RHUTHUN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET Issue No 27 September 1991
The creation of a supply of fresh piped water to the homes in Ruthin was an acrimonious affair. From the very start it was dogged with controversy. Perhaps initially the matter was linked with other improvements in the town, and these have clouded the issues involved. The fact that Ruthin had avoided a major outbreak of cholera, the curse of many nineteenth century towns, may have dispelled any sense of urgency over the matter.
For a multiple of reasons, the townsfolk of Ruthin procrastinated over the subject for years. Good men and true called each other liars, and a senior local government officer was sacked over the matter which, when viewed in retrospect, was essential to the town's development. It might be argued that the plentiful supply of water was more important than the railway. Certainly, the facility has lasted considerably longer.
Prior to the Ruthin Water Company, water reached most houses by means of buckets carried from wells, springs and, of course, the River Clwyd. Some of the more fortunate houses would have had their own pump. In the 1850s, £1,300 had been spent on sinking an artesian well in the Market Place. One correspondent described it: "as no better than a pump".
The drawing of water would have been one of the tasks carried out by the domestic servants. This isolated, to some extent, the decision makers of the town from the inconvenience of not having piped water to their houses. Their remoteness from the problem may well have been a factor influencing the protracted negotiations.
Frederick R. West had installed piped water into Ruthin Castle in c.1851 at a cost of between £350 and £500. The castle was supplied from the Galchog spring, just off the road from Llanfwrog to Efenechtyd.
James Easton of Southwark whilst making a quote, suggested that a water company supplying the town should yield a dividend of five per cent. There is no record of West pursuing this matter until some eight years later when he wrote to G.L. Robinson of Leamington asking him to carry out a survey of the town for a fee of ten guineas and to estimate the cost of supplying water. However, Robinson's survey appears to have been lost and the matter was left until 1863.
By this time the town's finances had reached a low ebb. They had over-stretched their financial resources on the building of the new town hall and were in danger of raising the rates to an unacceptable level. The town hall had cost £4,000 and many ratepayers thought this amount astronomically high. There were letters in the Caernarvon and Denbigh Herald critical of this decision. An integral part of the new town hall was a market hall, and it was hoped that revenue from this would assist in financing the project. However, for the first two years of the town hall's existence, it was estimated that the capital repayment of £133 and the interest of £200 would have to be borne by the ratepayers. The council's financial dilemma dominated their thinking on the question of further public expenditure.
When considering a water supply, generally accepted as a benefit to the town, the council unfortunately suggested the promotion of a private enabling Parliamentary Bill in which they included proposals for a Smithfield and a new road, now known as Wynnstay Road. The Council therefore confounded the argument about the water supply with the concept of a new market which would eliminate the traditional street markets. This idea of a new venue for cattle trading was, to say the least, controversial. [Shades of 1991!]
John Wilkes Poundley in partnership with David Walker had been engaged to design and build the town hall and the town council was pleased with the result. Hence, he was appointed surveyor for the project. He had estimated that the cost of the water works would be £3,179. Using this estimate, it was calculated at a meeting of the council in May, 1864, that after paying off the capital over thirty years and interest at five per cent, the council should make a profit of £120 p.a. when operating costs had been met.
This looked most attractive to the impoverished council for, in addition to the profit, they would also receive tolls from the new Smithfield. The collection of tolls for sales in the street markets were proving difficult to implement and it was thought that in the confined space of a Smithfield this task would be considerably easier. The apparent financial viability of the scheme was attractive to the council and a sub-committee was formed to expedite the matter.
Poundley was paid £100 to draw up plans and estimate levels for the scheme. The objective was to pursue the matter through Parliament as quickly as possible. The townsfolk of Ruthin raised two objections to the proposals. Firstly, a private Parliamentary Bill was expensive, estimated to cost £600-£800. Ruthin's total rateable value was about £3,000 so that this was about 5d. on the rates. Secondly, the idea of a confined cattle market met with a great deal of opposition from the shopkeepers. It was thought that the farmers, herdsmen and drovers would not wander about the town, but stay within the environs of the market. Hence, the shopkeepers would lose some of their trade. Why the council should put the two quite unrelated issues in the same Bill is a matter for conjecture. If the Bill went through Parliament, the Council would have the necessary powers of compulsory purchase. Perhaps this was the motivation. The Smithfield land belonged to Wynnstay and the reservoir lands belonged to the trustees of John Jesse.
It transpired that Jesse's trustees would only lease the land for 99 years and the corporation wanted the freehold. It was considered by the correspondents in the Caernarvon and Denbigh Herald that the council could negotiate under the Local Government Act rather than pay an inflated price for the land that could be demanded through a compulsory purchase order. It was pointed out that both Oswestry and Welshpool had built Smithfields without a private Act of Parliament.
Another suggestion was that the street markets should be regulated in a proper manner and, to add insult to injury, Denbigh was quoted as an example where the markets had improved materially. At the annual meeting of the council in November, 1864, the new mayor, Marcus Louis, stated: “there was a heavy debt on the market hall, but he looked forward to the water supply and the Smithfield as a means for assisting to relieve the town from that burden." It is clear that the proposal was put forward principally as a financial venture and not purely as a socially desirable project.
Later in that month, events began to overtake the council. The Mayor received a requisition demanding a public meeting. The strength of feeling may be assessed by the fact that the demand had three foolscap sheets full of signatures. When one considers the limited franchise, a large proportion of the tradespeople must have been against the plan. Even when the council met to consider the calling of a public meeting, there was an ugly scene between the mayor and William Lloyd over the leasing of land from the Jesse estate. The Caernarvon and Denbigh Herald described the confrontation as 'peppery'. In view of the number signing the petition, the council had no option but to call a public meeting.
A.F. [The saga will be continued.]
REFERENCES - Clwyd Record Office, Ruthin: DD/DM/18/60; Caernarvon and Denbigh Herald, 1863, 1864, 1865.
Mr Bill Fowler, author of the article "Flying Stones" [RBS NO: 22], reports that the enterprising pupils of Llandyrnog School followed-up his account of the Llangynhafal quarry and the aerial ropeway. After a thorough exploration of the area, seeking-out old photographs and even finding one of the original engines, the children tape-recorded their findings and added sound effects. This won them the first prize of £1,250 in a national competition jointly sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund, Shell, and the B.B.C. Many thanks to our correspondent and heartiest congratulations from the "Rhuthun Broadsheet" and all its readers!
Mr Peter Randall kindly adds to the article on "Plas Enion" [RBS NO: 26] by reporting that there is a fine wall brass at St. Giles' Parish Church, Wrexham, commemorating the burial of Elizabeth Thelwall who married Thomas Lloyd of Plas Enion, where she died on 28th March, 1665. It includes the Thelwall and Lloyd arms, and is flanked by skull and crossbones and an hourglass. Again, Mrs Eleanor Lloyd presented a large silver flagon to the Church of S.S. Cynfarch and Mary, Llanfair D.C. Mrs Lloyd was the widow of Ellis Lloyd, the daughter of Charles Goodman of Glan Hespin and was buried on the 27th January, 1715/16. The flagon is in the Queen Anne style, dated 1713, and bears the Lloyd arms engraved on the underside of the base. It is still used in the celebration of Holy Communion, mainly at Christmas and at Easter.
Fig. 1 Fig.2 Fig.3 Fig.4
(Note this article draws heavily on pioneering research by the Rev L Pryce a former Warden of Ruthin.
Some of the most elegant designs carved in the north roof are those showing knots, frets, text, initials and letters. In heraldry, knots and frets are badges used by a single family and their descendants. However, in certain cases, knots have been used in municipal heraldry, an example being the Stafford knot, used throughout Staffordshire.
An early panel in the roof illustrates the knot of the Earls of Stafford, a prominent land-owning family [Fig. 1]. A single graceful knot of Anne of Bohemia, the wife of King Richard II (1377-1399) is to be seen in the roof, no doubt a copy of that shown on her tomb in Westminster Abbey [Fig. 2]. The Bowen family also have their knot displayed, which is the plainest in design of all the knots illustrated [Fig. 3].
The inter-laced, double "B" used twice on the panels could represent the Savage family, but more likely the powerful Bourchier family [Fig. 4]. The knot of the Wake or Ormond family appears three times in various parts of the roof [Fig. 5].
Fig.5 Fig.6 Fig.7 Fig.8 Fig.9
Fig.10 Fig.11 Fig.12 Fig.13 Fig.14 Fig.15 Fig.16
The Lacy knot is distributed four times throughout the roof. The Lacy family once held the Lordship of Denbigh, and it was Henry de Lacy who started the construction of Denbigh town walls and castle. The Lacy's were neighbours of the de Grey's who held the Lordship of Dyffryn Clwyd, both being commanders under Edward I [Fig. 6].
In addition to the family knots, frets of two families each appear at least four times in the roof. They are the Marrington fret, a family involved in a long dispute with the Stanleys, who were also involved with the roof; and the fret of the Maltravers family [Figs. 7 & 8].
A carved ribbon on one of the panels cannot be identified with any family at the present time but is worthy of recording [Fig. 9].
It would appear that all these noble families had various connections with the de Greys, many making lucrative marriage settlements, adding to their lands and wealth. It can be assumed that, in return, these families assisted the de Greys with the provision of the north roof.
The carved letters on the panels in the roof are also noteworthy. There are at least thirty-three, comprising text, initials and separate letters. Some are of intricate design and, occasionally, inserted the wrong way up. The majority of the letters appear in the western half of the roof, with none in the older, or east end.
One of the last carved panels in the west is of an interesting letter 'H' [Fig. 10]. It could well be to the memory of King Henry V, but why at the younger end? One group is a reminder that the Lordship of Dyffryn Clwyd was a Marcher Lordship. It appears that these initials may be of members of the Welsh Council, viz., Sir Thomas Vaughan [Fig.11], Chamberlain to Prince Arthur, eldest son of King Henry VII; John Alcock [Fig.12], President of the Council; Sir John Scott [Fig.13] and Lord Hastings [Fig.14].
Close to this group is another of three letters which may also relate to the Marcher Lordship. The letters "E" [Fig.15], "L" [Fig.16], "S" [Fig.17], could well refer to Edmond, Lucy, Seneschal or Steward.
Yet another group of four provokes some thought! It appears that the letters "R" [Fig.18], "A" [Fig.19], "P" [Fig.20],"R" [Fig.21], may have been mis-placed during a repair or restoration to this part of the roof. As each of the panels can be removed separately, could the letters "R" and "P" have been misplaced in the wrong order? Had these letters been transposed, the result would have spelled the name "PARR", the name of the last wife of King Henry VIII, whom he married in 1543. She died in 1548, after the king. [Note the panels are carved into oak beams, six to a beam and can only be relocated six panels at a time.]
Fig.17 Fig.18 Fig.19 Fig.20 Fig.21
"Coed Marchan" is usually thought of as a geographical feature rather than a house, which is very unobtrusive, whereas the escarpment is prominent, beginning in Llanelidan and ending in Llanfwrog - with a dramatic gorge at Eyarth through which the Clwyd, the main road and the railway trackway, bore their way. The Eyarth-Llanfwrog section bears this name.
The present-day house is relatively modern and was one of the first major construction/renovation works to be undertaken after World War II, when supplies of materials were rationed and available only on permit. The work was commissioned by Sir Edmund Spriggs of Ruthin Castle. The style is medieval and there is a delightful minstrels gallery overlooking the entrance hall.
Prior to that it had been used as a farmhouse which for some reason had been allowed to become ruinous. But, as is so often the case, this house of ancient foundation had once enjoyed status and was occupied by prominent and important people. Indeed, it seems to have been the centre of a large estate, forming a significant part of the old Ruthin Lordship.
Among earlier references are some to the Moyle family [R.B.S: 16] who were once so involved in Ruthin's affairs. They have been described as the town's millers, but this may be misleading. As with many other families, they came to the area with the de Greys following the Edwardian conquest, to assist in the management of the Lordship. As Stewards, they were prestigious officeholders, and as such were not likely to have been the millers, although milling would have been one of their more important responsibilities.
Their occupation of two other houses in Ruthin has previously been discussed [RBS: Nos: 13, 15.] and Coedmarchan was a third. By the C17th, the Lordship of Ruthin had been in the possession of several different people and whether the Moyles served them all is not known, but Peter Moyle is on record on 3rd November, 1647 as Steward to Sir Richard and Sir Francis Arundel (Note: actually Crane), who had paid Charles I handsomely for the privilege. It was in this period that the Moyles were known as "of Coed Marchan", and one of the family, Thomas, died there c.1658.
Shortly afterwards, the Parry family occupied this role and this address. Richard Parry, under-Sheriff of Denbighshire in c.1666 and 1688, was referred to as "of Coedmarchan" when he was appointed Receiver of the Lordship of Dyffryn Clwyd and the town of Ruthin on 1st June, 1671. Richard was an attorney and the third son of Simon Parry, Counsellor-at-Law, of Pont-y-Gof [RBS. No: 25]. His mother was Jane, daughter of John Thelwall, Chief Steward of the Lordship of Ruthin, which may have had something to do with Richard's appointment. As Receiver, Parry would have acted as tax collector.
Richard died in March, 1686, and was buried at Llanfwrog. He was succeeded by his son and heir John, who continued with the office, and the address, until his early death at the age of 47 in June, 1704. John had been appointed a burgess of the town and was Alderman in 1686-7.
In 1700, Sir Nathaniel Curzon served as High Sheriff and was described as "of Coed-marchan". Sir Nathaniel was one of the forebears of the illustrious Curzons of Kedlestone, but unfortunately the Curzon archives do not extend to this era. There are several archival references elsewhere to Sir Nathaniel and this estate and the conclusion to be drawn appears to be that he had leased the estate, presumably from Sir Richard Myddelton as Lord of the Manor.
Whether Sir Nathaniel actually resided at Coedmarchan remains for the moment a matter for conjecture. He may well have taken the lease as an investment and as a residential qualification for high office and for the privileges and income to be derived therefrom.
Sir Nathaniel's sojourn was not without its problems. These were litigious times and Sir Nathaniel become involved in a dispute with Sir Walter Bagot of Pool Park, who had Eubule Thelwall acting on his behalf, and with Mrs Salesbury.
Coedmarchon in the Cl7th/18th was not a matter of a farmhouse and the surrounding fields, nor even was it confined within the Lordship boundaries. It included the parishes of Llanrhaiadr yn Cinmeirch and Llanarmon yn Ial, with some land at Brymbo, near Wrexham, in addition to the parishes of Ruthin, Llanbedr, Llanfwrog, Derwen and Llanfair D.C.
An estate map of 1820 by John Simon, in the time of the Hon. Frederick West, is entitled "Coed Marchan Farm". By that time, Coed Marchan had been absorbed within the West estate.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS - National Library of Wales - "Ruthin Lordship MSS.", "Chirk Castle MSS.", "Calendar of Wynn Papers"; NLW. Journal Vol.VII, pp. 16011; "Chirk Castle Accounts", W.M. Myddelton; Powys Fadog, VoI IV; Bulletins of the Board of Celtic Studies, Vols: XX & XXI.