RHUTHUN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET Issue No64 December 2000
OWAIN GLYNDWR, Pt. II
The Attack and the Aftermath.
The first article left the rebels hiding in Coedmarchan woods. It is then supposed that on 18 September 1400 as the town gates were opened, they rushed in and razed the town. The date could be correct, for this was just three days before St. Matthew's fair. This was one of the three major fairs held in the town and to have caused disruption would have been a major blow to the burgesses of the town. However, even the date is speculative. Some accounts suggest the attack took place as early as the 14 September. Such authors as Gwynfor Evans in his account of the raid emphasised the huge amount of damage done to the town. Prof. Ian Jack, using primary sources, questions this assumption. On 4 September 1404 there was a comprehensive record of the property in the town. Only thirteen lacked tenants and only one of these was said to have been burnt down by the rebels in 1400. Jack accounts for all the other empty houses for all the usual reasons, - people leaving, debt, death and service to the lordship. He states:
'... if Ruthin town was razed to the ground in September 1400, its powers of recovery were very considerable and the borough must have risen like a phoenix; or else the accounts of the destruction were wantonly exaggerated at different times to meet the several propaganda needs of Owain Glyn Dwr, the men of Ruthin and Lord Grey.'
Why, one might ask, should such apparent diverse interests all wish to exaggerate the damage? Owain Glyn Dwr's motive was probably the simplest to appreciate - to establish the power and reputation of his force, The burgesses of Ruthin would use the exaggerated claim for easing of rents to Lord Reginald de Grey, and he in turn pressed the King for permission to raise the rents to finance the repairs to the town walls. Therefore, all the participants in this attack had vested interests in reporting the severity of the damage. One is well aware of Tudor propaganda and the distortions they fed to following generations. Historians down the years have not gone to the prime sources to check the claims of the extent of the damage. This article is based principally upon Prof. Jack's article in Welsh History Review.
One question that might be asked is, where did the army of Glyn Dwr come from? The steward of the lordship summoned a jury of twelve men to meet on the 27 September to identify those who served Glyn Dwr. Naturally, the list was headed by Owain and his brother Tudur and included a further eighty-nine, claiming also that chattels, livestock and money amounting to £700 had been taken. On 5 October, a similar tribunal named seventy-seven and the theft of goods amounting to £1,000 and a third jury meeting sometime after named 113 with the loss of property of £400. There was a certain amount of duplication on these schedules, and Jack estimates the band consisted of 270 which included seven women. Two of these were widows, three were wives, one a concubine and another of uncertain status. Only one wife was accompanied by her husband and the concubine also was accompanied by her partner. The rest were unattached.
Eighty-seven of the force came from Denbigh. This was the largest contingent. Ten or eleven from Glyndyfrdwy, two brothers from Corwen, six others from Edeyrnion - two from Bala, Cerrigydrudion, Dinmael, Betws, and a Chaplain from Rhos are all that can be identified, except, of course, eleven local men from Ruthin. This was to rise to seventeen. The rebellion has been attributed to a rise in Welsh nationalism. Owain declared himself Prince of Wales at Glyndyfrdwy two days before the assault on Ruthin. Prof. John Davies certainly takesthis view in his History of Wales quoting examples of the mass support he received from Welsh villeins who flocked to his standard. Initially, this was probably not the case, and the reason for the attack was that outlined in our last issue. If one considers that seventeen Ruthin Welshmen joined the rebellion, one can sense the many undercurrents that motivated the populace.
Again, evidence of perhaps a small amount of damage or the trivial nature of the attack was that Reginald Grey did not bother to come to his lordship until 1402. The town appears to have functioned normally during the sixteen months after the attack. The courts met on average every three weeks. The first court after the attack levied fines unconnected with the melee of £5.2s. And these were collected. If the town had been devastated it would have been impossible to raise such a sum. The normality of the town is perhaps epitomised by Lord Grey threatening anyone who fished his waters with a fine of £5, a massive sum in those days. Therefore, from all the records and events, it would appear that the attack was not a cataclysmic affair.
This, at least, is one theory. However, clerks are only servants of their masters. There are anomalies in the records, which might indicate that they were written to give the impression of normality. The date of the raid, whether fourteenth or eighteenth September, is only one example. Perhaps the record was made later, say when the town had recovered. There are other discrepancies in the court rolls, dates which do not fit facts. There may be simple explanations, but they make one a little wary.
Nonetheless, early in 1402 Grey came to administer his lordship. Whether or not this was in response to Owain's second attack on the town on 30 January 1402 is a matter of speculation. The account of this second attack is not in the court rolls and one has to rely upon Adam of Usk and he is not considered a reliable source. Then on the 18 April 1402, Owain took Reginald hostage. This probably happened at Bryn Saith Marchog. Owain promptly demanded the princely sum of 10,000 marks (£6,666) as ransom. There is no doubt that this ransom was paid and it is a measure of the wealth of the Grey family that when his grandson succeeded to the estate in 1440 it was of greater value than his grandfather inherited in 1388.
There must have been considerable interplay, trade, with the rebels, for in identical letters dated 23 November 1409 the King wrote to Thomas earl of Arundel, Richard le Strange of Knockin, Lord Charlton of Powys and to de Grey of Ruthin:
We are quite fully informed that your ministers and officers in Wales on their own authority, as it is said, without our warrant and knowledge, have recently entered into truces and agreements of neutrality with Owain Glyn Dwr and other rebels in those parts, at which we wonder greatly and the Lord[s] are requested to go personally to Wales with all haste to see the campaign against the remaining rebels continues.
If this letter is genuine, then Ruthin politicking in the latter stages of the revolt gives an explanation for the continued prosperity of the town. It may also be inferred that the revolt was sparked by a personal vendetta between Grey and Glyndwr. This ended with the capture of Grey and a ransom paid. After this, perhaps some normality returned.
References: Ian Jack, ‘Owain Glyn Dwr and the Lordship of Ruthin’, Welsh History Review, Vol.2 1965 No.4; J. Davies, History of Wales, (1994); Gwynfor Evans. Land of My Fathers, (1974).
THE DENBIGHSHIRE SOCIETY IN LONDON
The Former Ruthin – London Society
A PERUSAL of the Denbighshire Free Press of 17th March 1923 reveals an interesting account of the proceedings of this society. Its meetings seem to have been annual occasions and we are reminded that in 1922, the Archbishop of Wales and the Mayor of Ruthin were the principal guests.
The society originated as “The London-Ruthin Association”, started by young Ruthin men who were then living in London. The first treasurer of the Association was John Davies [RLHB 49], the well-known organ-builder working from Nottingham, the son of a distinguished Ruthin family.
The inaugural meeting was held on 17 May 1882 and took the form of a formal dinner at the Holborn Restaurant, High Holborn. The President of the Association was Sir Watkin Williams with J.H Puleston MP and W. Cornwallis West as Vice-presidents. Well-known local personages acted as Patrons viz. Rev. W.P.Whittington, MA, Head Master of the Grammar School, Captain gregson Ellis DRV, Dr. J.R.Jenkins and Mr. E. Roberts, Chairman of the School Board and a former Mayor of Ruthin.There is no mention of ladies being present.
The menu was truly formidable as was the programme that followed. This comprised nine items interspersed with national anthems and solos. In addition to toasts to the royal family, there were six others, e.g. to the Association, to the Town and Schools of Ruthin, the English and Welsh Press. Each toast induced a response by sometimes two or three other speakers.
One can imagine that this must have been a good night out for the boys. A surfeit of food, doubtless drink, and surely verbosity must certainly have culminated in widespread indigestion.
FLOODS IN RUTHIN
The deluges of October/November culminated in floods of disastrous and previously unrecorded proportions. The sight of the river Clwyd overspilling into Cae Ddol and The Parks is not uncommon. There are still some Ruthinites who can recall floods in Borthyn and Mwrog Street in the not too distant past. In the 1930's, and probably before that, floods occurred almost regularly. But the spectacle of flood water reaching The Royal Oak in Clwyd Street and flooding properties between there and river banks is unknown. Likewise, the extent of water in both Borthyn and Mwrog Street probably exceeded anything comparable in twentieth century Ruthin. There was flooding in Cae Seren and some even as far as Y Parc off the Denbigh Road.
Other parts of the country, of course, suffered far more and addionally had to contend with fierce winds, even the occasional typhoon. Here, the two minor tributaries from Efenechtyd and Galltegfa merging into the normally inoffensive Arfon which flows through its culvert under Mwrog Street into the Clwyd were an important contributory factor. Indeed, the Arfon has much to answer for down the years.
However, things could have been far worse. Rhuddenfab, in his "Handbook to Ruthin and Vicinity" (1884), reported that on 10th June, 1781, another tremendous flood swept away the bridge (presumably the predecessor of the present 'Pont Howkin' ) and took with it one John Bills, a glazier, who had been watching the rapid rise of the water. His body was later found one mile downstream. Beware the Ides of June.
When the Arfon cannot cope, its waters find an alternative route. On the 1781 occasion, when the waters receded, several salmon were stranded on the field behind the Borthyn School. It was thereafter called `Cae Salmon'. Residents of the Llanfwrog Almshouses had to find alternative accommodation with neighbours and friends. Small bridges were swept away. The roads to Efenechtyd were blocked and there was 3ft of water in Efenechtyd Church Hall. A "whole army" of workers, including choir girls from Llanfwrog church, had worked to alleviate the problems. Houses in Llanfwrog, e.g. Henblas, the cellars of the Park Place Inn and the Farmers' Inn, were flooded while the cottages adjacent had 3ft of water within.
The Denbighshire Free Press of 13th June, 1931, recorded the "Deluge at Borthyn" after an unusually heavy downpour on the previous Sunday evening, not to mention a small earthquake shock in the early hours. On 20th June, the Free Press reported that the Town Council had considered the damage and the cause was attributed to the Mwrog Street culvert not being able to cope with the great volume of water. The 60 year-old town drains were also blamed. They were not of a sufficient gradient and could not cope with the additional houses which had been connected. So, it was decided that no more new houses could be built until a new drain had been constructed. It was also said that the river beds were too shallow.
The 1931 inundation was one of a series, but it is sad to see the saga recurring.
The Plygain is said to have originated in the pre-Reformation Missa in galli cantu - the Mass of the Cockcrow - sung between midnight and the early morning. In rural areas, it was not uncommon for families to tramp three or four miles through snow on a frosty cold night, each bringing a candle to illuminate the dark church or chapel. After some prayers and a sermon, kept mercifully short if the preacher was a wise man, came the carol singing.
And how they sang. In duos, trios, quarters and with many choruses, with the whole congregation joining in. Carols old and new. Even after the Plygain finished, the happy carol singing continued, with parties going from house to house.
In South Wales, the colliers took round a wheel or barrow with lighted candles stuck in clay which they called "The Star of Bethlehem". Everywhere they stopped, the men with blackened faces knelt and sang a carol, hoping for a Christmas box.
Extracted from Heather Gorst,’Old Fashioned Christmas’, Country Quest, December 1998.
by Mavis Parry
BRYN UCHAF is situated in the hamlet of Bryn and township of Garthgynan in the the parish of Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd. The house is a grade II listed building and described as a Cl7th farmhouse altered in the early Cl8th. Above the porch is an engraved stone panel containing a heraldic shield with a decorated surround, the date 1695 and initials (see illustration above). The panel has the inscription “Na werth y nef er benthyg byd*.
The initials are those of Edward and Sarah Price for whom the house was built in 1695. Edward Price was the son of Ellis Price of Ysgubor Isa, Llanfair D.C., and is located on the same minor roadway, a drovers' route to Llanarmon yn Ial, as Bryn Isaf beyond Ysgubor Isa. Ellis Price was the son of Hugh Price, Ffynnogion. Edward Price married Sarah Roberts, the eldest daughter of John Roberts of Llanbedr D.C. and his wife, Catherine, in March 1691. Their first child, Catherine, was born on 14th June 1693, and baptised at Llanychan, as was Mary, the second child, in November, 1694. Anne was the first child to be born at Bryn and was baptised in Llanfair church on 16th October 1696. There followed six other children all born at Bryn and baptised at Llanfair. Then more sons were born in Ruthin.
Edward Price was variously described as 'of Bryn, Llanfair', and sometimes 'of Ruthin', Attorney at Law. A wall plaque to the Price (Pryce) family can be seen in Llanfair church. The eldest son lived at Bryn Uchaf, died un-married and was buried in Llanfair churchyard on 1st April, 1763.
Bryn Uchaf then seems to retreat into temporary obscurity until 1837 when it was purchased by Samuel Williams of Cae Coch and in the tithe schedule of 1840, he was described as landowner and occupier. After his death in 1849, the census returns show that William Williams, Samuel's son, was living at Bryn until 1875.
Samuel had bequeathed Bryn Uchaf to his nieces, Jane and Margaret, daughters of his other son Thomas. William ceased to occupy Bryn in about 1875. The electoral register of 1876 shows no occupier, but cites as landowners 'John Savin and Bacheirig and the farms, Mr. Jesse and other owners.' The 1881 census shows William Williams as a labourer at Bacheirig [RLHB No: 36], a neighbouring farm. He died in 1884 and was described in the burial register as 'late of Bryn'.
John Savin was married to Cordellia Mary Jones, the daughter of John Jones, Oaklands, Llanfair D.C. The house and land at Bryn Uchaf had various tenants until 1891 when Thomas Evans and his family came to be living there.
In November 1916, Bryn Uchaf was bought by Thomas Evans from Lydia Elizabeth Evans and Owen Lloyd Jones Evans of Broomhill, Pwllheli. Lydia Evans was the daughter of John Savin and the granddaughter of John Jones of the Oaklands.
Bryn Uchaf remained in the ownership and occupation of the Evans family until its sale in 1995. The last occupant was Mary Ellen Evans, daughter of Thomas Evans who lived there for nearly 100 years. She died in Ruthin in December 1994 aged 102.
SOURCES: M.P. Siddons, Welsh Heraldry, Vol. III, NLW .
* This was the motto of Dr Edmund Meyrick [d:1605], son of Meurig ap Llywelyn of Bodorgan, parson of Corwen: [15601, Archdeacon of Bangor. At this stage, it must be a matter of conjecture whether there were any family connections.