RUTHIN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET
Issue No. 5. March 1986
RUTHIN’S POSTAL PAST
The first posts that came into North Wales with any regularity were the Elizabethan posts to Holyhead which were on their way to Ireland. Prior to the Proclamation issued by King Charles I at Bagshot on 31st July 1635, which opened up the postal service to the public for the first time, the system had been for the sole use of the Monarch. The innkeepers of the stopping places on the road to Holyhead from Chester through Rhuddlan and Conway became the first Postmasters and their horsemen the first postmen. It was not, however, until after the end of the civil war, the defeat of Cromwell and the Post Office Act of 1660 that the Posts began to be effective.
Ruthin, in common with many Welsh towns, had postal officials soon after that date. It is known that in 1677, the Postmaster was a Mr Wynn. He was still in office in 1702, since there is memorandum in the records to show that a Richard Wynn owed the Post Office the sum of £124,11.6d - a large enough sum today, but an exceedingly vast one for those days. In 1702, a Thomas Owen took over and he must be unique in the record of salaries paid to Postmasters in that his salary was a quarter of all receipts from letters. All other Postmasters had a stated salary each year. The Authorities were evidently not going to allow Ruthin postmasters to catch them out a second time.
It is presumed that he was followed in office by one Thomas Foulkes. As a postmaster in rural Ruthin, his office cannot possibly have been of great importance to the community at large. As an individual, however, he must have stood out among his fellow men as there is a memorial tablet to him at St, Peter's Church. It can be found on the north wall of the north Nave of the Church. On it is to be seen the inscription:
Underneath lye interr'd together
(late POSTMASTER in Ruthin
son of Humphrey Foulkes of Conwud in Merioneth Shire Gent) and Mary his wife
....He dyed ye 1st of April, 1712.
This plaque is now regarded to be the earliest in the country to an official concerned with the carrying of mail. Two other early postmasters of Ruthin who must be mentioned are John Williams, who was buried in 1731, and Richard Hughes who was in office in 1782.
Around 1640, Rhuddlan was replaced by Denbigh on the Irish route so that mail from London came into North Wales from Chester and then through Northop - Denbigh - Henllan - Pontygwyddel - Bettws and the Conway ferry to Beaumaris and Holyhead. At this time there was no service from Denbigh to Ruthin and it was up to the sender of a letter to see that it arrived in Denbigh for onward transmission. Casual travellers would bring mail into Ruthin from Denbigh.
The Mail Coach Service, set up by Palmer in 1784 was by 1785 extended to Chester and then on to North Wales. This brought about another route change. Mail now travelled through Holywell and St. Asaph, and a Horse Post connection was made to meet the coach to carry mails to and from Ruthin. The mail arrived in Ruthin by this horse post at ten in the morning and departed again for St. Asaph at one o'clock. From 1807, Corwen was also served by a Mail Coach and this route was extended to Bangor by 1808 when it became the official Irish Mail route. This meant that mail for Ruthin now began to arrive from Corwen as well as St. Asaph. By checking with the Directories of the time, it can be seen from about 1812 mail for Ruthin arrived before, and left after, the mail at Denbigh. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, mail arrived in Ruthin at eight in the morning and left at halfpast four in the afternoon.
Not everyone, however, made use of the direct mails into Ruthin. I have a letter from the Rev. Robert Roberts, dated 29th December, 1811, addressed to the Solicitor of the Queen Anne's Bounty, Gray's Inn, London, informing them that he is sending some papers regarding Jesus Chapel, Llanfair D.C., by the mail coach from Chester. At the time, he was curate of Ruthin and Llanrhydd and a master of Jesus Chapel school. He asks that their reply should be addressed to him by the same coach route and then left in Chester to the care of Mrs Green, Tea Dealer, Eastgate Street.
By 1840, the year of the Uniform Penny Post, Ruthin was served with mail from the St. Asaph, Corwen and also from the Mold directions.
The Post Office was quick to take advantage of the opening of the railway system between London and Birmingham after its opening in September, 1838. To speed the mail from Ruthin, it now went by cart to Corwen, there taken on board the Mail Coach and forwarded to Birmingham to meet the London train.
On 1st May 1848, the railway service was inaugurated along the North Wales coast to Holyhead. This inevitably brought about yet another change in the development of the postal service so that Rhyl began to serve Ruthin, rather than St. Asaph. It was, however, quickly realised that Ruthin would be better served if mail was taken on and off the train at Flint, rather than Rhyl. The mail would arrive in the town earlier and leave later in the day than would otherwise be the case. This was the reason for the setting-up of the Flint to Ruthin Mail Cart service. From Slater's Directory of 1856, it is noted that "Letters arrive (by mail cart from Flint) every morning at seven and are despatched thereto at the same hour in the evening."
Although Ruthin had its own railway from 1862, the daily mail cart from Flint was to run until 31st August, 1913. It was not until the 1883 edition of Slater's that mention is made of mail being brought to Ruthin direct, by the afternoon train. It states "letters arrive by Mail Cart (from Flint) at half past five in the morning and by rail (from Rhyl) at half past four in the afternoon and are despatched by rail (to Rhyl) at nine in the morning and by mail cart (to Flint) at quarter past seven in the evening." This evening cart would be the one to bring in the night mail to the town for delivery the following morning. It can be seen that the then Postmistress, Margaret Jones, working from the Post Office in Market Place (now known as 2, Well Street and until very recently a chemist's shop) had a very long working day.
Rhuddenfab (Lewis Jones) in his 1884 "Handbook for Ruthin and the Vicinity" states that this old property, formerly "The Ruth Inn" was adapted to the business of a Post Office "about twenty five years previously". Slater's Directory of 1844, when Elizabeth Roberts was the Postmistress, indicates that it was used for this purpose some years earlier.
The Post Office was transferred to its present site after the rebuilding of the property which was destroyed in a disasterous fire in 1904. At one time there had been a Convent or Nunnery there. Rhuddenfab again goes into detail about its early history and states that after being a convent, it was modernised and used by a Draper and that in 1884 it was occupied by Messrs W.Williams & Co. It has also served as one of the many Ruthin Alehouses being known as "The Queen's" and a grocer's shop. Very recently, the interior of the public Post Office counter part has been refurbished. It still serves the Queen's mail but sadly has lost the service of its own full-time Postmaster.
The first official "Receiving Houses" for mail were set up at Rhewl and Llanfair D.C. In 1856, there was a receiving house at Hugh Jones' at Rhydycilgwyn. Letters arrived there (by post from Ruthin) at about nine in the morning and were despatched thereto at half past five in the evening. At Llanfair, the Postmistress was a Catherine Jones and letters arrived with her at half past eight in the morning, and despatched every evening at a quarter to six.
It was not until 1874 that post offices were found at Clocaenog, Llanelidan, and Llangynhafal, and in 1883 at Efenechtyd. Llandegla and Llanarmon.
D Gwynne Morris
ARCHER, M.S, "THE WELSH POST TOWNS BEFORE 1840”, PHILLIMORE, 1870; J0NES, LEWIS, "HANDBOOK FOR RUTH1N AND VICINITY", 1884; . WILLCOCKS, R.N., "ENGLAND’S POSTAL HISTORY TO 1874”, THE AUTHOR, 1975; WILLIAMS. E.W, “ABERGELE”, THE STORY OF A PARISH”; THE AUTHOR, 1968; DIRECTORIES: CASSEY; 1876; PIGOT, 1830, 1835; ROBSON, SLATER, 1844, 1850, 1856, 1865, 1883, 1895; SUTTON, 1889; WORRALL, 1874.
Ruthin “Street by Street” Series
CASTLE STREET Part 1
Castle Street is probably the most attractive street in the town. As the street which leads directly to the castle, the main reason for Ruthin's original foundation, it is probably the oldest. Now, it is part of the A494 Dolgellau - M6 route which, until the early nineteenth century, went directly through the castle grounds to emerge in Lon Fawr before climbing, over. the top of Coed Marchon to avoid the Eyarth gorge.
Castle Street was also the area of the earliest settlements outside the castle walls. In medieval times, this was part of the English sector of the town and readers will recall, from THE BROADSHEET, Issue No, l, that "Well Street" probably derives its name from a corruption of "Welsh" Street, the area to which local inhabitants were allocated. It is recorded that in 1324, there were in this street 11 English houses and two Welsh, so it would appear that at that time at least, the segregation was not absolute. There were also some 13 English houses in nearby Dog Lane.
From medieaval times until comparatively recently, Castle Street has provided homes and offices for the principal residents. For example, the Goodman family had their town house at NO.10, - Nantclwyd House. (Recent research doubts this). In the last century, Jones in his "Handbook" (1884) thinks of this street as the Ruthin's equivalent of "Chancery Lane", quoting five attorneys’ residences and offices, viz., Totty's at No.7, Phillips's at No.9, Smart's at No.11, William Jones at No.14, and Goodman Roberts at No.20. Many other of the town's professionals lived here, including a bank manager, various of the clergy, surgeons, school teachers and some of the more prosperous businessmen and their families.
Commercial properties in the street tend to gather at the end nearest St. Peter's Square for perhaps obvious reasons. An exception to this was the famous pub "Yr Werddon" (N0.15), but in the last century, when everyone was aware of their station in life and kept to it, so each tier of the social structure had its own watering place. Maybe "Yr Werddon" catered primarily for its exclusive neighbours, or maybe an Irish community. The name is additionally intriguing for in tanslation it is "Ireland". (Recent research doubts this).
Any doubt as to the architectural and historical significance of the street is dispelled by the high status given to Castle Street by the Welsh Office through the "Listing" process. That Ruthin is one of only two Outstanding Conservation Areas in the County of Clwyd must be attributed in substantial part to the merits of Castle Street, wherein is situated the only Grade I listed domstic building in Ruthin, i.e., Nantclwyd House.
Some of the more interesting properties:
No.1, now Boots The Chemists', has been variously known as "Plas yn Hall", Plas Enion, and "The Raven". The present building has been subjected to so many alterations and renovations that one must question how much of what we actually see has any historial significance. However, there is an interesting story to tell. An earlier building may have been the birthplace of Bishop Richard Parry in 1560, but some say that he was born at Pwllcallod, (or Pwllhalog) Cwm, Flintshire. His father was John ap Harri of "Pwllhalog and Ruthin". Others, again, maintain that his place of birth was Pwllcallod, Pwllglas, Ruthin. In any event, Bishop Parry had strong local connections: pupil and, in 1584, Master of Ruthin School; was involved with Dean Gabriel Goodman and, of course, others, in the translation of the bible and prayer book into Welsh. Bishop William Morgan would have been the main figure in that work, but it was Bishop Richard Parry's 1620 revision which became the equivalent of the Authorised Version. He died at Dyserth in 1623, leaving a pension of £6. p.a., at Jesus College (Oxford?) for a poor scholar of Ruthin.
'The Old Raven" has for some time been employed as a shop. Ruthin lordship Records of 1764 refer to an assignment to Edward Edwards, "grocer", though it may only have been his home. Be that as it may, Roberts and Magin were trading as drapers there from 1833-5, Walter Davies from 1841-56 as a draper and grocer, and he had the premises specially converted in 1850. John Roberts was the last draper to operate from these premises.
"The Raven" gained its chief reputation, as the headquarters of "The Royal Ruthin Bowling Green', In the eighteenth century, the Club met here for its annual and quarterly dinners with a great amount of pomp and gaiety. Until 1826, the bowling green was within the curtilage of the Castle. They apparently met on Thursdays and the staff of The Raven would take “Cwrw Da" ("good beer") in copper jugs to quench the thirst of the players, The largest of these copper jugs was presented to the Club in 1873 by Rev. William Parry, Warden of Ruthin.
When the Wests decided to make their home at the Castle, the Club had to seek an alternative site. Wherever that may have been, there is a photograph, published in "Historic Ruthin", showing them (c.1900) on the Green to the rear of No. 8, Gorphwysfa, then termed The Constitutional Club, later The Conservative Club.
No.2 Castle Street, the Wine Vaults, has a long history as licensed premises which had been known as "The Black Horse" in 1820s/30s. The Tuscan colonnade of six columns are an attractive feature of this building, which the Welsh Office Survey (referred to hereinafter as "the survey") estimates as being of the late eighteenth century.
No.3 Castle Street, Regent House, now "Jeffries Fashions", seem to have been occupied by lawyers. and, in 1871, by Catherine Councell, a coachman's wife.
ACKNOWLEDGED SOURCES: Denbighshire Free Press; Mr. H.S. Williams; Mrs. Daphne Goodwin; sundry local guide books and Directories.
RUTHIN’S ROVERS! - LARGE GATES AND INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS
Ruthin, in its time, has been as keen on soccer as Merseyside or Manchester are today. Perhaps even more so. The Lancashire Clubs do not have half the town's population turning out to support them, nor do they have a Rector turning out as referee! This is what happened in Ruthin in the 1880s. They had "gates" of some 1,500 people watching a cup match which is roughly equivalent of "gates" of 200,000 at Liverpool or United.
It was before such a crowd that Ruthin played the Ruabon "Druids" in a second round tie for the Welsh Association Challenge Cup on 18th December, 1880. Excitement must have been high, A special train had brought 200 spectators from the mining village to urge their men on. In the previous season, Ruabon had defeated Ruthin in the final of the competition and it was something of a needle match. The weather was foul, a high wind was driving torrential rain across the pitch as the two teams ran onto the field. Ruthin scored after five minutes of play, but just before half time, Ruabon equalised. Nothing has changed in soccer, the goal was hotly disputed, the crowd booed and jeered as the Ruthin linesman called for a 'hand ball'. In spite of the hostility of the crowd, the referee upheld the goal and the game finished a draw. The Ruthin supporters did not relish a replay, for that would have to be at Ruabon and the colliers of that town had an unsavoury reputation. They were renowned for their partisan approach to soccer.
Members of that Ruthin team of a century ago were: Harry Parry, goalkeeper; fullbacks, J. Roberts and J. Humphreys; half backs, R. Haddocks and R. Williams; centres, W.H. Roberts and P. Mostyn; right wing, W.P. Owen and C. Douglas; left wing, N. Goodwin and O. Simon. The standard of play must have been high for W.P. Owen, the Ruthin right wing, was capped for Wales for games against England and Scotland.
Control of these games was the responsibility of the referee, but he was assisted by an "umpire", presumably a linesman in present-day terminology. A referee at one match was the Rev. Elias Owen, Rector of Efenechtyd, magistrate, historian of local fame, schoolmaster and author. His book "Stone Crosses of the Vale of Clwyd' is still a joy to read, and it is on the soccer field that he may be found filling yet another public duty.
This, perhaps, is another aspect of Ruthin's history as a footballing centre, an international playing for the team, and crowds flocking to see the team play
SOCCER HOOLIGANS STRIKE AGAIN
"Football is growing into something more than a game. It is growing into a neck or nothing, hacking and wrangling sort of business which will very soon be looked upon with disgust by persons who have any regard for their lives and reputation."
From: "Ruthin Illustrated Magazine”, January, 1881, not 1986!
Mr Stan Scoins appeals for your help in researching the history of his home, No. 61 Clwyd Street, formerly "The Boot Tavern", What did it look like before the frontage was pebble-dashed ? Was it timbered ? Have you a photograph ? If you can contribute answers to any of these questions, or have any other information, please telephone Stan: Ruthin 3649. Thank you!
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO USE OUR COLUMNS FOR SIMILAR PURPOSES, PLEASE DO NOT HESITATE TO ASK,
DID YOU KNOW THAT
PORTHYDWR (See also Broadsheet No 4, p.2): The record of the Quarter Sessions held at Denbigh on 8th April, 1777, tells us that Mr Joseph Turner of Chester, Architect, had been given consent to demolish " the gateway in the town of Ruthin in this County near the Gaol on the highroad leading from Wrexham to Denbigh known as Porthydwr the better to enable the said Joseph Turner to order and direct an arch to be built over the mill stream adjoining the said gateway for the greater ease and safety of travellers passing and repassing..."
Robert Simon the contractor (for building the gaol?) of Pont-uchel was paid for this work the sum of £50 on account.