RUTHIN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET ISSUE 16 December 1988
MOYLE’S MILL by Ian Gough (Clwyd Department of Architecture, Planning and Estates)
The old castle mill (c.1300), a grade 2 listed building, is presently being converted to residential use. Regular readers (RBS No 14 pp 3-4) will be aware that this interesting feature of the town’s heritage served several purposes during its first 600 years and has been extensively modified from time to time.
The present remodeling has exposed some interesting “finds” in the basement. Some carved stones were seen to be incorporated into the internal masonry of the north and west walls, and score marks made by the water wheel on the walls either side of what was once the water wheel pit. These marks suggest that the diameter of the wheel was approx. 5.2m by 3.9m breast.
The first of the carvings, found originally in the north wall of the basement, may be briefly described as an illustration of horse and man’s head. The man’s head is badly worn, with almost no nose, and appears to be bearded. The hair is straight, possibly covering the ears with a straight lower edge between ears and collar and curling forwards. The hair style is unlikely to be post-restoration. So the period 1620-1680 appears the most likely. The initial letters I.R. appear above these images, carved in 17th century style lettering.
Secondly, stones incorporated as quoins of the lancet window in the west elevation with initials, with the horse and apparently a winged cherub's head features appearing again alongside the initials "T.M." Above this, a somewhat indeterminate figure appears with other initials above which appear to be "J.B." over the letter "M" with the date, "1855, April"
The interpretation of the images of the horse, the head and the cherub is somewhat difficult if not speculative. The use of a cherub may suggest some kind of memorial and "The Horse and Head" might have been an inn-sign or carved to commemorate some local event or hero. The date: "1855, April" suggests the making of alterations to the building, but E.L. Barnwell in his 1856 account in Arch. Camb. reports that the tenant "raised the structure" i.e. the roof, with perhaps other alterations, "some years ago". They may be simply idle doodling, or even graffiti. It should not be taken for granted, of course, that these particular stones were necessarily carved for use in the particular location in which they were found. They could easily have been re-used from another building in the vicinity during the course of alterations.
The "M" initial letter is, of course, evocative of the name of the town miller - "MOYLE". The genealogy of the Moyle [or Mull or Mola] family is a little obscure but such information as there is may conveniently be found in "The History of Powys Fadog" [Vol.6, p.372] from which it will be seen that a Thomas Moyle is recorded, who would have been great, great grandfather of the Ambrose Moyle who died in 1677 at the early age of 29 years. Crudely calculated, this would put Thomas in the first half of the sixteenth century.
“The History of Powys Fadog" [Vol.4., p.242] tells us that a Thomas Moyle "of Coed Marchan, near Rhuddin" had a daughter Catherine who married David Maurice of Pen y bont, an Attorney in Ludlow, fourth son of Maurice ab Meredyth of Lloran Uchaf, and therefore an antecedent of James Maurice [see below].
As to the initials "J.B.M.", the three earliest generations recorded in Powys Fadog, and designated "Steward of Ruthin", are referred to as "John Mull or Moyle". Whether any one of these had a second name is not recorded.
The initials "P.M." and "M.M." have been associated with the date 1655 as both the initials and date were once to be found, until c.1859, at Porth-y-Dwr [65, Clwyd Street] with armorial bearings. "P.M." seems to have been Peter, the Castle Miller of that period, and who died on 25th October, 1702, This Peter had a sister "Mary" and his mother was "Margaret". Whether or not he was married is not recorded in Powys Fadog but Barnwell [Arch. Comb. 1856, pp.284/5.] states that he did leave issue. This Ruthin family survived until the end of the 18th century. The arms of both Peter and Ambrose Moyle were, prior to Penson's 1859 restoration of St. Peter's church, suspended over the family pew. The arms are described as, sable, 2 lions rampant argent, so they do not appear to offer a connection with our new-found images.
Besides the externally visible features of the elevations, there is also a small millstone [c. 2ft diameter] in the back yard and a small cast iron mill cog forms part of a tie across the rear elevation of the building. It might at this juncture be appropriate to point out that the drawing published in Arch. Comb. 1856 pp.284/5 should be viewed with some caution as it seems that the pitched dormer windows, which are shown as such a prominent feature of the roof never existed in reality. Likewise, stonework is shown at first floor level where today there is brickwork.
The finds were reported to Mr Tony Parkinson, an investigator with the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments in Wales, and his observations and interpretations, for which I am most grateful, have been incorporated in this short article.
JAMES MAURICE (1800-1876) Part 1
During most of the nineteenth century, local government was administered by a number of organisations with considerable local autonomy. These consisted of the church vestry, the Quarter Sessions, the Board of Guardians, and in Ruthin, the Borough Council. However, probably until nearly the end of the century, there was another quite unofficial influence, the most important and effective, that of the local landowners who in Ruthin were the Wests of the Castle.
Someone who could influence all five elements of local administration was indeed a man of considerable authority in the town. Such a man was James Maurice. He was churchwarden, Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Denbigh, Mayor for four years in succession, chairman of the Board of Guardians for over twenty years, appointed Treasurer for the County of Denbigh in 1869, and probably most important of all, friend and confidant of Frederick West.
Born in 1800, James Maurice came from Marlborough in Hampshire. His father was Thelwall Maurice, M.D., also of Marlborough and descended from a very old Welsh family of Glen Cynllaith in the Oswestry area, part of "The House of Lloran", one of the Royal Tribes of Wales [Yorke, p.114].
James Maurice was by profession a lawyer, called to the Bar at the Middle Temple in 1853, a Liberal by political conviction and a practising Christian. The following doggerel composed for one of his election campaigns gives clues as to the character of the man:
"If a donkey you are wanting, my honey,
Then James is the man for your money
He can hunt and can ride for the Boroughs
And come in at the death with loud hurrahs
And then he can speak for us all
Just you ask Dr Dodd and Sir Paul
Oh the low minded wretches who brawl
In the Streets! How excessively small
(With his speeches dash'd off at a blow
Not got up beforehand, oh no...)
He has made them all look! So my darlings
Don't vote for them other two vermins
But vote for James Maurice the bean
And you will never repent it I know.”
While this may not be found in the Cambridge Anthology of English Verse, it does give a glimpse, for example, of horsemanship, perhaps a picture of a Regency buck. He was certainly born in the Regency period when appreciation of horsemanship was at its zenith. Not merely a keen horseman, he was fond of the ladies, cared for the less fortunate, e.g., paying for the schooling of the son of his servant, amongst other acts of kindness. The influences of that period probably remained throughout his life for although he would have been too young to have participated in Regency society, the ambience of that era stayed with him until mid-Victorian times. At least, some of the qualities that the less serious historian attributes to those times pervaded his life in Ruthin.
Described by a contemporary as "an irascible character", James Maurice came to Ruthin to act as executor of the Will of his uncle, Thomas Maurice, of Plas Tirion, Well Street. The Will is dated 1836 and the first mention of his living in Ruthin is found in the 1851 census in which he is recorded as living with his aunt Ann Maurice at Plas Tirion. He is described in the census as a Justice of the Peace. He brought with him his groom, George Gilbert, from Marlborough. Maurice has left a series of diaries for us to study, but unfortunately these are no more than a set of petty cash books. However, from these one may piece together, albeit fragmented, a picture of Victorian, urban Wales.
The household at Plas Tirion during the 1850s was a modest one by the standards of the period. There was his aunt, Gilbert the groom and two female servants, Mary Roberts the cook and Ruth Pickering, described as "general servant". This may have been a misnomer for two reasons. Firstly, she was paid more than the cook, who generally would have been considered the more senior. Secondly, when Maurice was away for a long period, housekeeping money and wages for her and Roberts were sent to Pickering. On 23rd March, 1850, there is a brief entry "Mary Roberts came to live and have wages of £10.10s.0d. p.a." Ruth Pickering was paid £12, p.a. and these wages were paid quarterly but not always promptly. Gilbert was the fortunate one, being paid £25, p.a. and on occasions, paid in advance.
There was also a regular payment of 2/5d, paid for the schooling of Ruth Pickering's son, part of Maurice's generosity. The boy did not live at Plas Tirion and one might assume these were the fees for the boy to attend Borthyn National School. This school was one of Maurice's public interests as he served on the Board of Governors and subscribed £1 to the school quite regularly. Helping with the household work was the washerwoman, Margaret Edwards, who was paid at a rate of approx. 5/- per week. Sometimes this is described as 5/- per wash and on other occasions she is paid a sum of money that is not a multiple of 5/-. One might have a little sympathy for Margaret Edwards for there are occasions when she is paid almost £2, which would of course mean that she was being paid for eight washes in arrears and in the meantime she would have to find the soap and fuel.
In 1851 when, of course, there were no freezers, the household certainly bought in bulk. For example, "fitch of bacon, 65 lbs at 4 1/4d per lb (roughly 2p per pound). Another entry - 2 hams 50 lb at 4 1/2d. and further 101 lb of butter at 9d. per lb. This must have been the strongly salted Welsh butter. The milder Danish butter would not have been readily available in the Vale at this time and would not have been purchased in such quantity because of the absence of keeping properties in the imported butter. There is mention of a cheese weighing 27 1/2 lbs and fairly regularly a cask of wine was opened and bottled. Similarly, half a barrel of ale is tapped and bottled.
It was not only food that Maurice purchased in bulk. Coal, too, was bought in large quantities. In 1850, he purchased 34 tons, amounting to very closely 2 cwt per day to be moved by the two women servants. With this amount of coal burned, there are many entries about the cost of sweeping chimneys. For example, the kitchen and parlour cost 3/6d, which appears expensive at a time when a labourer might earn only 1.8d. per day. Besoms cost 4d. each and these were bought in half dozen lots. Soap was bought in large blocks for there are entries recording Maurice cutting up 4 dozen and 7 pieces of soap.
Let us now leave the microcosm of Victorian domesticity and examine the entries in the Maurice diaries that cover his two visits to the Great Exhibition of 1851. He engaged in the pursuits that might have been expected of an affluent, forty year old bachelor, going to the theatres in the Haymarket and Drury Lane. Unfortunately there are no details. He also visited Westminster Abbey, the Royal Academy, Westminster Hall, the House of Lords and paid a courtesy call on Mrs West at their Eaton Square home.
There are a series of laconic, intriguing entries - "Drive into the woods with Mistress ..."; "Went to Bamsbury Manor with Mrs D.P.N."; "To the forest in the pony carriage with Mrs…"; A very wet day. Went a drive with Mrs….", and finally?, "To the forest". One feels that this final entry should have been followed by an exclamation mark.
In the few remarks of this visit to London from the May of 1851 until the August, we have the only clues as to some aspects of the character of the man. He enjoyed the whirl of society, and perhaps the company of the ladies. It is significant, perhaps, that his numerous lady friends are not named in the diary. Had these assignations been strictly platonic, then perhaps we might have learned the names of the ladies involved. Worldly, then, he might have been, but he did not forget his servants in Ruthin. Throughout the visit, there are entries recording monies sent to Ruth. It is interesting that he uses the Christian name rather than the surname.
These are the only glimpses we have of the man's domestic and personal life. Future parts of this biographical account will examine some of his more public roles and his considerable contribution to the town and district.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: RUTHIN RECORD OFFICE, DD/D11/2557; CARNARVON AND DENBIGH HERALD, 1856 - 66.
DID YOU KNOW?
That the public telephone system was launched in the 1870s by a sceptical Post Office? If anyone had an urgent message to send, why they reasoned, didn’t people simply send a servant with it?
But, in 1884, the first public call boxes were installed. To gain access to some, the customer dropped a penny into a slot in the door. Others were manned by attendants who collected your money and called the operator.
Some of these boxes were grand, with thatched roofs, or made like a log cabin, and furnished with tables and chairs. A policeman once caught four men having a smoke and playing cards in great comfort on a Sunday!
The service reached Ruthin c.1897. The first installation was for Mr Marcus Louis, Solicitor, connecting his Manor House office, Well Street, to his home at Brynhyfryd Park, [now part of Brynhyfryd School], Rhos Street. Also in that year, "The Denbighshire Free Press" reported 'a telephone wire has just been set-up between the two establishments of Messrs A.M. and R.H. Williams, butchers, of Tudor House, Well Street, and the Pork Shop in Clwyd Street.' Dr J. Medwyn Hughes's telephone number was "3". A "full installation" was provided for Ellis's Mineral Water Works, Mwrog Street.
These systems were not initially connected to the national telephone network which reached as far as Denbigh. Only eight subscribers were needed to justify the opening of an exchange. "Surely", the 'Free Press' thundered, "there should be nothing..." to prevent this!
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: DENBIGHSHIRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY TRANSACTIONS, VOL. 26PP, 84-94; WILLIAM DAVIES, “HANDBOOK FOR THE VALE OF CLWYD”; JONES, “HANDBOOK FOR RUTHIN AND VICINITY”; “DENBIGHSHIRE FREE PRESS”, 1910,1917
RUTHIN STREET-BY-STREET SERIES [Note many properties have changed use and ownership since written]
St PETER’S SQUARE PART 1
In continuing our survey of Ruthin's medieval streets, we next deal with the Square, known variously as "Pendref" or, until comparatively recently, as "The Market Place". Before considering each, or most, of the existing properties and when possible their predecessors, it is proposed firstly to take a general look at the Square and certain of its features, past and present.
THE TOWN PUMP
Between the original seventeenth century Town Hall and what is now the Post Office was located the town pump. This artesian well was sunk to a depth of 440 feet by the Corporation in 1843/4, but the water did not rise to the surface with sufficient force so a pump was installed c.1860 to facilitate the drawing of water. With the arrival of the Water Works in 1871, the well was stopped. The supply was freely available to anyone who was prepared to fetch and carry and was a notorious centre for gossip.
THE TOWN STOCKS/PILLORY
Likewise at the north end of the old town hall was "the seat of repentance", as the stocks were known, and apparently familiar to "an army of transgressors". They seem to have been used to give the familiar "short, sharp, shock" for such offences as drunkenness and the duration of the sojourn in this uncomfortable furniture depended upon the seriousness attached to the offence. It seems to have varied from about three to six hours
THE OLD TOWN HALL [see "R.B.S. NO: 14"]
Erected in 1663, it is said, with the stones from the ruined chancel of St. Peter's Church - stumps of which remain beneath the base of the spire at the east end of the church; demolished in 1863, its precise site was outlined by kerbstones, with a cobblestone in-fill, now covered by tarmacadam. Proposals for its demolition were first mooted in 1781 because it was even then considered that it was not a fit place for the Court of Great Sessions to meet, a practice which was in fact discontinued in 1779. Up until then, Sessions had been held alternately in Ruthin and Wrexham.
A John Thomas photograph survives giving a clear picture of this rather grim and dingy edifice which was located surprisingly close to the Myddelton Arms. Its demolition may be ascribed to the influence of the Cornwallis Wests whose foresight, as seems to have been applauded at the time, greatly improved the visual and amenity value of the Square.
THE MARKET CROSS
The Ruthin Corporation records state "Be it remembered that in September, 1759, the Old Cross standing and situated between the Town Hall in Ruthin and the Shambles or Old Hall were taken down, being decayed and in a ruinous condition." There is a tradition that part of this Cross was used to form a step front at the junction of the Nave with the Chancel at Efenechtyd Church.
This primitive occupation was a highly popular past-time on St. Peter's Square and life was very much geared towards it. There was a convenient pub called "The Bull", located where Market Street now joins the Square. The baiting chain was kept here on behalf of the Warden and Churchwardens who derived some income from its hire.
The Rev. R. Williams [a visitor to the town] described the procedure thus: "When everything was ready, the bellman went through the town proclaiming that the bull would be brought to the stake in a quarter of an hour's time, and that every householder was to put up his shutters, keep his children in, and fasten his door. The bull was then fastened to the ring by a rope and the dogs laid on by their masters."
The "stake stone", with ring attached, was removed from the Square c.1840.
THE FIRST ELECTRIC STREET LIGHT
"We congratulate our Gas Company upon the 'latest novelty introduced by them. This of itself is sufficient evidence that they desire to advance with the times. The Electric light hitherto has not been able to compete with gas, more especially for economy, and as Economy is now the by-word amongst our local celebrities we anticipate that the Company will see their way clear to dispense with the sliding scale adopted by Act of Parliament, and , sooner or later - possibly later - prevent the approach of any opposition. If they cannot see their way - by gas light - let them adopt some other means to provide a cheap light and lower the present prices. But we diverge from the subject. We are delighted with the light afforded by the patent burner placed gratuitously by the Company on the stump of the old pump which for so many years has graced the Square - if not actually upon it. The brilliancy, happily, elucidates all the dark corners - of which there should be only four in a square, but we fear there are more - and we appreciate its inquisitive virtues as most of the inhabitants also do. There can be no doubt but what our blue-coated guardians of the peace will find their way to their corner now, even if other poor unfortunates miss the mark, and be the subject of prying enquiry at the top of Prior Street” [from "Ruthin Illustrated Magazine", November, 1879].
Erected in 1883 "to commemorate the private worth and public service of Joseph Peers [d. 1884], an honoured inhabitant of this town who has for the last fifty years filled the office for Clerk of the Peace for the County of Denbigh." Peers wrote individual letters of thanks to each subscriber and enclosed a photograph of himself. DW
THE PEERS MONUMENT/CLOCK SOCIETY DENBIGHSHIRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY TRANSACTIONS, VOL. 26, PP.84-94. WILLIAM DAVIES, "HANDBOOK FOR THE VALE OF CLUB"; JONES, “HANDBOOK FOR RUTHIN AND VICINITY"; DENBIGHSHIRE FREE PRESS, 1910, 1917