interesting to note how these so-called traditions of society alter. We are used to the convention of the groom arriving at the church with his best man and nervously awaiting the arrival of the bride. That was not the case in 1871.The bridegroom led the procession from the bride’s home followed by his future mother in law escorted by his father. Then came a number of friends and family. Finally, in the rear were the bride and her father.
The short distance from the Cloisters to the church was heavily decorated with banners and floral arches. The porch of the church was decorated by a plume of Prince of Wales feathers bedecked with a star in blue, white and gold, symbolising hope.
The bride was in white, this having become fashionable in Victorian times, being symbolic of virtue. Her veil of Belgium lace was wreathed by stephanotis (the heavily scented white flower that was so popular with brides), interlaced with apple blossoms. The bridesmaids wore mauve silk dresses, which showed through their outer muslin wide skirts that were trimmed with lace. Their wreaths were made of violet and primroses. Even an impressive wedding such as this reflected nineteenth century society’s integration with nature.
The church naturally was packed with residents and gentry from the groom's home and Ruthin. The report states ‘so large a congregation never having been seen in it’, but perhaps this is a little journalistic licence. There were 35 choristers, men and boys. The ceremony was solemnised by the Reverend Cadwallader Coker. Psalm 128 was chosen for the occasion, although one of the shortest it was felt appropriate. It is the one that starts ‘Blessed is everyone that feareth the Lord, that walketh in his ways’. At the conclusion of the ceremony the organist played the wedding March by Mendelssohn as the newly wedded couple went to meet the throng outside the church.
The list of wedding presents was, of course, headed by the West family of the Castle, who gave a travelling bag with gold mountings engraved with the bride’s initials. Why not both their initials one may question. After the service there was a private buffet at the Cloisters and then the lucky pair had to face the jollifications of the townsfolk.
A committee had been at work to organise these celebrations, the chairman being the great benefactor of Ruthin, James Maurice. Marcus Lewis was also involved.
Each road leading into the Square was bedecked by floral arches. The impression the bridal couple would get when they entered the Square en route to their honeymoon in Leamington would be a Ruthin covered in floral tributes. After the honeymoon they were going to live in Virginia.
The first item on the agenda for the celebrations for the townsfolk was a meal for the residents of the almshouses at the Black Horse Inn. At about 3 o'clock the school children began to assemble in the Square to form a guard of honour for the young couple to drive along continuing down Castle Street to catch the train at Nantclwyd Station. This route was chosen to allow as many people as possible to see the happy pair before they departed. The children had been well trained and as the bridal couple arrived in their carriage, they drove through two lines of children singing their hearts out and realising that there was a treat in store for them.
When the couple had left the children reassembled at their respective schools, the National School (Borthyn) and the British school (Rhos St.) for a tea party. They were visited by Sir Robert Briscoe and the warden who wished them well and thanked them for their efforts. The workhouse children were not forgotten. They had been duly scrubbed and turned out, as smartly as funds would allow, to participate in the singing on the Square. Even so they must have been a pitiful sight, for Littler, the provision merchants, came and gave them all some sweets. James Maurice thanked him. Maurice was both mayor and chairman of the Guardians. There was a party in the workhouse, which was described ‘as pleasant as could be arranged’. Perhaps this was damning it by faint praise.
This report is a cameo of the social structure of rural Wales in the nineteenth century. The minor aristocracy - Briscos, Maurice and the clerics - dining in some splendour, the proletariat waiting to cheer them along, and sadly, at the bottom of the social scale, the paupers having a handout from the tradesman.
PONTRUFFYDD HALL, BODFARI
PONT GRUFFYDD, the bridge, still carries traffic along the road from Denbigh to Bodfari. The original Hall or Plas was often associated with other ancient dwellings in the district, including Vron Yw and Plas Llangwyfan. In fact, John Madocks, a seventeenth century owner, was described as ‘of Vron Yw, Glan y Wern and Llai, co. Flint’. This was clearly a prestigious house for Edward Lhuyd noted [c.1707] that Pont Ryffyth, then in the ownership of Edward Madocks, as third in the parish hierarchy.
The National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth has a print of one of the earliest houses of this name, quite possibly the one that was demolished to make way for the new house [illustrated] built in c.1870. This was altered extensively by T H Wyatt for Col. Mesham and a comparison of Nicholas's illustration with another published by Thomas Lloyd  indicates the extent of these alterations. In c1960, Pontruffydd was completely demolished and replaced by a new structure. There are however several delightful remnants, - balustrades, bridges, outbuildings and the magnificent landscaping also survives.
Records indicate that John Lloyd purchased Pont Gruffyd from John Madocks, who was described as an apothecary at that time. Madocks’ family fortunes, or at least those of this branch of the family, might have deteriorated somewhat, but the family’s genealogy remained impressive. The original founder was probably Sir Robert Pounderling, Captain of Englefield [Tegeingl] and said to have been Constable of Dyserth Castle. Sir Robert's main residence was at Siambr Wen, but he also resided at Pontruffydd. The first of his descendants to have borne the name ‘Madocks’ was John ‘the elder’, a man of remarkable energy and ability who died in 1632. He bequeathed some of his possessions to Edward Jones ‘for his mansion house, Pontruffydd’. For some reason, Edward Madocks, John's grandson, was alias ‘Jones’. Edward married Anne, the sister of his father's second wife. Other items were bequeathed to ‘Jane at Vron Yw’, Jane being the sister and heiress of Edward Williams of that house and ‘the Elder’s’ son John’s second wife.
One of ‘John the elder’s descendants was William Alexander Madocks [1774 – 1828], who designed and built the embankment which joins Caernarfonshire and Merionethshire at Portmadoc. Both Portmadoc and Tremadoc are named after him.
Jonh Lloyd's origins were equally impressive, being descended from Marchudd ab Cynan, Lord of Uwch Dulas and Abergeleu, of one of the Fifteen Tribes of Wales. The date of this purchase is sometimes given as 1682 and sometimes as 1710, though the latter may be the more likely. John Lloyd was also of Fforest and Pengwern, Llangollen. His son and heir, William, in 1726 married Frances, daughter and heiress of Bell Jones of Plas Mawr, Flintshire, Chief Clerk and Secretary to the Board of Ordnance. Bell Jones died in 1725 and was buried in the Tower of London. Their heir, Bell Lloyd [died in 1788], was ancestor of Lord Mostyn and inherited his father's estates.
The Cambrian Archaeological Association’s annual meeting at Denbigh in 1887 visited Pontruffydd, said to have been situated on the site of a Roman villa off the Roman road from Deva [Chester] to Segontium [Caernarfon]. It was earlier believed that the Roman site ‘Varis’ might have been in this vicinity and, while this is no longer the view of modern scholars, there is much evidence of a Bronze Age and Roman presence.
The report of this visit described the entrance hall as being embellished with splendid oak carvings. One of these was of the royal arms quartering those of both England and France and dated 1605. There were also the family arms of John Williams [1580 – 1650[ Archbishop of York  with those of the See of Lincoln and the Deanery of Westminster. The Archbishop was descended on his father side from the Williams’s of Cochwillan in Caernarfonshire and his mother was of the Wynn family of Gwydir, Llanrwst. He was educated at Ruthin Grammar School and came to enjoy royal patronage. At the outbreak of the civil war, he repaired and fortified Conwy Castle for the King at his own expense, though he lost royal favour and was ejected from the Castle in 1645. After this he supported the parliamentary cause and assisted Mytton in the storming of the Castle 1646. He died at Gloddaeth in 1650 as a repentant royalist in the devoted care of Lady Mostyn.
The visitors also saw a portrait of William Roberts [1585- 1665], Bishop of Bangor 1637], born at Plas Bennett, Llandyrnog and later described as of Maes Maen Cymro, Llanynys. His portrait depicted him with beard and long hair, wearing robes and a close black cap. William’s mother was Cicely, daughter of Edward Goodman, and therefore sister of Dean Gabriel Goodman of Westminster. William held, inter alia, the office of prebendary of Lincoln and the livings of Llandyrnog and Llanrhaeadr Y C. After the civil war, and deprived of his living, he retired to Llanelidan. On the Restoration, he recovered his See and resumed his livings. He died at the rectory of and was buried at Llandyrnog church.
Much later, the Mesham family of Ewloe (in the 13th century) came to be associated with Pontruffydd with the Reverend Robert Mesham described as ‘of Pontruffydd’. He had two children, Reverend Arthur Bennett Mesham [d:1870] and Margaret Elizabeth. Arthur was of Ripple, Kent and following his marriage in 1834 had two sons and three daughters. The eldest son, Arthur, was also ‘of Pontruffydd’ and pursued a distinguished military career. His younger brother died in infancy while the daughters married and settled elsewhere.
Arthur (II) [b:1837] became prominent in public life - JP in both Denbighshire and Flintshire and Deputy Lieutenant and High Sheriff of Flintshire. In addition to his home at Pontruffydd, Denbighshire, he also had homes at Ewloe Hall in Flintshire and at Plas Bennett, Llandyrnog. Educated at Marlborough and at Exeter College, Oxford, he served as captain in the 1st Royal Dragoons and commanded the Denbighshire Yeomanry from 1886 until 1892, becoming Hon. Colonel.
Col. Arthur’s later public service was not without controversy. He was elected to the newly formed Denbighshire County Council in 1889, but his rivals attempted to thwart his success. The voting had taken place at the renowned Cocoa Rooms at Llandyrnog and it was held that this invalidated the election process. The Municipal Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Practices) Act 1886, banned the use of premises where food and drink were sold.
The records of Llandyrnog Parish document charitable bequests by the Mesham and Barret families. The Meshams established a connection with Glan y Wern in that Margaret Mesham’s mother was a Barret, to whom her daughter dedicated a memorial stained glass window at Llandyrnog Church.
Sources: Burke’s Landed Gentry and Peerage and Baronetage; FRO D/BC 3031; DRO PD/47/154-155; Thos. Nicholas, Annals and Antiquities of Wales vol 1 ; Lloyd, History of Powys Fadog Vols 4, 5 and 6; Arch Camb 1879 and that society’s edition of Edward Lhwyd’s Parochalia [c.1707]; Dictionary of Welsh Biography; Thomas Lloyd, Lost Houses of Wales, 1986; J E Griffiths, Pedigrees; Ellis Davies, Prehistoric and Roman Remains of Flintshire  p35; Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments in Wales Flintshire Inventory p3 No13; Dictionary of National Biography; Bye Gones, 1989; Baron Lloyd, The Mostyns of Mostyn; W M Myddelton, Chirk Castle Accounts 1718-173. Sincere thanks are extended to the Glazebrook family now resident at Pontruffydd and to Mr R Owen of Denbigh for their assistance in preparing this paper.