RHUTHUN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET Issue No 63 September 2000
OWAIN GLYNDWR, PRE-RUTHIN
Writing on Victorian historians, Professor Glanmor Williams expressed the opinion 'They also infected Wales with the much less desirable virus of an uncritical and over-romanticised excitement of the past.' No subject has suffered more from this phenomenon than Owain Glyndwr. He has been portrayed as anything from Welsh patriot to a treasonable rebel. The Broadsheet is not the publication to enter into these discussions to any great depth, but it hoped that these two articles, this one, and one in the December issue, may review his career before the attack on Ruthin and in the second the aftermath of the incursion.
Sir Degory Sais has been described by Professor A.D. Carr as perhaps the greatest of the Welsh captains and who should be listed amongst his men-at arms? - none other than `howeyn Glynderde and Tedyr Glynderde,' Owain and his brother Tudor. They were mustered at Berwick on 1 March 1384 to guard the town and participate in Richard II's expedition to Scotland the following year. The skills he learnt on that expedition coupled with his father-in-law's (Sir David Hanmer) connection with the earls of Arundel finds him three years later in the earl's service. Another reason why Owain should probably serve Arundel, was that the Glyndwr lands adjoined some of Arundel's holdings in the Chirk and Oswestry marches.
On 13 March 1387 the retinue mustered by the earl included the two brothers amongst twenty-five esquires. Arundel as Admiral, intercepted a Flemish fleet off Margate, whilst they were sailing from La Rochelle to Flanders. It was a famous victory and when the ships returned to Orwell in Suffolk they were laden with booty. It must have been a very profitable expedition for the two Welsh brothers. Owain must have earned the respect of the earl, for heading the list of esquires in 1388 is Owain, but his name is crossed off. He did not therefore serve in Arundel's expedition to France where he failed to negotiate allegiances in Brittany and Aquitaine and was unable to regain La Rochelle.
Arundel was executed and his estates forfeited in 1397. Perhaps Owain was indented to serve Arundel in peace and war and if this was the case he must have had many misgivings about the execution. Sir John Lloyd has pointed out that Owain's known links were with Arundel and Henry Bollingbroke (Henry IV), the son of John of Gaunt. Owain never served Richard II directly. Bollingbroke was exiled in France and when John of Gaunt died Richard extended his banishment for life. In 1399 Richard led an expedition to Ireland. Meanwhile. Bollingbroke who had honed his battle skills in Tunis, Hungary and Prussia with his life time's banishment and his estates confiscated had little to lose so with a small force he sailed for the Humber where the Percys and Nevilles rallied to him. The rebellion was successful and Henry became King.
In an article by Anthony Goodman (on which much of this note is based) he makes the case that Thomas Arundel was in the service of Henry IV and at the time of his first Parliament in October 1399 Owain was esquire to Thomas. This Parliament restored the lands and titles to the twenty year old Thomas and the archbishopric of Canterbury to his uncle. Thomas's aunt was Countess Joan of Hereford and mother-in-law to the new King. The Arundel star was in the ascendancy. Owain might have thought that he could expect the support of the King through Arundel. However, Thomas was young, he had suffered a decade of being in the political wilderness and had only just returned to favour.
The grievance which Owain put forward for his support was in an obscure, remote part of the kingdom and involved the powerful de Grey. He was wealthy, militarily experienced and territorially well placed to watch Cheshire and the Principality. The King was still in a precarious position, having only just usurped the throne, he required the good will of the rich and powerful. The land in question was common march presumably in Llannerch. Owain had recovered it from de Grey by a law suit. De Grey had repossessed the land during the period of indecision of the new King. Thomas was unwilling, unable perhaps, to press the case for the King would be reluctant to offend the powerful de Greys. Owain pressed his claim to Henry IV's Parliament which denied any sympathy with the Welshman. This being the case, Owain had two choices revolt or accept the verdict.
However, there is another theory why Glyndwr rebelled. During the preparations for Henry IV's Scottish campaign the king sent a royal summons for Owain to join the expedition. Unfortunately, he sent it via de Grey who deliberately delayed delivery until it was impractical for Owain to attend the muster. However, as Professor Jack remarks 'it is difficult to feel confident that this incident is not embellished beyond recognition. There must have been many wildly distorted rumours flying around the Welsh Marches in the first years of the fifteenth century'. Another reason for bad blood between de Grey and the Welsh community was that hiding in the woods of Bryncyffo Park, Ruthin was a Welsh outlaw Gruffydd ap Dafydd ap Gruffydd, who operated as an early Robin Hood. He had stolen two of de Grey's horses and had written a mocking letter to the Marcher Lord which so incensed him he complained to the King about the lawless nature of the area.
Whatever the motivations, on the 16 September 1400, at Glyndyfrdwy Owain declared himself Prince of Wales and on the night of the 17 September a small army, under 300, camped in the woodlands of Coedmarchan ready to attack de Grey's citadel, Ruthin. Who they were, and what happened to them, we'll see in the December issue.
References: Anthony Goodman, ‘Owain Glyndwr before 1400’, Welsh History Review Vol. 6, No.1, June 1970; Ian Jack, ‘Owain Glyn Dwr and the Lordship of Ruthin’; Welsh History Review Vol. 2 No.4, 1965; Andrew Pickering, Lancastrians to Tudors (C.U.P, 2000); A.D. Carr, ‘Welshmen and the Hundred Years War’, Welsh History Review Vol. 4.1968; John Davies, History of Wales.
RUTHIN'S INVOLVEMENT IN THE FOUNDING OF THE BANGOR NORMAL COLLEGE
The Victorians, in pursuing their reforming zeal, came to recognise the importance of improving the standard of education for the children of ordinary families. Among the first to recognise this need had been the earlier non-conformists who accepted there was a basic need for people to be able to read their bibles as a very minimum. The established church also became actively involved. At first, this effort was largely confined to Sunday Schools and from these small beginnings arose the establishment of day schools, voluntary and eventually compulsory, all worth-while reforms, it was not without its difficulties, even opposition.
Among the many difficulties which had to be overcome was the general lack of resources and the tardiness of the state to intervene with enabling funds or even encouragement. What little money there was, was raised mainly voluntarily or donated charitably. School buildings were few and far between, but above all, the matter of teachers was the basic issue to be addressed.
There were many good and gracious people who were working to stimulate progress in the education field, but in Wales perhaps the most prominent and influential among these was Hugh Owen, later 'Sir'. He was a senior civil servant based in London who exercised his central position and influence to promote the growth of education in Wales. He was to become a key figure in the formation of the University of Wales at Aberystwyth, but in 1856 the focus of his attention was the formation of a teachers' training college for north Wales. He personally attended a series of meetings across north Wales, which had been arranged to drum-up support for this critical development.
In October 1856, Owen addressed a well-attended meeting at the British School in Rhos Street, opened since about 1843 [see RLHB Nos: 54 & 55], under the chairmanship of John Jesse of Llanbedr Hall and High Sheriff for Denbighshire. Jesse explained that the meeting was being held to consider a proposition that a Normal College for Wales be founded on the principles of the British and Foreign School Society, which itself operated a 'Normal' school for the instruction of teachers. The issue, he said, was not whether one was needed but rather how it might be supported financially.
Jesse's opening remarks painted a vivid picture of prevailing social conditions, where ignorance and drunkenness were rife, where children visited public houses to drink and smoke like men - when they had some money. Few children attended school and many of those were irregular in their attendance particularly at harvest time, when child labour was in great demand. Likewise, few children attended church or chapel, although some attended Sunday School where they were taught to read in furtherance of their religious knowledge.
Another message conveyed by Jesse was that "knowledge was power" and its fruits would be order, industry and an accumulation of capital, not to mention stability of empire, thus preaching the ideals of Victorian society.
He was followed by Hugh Owen who waved a twenty shilling Bank of England (£1) note - the chairman's personal contribution to the cause. (A later list of subscriptions showed that Jesse contributed £20 and Maurice £10.) At a time when sectarianism was rife, Owen said that he had already been accused of that, but it was not true, he said. He pointed out that there were two voluntary societies fostering education for the masses at that time. The first was "The National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church", and the second was "The British and Foreign School Society".
Mr Owen was at pains to show that he was not in the least prejudiced against the National Society which, he felt, occupied an important place in Wales. However, their allegiance was to the established church which made certain demands upon those involved whereas the British Society was happy to, and very often did, accommodate children of either the established or non-conformist churches. Very often, clergy of the established church actively supported and encouraged the setting-up of British schools. Twelve years previously, he pointed out, there were only two in north Wales - one at Tremadoc and the other at Wrexham. Since then, 118 had been established but of these only 81 had survived because of a lack of efficient teachers. Of the surviving 81 schools, only 32 were conducted by certificated teachers. He concluded by outlining the arrangement for the government and daily management of the proposed college.
The next speaker announced that £64 had been donated by a small group at Dolgellau on the previous evening. He was followed by another speaker who addressed the question of government support. He acknowledged that many would prefer to struggle on without government funding, but he pointed out that the government had spent £1,000,000 on education and he wanted to know how much of that went on British Schools. Very little, he answered himself, adding that church schools had received £800,000. He thought the meeting should press for a slice of government finance.
As if to illustrate Hugh Owen's point about the involvement of establishment figures in promoting British Schools, Mr James Maurice of Plas Tirion, a local dignitary and a member of the platform party, spoke next. He outlined the advantages of the British School, pointing out that children of differing creeds could safely meet there on neutral ground. He emphasised the importance of good quality teachers, making the point that however wealthy a school's endowment, however costly its buildings, in the end the quality of its work depended upon the quality of its teachers. Maurice spoke sagely on various aspects of the contemporary education scene, highlighting the provision made for the National School (Borthyn) and the quite lavish provision for the grammar school. He did not in any way disparage other schools, but emphasised the needs of British Schools. He acknowledged that Dissenters in north Wales had become an important, powerful and influential body. These were people who deserved equal opportunities for education in a society where the power of the people was increasing.
Maurice drew the three hour meeting to its close by proposing a resolution approving the proposals to form a teacher training college and the establishing of a committee to collect subscriptions in the Ruthin district. As the result of similar actions throughout North Wales, the sum of £11,500 was collected and a grant of £2,000 secured. The work of the college commenced in 1858 in temporary accommodation. By 1862, its new premises were completed and the students moved in during that August.
By today, the wheel has turned full circle. Many thousands of young people have passed through Bangor Normal's portals to emerge as qualified teachers. The needs of that era were duly met, but that initial shortage of teachers was to be followed by further shortages, especially after the end of the second world war. Eventually, there were surpluses of teachers so that Bangor Normal College, which had acquired a revered status, was declared redundant and was closed. By an accident of fate, it was later seriously damaged by fire, but it now serves as part of the University of Wales at Bangor. Life being what it is, there will one day, no doubt, be another shortage of teachers and Bangor Normal may then arise, phoenix-like, from its own ashes.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald, 1st November 1856; Denbighshire Record Office, DD/DM/18/106.
THE GOOD SHIP ‘DENBIGH’
When the American Civil War started, the Confederacy of Southern States was at a distinct disadvantage. Its economy was based on cotton and there was almost no heavy industry. The Union, or Northern States, had virtually the entire naval and mercantile fleets and decided to blockade the southern ports to deny the Confederacy supplies from Europe.
The South had good contacts with Britain, particularly Merseyside, because of the great quantities of their cotton exports that came to the Lancashire mills in normal times. Great hardship was felt throughout the cotton industry because of the blockade.
In the middle part of 1861, a number of Confederate agents arrived in Liverpool to buy ships and munitions. Initially, the Southern agents purchased vessels of high speed, shallow draught, and with plenty of cargo space. One, a paddle-steamer "DENBIGH" became the "bogey ship" of the Union blockading squadrons. Her normal route was between Havana and Mobile but when the latter port was captured by the Federals, she ran to Galveston. Eventually, her luck ran out when she ran aground and was hit by gunfire from USS Cornubia and Princess Royal.
Three years ago, the wreck was pinpointed and is now a "protected site". The US Institute of Nautical Archaeology plans to raise her and reconstruct her on land in Galveston, a project expected to take another six years.
Sources: KJ. Williams; The American Civil War Round Table UK; Mike Hill, Daily Post.
PLAS DRAW, Llangynhafal.
Readers of The Free Press will recently have seen their report that one of the heroes of Rorke's Drift, Col. Gonville Bromhead, V.C., spent some time at Plas Draw [RLHB No: 47] where one of his brothers lived. Readers may remember that his character in the film "Zulu" was portrayed by Michael Caine. The Bromheads were an ancient family of Nottinghamshire, whose seat was later established at Thurlby Hall, Lincolnshire. From at least the eighteenth century, many sons of the family pursued distinguished military careers. Sir Gonville Bromhead was created first baronet in 1802 having attained the rank of lieutenant general. Several of the family saw service in India and Colonel Sir Edmund de Gonville Bromhead, 3rd Bart., father of Gonville Bromhead, fought at Waterloo.
Major Gonville Bromhead, V.C., of the South Wales Borderers, was born at Versailles on 29th August, 1845 and died, unmarried, of typhoid fever at Allahabad, India on 10th February, 1891 aged 46. At school at Newarke, Gonville was a keen sportsman. His citation read:
For gallant conduct at the defence of Rorke's Drift, 22nd and 23rd January, 1879. The lieutenant general reports that had it not been for the firm example and excellent behaviour of Lieutenants Chard and Bromhead the defence of of Rorke's Drift would not have been conducted with the intelligence and tenacity which so eminently characterised it …"
Having returned home after his heroic exploits, Gonville was presented with a jewelled dress sword and an illuminated address by the Mayor of Lincoln. The tenants of Thurlby Hall gave him a revolver. He bequeathed his several medals and other memorabilia to his brother Charles.
Gonville's connections with Plas Draw are tenuous and arise from the fact that his brother Colonel Charles James Bromhead [1840-1922] lived there. Charles too had a distinguished military career, participating in the Ashanti, Zulu and Burmese wars. Charles became a Denbighshire J.P. in 1907. Gonville is said to have been a frequent visitor.
Acknowledgements: Denbighshire Free Press, 25th May, 2000; Burke's Peerage, Baronetage, and Knightage [19091; Mr Vernon Jones, National Library of Wales; Kelly's Handbook to the Titled, Landed & Official Classes, 1922; J.W. Bancroft, The Terrible Night at Rorke's Drift, 1988; Norman Hohne, The Silver Wreath Samson Books; The South Wales Borderer1689-1937 CUW ; James Bancroft, The Zulu War VCs, JWB; Who Was Who 1916-1928.
Major Gonville Bromhead, V.C. "London Illustrated News" , 21st Feb. 1891.
Readers may recall that we drew attention [RLHB No: 59, September, 1999] to forthcoming restoration work on this interesting and rare specimen of an early sixteenth century (or possibly even earlier) building. Work has now commenced on this important project and specialists have carried out examinations and tests to establish detailed information as to its age, etc. Already a well-known land-mark on the town approaches, a new thatched roof will eventually crown this special landmark. The work has received a great deal of publicity in both the press and on TV.