RUTHIN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET ISSUE 15, September 1988.
By Stan Wicklen B.A. (Ed), M.A. FTCO (PRINTING). MEMBER OF THE PRINTING HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Ruthin's earliest association with Welsh publishing and printing would have arisen from Dean Gabriel Goodman's close involvement with the publication of Bishop Morgan's Welsh Bible in 1588, the fifth centenary of which we are now celebrating ["Ruthin Broadsheet" NO:13]. Goodman assisted Morgan in seeing his "Y Beibl Cyssegr-Lan" through the press, providing him with lodgings and the use of his library.
Ruthin's first printer seems to have been the Rev. Thomas Jones [1756-1820], better known at Denbigh but a Calvinistic Minister at Ruthin 1804-9. Thomas Jones established a printing-press in his own house in Well Street and produced small religious books and pamphlets. A considerable scholar, poet and hymn writer, Jones compiled an English-Welsh dictionary in 1800.
Thomas Jones' larger works were produced for him at Chester by William Collister Jones who printed Welsh books from c.1796. W.C. Jones was also printer for the Rev. Thomas Charles of Bala. He had three apprentices, who were later to play an important part in the development of printing in North Wales. The first, Robert Saunderson, became printer for Thomas Charles and Thomas Jones at Bala in 1803. Thomas Gee [the elder] was the second, and the third was John Broster who founded the "North Wales Chronicle" at Bangor.
Thomas Jones' dissatisfaction with Collister Jones' slowness in producing work, and its cost, led to the setting-up of Thomas Charles and Thomas Jones' printing firm at Bala. Thomas Jones commenced publishing in collaboration with Sarah, the wife of Thomas Charles, in 1803. Charles himself was precluded as a Wesleyan Minister in Holy Orders from taking an active part in business affairs. Thomas Jones became interested in the craft, having assisted Saunderson, and decided to set-up his own press at Ruthin "to be of service to himself and to be of benefit to the nation [Wales]". He was spurred to do so by an incident which occurred in the process of setting-up of his "Ymddiddanion Crefydd" . Saunderson's compositor showed proofs to a rival theologian, a Mr Owen Davies, who, much to Thomas Jones's annoyance, quickly wrote a reply while the work was still in the press.
In 1808, Thomas Jones asked W. Collister Jones whether he had a young man who could look after his Ruthin press. Collister Jones recommended Thomas Gee (the elder) who by then had left to gain additional experience in London. Gee returned to take up this challenge.
That autumn, Gee began to set and to print Thomas Jones' Welsh translation of Garnall's "Christian in Compleat Armour", or, in its Welsh title, "Y Cristion mewn Cyflawn Arfogaeth", Y Bedwaredd Ran, Rhuthun. Argraffwyd gan Thos. Gee. Gair at y Ddarllenydd, Rhuthun, _Mawrth 27, 1809. 412pp. Demy 8vo. With the arrival of Gee, Thomas Jones acquired new type and possibly a new handpress. Some eight months later, the press moved to an old factory building at Denbigh. In April, 1809, the book "Catecism Mwvaf Eglwys Loegr...Argraphedig gan Thomas Gee dros T. Jones, 1809, pris Is.6d.", was published. Jones sold the press to Thomas Gee in 1813, thereby establishing the firm that was to become famous.
The next printer at Ruthin was Robert Jones (1778-1853) at 4, Upper Clwyd Street where he was bookseller and stationer from at least 1825, perhaps earlier, with his printing office in the basement. In that year, he published Archdeacon Richard Newcombe's book "Memoirs of Dean and Bishop Goodman" and this was followed by Thomas Edward's ("Twm o'r Nant") work "Gardd o Gerddi, Carolau, Cerddi, Awdlau, Englynion a Chywyddau “(1826). This was followed in 1829 by "An Account of the Castle and Town of Ruthin by Newcombe, a second edition of which appeared in 1837. Robert Jones was also a writer himself, publishing in 1842 a slim 88pp. volume "Cyhoeddiadau Gwreiddiol. His impressive imprint for this work was "The Royal Victoria Press, Ruthin."
Robert Jones was followed by his son, James, in 1853, who was then succeeded by his sister N.C. Jones in 1873, who in turn was followed by her niece M.A. Jones. Very shortly afterwards, W. Green, Jnr., took over in 1875, he being succeeded in 1891 by Mr & Mrs Charles Aldrich. Jones' equipment, including a hand-press bearing the plate "Columbian Press, Clymer's Patent, 1838", was still in use in about 1917, when it was described as being in good condition. The Aldrich family connection continued until 1944, but it is likely that the printing works had closed before then.
In 1830, another Robert Jones ["Adda Fras"] who was also a printing craftsman, left Ruthin to become foreman printer at Samuel Williams' press at Aberystwyth, run by his widow Esther Williams. He was described as a skilled printer who improved the standard of work at Aberystwyth - Ruthin's major contribution to the development of printing in that town.
A major printer was, of course, Isaac Clarke, a figure who has been strangely neglected in the annals of printing. A full account of Clarke's work appeared in "Rhuthun Broadsheet" NO:9, but, briefly, he came to Well Street, Ruthin from Mold to work for another Ruthin printer, Nathan Maddocks, about whom little is known. Clarke continued following Maddock's death in the employment of his widow until he acquired the business from Mrs Maddocks.
Clarke became a leading figure in the life of the town, being Church Warden at St. Peter's and an Alderman of the Borough Council. His contribution to literature and the art of printing was considerable. Two of his apprentices gained successful careers in printing, - Lewis Jones of Ruthin ["Rhuddenfab" - "Son of Ruthin"] and perhaps more especially Isaac Foulkes ["Llyfrbryf" - "Bookworm"], who established a large and successful printing business at Liverpool.
Lewis Jones [1835-1915] was born at Stryd-y-Cerrig, Llanfwrog, and became apprenticed to Clarke whilst foreman for Mrs Maddocks. Lewis Jones was a scholar and a keen competitor at eisteddfodau, gaining bardic honours. He was a keen supporter of the Sunday School movement, being fully immersed in the centenary celebrations in 1881. He published an account of the Sunday School movement in the area - "Adgofion am Ysgol y Clochdy (Ysgol Sul)"  ["Clwyd Historian", NO: 20]. Many of his papers are preserved at the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth. As a printer, he succeeded Clarke as printer of Welsh ballads, poetry and local work in the period 1865 - 1909. His shop, with the printing works again in the basement, were at No 2, Clwyd Street [corner opposite Barclay's Bank].
Isaac Foulkes [1836-1904], born at The Court Farm, Llanfwrog, was also apprenticed to Clarke, but had not completed his time before he left for Liverpool in 1854. It seems he may have been influenced to take this step through one Peter Maelor Evans [1817-78], who had been a pupil at Ruthin Grammar School. Evans became a partner in the printing firm "Lloyd and Evans" of Mold and Holywell. The Mold office closed, and Lloyd left for Liverpool in 1848 to publish "Yr Amserau". Foulkes was a compositor at this newspaper office for some years.
Foulkes set-up his own press in 1862, moving frequently but finally settling at Don Chambers, Paradise Street, [where was this?] c.1896. His contribution to Welsh literature as printer, publisher, author, newspaper proprietor/editor [he founder: "Y Cymro"] was considerable. He maintained his links with Ruthin, marrying a Ruthin woman, Anna Foulkes, in 1860, who died in 1900. He married again in 1904 to Sinah Owen, Hafod Elwy. He died in November of that year and was buried at Llanbedr D.C.
Two other printers, Benjamin Morris Williams and William Williams, possibly father and son, were instrumental in W.J. Roberts' ["Gwilym Cowlyd"] setting-up his press at Llanrwst in 1863 [see "History of Printers and Printing in Llanrwst" by S.I.W.J. Benjamin, of Bethesda], [he] was a keen musician and learned the specialised art of setting music. He came to work for Isaac Clarke and set Owain Alaw's "Gems of Welsh Melody.” He then worked in London for John Curwen and Sons, returning to work for Thomas Gee at Denbigh. He had choirs at both Ruthin and Denbigh.
These are some of Ruthin's printers of the past. There is sufficient evidence to show that in Wales, Ruthin was in the forefront as a printing centre in the nineteenth century.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: DENBIGHSHIRE FREE PRESS, 1910; MR OSWALD EDWARDS - "RLHB N0:9"; MR TREVOR ALDRICH'S "FAMILY HISTORY".
For centuries, fairs have played an important role in the social life of the town. Going back three hundred years, there is in the Council minute book of 1646 an entry referring to such a fair held at the end of July. Part of the minute reads:-
"August Fair [called "Sampson Epis"] in Ruthin the Beaste Fayre always to be kept on 28th July, the Whites Fayre ever the 29th July being the next day."
The Beaste Fayre can be readily appreciated as the butchers and farmers market, where town and country met to buy meat, to sell cattle for slaughter and to replenish herds.
There are three clues which give us some indication as to the ancient origin of these two fair days. The first occurs earlier in the minute book when it states that the fair "neere upon 400 years ago", which would indeed have dated before the charter of the town or the Edwardian conquest. One might treat this dating with some caution, for Stuart perception of the 13th century may have been vaguer than our own.
The next clue lies in the dedication of the fair to Sampson Epis[co] - Bishop Sampson. There is no trace of a Bishop Sampson in the diocese of Menevia, but if one looks back beyond the Roman Church, there are legends of a Celtic saint "Sampson". Another hint, perhaps, of the antiquity of this fair.
The last clue is in the name of the fair itself - "Whites Fayre". Perhaps the fair might have been named after St. White or Witts, a Saxon saint, patron saint of cheese-makers. What would be more natural than to call a cheese fair a "white fair". On the other hand, it might be attributable to the White Friars or Carmelites brought to Ruthin by De Grey when he founded the collegiate church. But perhaps all this is just speculation!
One thing is clear, however, that towards the end of the civil war [1642-1649], the social and economic life of the town, was continuing as normal.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: N. TUCKER, DENBS. HIST SOCY. TRANS, VOL.9; MINUTE B00K.
RUTHIN STREET BY STREET SERIES [Note this article was written in 1988 so many properties have changed use and ownership since then]
UPPER CLWYD STREET
Upper Clwyd Street is part of the town's medieval street pattern and its name has varied over the years from "Little Clwyd Street" to "Upper Clwyd Street". Along it are several locations and properties of great interest.
NO: 1 was the first of an almost continuous series of inns. In 1829, it was licensed as "The King's Head" and Jane Lloyd was the publican. The crowned head of red earthenware which once graced this building was transferred to the frontage of Mr Trebor Hughes' shop at NO 20 Clwyd Street, where it is still to be seen. More recently, this became the locally well-known "Greenwich Cafe", run by Miss Owen.
NO: 2 is an ancient building which survived the demolition of Exmewe House [Barclay's Bank] and was once known as "The Bee Hive". It is now part of K. Hugh Dodd's Estate Office, the front of which looks onto the Square.
Apart from the dental surgery, the side on Upper Clwyd Street has the appearance of a separate establishment.
NO: 3, "The Spread Eagles", as it is still known, was certainly an inn in 1829 when Margaret Roberts was the publican. Later, in 1879, it was advertised as a brewery also, when Joseph Morris was the licensee. It ceased to be an inn in 1915.
This was the hostelery which Robert Roberts ["Y Sgolar Mawr"), the 21 year old Head Master of Borthyn School, liked to patronise. His illuminating account of his very short stay in Ruthin [1855-1857] is to be found in his autobiography "The Life and Opinions of Robert Roberts, A Wandering Scholar." Here "a nightly symposium" was held and the home brew, even in this town of potent brews, was famous. He described the dimly-lit scene with its smoke-filled atmosphere. Sitting around a bright fire might have been found: loud-voiced Governor Evans of the gaol; prim, quiet, rich, close-fisted John Jones; Bill B.[ancroft?], the chemist, sweet on John's daughter; Ben Williams, a clever harum-scarum genius; David Lewis and Hugh Roberts, the wags of the group; Fred Jones, the Parish Clerk; Armstrong, the Exciseman.
The property was more recently tenanted by two brothers and a sister and run, by contrast, as a temperance-hotel. One of the brothers, Idris Jones, acquired a Model "T" Ford motor car and operated a taxi business which continued for many years. These cars were generally quite reliable, except that the footbrakes tended to wear quickly, and the story is told that one of Idris's passengers remarked on one occasion that they had come down the Bwlch rather quickly. Idris explained tersely: "No brakes"!
"The Old Coffee House", at the top of the -Spread Eagles" yard behind what is now the Army and Navy Stores, was sometimes known as "The Bunch of Violets" [or Daffodils], and in 1829, John Simon was the publican.
NO: 4, now a stationer's and newsagent's shop, has quite remarkably fulfilled this function since the beginning of the nineteenth century. Mr Robert Jones was there in 1825 as printer, bookseller and stationer. The printing works were located in the cellar beneath the shop.
Mr Jones died at the age of 75 in 1853 and was followed by his son James, then in 1862 by his sister M.C. Jones who in 1873 was followed by her niece, M.A. Jones. Mr W. Green, Jnr., [Mr William Green Snr. being the proprietor of The Castle Hotel] followed and he in turn was succeeded in 1891 by Mr & Mrs Charles Aldrich. Mr Aldrich was an Englishman who came to Ruthin as an accountant employed by the railway company to set-up offices at newly opened stations. He married Mary Jane Jones and settled in Ruthin taking up new employment with Ellis' Mineral Water Company in Mwrog Street, where they lived. Mary Jane took on the running of this business and she was succeeded by her two daughters. The business remained in their hands until they retired in 1944.
The site now occupied by NO:5 previously accommodated the well-known "The Prince of Wales" inn, built c.1601. It was "a heavy looking stone building" with massive square pillars in the front". The pillars supported the upper storey beneath which was an open "drive-in" area. In one small corner was the bookbinding shop of Peter Vaughan.
"The Prince of Wales" was the venue for the local Cymmrodorion Society which flourished at the beginning of the eighteenth century. It was the custom to hold a local eisteddfod on St. David's Day, which, in 1823, was presided over by the Venerable Archdeacon Newcombe, Warden of Ruthin. Among the members were some of the most eminent contemporary literati, viz., Thomas Edwards ["Twm o'r Nant"]; R. Davies ["Bardd Nantglyn"]; J. Parry, Esq. ["Bardd Alaw"?], Plas Towerbridge; Rev. John Blackwell ["Alun”], Mold; T. Williams, Clochydd, Llanfair D.C.; David Griffith ["Clwydfardd"], Robert Llwyd., etc.
On these occasions, the Society first attended a special service at St. Peter's Church. A solemn procession, headed by their President, with all participating wearing emblematic leeks, made its way to the church after which the procession re-formed and paraded the principal streets before sitting down to a sumptuous lunch at "The Prince of Wales" to the accompaniment of a harp, on this occasion played by Gwallter Mechain:
"Plethiadau tanau tynion - Y Delyn
i'r dilesg feddylion;
Odlau saint yw adlais hon,
Llais neu Pawl llys nefolion."
After the meal, many toasts were suitably and generously proposed.
These colourful pageants lapsed after a few years, but were revived c.1875, thanks to the exertions of Huw Conwy, J. Simon and Mr Walmsley, Rhuddfryn, and an energetic committee, which initially met at the Star Inn and later at the Spread Eagle. Their eisteddfodau were held at the newly available Town Hail in Market Street under the Presidency of the Mayor. Lewis Jones ("Rhuddenfab") published "Jones' Handbook for Ruthin and Vicinity" in 1884, which was a prize-winning essay written by Mr T.P. Humphreys for this eisteddfod.
"The Prince of Wales" was also the birth place of Welsh Wesleyan Methodism in Ruthin. In 1800, the Rev. D. Jones of Holywell obtained a licence for the use of a room here for their initial meetings, prior to their building their first chapel in Mill Street in 1802.
This was one of the buildings demolished by Mr Thomas Bealey who replaced it with the present substantial building, with its fine architectural detailing, particularly around the eaves. It's first use, almost inevitably, was as a tavern but it then accommodated The London and Provincial Bank under the managership of Mr A. Pollard Lewis. It was subsequently acquired by Mr Vernon Jones the Dentist [whose practice continues at 2a, Upper Clwyd Street] as a residence and, in what is now a shop, a dental surgery. Following Mr Vernon Jones' retirement, it has been mainly residential with a number of commercial purposes. The outbuildings may well have been part of the original "Prince of Wales", if the appearance of the roof structure is not deceptive.
Between "The Prince of Wales" and NO. 7, was located "The Coffee House" which may have occupied the space now taken by Mrs Gearey's garden at NO: 5.
NO.7 Clwyd Street, recently "The Seven Club", was formerly "The Waterloo" inn, named after the battle of 1815, the year in which in it was first licensed. Little seems to be known of it prior to that, but it is believed to have been built in the seventeenth century as a private house and there is still a coat of arms in plasterwork bearing the date "1611" and the initials "I.H.M." Likewise, there are very finely carved mantles in wood around a fireplace with the same arms and other decorative work.
These decorations are hidden behind protective boarding. While it has not been possible to verify this, it is reasonable to suppose that the initials and the arms are of the Moyle family, the town millers, who came to the town with the De Greys. "The Waterloo" became the headquarters of one of three local Friendly Societies for men [the other two being based upon "The Cross Keys", and "The Red Lion".] formed to enable people to "insure" themselves against illness or accident. There were two ladies' societies, one at Ruthin and the other at Bontuchel. Members of the Waterloo Club or Society were known as "Ivorites".
The inn's licence lapsed in 1905 and the premises were then used as a Liberal Club with a reading room and a young people's club. From 1926, the premises reverted to private use when Mr W.O. ["Webb"] Aldrich, son of Mr Charles Aldrich, took-up residence. "Webb" was a plumber and heating engineer, also captain of St. Peter's bell-ringers. He died in 1934.
SOURCES: Mr H. Stanley Williams; The late Mr Tecwyn Roberts; Mr Trevor Aldrich - "Family History"; Mr W.J. Pritchard; "Jones' Handbook for Ruthin and Vicinity" ("Rhuddenfab"]; William Davies "Handbook for the Vale of Clwyd"; Denbighshire Free Press, 1910, 1944/5.