RUTHIN LOCAL HISTORY BROADSHEET
Issue No 3, September 1985
PLAS NEWYDD, LLANFWROG, RUTHIN.
One cannot tell when Plas Newydd was first built. In fact. it would be more accurate to say Plas Newydd evolved over many years for the structure which we now see is the product of many phases of development.
It is believed that a house has been standing on the site for many centuries and an early abstract of title refers to it as "Tyn–y–Gelenen" – "The House in the Hollies". The earliest date we can ascribe to it is 1611, from an inscription over a fireplace "Pax 1611" in the oldest part of the house. But this evidence must be viewed with some suspicion as it has been relatively common practice for owners with a taste for the antiquarian to install panelling. fireplaces, etc., bearing coats of arms, dates, initials, etc., in one house from another.
Documentary evidence begins with an Abstract of Title of 1706 when John Roberts sold the house to Thomas Jones of Bodyngharad [Bodangharad, Llanfwrog] for £107.10s. Five years later, he sold the house to Robert Foulkes, Rector of Llanfwrog, for £120. Foulkes then became Rector of Llanbedr and sold the property in April, 1726. In August, 1731 it was bought by Richard Jones of Efenechtyd and it passed to his son and heir. Edward, who sold it to Thomas Hughes, Rector of Llanfwrog, in December, 1760.
Thomas Hughes was an interesting character. He was master at Ruthin School for several years before becoming Rector of Llanfwrog in 1755, and it is said that he elevated the school to a degree of celebrity not previouslv achieved. One of his sons. Thomas, was tutor to two of King George III's sons. His grandson, again Thomas, was none other than Tom of "Tom Brown's School Days" and author of the book of that name.
Rector Thomas Hughes died on 24th April 1776 (there is a memorial to him and to his second wife Margaret in Llanfwrog Church) and left the house and land to Margaret. She died. in April 1799, and the property was put up for auction on 30th September, 1799, at the Whyte Lyon, now Castle Hotel (Wetherspoon). There is a memorial to his first wife Elizabeth, also mentioning their four children, in the choir of St. Peter's Church.
At this point, there is a gap in the deeds, but the property was purchased by Col. Joseph Peers (the Elder) and, as part of the transaction, he also acquired the "Vernon" seat st Llanfwrog Church, on 13th of September 1805. This seat had previously been occupied by one Robert Hughes, Tanner, whose tannery occupied the site of the present bungalow "Tan–y–Gerddi".
In 1826, Col Peers the Elder made settlement of Plas Newvdd in favour of Caroline Beevor of Mellor, Derbyshire, who married his son, also Joseph Peers. One of the trustees of the settlement was Joseph Ablett of Llanbedr Hall. Col. Peers died in April, 1838, in Castle Street, and a memorial was erected to his memory in Llanfwrog Church. The family vault is in the north–eastern corner of the church yard [now completely obscured by ivy].
Joseph the son became Clerk to the Denbighshire Justices in 1833 and the clock tower on St. Peter's Square commemorates his fifty years of service in that capacity. He died in January, I884, having survived his son, also Joseph, and his wife, who both died in 1855. Caroline and her son Joseph are both described in the Burial Register as "of Castle Street".
A map dated 1826 in the County Archives shows that this was quite a sizeable house, but c.1850, Joseph built a large extension onto the front, in a simple classical style, with wings on each side of the central section, and on vaulted foundations. This provided nine additional large rooms on three floors. The elevation was in pale stucco, giving us the appearance which remains to this day. The stream in front of Plas Newydd was covered over at about this time.
Opposite, there was a field called "Tir–y–Bel". The cottages, now Nos 111-121 Mwrog Street, were purchased in…. and a plot on the corner of "old” Lon Fawr was purchased in 1857.
Joseph Peers exchanged all this in December 1858, for Bodyngharad, Llanfwrog, in a deal with the trustees of the Ruthin Castle Estate. The trustees let the property to a Miss Baxter but sold it in March, 1870, to R G Ellis, the mineral water manufacturer, to whose parents a memorial and window are dedicated in Llanfwrog Church.
Mr Ellis added to the propertv by acquiring Nos 139-136A Mwrog Street in 1876/7, the site of the old tannery, Maes Tan y Gerddi (8 acres) in 1889, and 12a Mwrog Street in 1890. Thus.the property extended over l4 acres.
In 1894, the trend seems to have been reversed for Plas Newvdd was then sold to Richard Alston of Llanrhydd Hall. His successors put it up for auction on 29th November 1897, and particulars then made available described the property in some detail.
The buyer was J. Watcyn Lumley, who sold Nos 130-136A, Mwrog Street, in 1898 to one Robert Hugh Pugh. In 1919 he sold the remainder to John Rice Jones, surveyor, of Denbigh. Rice Jones dispersed the rest of the estate. The stables, Maes Tan-y-Gerddi and the land on the- south side of Mwrog Street were sold as a farm unit, known as "Hafod". The cottages, Nos 111-121 are now part of the R.C. Church buildings. The east wing of the main house was separated (c.1920); now known as “Henblas” – the Old Mansion”. Llanfwrog Rectory was built on the site of the tennis court in 1926. The orchard is now occupied by a bungalow Tan-v-Gerddi, built in the 1950s, and a new house was built at 124 Mwrog Street.
Finally, to bring us up to date, Ivor Jones, veterinary surgeon of Cerrigydrudion. purchased the residue, and four houses were built in the garden, the remainder of the house being converted into flats in 1964/5.
DID YOU KNOW?
THAT the first Mayor of Flint created under Edward I Charter dated 8th September, 1284, was Reginald de Grey, Baron of Wilton, who was at the time Constable of Flint Castle. De Grey was also one of the main witnesses to the Charter. Two years previously, on 23rd October, 1282, the King issued his Charter from Denbigh granting Reginald de Grey the castle of Ruthin and the Cantref of ‘Defferen Cloyt’ [Dyffryn Clwyd]. The owner of the Lordship of Ruthin became Mayor to one of the earliest Royal Boroughs in Wales. Ruthin had to wait another 554 years before the town had its first Mayor, Alderman George Adams, on lst January, 1836, under the Municipal Corporations Act, 1835.
THAT when Owain Glyn Dwr raided Ruthin on 18th September, 1400, he led a force of 263 men and 7 women, who sheltered in the Coed Marchon woodland and took the town as the gates were opened. Amongst the 263 men were 10 from Glyndyfrdwy (Glyndwr’s power base), 9 from Yale. 6 from Edeyrnion, of whom 2 hailed from Corwen and 2 from Bala. By far the largest contingent came from Denbigh, some 87 men. The 7 women were made up of 3 wives, 2 widows, a concubine, and one of uncertain status.
THAT when the Ruthin Castle Estate came on the market it could not be sold as an integral unit and had to be sold in smaller lots. The estate was of 1,965 acres and produced rents of £3,300 per annum and fetched £76.470.
WELL STREET RUTHIN PART II
Our first instalment concluded with "The Hand" inn (No.17) and so we resume with the next section of Well Street, now an empty shop currently being converted, which was the home farm of Wynnstay House adjoining (1985). Some buildings survive to the rear and its fields extended over the area now occupied by Wynnstay Road, the auction mart, Market Street and Station Road. A farm track reached from Wernfechan over what is now the mart to the farm yard.
The building adjacent and on the corner of Wynnstay Road (No.25) housed Williams' Boot and Shoe Shop, which was later transferred to No. 6 Clwyd. Street and followed by Irwin's, Tesco and now (1985)The French Connection. Very sadly, the original premises were demolished by Irwins, then in their heyday as a chain of grocery stores in North Wales, in about l919/20. This had formed part of the town house of the Watkins Williams Wynn family before they disposed of their interests In Ruthin. Part of this house remains as a delicatessen.
Some of the rooms of Wynnstay House were lined with with oak or rosewood panelling and there was a fine oaken staircase. There was, perhaps not surprisingly, a secret compartment in a chimney breast where valuables might be stored. Prior to the demolition of the premises, the panelling and staircase were sold to Lady Naylor Leyland and the panelling was then installed in the dining room at Nantclwyd Hall.
Opposite, and near the Wynnstay Police Station garden, was a hat shop run by the genial and cheerful Mr Hugh Edwards with all his stock neatly covered with white paper on shelves, both in the window and in the shop. He sold "mortar boards" for five shillings each, which were carried by the boys of the Grammar School and of St. Michael's [School].
St. Michael's School was established at No.15 (the Adam's), in the 1850s, by the Rev. Edward Hugh Davies, Perpetual Curate of Llanrhudd Church. It comprised some 50 boys, accommodated as boarders. The school was conducted in a two storey building at the top of the yard. The room above being used as a chapel. Officially, the school was called "Llanrhudd School", but it was also known ae St. Michael's Commercial and Classical School. There was a deadly rivalry between this and the Grammar School, the latter referring to the Llanrhudd School's Head Master and pupils as "St. Michael and All Angels".
This school closed after some six or seven years and the premises became a "Temple of Law", accommmodating Messrs W.R. Evans and Jones, the solicitors. A little later. Mr Marcus Louis, also practised from these premises. Mr Louis became prominent in his profession, and first citizen of the town.
The "Temple of Law" was on the opposite side of Well Street to Manor House, which has a long and varied history. Mr Edward Pilkington, a Staff Surgeon of 17th Lancers, died here on 28th July, 1851, at the age of 67 years. The 17tn Lancers were known as "Bingham's Dandies" or "the Death or Glory Boys". Pilkington retired to live at Ruthin and only three years after his death, on 25th October. 1854, came the ill-fated "Charge of the Light Brigade" at Balaclava. Only 35 "Death or Glory Boys" survived that experience out of an original 145. In the 1860/70s. it was occupied by a Mr Challen, a master at the Grammar School and took in a number of boarders. It changed hands several times after that until Dr Medwvn Hughes held his surgery there. The rooms above became the headquarters of the "Ruthin Literary Institute", which held debates, paper readings and other activities for "general mutual improvement". This organisation did not survive for very long.
"The Wynnstay Arms" (established in' 1549, an advertisement claims), was known in George Burrow's time as "The Crossed Foxes", but Borrow's account of his visit to this hostelry is probably too familiar to require repetition here.
The Crossed Foxes were known as the headquarters of the Wynn family and had a strong political character, being a meeting place of the many friends in North Wales of "The Pretender" [Old or Young?]. It heas been said that they did little more for him beyond drinking his health. However, at the end of "the long room", used as a ball or banquetting room, there was an elaborate plaster chimney piece with the royal arms supported on either side by the figures of Faith and Charity, being among its more prominent features. Unfortunately, this was removed, no drawing. of it was made and there is no other record of it. Warden Newcombe identified it as a Jacobite memorial. Opposite the Wynnstay was located a fine flower garden belonging to the hotel that extended the full width of some thirty yards into what is now Wynnstay Road.
Plas Coch, Nos 24-26, aptly named, was thought from a date-bearing stone on the front elevation to have been built in 1615. A plaque currently on display informs us that the building is 13th century, was burned by Glyndwr in 1400, and rebuilt in 1613 as lodgings for the Constable of Castell Coch [Ruthin Castle]. In the nineteenth century. the frontage was covered with plaster to arrest the wear and tear of the sandstone. Until the late 1940s, this was a pair of private residences later converted as a hotel and restaurant, which function continued under different managements with various alterations and renovations being undertaken. By today, after further alterations, it is the Conservative Club.
Next door to Plas Coch is "Agriculture House", the home of the Denbighshire N.F.U. Before that, it was known as Ivy House, where in the middle of the last century lived Dr T. Cumoston Jones, son of Robert Jones, a bookseller. Dr Jones was followed by Dr. Norman Evans and then by Dr W.D. Jones where he remained until he built "Rhianfa" in Stanley Road.
Plas Tirion (No. 30), home in the last century of Mr Thomas Maurice (of Lloran and Penybont in the Oswestry area), who died in 1858[?], and in whose memory his nephew, James Maurice, dedicated a stained glass window in the north wall of St. Peter's church. Mr James Maurice was a prominent citizen of the town. Several times mayor of the town, playboy [?], aspiring M.P., great friend of the Cornwallis-Wests of the Castle, Chairman of the Board of Guardians and Chairman of the Borough Justices.
After James Maurice's death (he was a batchelor), the house was occupied by a Mrs Smart, previously licensee of "The Punchbowl", later called 'The Crown". Mrs Smart was followed bv Mr T.P. Roberts, an auctioneer and a lively member of the town council. Mr Roberts owned several properties in the town, including Wynnstay House and Stanley House in Wynnstay Road, a furniture auction mart now replaced by a farmers’ supply store. He also built several houses at the west end of Park Road. After his death, his spinster daughter, Miss T.P. Roberts, continued in residence for some time.
The corner to Wynnstay Road and Well Street. now occupied bv a newsagent's shop, popularly known as "Gwen's” for many years, was a plumber's and glazier's shop run by a Mr Edward Davies.
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 collection of press cuttings taken from the Denbighshire Free Press and other papers of the pre-First World War era. I have again used the recollections of 'Un Hen' published in the Free Press in 1944, followed in 1945 by the recollections of a Mr E.F. Evans, an old Ruthinite then residing in Sussex. Also freely utilised is material gathered by Mr W.J. Pritchard in his quest for long-lost Ruthin pubs. I am also grateful to Mr Peter Randall for information from his article 'One of Bingham's Dandies' in 'In Touch', the newsletter of St. Peter's and St. Meugan's. Can you contribute additional information?
?? DID YOU KNOW??
THAT where the main Library is located within the former Ruthin prison (Editor's note: the library is no longer on this site.) was the site of the 'old treadmill’, installed in 1823 to work the pumps supplying water to the prison. Outside the prison, fixed to the wall, an index or type of thermometer was fixed to indicate to passers by, the rate of the work being performed on the treadmill by the hard labour-convicts.
In 1848, permission was granted by Mr Frederick West of Ruthin Castle for additional water to be taken from the Mill Pool next to the Mill in Mill Street. for the washing of prison clothing.
It has been calculated that the maximum time a convict was permitted to work on the treadmill was the equivalent to climbing nearly four times the height of Snowdon!