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RUTHIN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET                                                                      Issue No 23, September 1990

The Trustees are grateful to Mr PETER D. RANDALL who has prepared all of the material, including the illustrations, making-up this SPECIAL ISSUE designed "To commemorate the Four Hundredth Anniversary of Christ’s Hospital Ruthin, 1590-1990”

On 17th June 1990, the Governors of the Ruthin Hospital Charities held a Service of Thanksgiving for the 400th anniversary of the founding of Christ's Hospital in 1590 by Gabriel Goodman, Dean of Westminster [1561-1601], at the east end of St. Peter's Church, Ruthin [RBS N0:4, December 1985].

The Chairman of the Governors, The Bishop of St. Asaph, welcomed the present Dean of Westminster, The Very Reverend Michael C.O. Mayne, M.A., who delivered a most appropriate address on Dean Goodman and his life at Westminster. During the Service, the two historic items owned by the Governors were on display on the altar. These were the Hospital Seal dated 1590, and the rare Mazer Bowl of maplewood and silver given by the Dean to the Hospital in 1597.
Following the Service, the Clergy, Archdeacons, Deans of St. Asaph and Westminster, the Bishop, invited guests and congregation, led by the robed choir of St. Peter's Church, walked in procession to the front of Christ's Hospital where the Dean of Westminster unveiled a commemorative sun dial. The Bishop of St. Asaph then presented the Dean with a pewter salver, to represent the two Elizabethan reigns, engraved with an enlarged impression of the Hospital Seal, with a suitable inscription around the rim. The salver is to be placed in the Dean's Library at Westminster Abbey.

This impressive salver was made and engraved by Mr Bernard Butler, a pewtersmith resident at the Craft Centre, Ruthin. At the tea held afterwards in the Memorial Buildings, the Director of the Almshouses Association, Mr John Scott, presented a framed print of the Hospital Seal, with a facsimile of Dean Goodman's signature, to each of the residents of Christ's Hospital as a memento of this historic occasion in the heritage of Ruthin.

NOTE: Complete inscription, 4mm high around silver lip of bowl reads:


The first of an occasional series which will appear from time to time.
Dean Goodman's father, mother and family would have witnessed the carving of the oak roofs over the two naves of St. Peter's Church. The elaborate north nave roof is one of the finest examples of Tudor craftsmanship, in wood, in Wales.
Although the south roof is plainer, with only carved bosses, it draws the eye of the visitor as the chancel end is brightly coloured in blue, white and gold in the style of the original Tudor roof.

During the Wardenship of the Rev. J. Cecil Jones, the two roofs were treated and painted to their present condition. The work of painting the roofs was under-taken in 1965/66 by Gilbert R. Neal of Prestatyn, under the supervision of the Diocesan Architect, Mr R.B. Heaton of Wrexham. The total cost was some £1,331 and is a fitting memorial to the late Rev. J. Cecil Jones and the Churchwardens of the time.

The roofs are low cambered-beamed, moulded and decorated along the principals.

The north nave has 480 panels, of which 408 are carved with traceried circles, heraldic badges, arms, inscriptions and initials. The remaining 72 panels at the west end are painted.

In Edward Pugh's "Cambria Depicta", published in 1816, the following passage is included under Ruthin Church:
 "    Near the west window of the north aisle, which at one time was the nave, it seems a part of the ceiling was unfinished, and it is said that one Davies, an excellent sign painter of the town, now several years ago, was employed to paint those squares in imitation of the carved ones, (and with all due respect to his memory) he has succeeded so well, as to deceive ninetynine out of a hundred who view them "

This may have been the case at the time, but the squares have now deteriorated so that the paintings on the panels are hardly visible. The year of their painting was probably 1735, as in that year both of the roofs were repaired and releaded. The accounts for that year are in the church records and one item paid was the sum of £2.-1s.-6d. to David Davies for painting. This is probably the account for the painting of the 72 panels. Also, in the church burial records is David Davies, painter, who was buried at Ruthin on 14th August 1773.

At the present time the roofs are in good condition, but some year ago, in an effort to retain heat in the building, the space between the two Tudor oak roofs and the 1859 steep pitched slate roofs was insulated with a thick blanket of fibre-glass laid directly onto the ancient roof timbers, thereby restricting the natural breathing of the timbers and trapping condensation and damp which could, in time, severely damage the roofs as much as any insect infestation. At the east end of the north nave, some of the carved panels are showing signs of efflorescence, a white powder deposit, which if not removed will spread to the detriment of the timbers. Such insulation material does not appear to be required in a building the size and age of St. Peter's, as it helps only to retard the detection of any leak through the slated roofs until the damage has been done. Free circulation of air is essential around such large areas of ancient timbers. Both roofs have survived for some 500 years and it is up to our generation, as custodians, to pass these unique carvings on to future generations for them to marvel.

The north roof is still the main attraction of the church, much admired by visitors now and down through the ages. The roof is well worthy of detailed study, and in this series, some of the more important carved panels can be described and illustrated, beginning with those having royal connections.

It can be assumed that the north roof was probably started shortly after the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, by the 4th Baron Grey de Ruthin, 1st Earl of Kent, who was buried in the church in 1489/90. One of the panels at the east end indicates the crown of England over a rose and thorns. The roof would have been completed long before 1600







One of the most important group of four panels at the east end, behind the organ pipes, appear to commemorate the wedding of Prince Arthur, eldest son of Henry VII, to Katherine or Aragon, on 14th November, 1501, at St. Paul's Cathedral, London.







The panels are as follows:
Panel No 1, A goat's head, personal badge of Prince Arthur
Panel No 2, An elegant Prince of Wales feathers. This carved panel of the plume of feathers is probably the oldest in the Principality, carved before 1536. There is also one other of a different design and similar date, which is shown below.







Panel No 3, Twin arches. Thought to be part of the arms of Archbishop Dean (Denny) who married Prince Arthur, and who was Bishop of Bangor in 1491, the diocese to which Ruthin belonged at the time.
Panel No 4, The pomegranates of Aragon. A badge used by Katherine. There is at least one other panel of pomegranates in the roof, e.g. Prince Arthur died in November 1502, at Ludlow castle, and lies buried in Worcester Cathedral. His widow, Katherine, then married Henry VIII in June 1509.






One panel, carved by a carpenter with a sense of humour, shows a cockerel pecking at a pomegranate. Could this have indicated Henry's desire on his brother's widow?

There is also a carving of a jester's head. This could be a representation of Will Somers, court jester to Henry VIII
(Note: much of this history of the roofs has been overtaken by later research)
References - "Archaeologia Cambrensis", 1921 volume.


A fire similar to the York Minster disaster during July 1984 could well have destroyed the carved Tudor roof over the north nave of St. Peter's Church.
On Tuesday, 6th April 1904, the verger, Mr Charles A. Williams, on his way to ring the Curfew Bell at about 8 o'clock and to prepare for bell ringing practice, found the roof of the vestry in " .... roaring flames .... " With great presence of mind, he closed both the vestry and church doors and summoned the Ruthin Fire Brigade, then under the command of Capt. Tegid Owen and Lt. H.E. Joyce. It took the brigade some two hours to overcome and quench the flames, which had destroyed the belfry floor and severely damaged some of the carved panels over the north roof of the inner vestry at the rear of the organ. Also destroyed in the blaze was a large cupboard full of clerical robes, a large old prayer book, two palls, an old altar chair, a round table, two wooden alms dishes together with numerous other items. An antique brass alms plate, as evidence of the severe heat, was burnt half away. This piece of metal is still kept in the church. The top of the vestry window was also forced out by the action of the heat. The parishioners were, however, delighted that the organ, installed in 1901 as a jubilee gift to the Rev. Bulkeley Owen Jones, then Warden, had been saved from the fire. The tower and spire of the church presented the appearance of a huge chimney, belching out sparks and smoke.

The most regrettable result of the fire was the destruction of a number of panels of the historic roof, which it was thought at the time could not be replaced, as each was of distinctive workmanship none of which had been recorded.

However, the architect for the repairs of the roof, Mr James Hughes of Denbigh, the Diocesan Surveyor, had carefully collected the charred remains of the damaged panels and had replacements carved to similar designs. It would appear that some six panels were replaced and, having been carved in oak of lighter hue, can still be seen to this day. The north transept of St. Peter's is as important to this church as the south transept roof is to York Minster.

Sightseers at the fire said “… that in another half hour the grand old church of St. Peter's would have been a complete ruin on the Wednesday morning and that 'the church remaineth' having had a wonderful escape from total destruction”.

On the 23rd April 1904, Mr J. H. Mcgaul, assessor to the Alliance Insurance Company, had inspected the damage and that the company had paid the claim in a prompt and liberal manner. The company gave the fire brigade an additional three guineas (£3.15p.) in testimony of appreciation for their prompt action and a further sum to Mr Charles Williams, verger, who by his action had saved not only the church but the company from a much larger claim.

On Sunday, 10th April 1904, a Thanksgiving Service was held in St. Peter's conducted by the Warden, the Rev. Bulkeley Owen Jones. The sermon was given by the curate, the Rev. D. Herbert Pierce, who took as his text: "Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth" (James III, v.5).

During July/August 1904, the church was closed for renovation purposes, due to the smoke and water damage. During that time, the services were held in the Brynhyfryd Schoolroom, now demolished, in Rhos Street.

At the Harvest Festival held on 23rd October 1904, the Rev. J. Fisher, a former curate of St. Peter's, gave an address of thanksgiving for deliverance from fire taking as his text for the occasion: Psalm 50, vv.14 & 15).


St. Peter's has a more direct link with York Minster, as Walter de Grey, Archbishop of York from 1216 until his death in 1255, was the uncle of Reginald de Grey who was granted the Lordship of Dyffryn Clwyd by King Edward I on 23rd October 1282, whose son founded St. Peter's Church in 1310. Thus John de Grey was the great nephew of the archbishop. Both York Minster and the Parish Church of Ruthin are dedicated to St. Peter. A co-incidence or a de Grey family connection between York and Ruthin?

NOTES Above based on an article first published in "In Touch - A Newsletter", May/June, 1986. For full accounts of the fire and thanksgiving services, see "Denbighshire Free Press" , 9th & 16thApril; 29th October; Clwyd Record Office, Ruthin


Here’s a good piece of cheese, (I perhaps might have kept it)
But I hope the Archdeacon will kindly accept it, 
Nor suppose I deem wanting, in bara a chaws – 
A chroesaw - the Cloisters - a liberal house. 
To remain in my larder it's rather too nice,
For a part has already been eaten by mice.
So my worthy Archdeacon (I once more repeat it) 
You will do me a kindness to help me to eat it.
It's moist and it's mild, and without too much boasting,
I think it's a capital cheese for toasting.
It's not much decay'd, nor strong in its savour: 
Tho' for some it is rather too flat in its flavour. 
And because it's too weak to please every palate,
It perhaps may suit better when eaten with salad. 
When cold, or when toasted, its taste is so mild –
It will please the most delicate maiden or child. 
It will do when you dine, or perchance when you
With a "dainty" swig of your "Warden's" cup. 
Or else, for a change, if you're in the habit –
To eat of the same it will make a Welsh rar-bit. 
When dining on mutton, and pastry, and fish, 
It will make maccaroni - a very good dish ! 
And should any remain when your appetite's
With that let your mouse-traps be properly baited. 
To conclude - and no longer continue this rhyme, 
Or, I fear, I might trespass too long on your time. 
These poor silly lines, Sir, I beg you'll excuse,
and accept the respects of your Curate, T. Hughes.
[Ruthin, January, 1839] 

I should deem it, dear Curate, believe me, a crime,                                                                               Did I fail in an instant reply to your rhyme.
Yet the time is but short, and the task is not haws (1), 
For the delicate muse seldom feeds upon caws. 
So believe me I feel, tho' I fail in the mention, 
A becoming regard for your friendly attention. 
I trust that your present will act as a charm
on Meirion's people - for there from each farm
I've a claim (but in vain) of an annual cheese,
But they hurl me defiance, and dare me to seize; 
Whilst you, haelionus-ddyn! tho' but a Curate, 
Who's stipend's not better than would be the poor rate, 
Have proved by your gift that you're, as able, 
To supply to your Warden the wants of his table –
For ('tis truth that I tell!) to my sorrow I find 
All the cheese in my house is eat down to the rind.
A kind providence sure, sent this hint to your giving!
Thus to aid, at a pinch, your patron's poor living: 
May you have a better - and may it come soon!
To the poor and the needy, 'twill be a great boon, 
You'll bear them in mind, as me you have bore, 
And never repel from your liberal door,
Thus beloved - let the period advance as it may 
When you, like good cheese, must fall into decay, 
And wrinkles on cheek, like good Cheshire mold 
Shall prove to your flock that their friend's growing
Tho' they see with sad boding you've past your best day,
For your sojourn below will they fervently pray; 
And when, with the mite-'y, you mingle with dust, 
They will sigh o-er the place where reposes your crust. 
Excuse, my dear sir, this attempt at recording 
My thanks. I remain, your affectionate Warden.

R. Newcome.
Cloisters, Tuesday Morning

Whereas by your answer, dear Warden, I find 
All the cheese in your house was eat down to the rind,
It affords satisfaction and pleasure to me
So well to have tim'd my small present to thee. 
For the numbers reliev'd at your generous door 
I'd scarcely believe that your living is poor. 
What e're be our lot, we must try to endure it 
If the Rector is poor, how poor is the Curate!
Yet he does not complain, since he's had the pow 'r 
To aid his friend's want in a seasonable hour. 
Tho' farmers of Meirion the claims do defy 
Of the Bishop's right hand, and the Bishop's right
Yet deplore not your loss, for a cheese made in Meirion,
Will mostly turn out what is called 'cosyn gwirion.(2);
Except where Sir Robert of Nannau has built on 
His grange a good dairy producing
'Mock Stilton' (3).
Mine came not from thence - I give you a hint, 
It came from the rich little County of Flint. 
But enough of this nonsense, nor longer abuse 
Your patience, nor that of my spiritless muse. 
If ever again Mount Parnassus I climb,
May it be an occasion more worthy of rhyme. 
My regards at the Cloisters, to all, and to each, 
And believe me, dear sir, your respectful - T.H.

This amusing, and revealing, exchange of stanzas is enshrined in a volume of verse written mainly by the Rev. David Hughes in Welsh, English, and Latin.
It was published in 1865 at the Cymro Office, Denbigh, by his son, Rev. T.H. Hughes. The former was formerly Head Master of Ruthin School (1795-1800), Rector of Efenechtyd (1790-1799) and Rector of Llanganhafal (1814-1817). It is not clear, but it would seem that David was one of the three sons of Rev. Thomas Hughes, Rector of Llanfwrog (1755-1776), Head Master Ruthin School (1739-68), and great grandfather of Rev. Thomas Hughes, author of "Town Brown's Schooldays" (4). He was also grandfather of Archdeacon Richard New-come (5) to whom "A Piece of Cheese" was dedicated. It would seem, therefore, that Newcome and his curate were cousins.

The Rev. T.H. Hughes had been Lecturer at St. Peter's (1830-1840) and Rector of Clocaenog from 1846-1874 (6). He dedicated the book to the Rt. Hon. William, Lord Bagot of Blithfield, Staffordshire, and Pool Park, Ruthin. The verses had not been written with public- cation in mind, but the loyal son deemed them worthy of preservation for posterity. His second objective was to add the proceeds from sales to the funds of the National School at Clocaenog, said then to be much in need of assistance. Mr Hughes also renovated Clocaenog Church (1856/7) and on the south wall installed a memorial stained glass window to his wife.
It would appear that he decided to include his own poetic creations in his anthology of his father's literary work.


Acknowledgements: To Mr H. Stanley Williams who drew my attention to these poetic works; to Mr Oswald Edwards and Ruthin School Magazine (1883/88) for Hughes biographical information.
Potius, "hawdd"
Poor skim cheese.
So called by the worthy old Baronet.
RBS NO: 22; June,1990
RBS NO: 22; December 1989
(6) D R Thomas, ‘History of the Diocese of St. Asaph’ Vol II, p 71.


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