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RUTHIN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET                                                                             ISSUE No 20 December 1989


by R M OWEN 

Richard Newcome was born on the 8th March, 1779, at the old parsonage at Gresford. He was the younger of the two sons of the Rev. Henry Newcome, vicar of that parish from 1764 to 1803, and Elizabeth his wife, daughter of Rev. Thomas Hughes, Master of Ruthin School and Rector of Llanfwrog from 1755-76. Henry Newcome was preferred to Gresford by his uncle, Richard Newcombe, Bishop of Llandaff, 1755 to 1761, and Bishop of St. Asaph from 1761 until 1769. The family is thought to have been of German or Dutch descent and to have settled in England prior to the Reformation.

Richard was educated initially at Ruthin Grammar School and subsequently at Hackney Grammar School, from where he entered Queen's College, Cambridge, which at the time was presided over by Dr Newcome, a relative of his father. After graduating B.A. in 1800 (and M.A. in 1804) he was ordained deacon in September, 1801, by Bishop Begot and priest in September, 1802, by Bishop Horsley of St. Asaph. In March, 1804, he was licensed to the curacy of Wrexham, which post he resigned on his appointment in June of that year as Warden of Ruthin and Rector of the adjoining parish of Llanfwrog.

The Registers record the baptisms of eight children in the period 1808 - 1823, there being three sons and five daughters. At the time of the 1851 census, four adult children were still living with their parents at the Cloisters, William the youngest son being described as a farmer of 124 acres, employing four men.

At the time of the vacancies, due to the death of Rev. W. Parry, these livings were in the gift of The Dean and Chapter of Westminster and the Archbishop of Canterbury respectively.

He was subsequently presented by Bishop Majendie of Bangor to that of Clocaenog in 1829. He resigned the last mentioned preferment on his appointment as Archdeacon of Merioneth on the death of John Jones in 1834. From 1821 to 1834 he held the stall of Canonicus Tertius at Bangor Cathedral and was also Rural dean of Dyffryn Clwyd during this period.

 In 1851, on the death of Dr Howard, he accepted the living of Llanrhaiadr Dyffryn Clwyd in exchange for the more laborious, but not less valuable, preferments of Ruthin and Llanfwrog.. At this time, all the parishes mentioned were in the Diocese of Bangor.

On his first coming to Ruthin, Newcome found the Warden’s house – the Cloisters, formerly the dwelling of the collegiate clergy in a sorry and neglected condition. In 1804, he laid out about £1,500 on its improvement, followed by a further £400 during the period 1830-33. During his long wardenship, he also undertook alterations and improvements to St. Peter's Church and is said to have spent a good deal of his private means in these several enterprises. During 1810, the north and south naves were raised to the level of the chancel. A year later, the first small organ was installed in a loft at the west end of the south nave. At the same time, a new west gallery was erected in the north nave to accommodate scholars of Ruthin School. By 1823, additional seating was constructed over part of the north nave between the existing galleries. In 1824, entirely at his own expense, he erected a first floor vestry at the east end of the tower. By 1843, six new bells were installed.

Newcome was keenly interested in education and established a National School in the town. During the latter part of his incumbency, he was instrumental in rebuilding the school on the site of the old building. At the time, this school was generally acknowledged to be one of the best conducted and most successful in the Principality.

On 24th December, 1806, Newcome was elected and admitted Burgess of the Borough of Ruthin, and some two years later was sworn Alderman. He was subsequently appointed Justice of the Peace.

On 21st February, 1826, a meeting of parishioners and friends of the good Warden was convened by the Aldermen of the Borough to be held at the Town Hall with H. Maysmor, Esq., in the chair. It was resolved unanimously, on the motion of R. Humphrey Jones, seconded by Rev. Francis Owen, that 'having regard for the esteem held by the meeting for the Warden as a Clergyman, Alderman, and Magistrate, that a subscription list be opened to purchase a piece of plate to be presented to him' !

During his undergraduate days, he became acquainted with Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby - The Ladies of Llangollen - and during a fifty year friendship, became a frequent visitor to Plas Newydd, Llangollen. A carved lion which he presented to them is still to be seen at the house.

Richard Newcome had a life-long interest in Welsh antiquarian matters. In 1825, he had published at the Taliesin Press, Ruthin, by Robert Jones, 'Memoirs of Gabriel Goodman, D.D., Dean of Westminster, and Godfrey Goodman, D.D., Bishop of Gloucester.' Other publications included 'An Assize Sermon on the Nature and Obligation of an Oath', preached in St. Peter's Church on 12th August, 1820, published by Thomas Gee the elder, and 'A Charge to the Clergy of the Archdeaconry of Meirioneth', delivered at the new Church at Harlech on 1st July, 1842, and published by Robert Jones at the Royal Victoria Press, Ruthin.

At the Royal Eisteddfod held at Denbigh in 1828, he was presented with a silver medal for a prize winning entry entitled 'The Castle and Town of Denbigh'. At this eisteddfod, Newcome was listed as a sponsor, a committee member and a competitor. He also delivered the adjudication for the best English Essay on 'An Historical Account of the Flintshire Castles', the winner being Angharad Llwyd. The following year, his entry was published by Thomas Gee the elder at Denbigh; his 'Account of the Castle and Town of Ruthin' being published by the Taliesin Press at Ruthin, also in 1829. This latter work was dedicated to the Ruthin Welsh Literary Society, and is still generally accepted as the definitive and, indeed, the only comprehensive work on the town and its castle [up to that time].

Although there is no conclusive evidence that Newcome was a fluent Welsh speaker, it is clear that he was prominent in the activities of the Ruthin Cymrodorion Society. According to Lewis Jones ('Rhuddenfab'), this society held its annual meetings at the Prince of Wales tavern in Upper Clwyd Street on St. David's Day 'under the Presidency of the Venerable Archdeacon Newcome'.

It is said that he was once in his garden at the Cloisters, when he chanced to hear a Welsh sermon being preached by Christmas Evans, the eminent Baptist minister, from the meadow below on the banks of the River Clwyd. The text of the sermon was 'The Prodigal Son' and Newcome is said to have remarked, somewhat ungrammatically, "Wel fi darllen a clywed am y mab Afradlon and fi gweled o 'rwan'." ['Well, I have read and heard of the Prodigal Son, but now I see him before me.']

Archdeacon Newcome died at Llanrhaiadr on 7th August, 1857, and was buried in the family vault in St. Peter's. In the north nave there are handsome brasses to the memory of the much respected Warden and of his widow, Frances, and children. Newcome's will was proved in 1858, and surprisingly the estate was valued at less than £1,000. By then, the widow Frances Newcome was described as "of Upper Eyarth in the Parish of Llanfair D.C." [i.e. Eyarth Ucha or Eyarth Hall].

There is little doubt that during his long Wardenship of Ruthin, extending over 47 years, he earned the love, respect and admiration of his parishioners. At his funeral, many expressions of regret were shown by the inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood. Business in the town was totally suspended and all the shops closed. The remains were met near the entrance to the town on the Denbigh road by the Mayor and corporate body, together with the White and Red Lion Friendly Societies of which the Archdeacon was a founder. His place as Warden of Ruthin was filled by the Rev. Bulkely Owen Jones - between them, they held this office for 105 years.




However well-known the Goodman family may be locally, Gawen is something of an enigma. But the Elizabethan adventurer, Captain Thomas Prys [1564?-1634] of Plas Iolyn, Ysbytty Ifan, gives us a precious glimpse of Gawen's character and nature. Fortunately, the Rev. John Fisher, B.D, F.S.A., one-time curate at St. Peter's Church, Ruthin, edited "The Cefn Coch MSS.", published by Isaac Foulkes, also of Ruthin, in 1899. These manuscripts were owned by William Lloyd of Cefn Coch, Ruthin, to whom the 1899 edition was dedicated.

Prys established his own reputation, but his antecedents enjoyed equal if not greater fame and renown. His father Elis was known as 'Y Doctor Coch' ['The Red Doctor' - after the colour of the gown of his degree]. Elis's grandfather, Rhys, fought with great distinction at Bosworth, rescuing Henry's Standard in the heat of battle and slaying Richard III.

Captain Prys saw a good deal of the world as a sailor, soldier and poet. As a privateer, he sailed against the Spaniards and humorously described a painful and unsuccessful experience as a result of the fierce resistance put up by the Spaniards. Later, in 1588, he was an army officer when Queen Elizabeth reviewed her army at Tilbury.

Gawen needed a horse, and the poem [pp. 67-70] specifies quite precisely the kind needed. Gawen had evidently spotted just what he wanted in the stables of Sir Robert Salusbury. Perhaps Sir Robert was a difficult man with whom to do business, or maybe the horse was too good to sell, but the 'cowydd' was designed to beguile Sir Robert into agreeing to a sale.

As might be expected, Sir Robert, heir to Bachymbyd and Rug was subjected to flattery, and likened to, among other things, 'a guileless peacock', like a lion to his enemies, like lamb to the weak, and above all, generous.

Gawen made his approach humbly but not obsequiously. He confessed his faults. He did perhaps drink his share. He might be lively, sharp, even sometimes angry in company. But he spoke with humour, wit and wisdom, and was good company. He spoke nine languages, was Godly - even in drink, free with his money, generous and would have given away even the shirt off his back, when drunk, otherwise nothing could be got out of him.

This makes an interesting comparison with Dean Gabriel, his brother, who was elsewhere described as "a grave, solemn man, yet . . . peradventure too severe" [Strype], as his portraits tend to confirm. Be that as it may, Gawen inherited the family business as mercer and local tradition has it that he built for himself a small mansion, "Coed y Gawen" [recently demolished] just out of Ruthin on the Corwen road. As with so many houses of this type, it eventually became a farmhouse.

Interestingly, Gawen took as his second wife Gaynor Prys, sister of the author of the 'cowydd'. He was buried in St. Peter's Church on 23rd April, 1604 and is commemorated on the family brass memorial, as a bearded figure kneeling immediately behind his father.



ST. PETER’S SQUARE 5 [Note many properties have changed use and ownership since written]

Difficult though it is for us to visualise, the appearance of St. Peter's Square in the vicinity of what is now the Midland Bank and the entrance to Market Street, would have been markedly different in the early 19th century. A plan at the National Library at Aberystwyth shows that where the Midland Bank now stands, was a block of property owned by a Mr Williams, through which ran an entrance road to gardens situated roughly where the hotel dining room now stands.

Prior to the construction of the present building accommodating the bank, the previous building, which came into the ownership of the Castle estate, was a confectionery and bakery shop run by Mr Thomas Trehearne. Mr Trehearne contracted with the Grammar School [see "R.B.S. NOs: 2; 17] and found himself the centre of a political controversy and legal action in connection with the 1857 General Election. Thereafter, Mr Robert Lloyd ran a Chemist's shop here and afterwards it became Dicks's Boot Store.

Mr R. Harris Jones then took a lease of the premises on the corner of St. Peter's Square and Market Street on 1st May, 1898 for a period of 21 years. He functioned here as "silk mercer, family draper, hosier and glover, oilcloths, linoleums, other floor coverings, and dressmaker". Mr Harris Jones had originally established his business in premises, previously occupied by a Mr William Lloyd, at the junction of Well Street and Record Street.

The building which Mr Harris Jones occupied from 1898 was relatively new, having been constructed in about 1876 by Mr Robert Lloyd. A photograph taken in 1899 at the time of the visit of Edward, Prince of Wales, is of a quite handsome building apparently in good condition. It is also well illustrated in the Burrows 1908 Guide. Plans of it show a room on the corner which served as a shop, with a show room above, while the rest of the accommodation is domestic, including four bedrooms, with windows fronting the Square and Market Street. An illustration of the Square, which appeared in William Davies' "Handbook for The Vale of Clwyd", published by Isaac Clarke in 1856 shows a quite different building on this site. The shop and house was put up for sale in 1913 by the Castle Estate and, with the Castle Hotel and the Myddelton Arms [then not licensed, but used as offices by Mr G.F. Byford], was purchased for a total of £3,200 by Mr William Owen. The lease expired in 1919 and Mr Jones transferred to what is now Gayla House.

Mr Harris Jones was also well-known as a musician who very successfully ran both an orchestra and the Ruthin and District choir. He was also a very prominent member of the Tabernacle Chapel and employed his talents to assist "the English Cause" in establishing itself in the Town Hall and eventually in building a new chapel in Wynnstay Road.

At this time, the Midland Bank was housed in the Town Hall and the bank purchased their present site from Mr Owen. Woolfall and Eccles, the Liverpool architects, produced designs in 1923 and the present building was completed in 1925 or 1926.

NO: 19; "IHE BULL" [now demolished].
This was located at the mouth of Market Street which was formed in 1862 with the coming of the railway, and was demolished to make way for the new road.
Bull-baiting was once a popular sport engaged in on the Square and the bull chain was held by the Warden and Churchwardens of St. Peter's Church; it could be hired from them for one shilling and it had to be returned in good condition!

NO: 2; [now the GWC carpet & furniture store, with Ethel Austen's shop].
This is another ancient timber-framed building, which may originally have been a medieval hall-house with a wing. In the nineteenth century, however, the building as now was occupied in two parts. The part now serving as a carpet/ furniture shop was then Messrs Williams and Edwards's ironmonger's shop.
That part now occupied by Ethel Austen's shop was occupied by Jones the Quaker Baker [see R.B.S. NOs: 11 & 12]. An interesting small feature, which seems to have disappeared quite recently was a fire insurance plaque, bearing the initials and date - "IT., R.B., and E., 1622." This related to the former practice whereby, on the occurrence of a fire, the fire brigade would first of all check whether a building was properly insured - as indicated by a plaque displayed in a prominent position - and when this was the case, the brigade proceeded to tackle the fire. The insurance company would then be invoiced to cover the cost of the exercise.

It would appear that the tenant following Mr Jones the baker was Mr Robert T. Hughes, greengrocer, gardener, and seedsman. Access to the shop was then by means of a few steps. Mr Robert Hughes was prominent in the town for many years not only as a businessman but also in public life, being a member of the town Council, Alderman and Mayor in 1927-8.

The entire block was sold by the Castle in the first sale in 1913 and Mr Hughes transferred his business to 8/10, Clwyd Street, to the rear of which was an extensive market garden fronting Park Road on which is now located Min-yr-Avon housing estate. Gittins and Beech, appearing in Slater's Trade Director of 1895 as "ironmongers”, St. Peter's Square, adapted the whole premises to their purposes, an extensive ironmongery business fronting the Square and along Market Street. Originally, they opened a garage here, too, but this was soon transferred to Well Street, now occupied by Slater's, who expanded into "The Swan" premises. The section now occupied by Ethel Austin's shop became devoted to the sale of bicycles, sports gear and toys



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