RHUTHUN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET Issue No 28 December 1991
PORTRAIT OF TWO ARTISTS by Kevin Mathias
In the Godsal family archives at the Clwyd Record Office at Hawarden are eighteen volumes which give an insight into the development of a dedicated Victorian artist who had her works hung at the Royal Academy and the Paris Salon, and throw light on Hubert von Herkomer, one of the most extraordinary talents to be connected with Ruthin.
Miss Mary Godsal's diaries cover the years 1869 to 1905. The entries, in rather wayward handwriting, contain many tiny sketches showing her current work. Miss Godsal's home was at Iscoyd Park, in Flintshire's Maelor Saesneg, some four miles from Whitchurch. Philip Lake Godsal from Cheltenham had purchased the estate in the 1840s and added significantly to the mid eighteenth-century original house. Iscoyd naturally features in the diaries and Miss Godsal often visited her father there and writes of sketching the woodcutters on the moss. She also spent time at Gwemvale, the family's house in the Black Mountains near Crickhowell. The earlier diaries record her visits to the continent and her burgeoning interest in art and architecture.
On Saturday, 24th November, 1883, at 2.00 pm she enrolled at the opening term of a new art school at Bushey in Hertfordshire. She was one of the nineteen ladies and fifteen gentlemen students there that after‑noon and at thirty-four years of age was probably one of the oldest. The principal of the school was Hubert von Herkomer [1849-1914], a Bavarian by birth but who had been living in Britain from the age of eight. He was a renowned social realist painter, also known for his portraits, historical subjects and landscapes. He was a man of many diverse talents in fields ranging from engraving to composing [Mary Godsal was eventually to sing in his opera], acting, cinematography and architecture
His most famous work "Hard Times" gave the title to a recent exhibition of Victorian realist painting [RBS. No:21 and the regalia and sword used by the Archdruid at the National Eisteddfod's Gorsedd were also designed by him.
The opening of Herkomer's school attracted the attention of the press who recorded the event in detail. There was no formal ceremony just 'general handshaking all round', then Professor Herkomer addressed the students and guests giving them his thoughts on art education. He had not opened the school for any mercenary motives, but 'to benefit future generations of art students'.They must not expect mere criticism of small details', he would give them 'direction of their studies which was more than teaching'. He would impose a strict regime 'to prevent niggling effeminate work' and warned that all his criticisms would 'be made before all'. Herkomer must have been a gift to the press. "Punch" satirized the whole affair by saying that the pupils at the art school in order 'to be in harmony with the neighbourhood' were `to let their hair and beards grow "Bushey"', and that the principal 'will be known down there as Mr HAIRCOMBER’ and ’retains to himself the right of giving severe reprimand to any pupil who may slip out late or break any of the rules’.
Mary Godsal, already extremely self-critical and doubtful of her own abilities should have been warned by the professor's forthrightness. On his first appearance at the studio he seemed 'cheerful enough, but that soon changed, and he was not pleased with the work of anyone - quite the reverse… no one understood what he wanted!' Only three days later she is saying that 'he finds fault all the time'. Mary however was able to witness the development of “Hard Times”, when he told her to get real tramps and really pose them under a hedge’.
He began his own 'tramp picture' in January 1885 and used a model often employed by Mary, a Mrs Quarry. The 'sick child' in the painting is Freddy Quarry, for whom Mary opened a National Savings account.
Herkomer's first wife had died in 1883 and in August 1884 he married her nurse, Miss Lulu Griffiths, daughter of Thomas Griffiths, the Relieving Officer of Ruthin Workhouse, at Llanrhudd Church. Press accounts imply it was not a run-of-the-mill event - there were no bridesmaids and 'no jewelry', and Herkomer's daughter and son were 'charmingly dressed' as a nun and in a Charles I costume respectively, of terra-cotta colour. Presents on show at the Griffiths home, in Stanley House, Llanrhudd Street, included his Bushey students' gift, a copy made by them of Leonardo da Vinci 's "Last Supper".
In spite of Herkomer's continued lack of encouragement, indeed he eventually refused to see her work, Mary Godsal became a family friend. In June, 1885, Lulu Herkomer was ill in York. In unsound health and pregnant, she had dashed out to save a child from being run over by a carriage and miscarried. By October however, she was better and helping Mary Godsal to move into her new studio. At an entertainment on 22 November, Mary notes that Lulu was ill. Two days later Mary was told she was better but not up. Nonetheless, at 6.15 in the evening, before her husband could return from London she died 'after two hours of suffering followed by a fainting fit from which she never revived'. (Mary) wrote the next day that she had been fond of her.
In July, 1888, Herkomer married Lulu's sister, Margaret, in Bavaria as the marriage would have been illegal in Britain. Mary continued to paint, occasionally acted as hostess to Herkomer's guests and showed visitors around Lululand, the extraordinary house he designed in memory of his second wife. Herkomer painted Mary Godsal's father at Iscoyd in July, 1886. She continued to live on an irregular basis at Bushey and became very involved in village life. She died aged fifty-eight on 27th September, 1907. Her former professor, by then Sir Hubert von Herkomer died seven years later aged sixty-five. Lady Margaret remained at Lululand until her death in 1934. In spite of attempts to save it, the house was later demolished.
Acknowledgements - I wish to thank Mr Oswald Edwards for making his collection of cuttings on Herkomer available to me.
FROM PUMP TO PIPE
- Part II -
At a Public Meeting over a hundred ratepayers attended and the mayor, Marcus Louis, explained that it required an Act of Parliament to implement the scheme for three reasons. Firstly, the land required for the reservoir lay outside the town's boundaries and was therefore outside the council's area of jurisdiction. Secondly, to change the tolls for the new Smithfield also required Parliamentary approval. Lastly, there was the question of the purchase of the land and the reluctance of William Lloyd, trustee of the Jesse estate, to sell the land on a freehold basis.
Llewelyn Adams raised the first objection stating that Parliamentary permission was not necessary. In support, he had Ellis Eyton, a barrister and a small property owner in the borough. He was a well-known figure in the Vale and in 1874 became the Liberal M.P. for the Borough of Flint. He argued that the Public Health Act of 1848 gave ample powers for the corporation to construct any water works they required, and if the land lay outside the boundaries of the town they could purchase it by mutual agreement, instead of using the might of a compulsory purchase order.
Isaac Clarke, then an alderman of the town, claimed that the corporation had been trying to arrange the matter by mutual agreement but had been thwarted. William Lloyd, Jesse's trustee, then shouted his denial. The increase in tolls and the need for a new Smithfield were argued tortuously. What clearly emerges from the rather frenzied meeting was that the council had made a tactical mistake in grouping the new market and the supply of water into one package. The outcome of the meeting, briefly, was that the question of a water supply was to be pursued without applying for an Act of Parliament.
It may be recalled that the objections to the council's strategy was first voiced by Llewelyn Adams who held the appointment of Clerk to the Borough Justices. Almost immediately after the meeting he received the following letter:
Dear Sir, - At an adjourned council meeting held last evening, several members referred in terms of disapprobation to your remarks at the meeting on Saturday. It has long been felt an unnecessary burden is thrown upon the ratepayers in consequence of the Town Clerk not holding as he of right ought to do, the appointment of Clerk to the Borough Justices. And it is now felt that you will be glad to be relieved of an appointment under persons of whom you speak with so much disrespect and whom you attempted to hold up to public contempt and ridicule. The Town Clerk will now act as Clerk to the Justices, and you will be free to take whatever course you may think proper as to the proposed measures for the improvement of the town.
1 remain, Yours faithfully,
The Council had further added to the complexity of gaining a water supply. To the question of increased tolls and a new Smithfield was added the injustice of Adams' dismissal. The Caernarvon and Denbigh Herald printed Louis' letter, and there was correspondence in support of Adams. At the next council meeting, Louis bowing to the inevitable asked their counsel in London to discuss the matter of an Act of Parliament with the Home Secretary. However, counsel replied that in his opinion the council did not have the authority to spend money on an Act of Parliament and was not, therefore, going to seek an appointment with the Home Secretary.
The dismissal of Llewelyn Adams and the abandonment of the Parliamentary Bill almost caused a dichotomy of government in the town. The meeting had created a committee to pursue the question of a water supply, without resorting to an Act of Parliament, and there was of course, the town council under the leadership of Marcus Louis. In January 1865, there was yet another public meeting at the White Lion Hotel. There were a number of influential people present, for example, Rev. E.L. Barnwell, headmaster of the grammar school, R.G. Ellis, Martin Smith, Vale of Clwyd Railway and Rouw the Chemist. It was pointed out that Adams had been asked to attend the previous meeting to give a legal view on the necessity of a Parliamentary Bill and for his trouble he had been sacked as Clerk to the Borough Justices. It was suggested that perhaps Adams would not wish to serve under Mayor Louis. Barnwell claimed that the mayor had acted without the sanction of the council.
The Adams affair got even more acrimonious. Louis claimed that Adams had made unauthorised payments of £ 10 p.a. to the ex-town clerk and this was the underlying reason for his dismissal. This, of course, was not mentioned in the letter relieving him of his duties. William Cole, of Prospect House, Llanfwrog, the retired clerk in question wrote a letter to the Caernarfon and Denbigh Herald vehemently denying the illegal payment and stating that the £10 pension was paid under the express arrangement of the then council as a memento of thirty-five years’ service.
Meanwhile, the mayor was trying to regain the hegemony of his office by pursuing the purchase of land from the Jesse estate. William Lloyd, clearly, had compromised from his original position and was now willing to sell the land, but Louis seemed embittered about the turn of events. He was truculently complaining to the council at Lloyd's seemingly delaying tactics. He appeared to have successfully united a number of separate interest against his proposals. The farming interests, the Adams faction, even the ratepayers, and there was no evidence of support from the Castle, which under the circumstances would have been critical.
There were other vested interests too. The finances of the Denbigh Ruthin and Corwen Railway were always on a precarious basis and they were major users of water. Three directors John Jenkins, RG Ellis and Martin Smith were loud in their protestations over the suggestion of a waterworks. In the free for all of the middle of the 19th century, the railway must have drawn their water from the Clwyd. The proposed water authority posed a threat to their running costs for they anticipated a major increase in their expenses. Martin Smith in a letter to the Caernarvon and Denbigh Herald even suggested that Ruthin did not require a public water supply. He claimed the estimate for water supply to Denbigh was £4500 and the actual cost £7000. Such an overrun in Ruthin would have a crippling effect on the rates.
By March however the justificati
on for a private act of parliament became evident. Although William Lloyd could apparently sell the land for the reservoir, he did not have the authority to sell the access or the rights to allow the water from the brook to be used by the Ruthin Water Company. From the account of the council meeting one can almost hear Louis’s pleasure at this, albeit that he had not made these points over the two years of the controversy. The council were now in a quandary. They required an act of parliament, but they had so mishandled the affair that they were reluctant to seek a new mandate
By 20th century standards, the reluctance to provide a public water supply is difficult to appreciate. The motivation for creating a pipe supply was primarily to alleviate the costs on the rate of the Town Hall. Public health issues were not raised in any of the correspondence. The bickering and infighting continued. It would be counterproductive to report it all. Suffice to say that in 1867 help was at hand in the form of Richard Wakeford Attrey of London and Corwen. He proposed to fund the act of parliament that would allow such a company to be formed. One might have suspected that this would have been the end of the controversy, but this was not the case. Other vested interests raised issues which had until then lain dormant and there were another 18 months of political infighting, but more of this in the next issue.
Bathafarn lies beneath the Clwydian hills and was once at the gateway to Ruthin from the east with the main road from Mold passing close-by the hall. Its history began in the Cl3th century when the park would probably have been measured by the mile rather than by the yard. As an extensive Park, it had a significant role as source of pleasure and of food, both of which were jealously guarded.
The house with which we are familiar today, now divided into flats, is not likely to have been the first on the site. Hubbard refers to Moses Griffith's water-colour of the hall which suggests the late C17th or early C18th with subsequent remodellings. There is a splendid range of brick-built C18th buildings with a cupola housing a clock and and weather vane.
The name most associated with Bathafam is that of "Thelwall", in particular John Wynn Thelwall of Plas-y-Ward. He married Jane Griffith of Pant Llongdu, Flintshire, and was Steward of Ruthin Lordship and held Bathafarn lands in that capacity. John Wynn Thelwall may have built this house for his bride and new family, founding a new and powerful dynasty which eclipsed the original.
John Wynn and Jane's son, another John, in 1600 obtained the grant of the Bathafam lands from the Crown for £40. This John spent his youth at Court as Groom of the Stole and Gentleman Usher to the Countess of Warwick, not only Chief Lady of Honour to, but also in favour with Queen Elizabeth.
John left the Court at the age of 32 to marry Elizabeth of Bacheirig and Bryncynric, by whom he had numerous children. He was made Steward of Ruthin for life by James I. He lived to 97 years of age and was described as "a tall comely man, of good judgment and elocution, very pious, charitable and good in every respect."
John of the royal connections was one of seven sons whose portraits were at Bathafarn Hall. The brothers are depicted opulently dressed with gold sword belts and ruffs. Sir Eubule's portrait is dated 1628 while that of Ambrose is dated c.1632. These pictures are still in the possession of the family. More familiar is the monument at Llanrhudd Church featuring John and Jane kneeling at a desk with figures of all ten sons and four daughters below.
The Bathafarn 'Thelwalls failed during the first half of the eighteenth century and the heiress Mary, daughter of Ambrose Thelwall of Bathafam and Plas Coch, in July, 1728, married Robert, a younger son of the Prices of Rhiwlas, Merionethshire. Mary and Robert had three children, Martha, Thelwall and Sarah.
Robert Price died in 1766 [High Sheriff in 1733 and was buried at Llanrhudd Church, 7th April, 1766] and bequeathed the estate to his son Thelwall, who died childless, aged c.39. His Will provided for the succession of his estate with Richard Price Thelwall [High Sheriff in 1770] being first tenant for life. On Richard's death in 1775, the Rev. Robert Carter of Redbourne, Lincolnshire, whose family originally hailed from the Kinmel estate, became the second tenant for life. A requirement of the Will was that Carter should take the additional name of `Thelwall' and make Bathafarn his principal residence. Had Carter not been prepared to accept these conditions, or in the event of his prior death, the estate would have passed to Richard Kenrick of Nantclwyd, son of Andrew Kenrick of Chester.
Thelwall Carter died in September, 1787. His only daughter Charlotte Carter Thelwall was a minor [c.18 years of age] but she carried [c.July, 1791] the estate to her husband, Lord William Beauclerk, second son of the Duke of St. Albans. Charlotte died in September, 1797 and Lord Beauclerk married again, selling the Bathafarn estate to the Rev. Roger Clough, of Castle House, Denbigh. The selling process, commenced in 1799 was not completed until May, 1811.
Roger Clough, [1759-1833], was a distinguished ecclesiastic, Rector of Llansannan, Vicar of Corwen, Canon of St. Asaph, and a magistrate. He married Anna Jemima Butler [1760-1812] of Warminghurst Park, Sussex, the eldest daughter and co-heiress and descended from the Dolbens of Segrwyd, Denbigh. Her sister Patty, co-heiress, married Richard Clough, [1753-1784] High Sheriff in 1782, of Glan-y-Wern and Plas Clough. Roger and Anna Jemima Clough had ten children. Roger Clough sold Warmington Park, Sussex and purchased Bathafarn Park. His sister Margaret [1742-1826] married John Ffoulkes [1736-1814] of Eriviat and Rhydonen.
Roger Clough made a name as an agriculturalist by his work at Eriviat, Denbigh and at Bathafarn in the mould of ["Turnip"] Townshend and Coke of Holkham. "Gwallter Mechain" [Rev. Walter Davies] reported in his "General View of Agriculture and Domestic Economy of North Wales" (1810) that Clough improved Eriviat farm in the period 1792-1797, spending £100 p.a. on hedging, draining, irrigating etc., although he was only a tenant. He carried this on at Bathafarn, paying £50 per week on employing labourers and artificers. For this, he was awarded a Gold Medal by the Society for the Encouragement of Arts in 1807.
The Cl9th witnessed the break-up of the estate, beginning with the sale in 1822 of Cefn Coch with its land in Derwen, Llanarmon, and Llanfair D.C. In 1831, Roger Clough sold the Bathafarn estate to Joseph Ablett, who had purchased [c.1804] the Llanbedr Hall estate from Rev. Edward Thelwall. Ablett died in January 1848. The now combined Plas Coch, Bathafarn and Llanbedr estates passed to John Jesse, a distant cousin of Ablett's and a Manchester surgeon.
Jesse died aged 61 on 26th September, 1863 and his son John Fairfax Jesse, by his third wife Elizabeth, inherited the estate in November, 1865 on the death of his step-brother, Francis Ablett Jesse. John Fairfax Jesse died in 1911.
By the end of the C 19th, the estate was heavily mortgaged. An attempt was made in 1889 to sell the estate but reserve price was not reached. The Llanbedr Hall and Bathafarn estate, extending from Hirwaen, Llanbedr to Moel Llech above Bacheirig, was sold in October, 1919. Bathafarn Hall was on the market again in 1952, when the home farm was advertised with 70 acres.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: see J.B.Lewis, "The Cloughs in the North West", Clwyd Historian, N0: 27, Autumn, 1991; Dictionary of Welsh Biography (giving further references); John Williams, "Records of Denbigh" , pp. 171-2; Newcome, "A Memoir of Gabriel Goodman", Ruthin, 1825; Mrs K. Webb, Llanbedr; Ruthin Record Office, DDIDM167415 ; DDITD11-7, 250.