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RHUTHUN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET                                                                         Issue No 79 September 2004




Almost immediately after the central government appreciated they had what amounted to a new form of local government, which was the Board of Guardians, they began to place further responsibilities on the Boards. In an approximate manner the Boards replicated the Parliamentary model, - there was the un-elected element, the Justices of the Peace and the elected element, the Guardians. There was during the first half of the nineteenth century an apprehension of the events in France with its destruction of the very fabric of society. The Boards were created to mitigate to some extent the rule of the elites creating at least some form of local democracy and at the same time attempt to stem the ever-increasing poor rate.

The first of these additional responsibilities is contained in an Act 6 & 7 Gulielmi IV cap, IJOOCVl dated 17 August 1837 and entitled 'An Act for registering Births, Deaths and Marriages in England'. The necessity for the Act was the decline in the role of the Established Church. The Catholic Emancipation Act had been enacted barely eight years earlier (much to the embarrassment of the Duke of Wellington) and there was a growing number of the population who worshipped in what seemed an ever-increasing number of nonconformist creeds. These amounted to a substantial proportion of the population all of which resented to a greater or lesser extent registering the birth or death of their loved ones in the parish register, by a priest whom was perceived as alien to their beliefs.

With all this in mind, the Poor Law Guardians were instructed to appoint a Superintendent for the Union and Registrars for Divisions within the Union. These appointments were not to be paid from the Poor Rate but from Central Government through the Boards. A birth had to be registered within forty-two days of the birth and a death within five days. There were a great number of contingencies of registration detailed in the Act, which need not concern us here, needless to say the Act was intended to be implemented by 1 March 1837.

However, what were the implications of this legislation on the Ruthin Board of Guardian? It might be remembered that the Board did not first meet until 2 March 1837, so they were in default of this legislation immediately. There were more urgent matters to consider than the registration of births, deaths and marriages. Nevertheless, by July the Board addressed the problem. A Superintendent and six Registrars were appointed. The Superintendent was William Cole of Ruthin. Unfortunately, he was secretary to the Board of Guardians and had to resign from that post. This was emphasized by a clause in the Act that stated, no official of the Board could act as Superintendent or Registrar. Officials of the Board were paid by the poor rate and the newly appointed Registrar General was responsible for the salaries of the Superintendent and Registrars. (Just as an aside the Registrar General's salary was defined as not greater than £1,000 per annum). Nonetheless, the Guardians had the authority to dismiss the Superintendent or registrars should the need arise. However, if such a case arose they had to give notice in the appropriate local newspaper.

With no disrespect to William Cole when he resigned, this made room for the Board to appoint one of the most competent, nineteenth century administrators in the area as secretary, Joseph Peers; honoured of course, by the clock tower on the Square in Ruthin.

The Union was divided into six districts. One might recall the difficulties of travelling in the early nineteenth century and with the time restrictions now specified by law, registration had to be relatively local. The Act specified that the Registrar had to live within his district. The following are the areas with their Registrars: Ruthin, -Thomas Jones, Surgeon; Llanrhaeadr, - John Parry, Schoolmaster; Gyffylliog , - Hugh Davies, Schoolmaster; Llanelidan, - John Evans, Tyn Llan; Llandyrnog, - Enoch Lewis, Relieving Officer; Llanarmon, - Evan Edwards, Parish Clerk. It might be seen that they all were literate men. However, clearly, the registrar in Llandyrnog was not a viable appointment for he was an employee of the Board. Whether this was a matter of necessity because no one else would take on the task is not known.

In the following December unexpectedly, Cole resigned as Superintendent Registrar. This left the Board in a quandary, and for the second time they broke the rules and Joseph Peers took on the role until someone else could be appointed. In mid-January there were two candidates for the post, Thomas Overton and Samuel Jones. Jones was elected with a far from unanimous vote. It was typical of the thrift of the early nineteenth century that the cost of the Register Books of Birth and Registers of Deaths and certified Copies whereof 'shall be born by the Union Parish or Place... and shall be paid for by the Guardians or by the Churchwardens and Overseers [Poor rate collectors] as the case maybe'.

Marriages were a different matter, the Rector, Vicar or Curate could register the marriage providing copies were forwarded on a quarterly basis and eventually to the Registrar General Others allowed to do this were Jews and Quakers. They too could register marriages. There is no mention in the act of Non-conformist ministers nor of Roman Catholic priests. These distinctions continued into the twentieth century. By 1840 in the minutes of the Board of Guardians were notices of intending marriages i.e. banns, which were presumably for the Nonconformists and Roman Catholics.

In 1840 yet another responsibility was thrust upon the Guardians by 3 & 4 Victoria CAP VaX. The medical officers of the Board were to be responsible for vaccination against smallpox. The Act states 'all' persons it would therefore be compulsory. The medical officers were to be paid only for the vaccinations they had performed not the population under their care. In Ruthin they were paid ls. 6d. per vaccination. This was two days' wages of an agricultural labourer, which if converted to today's level of pay is really a huge amount This was probably due to what was perceived as the risks of handling the vaccine and an incentive to eliminate this scourge from society.

As one considers these responsibilities, poverty, health, demography, and education within the workhouse one can appreciate the growth of the importance of these Boards. They were in fact the embryos of the County Councils. Albeit the county areas were larger and they had greater flexibility in accruing funds. Also in many of the social areas mentioned the responsibility was very constrained by the centre. However, from the extreme laissez faire attitude of the nineteenth century one can see in the Boards the first glimmers of the welfare state. There was more to these Boards than Dickens portrayed.


Having seen in the first part of this piece how some well-meaning Victorians sought to amuse and worthily improve the lot of the less fortunate, this, the final part, seeks to show how the more fortunate were able to indulge themselves and, to some extent, to share their amusements with the hoi polloi.

THE LOCAL CREME DE LA CREME had no need of diffusions of useful knowledge. Were they not well and expensively educated? Were they not leaders, indeed, pillars of local society? Their wealth was such that they were able to indulge themselves in many innovative ways. Hunt Balls, Summer Balls, Winter Balls, Tenants' Suppers, Charades and so forth lightened their leisure, particularly during 'the season' that might otherwise have been rather dull. One example of such revels was ‘Major Naylor Ley land's Grand Fancy Ball and Entertainments’ as reported in the Wrexham Guardian of 20th December 1873. This was a fitting climax to a year of some significance for Nantclwyd Hall, just outside Ruthin. This had been the year when, and Nantclwyd the place, where the first game of lawn tennis had been played according to rules devised by Major Walter C. Wingfield [RLHB No: 66], which broadly apply to this day. The Naylor-Leylands had lived at Nantclwyd since the 1840s and it was Major Tom Naylor-Leyland who would almost double the size of the Hall in 1875/76.

The Ball and Entertainments were not in fact held at Nantclwyd but at Ruthin's Assembly Room, plus a whole suite of rooms, otherwise known as the Town Hall. The room had been decorated with little if any regard to expense. Its normal rather utilitarian decor had been transformed into what was described as a ‘charming fairy palace’. The stage had been enlarged, footlights and a prompter's box installed along with other such paraphernalia. The scenery was, of course, stunning having been supplied by a London firm, who had dispatched a member of staff to superintend its installation. Light was provided by ‘gaseliers’ and chandeliers. There was a special cloakroom and a room adjoining had been converted into a lavatory. The Council Chamber became the refreshment room serving ‘viands of the choicest description’. Catering was by Mr. Green of the Castle Hotel.

These elaborate preparations must have impressed the good people of Ruthin. Tongues were probably set a-wagging, but the rank and file were not wholly excluded. The more humble folk had to content themselves with watching the comings and goings of the great and the good, but the respectable tradesmen and their wives and families attended the dress rehearsal on the Monday evening. The main performances for the principal guests of the Naylor-Leylands were given on the Tuesday evening, followed by The Ball for which music was provided by the band of the Denbighshire Yeomanry Cavalry. On the Wednesday evening the tenantry of Nantclwyd, Ruthin Castle and other estates were invited to enjoy repeat performances of the plays.

The casts of two farces were drawn from members of the local aristocracy with the Naylor Leylands themselves featuring prominently. Major Wingfield, the Goodwichs of Eyarth, Mrs. Birch, Mrs. Cornwallis West, Miss Florence Tayleur and Miss Rhoda Broughton, the novelist, also participated. The guest list was equally impressive with leaders of Denbighshire society being well represented, including the Leche family of Carden Park, the Mainwarings and the Watkin Williams-Wynns.

The doubtless complex arrangements for this splendid occasion were in the hands of a Lieutenant George Mousley, under the watchful eye of Major Tom Naylor Leyland. Mousley began his career with the Yeomanry as a Cornet in 1871, became Captain in charge of the Ruthin Troop and ended commanding the regiment as Colonel in 1892.

Apart from the one professional from London, Mousley was assisted by Mr. John Rickman, agent of the Ruthin Castle estate, great-grandfather of our contemporary Rickman family. A Mr. Williams, the gardener from the Castle, and a Mr. Y.P. Humphreys, upholsterer, were among those who assisted in implementing the grand design. And so two vividly contrasting aspects of Ruthin's social life emerges, the one exhibiting wealth and privilege and for the less fortunate a perhaps ill-judged application of a well-intentioned attempt at self-improvement.




The Naylor Leyland Technical Institute

The common denominator shared by the old grammar school building and the Naylor Leyland
Technical Institute in Well Street becomes apparent here.




                                           The refurbished Naylor-Leyland Technical Institute, 2004

THREE SITES FOR A NEW BUILDING were considered. The first and preferred site, especially as far as the Town Council was concerned, was a portion of the Bull Croft, - on part of which the new County Offices had been built, - owned by Mrs. Williams, Crown House, a reluctant seller. She would consider the sale of only the whole site at a cost of £750, a figure that was 50% in excess of the fund available.

Ruthin Castle and other estates were invited to enjoy repeat performances of the plays.
The casts of two farces were drawn from members of the local aristocracy with the Naylor Leylands themselves featuring prominently. Major Wingfield, the Goodwich's of Eyarth, Mrs Birch, Mrs Cornwallis West, Miss Florence Tayleur and Miss Rhoda Broughton, the novelist, also participated. The guest list was equally impressive with leaders of Denbighshire society being well represented, including the Leche family of Carden Park, the Mainwarings and the Watkin Williams-Wynns.

The doubtless complex arrangements for this splendid occasion were in the hands of a Lieutenant George Mousley under the watchful eye of Major Tom Naylor Leyland. Mousley began his career with
The second choice was a plot between the Tabernacle Chapel and Mr. Cushion's Garage in Well Street. The site owner was J. Watkin Lumley, a prominent County Councillor and a former owner of the Brynhyfryd School site, for which the asking price was a more achievable £150. Before the Tabernacle Chapel had been constructed in 1890, the site including that of the proposed new Technical Institute, was known as "Morris Griffith's Yard" (named after the owner who was a boot and shoe maker). References describe it as an extremely dishevelled slum and an eye-sore for many years.

The third plot adjoined Mount Villa [now demolished but then at the junction of Market Street/School Lane], which was available for £120.

At the same time, it was suggested that the new building should have sufficient room to accommodate some 200/250 people, who it was imagined, would wish to attend 'Extension Lectures'.

While the site issue was being dealt with, correspondence with the Charity Commissioners was also pursued regarding the scheme as a whole. No especial difficulties were envisaged, but it was conditional that the building be named The Naylor Leyland Technical Institute and was to be used only for technical education. There was some doubt as to what the term 'technical education' meant. The Commissioners were informed that the Education Committee envisaged the teaching of woodwork, cookery, laundry and housewifery for boys and girls remaining at the `all-age' local elementary schools after the age of 11+ and seems to have been acceptable.

The purchase of the 'Bull Croft', fell through. The feasibility of the Well Street site was then investigated. This had its limitations on account of its narrow width, especially as it transpired that the Governors of Ruthin's County School for Girls wished to take advantage of the new accommodation to supplement their inadequate facilities. The County Architect, Walter D. Wiles, had difficulty in squeezing-in all the required accommodation.

The financial aspect of the scheme needed to be settled before the project could advance too far. The Town Council made it known that its contribution would be limited to £550, which included the proceeds from the sale of the old grammar school, viz., £520. Not even all of that was available as the old school trustees required the £20 to meet 'expenses'. It is difficult to understand how the Town Council could have regarded the proceeds of the sale as its own contribution. The gift was surely from Mrs. Naylor-Leyland, justifying the label The Naylor-Leyland Technical Institute required by the Charity Commissioners. Be that as it may, if the project was to get off the ground, the Education Committee would have to fund by far the greater proportion of the cost.

By January 1913, application was made by the Education Authority for a loan consent of £1,000 to cover the £900 estimated by the County Architect to be the cost of the site and building with £100 for furniture. This was duly sanctioned and six building contractors were invited to tender. Of the six tenders received in April, the lowest was from Roberts & Co., of Mold, in the sum of £1,600, minus £400 if the Domestic Training Centre were to be omitted. No doubt a tender of this size, as compared with the Architect's estimate, caused some consternation. Delegates were appointed to meet with the Town Council to discuss the apportionment of costs. When the full Education Committee met soon afterwards to ratify the acceptance of this tender, it was decided that a meeting with the Town Council was not necessary. The Town Council's contribution had already been paid. It turned out later that the Town Council had taken offence following that decision and considered that insufficient consultation had taken place between them. By July 1913, work had started, and the foundations laid.

Building work evidently proceeded without too much trouble, but the Town Council kept a watchful eye on progress. They suggested that planned railings to the roadside front of the new building should be omitted, as had been the case with the County Council's Offices in Wynnstay Road. The County Council readily agreed to this suggestion, but on condition that the Borough should meet the cost of paving this frontage with granolithic flags. Faced with this additional expenditure, the Town's scrupulous guardians of the public purse withdrew their request.

It was anticipated that the building would be ready for occupation at Easter, 1914, so consideration was given to its future management. Six Managers were appointed, two by the Managers of the Council School [Rhos Street], two by the Managers of the N.P. School [Borthyn], and two by the Town Council.

The financial arrangements required adjustment as the lowest tender exceeded the estimate. Application was made in April for a extra loan of £230 and it became apparent that a further loan of £400 was necessary. The estimated completion date of Easter, 1914 had also been awry and arrangements for its furnishing were not made until June of that year. In the meantime, the three Ruthin Schools involved, including the County School for Girls at Brynhyfryd, were allocated one day each while the elementary schools at Pentrecelyn, Llanfair D.C., and Llangynhafal, were allocated one day. The country children would travel by rail from Eyarth and Rhewl stations, their fares being paid by the Education Committee. The cost of running the Institute was apportioned on the basis of 1/5th to the Governors of Ruthin County School and 4/5ths to the Education Committee, plus rent from the Evening Schools Committee.

Nor had staff been appointed and there was some difficulty about this as both the Domestic Science and Handicrafts teachers would be required at Denbigh on one day. In July, an advertisement was issued for a ‘Manual Instructor’ at a salary of £110 p.a., plus 3rd class rail fare for travelling between Ruthin and Denbigh. At the end of the month, a Mr. G. Owens of Nuneaton was appointed. A Miss Ada Roberts initially served as teacher of domestic subjects and she was soon succeeded at the end of 1915 by two other teachers in quick succession.

In October, the County Architect reported that the building had been completed and stated in January 1915 that the final cost amounted to £1,587 6s 11/2d - a saving of £12.-13.-101/2d., a good precedent that seems to have been lost!

The birth of this promising project was overshadowed by the outbreak of `The Great War', and there seems to have been no formal opening of the building or any reportage in the press. In August, the premises were inspected with a view to their wartime use as a convalescent home but in October they were being used for 'technical' evening classes.

Thus, a charitable bequest that realised the sum of £520, provided the old Denbighshire County Council with the necessary stimulus to invest in a facility that has served the community in several different guises, from technical school, to a central kitchen providing midday meals for schoolchildren throughout the district, to office accommodation, and as a library for ninety years. More recently, the premises have been given an extensive upgrading and enlargement so that the 'Institute' will continue to serve for many years to come.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: K.M. Thompson,Ruthin School – The First Seven Centuries, (1974); Denbighshire Record Office, Ruthin - Minutes of the Denbighshire Education Committee – 1910, 1911, 1913, 1914; Denbighshire Free Press, 1911, 1913, 1914, 1915; DD/DM/912/50; Thomas Nicholas, Annals and Antiquities of the Counties and County Families of Wales, Longmans Green, Reader & Co. [1872]; Llandyrnog Churchyard Inscriptions, Llandyrnog Local History Society, 1994.


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