RUTHIN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET ISSUE No 13 March 1988
THE WELSH BIBLE: RUTHIN CLERIC COMMEMORATED
by D. Gwynne Morris.
The Post Office issues some eight sets of commemorative stamps each year. This year on 1st March, St. David's Day, a set of four stamps was issued to mark the 400th anniversary of the translation of the Bible into Welsh by Bishop William Morgan. Designed by a Welshman, Keith Morgan, the set was the first ever complete one, apart from that of the Investiture of H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, to be devoted to an entirely Welsh theme on the stamps of Great Britain.
Three other notables were commemorated. These were William Salesbury, the main translator of the New Testament into Welsh in 1567; Bishop Richard Davies who encouraged and assisted Salesbury in his work and Bishop Richard Parry, part author of the revised edition of the Welsh Bible in 1620 and the Book of Common Prayer in 1621. It will be of interest that all three Bishops were, in turn, Bishops of the Diocese of St. Asaph.
Bishop Richard Parry, one of the eight eminent Welshmen in succession to be enthroned to the bishopric of St. Asaph, we may safely claim to be a son of Ruthin. Professor Glanmor Williams in "The Dictionary of Welsh Biography" states that Richard Parry, born in 1560, was of Pwllhalog, Cwm, Flintshire and of Ruthin. The late Frank Pryce Jones in "Crwydro Gorllewin Dinbych" hints that he was born at PwlIcallod, Pwllglas. In this he is supported by Keith Thompson in his "Ruthin School - The First Seven Centuries" and by A.H. Williams (1) in his article on the endowed schools of Denbighshire in Vol.2 of the Transactions of the Denbighshire Historical Society.
It is of interest to note that Richard Parry's mother was Elen, daughter of Dafydd ap John from Eyarth, Llanfair D.C.; while his wife Gwen was one of the six daughters of John Wyn ap Rhys (Price) from Gerddinen (Caerddinen?) in the parish of Llanelidan and of Llwyn Ynn, a mansion situated in the area between Llanfair D.C. and Llysfasi.
Richard Parry received his early education at the renowned Westminster Grammar School. This came about due to the association of Dean Gabriel Goodman with Ruthin. It will be remembered that he was born at Nantclwyd House (2) in Castle Street and that he was Dean of Westminster Abbey from 1561 to 1601. As there was close official connection between Westminster School and Christ Church College, Oxford, Richard Parry continued his education at that establishment from 1580. He graduated at the age of twenty-four in 1584.
It was at this time that he began his ecclesiastical and scholastic career. Bishop Nicholas Robinson made him a Deacon in May of that year. A few days later at the instigation of Gabriel Goodman, Richard Parry was given one of the two portions of the living of Llanelidan. One of these portions was to support a parish curate while the stipend of the other, a sinecure, paid a master to be in charge of the school at Ruthin. Gabriel Goodman had re-established the school ten years earlier in 1574, when he rebuilt the "scholehouse" (the present Memorial Buildings) and this arrangement of the sinecure had no doubt been worked out with the Bishop of Bangor.
Keith Thompson does not have much good to say of him. He claims that when Richard Parry left the school in 1593 to become Chancellor of the Diocese of Bangor it was a "sudden shock to the foundations of the newly re-founded school.” It appears that Richard Parry had taken the right to his part of the tithes with him. This, it must be stressed, he was allowed to do as he had been legally instituted to the living.
Gabriel Goodman was so shaken by the breaking of what was no more possibly than an understanding that the holder of the living of Llanelidan in name should in practice serve the school, that he petitioned Queen Elizabeth I in April 1595 to have the tithes of Llanelidan granted to the school forever “when the present incumbent died or resigned." Within six weeks, a remarkably short time, and an event which speaks for itself, Letters Patent had been drawn up and sealed agreeing to this.
In effect, this was a decree that in future no-one would be able to do what Richard Parry had done and that the tithes of Llanelidan would be used to support the Master of the School. In the meantime, it is possible that Gabriel Goodman had to pay the Masters himself. Although it is believed that he ceased to have any interest in the school after he left Ruthin, Parry remembered it in his Will, as on his death in his house at Dyserth in 1623, he endowed a scholarship of £6 per annum to a Ruthin boy to attend Jesus College, Oxford.
After leaving Ruthin, Richard Parry held many ecclesiastical appointments before becoming Bishop of St. Asaph on the death of Bishop William Morgan in 1604. At St. Asaph, he found that many of his churches were still without the Welsh Bible and with his Chaplain and brother-in-law, Dr John Davies, set about the task of revising Morgan's Bible. John Davies’ wife was Jane, sister of Richard Parry's wife, Gwen. Suggestions have been made by certain scholars that John Davies, who was born at Llanferres and who later became Rector of Mallwvd, should have been given more credit for his work on the revision. These doubts make the choice of Richard Parry as a suitable subject on a commemorative stamp of today a doubtful one.
It is thought by the present writer that the Committee responsible for this particular stamp issue should have chosen Gabriel Goodman for the honour, rather than Richard Parry. Amongst his other services, Gabriel Goodman has much to be thanked for by the people of Wales as it was finally through his good offices that Bishop William Morgan, who may well have been a master at Ruthin, and who could have taught both Richard Parry and John Davies, was able to complete his translation and see to the printing of his Bible. William Morgan carried out most of his translation while an incumbent of Llanrhaiadr yn Mochnant. While there, he made enemies and faced some legal problems. Archbishop Whitgift, the Archbishop of Canterbury, summoned him to Lambeth to answer the charges against him. He was so impressed with his work that he persuaded him to stay at Goodman's house in London in 1587 to complete the work and to attend to its printing. By the following year, September 1588, the year of the Spanish Armada, the work was published and the Welsh clergy were urged to have a copy by Christmas.
Bishop William Morgan and Richard Parry, Dr John Davies and Dean Gabriel Goodman had strong connections with each other through marriages. It has already been seen that Richard Parry and John Davies had married two sisters (Gwen and Jane Price). Another sister, Catrin, became the wife of Ifan Morgan, Bishop William Morgan's son, while a brother Edward Price married a niece of Gabriel Goodman.
Thirteen months after the death of Bishop Richard Parry on the 26th September 1623, there were some other interesting marital tying of family knots. His widow, Gwen, "Upon Saturday xxiith day of November, 1624, Thomas Mostyn Esq're and Gwen Parrie widow the late wife of the late rev'end father in God Richard Parrie, late Lord Bishop of Saint Asaph deceased, were married; and also W'm Mostyn gent son and heire app'ant of the said Thomas Mostyn and one Anne Parrie one of the younger daughters of the said Lord Bishop were likewise married the day and year aforesaid, and Richard Parrie sone and heire of the said Lord Bishop and Marie Mostyn third daughter of the said Thomas Mostyn were then married."
NOTES: (I) MR A.H. WILLIAMS WAS FORMERLY HEADMASTER OF BRYNHYFRYD, SCHOOL, RUTHIN [ED.]
(2) THIS HAS NOT BEEN ESTABLISHED TO THE ENTIRE SATISFACTION OF ALL HISTORIANS. EXMEWE HOUSE IS SAID BY SOME TO HAVE THIS DISTINCTION [ED.]
SOURCES: 'THE DICTIONARY OF WELSH BIOGRAPHY.'
'OXFORD COMPANION TO THE LITERATURE OF WALES' (MEIC STEPHENS).
'RICHARD PARRY A JOHN DAVIES,' GERAINT R. GRUFFYDD, IN “Y TRADDODIAD RHYDDIAETH” (GOL. GERAINT BOWEN) 1970. PP.175 - 19.
JONES., FRANK PRICE, "CRWYDRO GORLLEWIN DINBYCH". JONES.
JONES, GWYNFOR, ‘YR ESGOB RICHARD PARRY’. TRANSACTIONS, DENBIGHSHIRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY, VOL. 23, 1974.
THOMPSON, KEITH, 'RUTHIN SCHOOL - THE FIRST SEVEN CENTURIES’.
A.H. WILLIAMS, M.A., H.M.,’THE ORIGINS OF THE OLD ENDOWED GRAMMAR SCHOOLS OF DENBIGHSHIRE’. TRANSACTIONS, DENBIGHSHIRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY, VOL, 2, 1953.
CHIEF CONSTABLE DENMAN
by Hazel Formby
John Denman was born in 1802, the eldest son of the Rev. John Denman who held several livings in Denbighshire, finally becoming Vicar of Llanarmon-yn-Ial in 1820. After a good education, John Denman took his place in local society living the life of a country gentleman. Entries in the diaries of two of his sisters show that he spent most of his days hunting, shooting, attending race meetings and other social events. He kept his own pack of harriers and hunted regularly with the foxhounds belonging to Lord Mostyn, Sir Robert Vaughan and Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn, with whom he was particularly friendly. For many generations this branch of the Denman family had been close friends of the house of Wynnstay.
After the death of his father in 1831, he moved with his sisters to live at Bryn Ffynnon, Llanfair D.C.; then at Glan-yr-Afon, Loggerheads, near Mold. In 1844, they moved to Gelli Gynan, Llanarmon-yn-Ial, leaving there in 1846 to return to Bryn Ffynnon. By then he had been appointed Chief Constable, having commenced his duties in 1841. It is said that when policemen called at his home on Saturdays for their wages, he made them work in the garden.
His career may have been helped by his social connections and by the fact that his near kinsman was Thomas, 1st Baron Denman, who became Lord Chief Justice in 1832. Three months after the family moved into Bryn Ffynnon for the second time, Lord Denman came to Ruthin to attend the assizes. His wife and son came with him and calls were made at the Judges Lodgings and at Bryn Ffynnon by members of both families.
Since 1833, John Denman's niece Charlotte had come to live with her uncle and aunts and her diaries give us a detailed picture of what life was like in the household. Her aunts were quite spirited ladies, but her uncle was obviously head of the household He could be very strict, and his word was law.
On October 15th, 1850, Charlotte wrote: "The magistrates decided at the Quarter Sessions that the Chief Constableship should be done away with and the present Police Force abolished on 1st January so my uncle will lose a salary of £250 per annum and we shall be as poor as ever we were but I trust out of debt and difficulties as soon as he receives Miss Wallace's capital which will not be I fear till May." John Denman did receive this legacy but like his Constableship it quickly disappeared.
On January 1st, 1851, Charlotte made the following entry: "My uncle goes out of office today. The chairman in the magistrates private room and afterwards in open court complimented him in the name of the whole Bench upon the efficient manner in which he had conducted the Police Force for upward of ten years and declared they had not the slightest wish for his removal but that the hardness of the times and the state of agriculture compelled them to rid themselves of the appointment of Chief Constable. Mr West and the Lord Lieutenant also passed comment on his conduct and my uncle made a speech in return which concluded by shaking hands with his inveterate opponent, Mr Mainwaring".
Despite his reduced circumstances, John Denman still kept his hounds and horses. On January 9th, Lord Mostyn and Sir Robert Vaughan's hounds met at Bryn Ffynnon and twenty-one huntsmen were entertained to lunch.
On July 2nd, 1851, he travelled up to London with his friend Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn and they spent four days visiting the Great Exhibition. By now his family and friends were becoming concerned about his financial situation, and through the help of a friend, Mr Piers Lloyd, he was invited to an interview for the post of agent for Lord Vivian's estate at Plas Gwyn, Anglesey. This had been the seat of the Panton family of Holywell and it had passed to Lord Vivian through marriage. A generation earlier, the Denmans and the Pantons had been close business associates. A salary of £200 a year and a house went with this position, but at first John Denman declined the post, despite the fact that as his niece wrote: "The rent here is £120, the taxes exorbitant and the farm is always a losing concern." Eventually, he did accept the position, but resigned after three months. He next applied for the post of Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire but was unsuccessful.
By January 1853, his situation was very serious and it was decided to move and make a sale of their possessions. Charlotte wrote: "Fortune has not favoured my uncle during the past year. Our income is reduced and not enough to meet the expense of living in such a place as this and my uncle is, I fear, more involved than we are aware of, but I trust that the sale of our stock and furniture will extricate him and he has hope of becoming Mr Naylor's agent." Whatever the outcome, the Denman ladies had decided to make a home for themselves and they left Bryn Ffynnon in April, 1853 for Cowbridge, Glamorgan.
On February 22nd, John Denman had gone to Pentrebychan to stay the night and hunt with Sir Watkin's hounds the next day. While he was away, the bailiff arrived. He stayed shut up in the house-keeper's room for four days. John Denman returned and negotiations began. Despite all this the hunt was entertained to lunch-at the house on the 25th. On the 23rd, Charlotte wrote: "We were aware that my uncle was in difficulties; we were not prepared for this. In great measure, my uncle has brought this upon himself. First of all, the law suit, more than £1,000 in expenses and the remainder of Mr Price's money £3,000 in paying off old debts, the £900 from Mrs Benyon, and £500 from Capt. Maurice irrecoverable. £200 of William Taylor and the law expenses this would more than have covered Mr Thelwall's rent, but the most serious might have been avoided had my uncle given up his hounds. Mr Thelwall is himself in difficulties and his son Bevis was sold up very lately and his wife and nine children turned out into lodgings. My uncle plans to occupy part of Nantclwyd which he has rent free from Mr Naylor." The sale at Bryn Ffynnon took place on April 5th, 6th, and 7th, 1853.
Through the good offices of Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn, John Denman was re-instated as Chief Constable in 1854, a post he held until 1874. Sir Watkin also provided him with a home, Glan-yr-Afon, Llanfair D.C. Undaunted, he once again enjoyed a lavish lifestyle and again kept hounds. He died in 1880, intestate and bankrupt. His effects were valued at under £100. Letters of Administration were granted to Thomas Griffiths, Commission Agent, and a creditor. He lies buried at Llanfair D.C.
John Denman died a bachelor, but he left two sons, one of whom is said to be the ancestor of an Anglesey family. A legacy, no doubt, of his visit to that island!
ACKNOWLDGEMENTS; I AM INDEBTED TO THE DESCENDANTS OF THE PENMAN FAMILY WHO ALLOWED ME TO MAKE NOTES FROM THEIR FAMILY DOCUMENTS.
NOTE: AN INTERESTING ACCOUNT, ‘THE POLICEMEN OF DENBIGHSHIRE,’ BY THE LATE MR GEORGE LERRY, APPEARS IN 'THE TRANSACTIONS OF THE DENBIGHSHIRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY’, VOL. 2, pp. 107 - 151. THIS ARTICLE GIVES MUCH INFORMATION ABOUT DENBIGHSHIRE'S CHIEF CONSTABLES, INCLUDING JOHN DENMAN.
MILL STREET Part 1
This short, twisting side street today modestly shields its ancient origins and significance. This was once a hive of activity servicing a medieval mill, a tannery and several residences within which cottage industries flourished. For example, some of the corvisors of Ruthin, the back-bone of the town's medieval economy, would have lived and worked here. Indeed, the earliest written records of the 13th century quote burgages and the names of burgage holders in this area.
The Lord's mill was of significance at least equal to adjacent industries as much of the corn grown in the cantref of Dyffryn Clwyd would have been ground here. This would not only have provided the inhabitants and the castle residents with the staff of life, but would also have generated a significant income. There would also have been several ancilliary buildings associated with the mill, e.g. barns, granaries and stables.
One of the millers, a member of the Moyle or-"Mule" or "de Mola" family, lived at Porth-y-Dwr and their names are prominent in the records of the town. Indeed, it is only towards the end of the eighteenth century that the family became extinct in Ruthin. "Porth-y-Dwr", still occupied, straddles the parcel of land between Clwyd Street and Mill Street. It also marked the vicinity, possibly the exact site, of one of the main entrances to the town.
Here is something of an enigma. Unfortunately, there are no maps to depict, medieval Ruthin, but an eighteenth century Castle Estate map at the National Library at Aberystwyth is one of the earliest available and provides clues about this area of the town at that time. The gaol was not yet built and, although the drawing is not crystal clear, it would appear that the line of Clwyd Street continued through Mill Street rather than along its present course. The present section of the street from the gaol to the bridge is at best a mere track and, furthermore, Clwyd Street was once named Mill Street.
The enigma really arises from the location of the old gateway demolished by Turner in c.1777. If the line of the main street was through Mill Street, is it not possible that the gate would have been across that line, rather than across the then trackway between Porth-y-Dwr and the site of the gaol?
Accepting that as a possibility, the map does suggest otherwise. Jutting out from Porth-y-Dwr in the direction of the river is another bay, no longer present, which would have straddled the present street. Could that "bay" in fact have been the gateway?
Some have held the view, taken-up by Dr Ian Jack, that the gate was literally on one of the banks of the Clwyd and that identifiable stonework was to be seen in corroboration of this. Possibly, but the stones from the demolished gateway could have been used to construct the existing wall supporting Ddoltwr and to bolster the bank nearer the bridge.
There are two references to help us. Firstly, the Quarter Session records tell us that Turner was given authority to demolish the gateway so that "an arch" could be constructed over the mill stream. There are no known Illustrations of the old gateway and no plans or maps have as yet been discovered in the Quarter Session Records which would clarify this. This seems to establish the proximity of the gate to the millrace rather than to the river.
Secondly, R. Gough, in Camden's "Britannia" (1789), refers to a "handsome stone bridge over the Clwyd through whose overflowings we enter the, narrow west gate of Ruthyn, which, coming down to the water's edge, makes a very picturesque appearance." Could these "overflowings" of the Clwyd have been the mill race? In justifying their decision at Denbigh on 8th April, 1777, to demolish the gateway, the magistrates recorded that this was done to enable "an arch to be built over the millstream .... for the greater ease and safety of travellers ...." Was this "the water's edge" to which Gough referred?
Burrow suggests that the "dwr" of Porth¬y-Dwr is in fact a corruption of "Twr" (Tower,- built by De Grey), once located on the site of the present gaol. The meadow alongside the river to the rear of the former Bridge Garage, now-occupied by Glyndwr Council's works depot, was known as "Ddol Twr" (Tower Meadow). On this theorising, the gateway would have been known as Porth-y-Twr (Tower Gate). Either would appear to have been apt.
Dr Jack in his article (ibid) suggests that the "magnificent arch" or gate had been built in 1586, but he may have misinterpreted Burrow who seems to be suggesting that this was the year in which Peter Moyle built his house "Porth-y-dwr". The date of the construction of the gate is unknown.
ACKNOWMLEDGEMENTS: (I) NATIONAL LIBRARY OF MALES (CHIRK 11,786 F); (2) DR IAN JACK, 'RUTHIN’, IN 'BOROUGHS OF MEDIEVAL WALES’, UNIVERSITY OF WALES PRESS; (3) RUTIIIN RECORD OFFICE, (QSD/50/1/7; p.448); (4) BURROW’S RUTHIN GUIDE (C1919). ALSO TO MR E.S SCOINS FOR HIS ADVICE AND ASSISTANCE.
DARK AGE QUEST
Immediately after the Romans left these islands in the 5th century, the coast country of Wales was badly harassed by Scoti tribesmen from Ireland and by the Picts from Scotland. To combat these incursions, the local tribal chiefs called in a warleader or "gwledig" and gave him overall military supremacy.
Legend has it that this was Cunedda Wledig, whose home was on the banks of the Firth of Forth, near to present day Edinburgh. Cunedda accepted the challenge, defeated the Scoti outside Rhyl and cleared the country, driving the invaders back into Anglesey. He was so successful that he was able to establish his sons as princes of the recaptured territories.
His sons gave their names to the new kingdoms. Cunedda's eighth son was Dogfael, whose patria was Dogfeiling (1), an area later becoming a commote in the Lordship of Dyffryn Clwyd. This extended from Bodfari, through Llandyrnog as far as Ruthin, and is immediately adjacent to that in which our site is located.
If we move on 1,400 years, we find Kenneth Brassil and a team from the Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust investigating crop marks revealed by an aerial survey of the area, at Tany-Dderwen, between Whitchurch, Denbigh and Llandyrnog. The second year of excavations in 1987 revealed a large 6th century tomb, surrounded by a square enclosure. The grave is on an east-west alignment with no grave goods, suggesting a possible early Christian interment. There are also two similar but smaller enclosures close-by. Altogether, some thirty unenclosed graves and some cremation pits have been discovered.
This cemetery may be the first direct evidence of a Scottish-Welsh link as suggested by the Cunedda legend for, as Professor Leslie Alcock points out, these unusual tombs are identical with those found in Scotland.
The second legend of the Mabinogion introduces another possibility, for in this Branwen, daughter of Llyr, returns from Ireland in great grief "Alas, Son of God, woe that I was ever born, for two good islands have been destroyed on my account. And her heart broke. They made a four-sided grave and buried her on the banks of the Alaw”
The paucity of hard evidence reaching down to us from the sub-Roman period meant that scholars had to resort to antiquarian lore in an attempt to fill the vacuum. Modern scholarship (2), however, seems to have disposed of the Cunedda legend, but not, of course, the similarity between the Welsh and Scottish tombs. Mr Brassil reminds us of Cyndeyrn Sant (St. Kentigern) who came from the Glasgow area to establish the clas or Celtic monastery at Llanelwy (St. Asaph). Overlooking this site is Eglwyswen or the Church of St. Marchell (3), who who was an early Celtic Saint who lived during approximately the same epoch.
(1) HENCE 'DOG LANE' IN RUTHIN (ED).
(2) DUNVILLE, DAVID N., 'SUB ROMAN HISTORY AND LEGEND, 'HISTORY', JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY ASSOCIATION, VOL, 61, pp.171-191, 1977,
(3) THOMAS, D.R„ 'HISTORY OF THE DIOCESE OF ST. ASAPH'; VOL. 1, p. 13.
LLOYD, J.E., M.A., 'THE HISTORY OF WALES', PP 73-75.
KEYS, DAVID, NEW LIGHT SHED ON DARK AGE DYNASTIES' 'THE INDEPENDENT.'
BRASSIL, MR KENNETH, ARCHAEOLOGIST, CLWYD-POWYS ARCHAEOLOGICALTRUST, WHOSE ADVICE AND HELP IN PREPARING THIS ARTICLE HAVE BEEN INVALUABLE.