RUTHIN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET
Issue No. 4. December 1985
CHRIST’S HOSPITAL, RUTHIN
Many of the visitors who come to Ruthin to view its historic streets and buildings, including the Collegiate and Parochial Church of Saint Peter, do not walk around the east end of the church. By not doing so, they miss one of the most attractive and quiet corners of the town, which has the feeling of a small cathedral precinct; a little ‘Barchester’. The main architectural feature of the fine group of buildings nestling around the church is Christ’s Hospital, locally known as the ‘Almshouses’.
Under the foundation, the fifty statutes or rules for the governance of Christ’s Hospital were drafted and signed by the founder, Dean Gabriel Goodman, Dean of Westminster, 1561-1601, on 28th June 1590.
The statutes state ‘ …there shall be a President, being Bishop of the Diocese; one Warden who shall be a preacher, and 12 poor whereof 10 shall be men and 2 women.’ The men were to be ‘…of 50 years of age alive, and the two women widows or maids, likewise of 50 years at the least; and men and women to be sole and unmarried at the time of their admittance, and to remain during their lives, upon pain of losing their place in the said hospital.’
The two women were to wash for, and to look to, the sick and impotent poor of the hospital. The poor had to be occupied with profitable work, and to rise and to go to bed at specified times during the summer and winter. The warden had to provide ‘… a dairy of three or four kine of the stock of the hospital, to milk the same, and the milk to be divided among the poor of the hospital.’
The poor were once known as the ‘Goodman Pensioners’, and were provided with shoes and gowns, in addition to fuel and a money allowance. A terrace of 12 houses was built for them and the warden resided in the Old Closters. In 1862, a new scheme and regulation for the management of Christ’s Hospital was prepared by the Charity Commissioners under which the almshouses were ordered to be reconstructed, but this was not carried out until 1865. In 1974, the almshouses were enlarged and provided with central heating throughout. At the same time, the schme was altered to remove the restriction on the number of women to be accommodated, and to make it possible for married couples to be appointed as pensioners.
During 1901, the houses to the north of Christ’s Hospital, known as ‘Church Walks’ were built. Unknown to most people, both Christ’s Hospital and Church Walks are not managed by the Church but by the Governors of the Ruthin Hospital Charities who are responsible for the maintenance, administration and filling vacancies, as well as the well-being of the inhabitants.
The above can only be a resume of a foundation that dates back from 1590 for the purpose ‘…to propogate the true religion of Christ, and to alleviiate the needs of the poor,,,’ How times have changed! – but the pious and devoted affection of Dean Gabriel Goodman to the needs of his native town are still remembered in Ruthin. Well may he be known as ‘Goodman by name and goodness by nature.’ P.D.R.
RUTHIN CRICKET CLUB
Whilst researching in the National Library of Wales, we happened to stumble across an early Minute Book of the Ruthin Cricket Club. This hard-bound exercise book documented the initial steps of one of our fine sporting clubs. The story started in 1849 when Joseph Peers of Plas Newydd, Llanfwrog (see Broadsheet 3) was appointed President. The other officials appointed alongside him were John Denham, Vice President; Arthur Higginson, Treasurer and T.H. Williams, Secretary.
From what could be gleaned from the Minutes, it must have been a club for idle gentlemen. For example, a boy was detailed to carry the bats to the field and was paid sixpence for his trouble. However, the job must have been too onerous for a boy, for shortly afterwards a man was given the job and paid a shilling. Perhaps ‘bats’ includes all the impedimenta that the game requires.
Whilst discussing the equipment for the game, there was a request that the secretary should buy a pint of linseed oil for the bats and a flask of olive oil for the balls. This gives a new dimension to the term ‘a shine on the ball’. One can imagine the problem of trying to get a bowler’s whites clean after he had rubbed the ball on his trousers to get a shine. Remember, this was a time before detergents or soap powder, just boiling and elbow grease.
Like all cricket clubs from then to the present day, the Committee were concerned with the state of the ground. On the 7th June, 1849, William Humphreys, the gardener, was to be sent down to the ground to level it and he should be paid his regular wages of 3/-. There was no asking whether Mr Humphreys would go, he was sent. Again, in July of that year, Humphreys was paid yet another 3/- for work on the ground and the Treasurer was paid 1s 6d. for rolling the ground. The condition of the ground must have caused the committee a great deal of concern for in the January of 1850 members were asked to pay their subscriptions immediately so that ’the ground may be levelled’. The following month, a John Foulkes was engaged to relay and level the cricket ground for the sum of £2. It may be remembered that an agricultural labourer at this time was paid 2/- per day or 12/- per week. Clearly, the Committee intended a more thorough job than Wm. Humphreys could have undertaken single-handed.
After the Club had overcome the condition of the field, they turned their attention to their next problem – bowlers. It would apear there was an over-enthusiasm to bowl on practice night. Friday was exclusively designated for the use of four named bowlers, viz; Mr Benjamin Davies, Mr Robert Jones, Mr Arthur Higginson and Mr C.T. Cole. Presumably, these were the principal bowlers in the Club. Tuesday was a free for all when anyone might bowl, but this must have become a little chaotic for it resulted in another rule being introduced: ‘That no member be allowed to bowl who is not capable of placing men in their proper positions,’ Perhaps if this criterion was applied to modern first-class cricket, then some county or even test bowlers might not be capped.
The all-important ground committee consisted of Messr B. Davies, J. Edwards, Wm. Williams, Bancroft and G. Jones. It is thanks to these pioneers that a cricket club first became edtablished in the town. AF.
POSTMAN’S KNOCK - ROYAL MAIL 350 YEARS SERVICE TO THE PUBLIC
Another centenary celebrated this year has been that of the Post Office which has been delivering the Royal Mail for 350 years. In the 1870s, the mail was still being brought to Ruthin from Flint by stage coach, although the railway to Ruhin had been open since St. David’s Day, 1862. The opening of the present main road over the the Bwich must have eased the formerly hazardous journey undertaken by the mail coach by the old road over Bwlch Pen Barras. This latter route had, for centuries, been the doorway into Ruthin from the east, perhaps even from Roman times.
The winter of 1878/9 was particularly harsh with a great deal of frost and snow. On this particular night, the driver of the mail coach missed the turning at Tafarn-y-Gelyn, possibly because of darkness or poor visibility or both. Perhaps the horses in these circumstances instinctively took the old road, and the coach remorselessly careered on. The driver safely negotiated the descent, along which accidents were not unknown, from Bwlch Pen Barras as far as Llys Menlli (Half-Way House).
The road then curves sharply around Llys Menlli before taking its final plunge to the safety of Llanbedr on the valley floor. But, the driver again missed this turning and the coach lumbered over the snow-covered slope and shot over the lip of the small quarry which lies between Llys Menlli and Rhiwlas.
Mr Roberts of Rhiwlas farm heard the commotion and ran to the scene of the disaster. He found the driver and the horse, both injured, and the shafts of the mail cart broken. He despatched one of his sons, David, to Ruthin with news of the accident carrying the mail bags suspended on either side of the horse’s neck.
The mail got through again! DW.
DID YOU KNOW? …of the mystery of Ruthin’s lost town walls? Place names and traditions suggest that Ruthin was once walled. For example ’Porth-y-Dre’, ‘Town Gateway’, located in Borthyn; ‘Porth-y Dwr’- ‘Watergate’, now No.65 Clwyd Street. Owain Glyndwr by tradition , entered the town through Porth-y-Dwr in 1400 to sack the town (see Broadsheet No. 3, page 2). Lewis Jones’ ‘Handbook for Ruthin and Vicinity’ tells us that the Myddleton Arms were built on the ruins of the town wall and that workers, when restoring the building towards the end of the nineteenth century, discovered in a good state of preservation the stone framework of Porth y Dwyrain (the East Gate) with rings and hooks attached. [Note much of this has been affected by later research].
WELLSTREET, RUTHIN: PART III [written in 1985]
Our last instalment focussed on the area around the Wynnstay Hotel, ending with a reference to the premises now occupied by Mr Davies, the newsagent, formerly known as ‘Gwen’s’.
Adjacent are premises known as ‘Ty Coch’ occupied by a Mr Roberts who was a currier. A man in his employ used to cut leather laces with one slice of his knife from hides of about a yard in length. Later, a Mr J. O. Davies advertised the premises as a restaurant and a private and commercial hotel, appealing especially to cyclists and tourists.
Opposite Plas Tirion, a Mr Evans kept a Butcher’s shop and next to him was another Boot and Shoe shop kept by Mr Robert Roberts of Whitford. Then came ‘The Swan’ the licensee of which at that time was a Mr Lewis. Outside, on the portico above the front door, was a large wooden effigy of a Swan with a heavy chain around its neck. Its full title was ‘The White Swan’ but these premises were later demolished to extend Slater’s garage, originally established by a Mr Cushion, later becoming ‘Beech’s Garage’.
The area between ‘The Swan’ and Evans’ the butchers was a conglomeration of small houses and shops known as ‘Buarth y Swan’ and ‘Y Buarth Fawr’ In the 1870s these had deteriorated into slum properties which, we are told, would have disgraced anything the East End or Scotland Road could have produced. Earlier in the 1820s, this area, which included a public bakery was known as Morris Grifith’s yard, named after the owner, who was also a boot and shoe maker. Later, the ‘Buarth Fawr’ and the bakehouse were kept by a Mr Robert Jones (Cae Marian). He was also a very capable drainer and his son, Evan, followed in his father’s footsteps and was additionally a water diviner and well sinker.
The slum properties were eventually cleared to make way for the Tabernacle Chapel and the Naylor-Leyland Institute provided for the technical instruction (woodwork for the boys and cookery for the girls) of senior children attending the local schools. A picture postcard (1914) of Well Street shows ‘The Swan’ and the area around before the building of the Naylor Leyland Institute but after the building of the Tabernacle Chapel (1890). This also shows cottages that preceded the Cinema, now a super market, off-licence, an insurance broker’s office and a travel agent’s shop.
These cottages separated Plas Tirion from what was known as ‘The City’, located to the rear of what is now a row of shops and flats renovated in the late 1950s early 60s by Vaughan Bros. One of these properties was known as ‘Pyrocantha House’ and Rhuddenfab tells us that in the street opposite this house was a well celebrated for its plentiful supply of pure spring water.
Mr John Jones, Estate Agent, lived at Pyrocantha House in the 1850s and he was also Collector of Tithes for most of the clergy in the district. Behind this were two houses and offices, one house being occupied by David Jones. The offices were known as ‘Jones the Agent.’
Next to Pyrocantha house were large doors giving access to the rear where Mr Edward Jones, a haulier, ran his business. Another Edward Jones, of Bathafarn, rented one of the lofts, early in January, 1800 to hold religious services thus pioneering the introduction of Wesleyanism into Ruthin. Robert Gomer Roberts (Wa Bach) was also prominent in these arrangements.
Further along the street were various shops and Inns. One was a Pork Shop kept by a Mr Roberts who also sold groceries, From the ceiling of his shop hung bladders of lard and bundles of tallow candles imported from Mr Boaz Jones’chandlery in Denbigh.
Across the road over the Golden Lion Inn were the Cocoa Rooms, provided by the well-intentioned to counteract the attractions of the many public houses. Here one could play at bagatelle and other games, enjoy a quiet reading room and partake of a cup of cocoa. These seem to have mushroomed during the Victorian era, but alas did not prosper in Ruthin. ‘Cocoa Rooms’ survive to this day at Llandyrnog. The Golden Lion and the Cocoa Rooms were later occupied by Messrs O.R. Owen & Co., Grocers.
Next to the fomer railway bridge was ‘The Exchange’ (The Old Anchor) where a Mr Rickman lived next to ‘The Temperance’, kept by a Miss Jane Jones. She once gave lodgings to a young policeman, Edward Jones, who eventually succeeded Major Leadbetter as Chief Constable.
On the opposite side of the road was another Inn, ‘The Queen’s Head’, demolished to make way for the railway. What is now Leamington Stores, was once the Antelope. Railway Terrace was built in 1864 by a Mr John Savin, the contractor for the Ruthin-Corwen Railway line.
The Feathers were then kept by a Mrs Simon and The Machine by a Mrs Roberts who had two sons who, though brought up as Wesleyans, became clergyman witthin the Church of England. On the Wernfechan side of The Machine was an office with a public weighing machine in the road.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: This is based upon material gathered from various guide books, and I am indebted to Mr H. Stanley Williams for the sight of his collections taken from the Denbighshire Free Press and other papers of the pre-1st World War era. I have again used the recollections of ‘Un Hen’ published in the Fee Press in 1944 followed in 1945 by the recollections of a Mr E.F. Evans, an elderly Ruthinite then residing in Sussex. Also freely utilised is material gathered by Mr W.J. Pritchard in his quest for long-lost Ruthin pubs. Can you contribute aditional information?. DW.
Next Issue CASTLE STREET
THE WEALTH OF THE DE GREYS
From the Edwardian invasion of Wales until shortly after Bosworth Field, the de Grey family held the manorial rights of Ruthin castle and the income from the town and vast tracts of the surrounding countryside. Prof R.I. Jack in a slim volume ‘The Geys of Ruthin Valor’ examines yet another aspect of this family’s wealth, their estates and incomes from their English lands.
It may be remembered that Peter Randall in ‘Broadsheet 2’ explained how in return for his treachery at the Battle of Northampton, Edward IV created de Grey Earl of Kent. This was in 1465. In 1468 a clerk of the household made a detailed account of his master’s English lands, their income and expenditure. It is this document that Ian Jack has translated and published in the above mentioned book. The wealth of the de Greys may be assessed by the fact that in 1436, they were the seventh wealthiest family in the land, as it would appear from the income tax lists of that date. According to the Valor, the de Greys had substantial holdings in - Bedford, Huntingdon, Northampton, Buckingham, Leicester, Suffolk, Essex, Norfolk.
These gave the family a net income, after all outgoings had been paid, of just over £1000 per annum. In modern day terms, this would have amounted to an annual income of over £250,000. [Note: Bank of England suggests £360,000 in 1985 and £10,500,000 in 2017.]
Interestingly. the de Greys were one of the two great landowning families who had owned the manor of Dadlington, near Leicester, the ‘alternative’ site for the Battle of Bosworth, the quincentenary of which we are celebrating this year. In the seventeenth century, Dadlington Church was said to be emblazoned with the coats of arms of the de Grey family. AF.