CAERFALLEN - an Elizabethan Farmhouse
Zoe Henderson November 2015
Caerfallen is an outstanding timber frame house dating from the 16th century. It was part of the estate home which included Plas Towerbridge, of The Queens Surveyor of North Wales - a Mr Robert Turbridge in 1560. It is believed to have been in his family from when they came to Wales with the De Greys in the 14th century until they sold it to Sir Thomas Myddleton in 1661. It has been a working farm ever since.
The house is listed Grade 2* reflecting its “exceptionally fine” description. The farm buildings consist of 2 major barns, one built in 1664 and the other earlier. The house and barns have many interesting architectural features.
Architectural description and features
Cae’rafallen is described in The Buildings of Wales by Edward Hubbard as “Timber-framed, partly brick-nogged, with jettying and close studding. Ribbed brick chimneys. Built in two stages, perhaps as unit planning. The earlier, which is of three units, has herringbone bracing on the gable end, and a lateral chimney. Later range at right angles, with central chimney and lobby entry. Farm building round two sides of a court”
The early history of Caerfallen is with the Turbridge family. It is likely that their earliest family home was Plas Towerbridge which is very close to Caerfallen. The family of Towerbridge are said to have derived their name and armorial bearings of a tower and a bridge from having had custody of these appendages to a fortress. In this same reference it suggests the family were introduced by Earl Lacy at Denbigh however it goes on to say that as their family seat of Plas Towerbridge was called Plas Sion Grey in the pedigree of Parry of Llanbedr it is likely that the family was connected with the De Greys of Ruthin castle rather than Denbigh.
The Turbridge family variously spelled their name Towerbridge, Turbridge, Tourbridge and are said to have been settled in Ruthin for some generations before Robert Turbridge established the family fortune by his appointment in 1562 to the surveyorship of crown lands in recognition of his “constant diligence about the Queens affairs in said counties” presumably in his capacity of Baron of the North Wales Exchequer.
Robert Turbridge is said to have been married to Ann (or Jane) daughter of Humphrey Dymock of Lleweni Green. They appear to have had 3 children, Robert, John and Elinor. John Turbridge was a Member of Parliament in 1588/9. He was educated at Shrewsbury in 1577, Furnivals Inn and Lincolns Inn 1582. He married Margaret daughter and heir of John Lloyd of llanbedr Dyffryn Clwyd. They had 2 daughters but no son so succession was maintained through his younger brother Robert who is said to have married into the Conways of Bodrhyddan. In another document his wife is described as “Sir William Gerards half sister by the mother (Gwydir 91) . This Robert Turbridge had two children Dorothy and John who in the document Ref. iii describes “of Caerfallen in 1653”. It also suggests he was an MP but there appears to be no evidence of this and is likely a mix up with his uncle John who was an MP in 1588 (see above). This second John Turbridge was married to Mary daughter and heir of Hugh Heaton of Llanwern 1659 or 7. His sister Dorothy married Thomas Ashpool of Llandyrnog.
John and Mary had three children. Robert born in 1624 (?), Richard who was Vicar of Dymeerchion (presumably Tremerchion) and Luce or Lucy. Richard died Dec 26th 1674 aged 43 therefore born in 1631. There is a monument to him in St Asaph Cathedral. His brother Robert also described as “of Caerfallen” married Ann daughter of Samuel Mostyn of Calcote. He died 20th July 1679 aged 55 and there is said to be a monument in Ruthin Church however searches in St Peters Ruthin and in Llanrydd Church have not been fruitful in finding the monument. This monument is also mentioned in a reference to John Turbridge MP where it says he “was one of the family of Caervllaen and Plastowbridge, Nr Ruthin. “
Robert and Ann had one daughter Ann and it seems that with her the family died out. In an article on Plas Towerbridge it is said that Ann married John Myddelton of Gwaenynog at St Hilary’s Chapel Denbigh on 27th May 1685 and the estate (presumably Plas Towerbridge?) then passed into the Myddelton family with whom it remained until the beginning of the nineteenth century. Ann had 10 children and was buried in Henllan on 18th January 1719 or 20
It is known from the Chirk Castle Accounts that Robert Turbridge sold “Kaer Vallen and the lands therevnto” for £1300 in 1661 to Sir Thomas Myddleton. Kaer Vallen was described “as having been in the Turbridge family for generations”.
In March 1685 Lucy Turbridge contested the Myddletons title of ownership of Caerfallen. The Myddletons successfully defended their ownership.
Cae’rfallen was also a township which appears to have had an Isaf and Uchaf area which ran towards Llanrydd from Caerfallen
1324 A survey of Ruthin Lordship carried out in 1324 refers to “cayvelyn” . This is believed to be an English scribes attempt at “caerfallen”
Cae’rfallen is included in a map of Dyffryn-Clwyd (Rhuthun) which describes the Denbighshire lordships in 1324. However it is unclear whether Caerfallen was part of the Rhuthun Lordship as no specific rent is recorded in the 1324 survey of rents for De Grey. When the Rhuthun Lordship was sold to Sir Thomas Myddleton Caerfallen was not part of it as it belonged to the Turbridges.
1495 In the Caerfallen sales particulars of 1955 when the farm was sold to Mr WL Henderson it is stated that “ records show that in 1495 it was occupied by the Governor of Wales” Unfortunately up to the date of writing (2012) such records have not been found. At the time the title Governor of Wales had been bestowed by Henry Tudor (King Henry Vll) on Rhys ap Thomas on the battlefield of Bosworth in recognition of his support. Sir Rhys ap Thomas was a Welsh military leader who had inherited the Dinefwr Estates including Carew Castle in South Wales. Again to date there is no connection to Caerfallen. A potential lead to be pursued is a document described as a power of attorney “to give Robert Wynn ap Thomas of Kayr Vallen , gent to deliver seisin” . Seisin being the word used to denote legal possession of a feudal fiefdom. Unfortunately the document is in latin.
1588 John Turbridge of Caervllaen is elected an MP . There is also a record of a John Turbridge of Dogfeilin, Llanrudd. Historical note – Dogfeilin is an ancient commote (Cymwd in Welsh) which is a secular division of land in Medieval Wales. Dogfeilin was an area from Llanrydd North along the East side of the River Clwyd. It was named after Dogfael one of the sons of the first King of Gwynedd, Cunedda and was first named around 445A.D.
1603 A letter to Robert Turbridge at Caervallen is recorded in the Wynn of Gwydir records
1606/7 Robert Turbridge is described as Justice of peace for Denbighshire and of Caervallen
1613 A Robert Wynn of Caervallen, co Denbigh is recorded in the Chirk Records
1638 A Ruthin Parish record shows a Mary Turbridge of Caer y fallen buried on November 24th . It records her father as Robert
1641 A bond records John Turbridge of Caervallen
1661 April 1st 1661 Caerfallen was sold to the Myddletons of Chirk Castle for £1300
Sir Thomas Myddelton (1586 – 1666) paid Robert Turbridge of Llanbeder £1300 for a “messuage called Kaer Vallen and parcels of land adjoining”
From this time until 1913 Caerfallen is owned by the Chirk Castle Estate and is rented out to a succession of tenants. The first appears to be a Mr Richard Green who held Caerfallen on lease. He was an Alderman of Ruthin in 1657 and 1660 and Under-Sheriff for Denbighshire 1662 and 1676.
1664 The building to the North of the yard was built. In the Chirk castle accounts on January 28th 1664 it is recorded that Mr Richard Green of Ruthin was paid his bill for making five bays of new buildings at Caerfallen by allowing the sum of £38 19s in his rent. This is believed to be the 5 bays from the west end. It is not known when the attached section of the building with the cart house doors was built.
1669 It is shown in the Chirk Castle accounts that on June 26th Mr Robert Turbridge of Llanrydd was paid £140 for his mill at Caerfallen and Kilne and “land thervnto belonging”
1681 Richard Green is referenced at Caervallen with his occupation as Gent.
1688 There is a reference to a Richard Lloyd of Caerfallen Ref.vi. In Ref vii it is said that the rent was £54 per annum. There is also a record of £100 being spent on the “mansion House and mill”. Lloyd was not successful at farming and the farm was spilt into small holdings although he retained the mill and two fields at a rent of £3.10s
1694 Richard Lloyd gave up the tenancy of Caerfallen and was succeeded by Robert Davies, a drover. Davies stood at the county election in 1680 representing the Myddelton interest. He was sworn in as Alderman of Ruthin on 15th October 1698. He was married to Mary and had at least a son and two daughters. He fell into arrears of rent , a debt of £32. 4s which was cleared by his daughter Anne.
1698 Mary Davies, wife of Robert of Caervallen was buried on September 15th 1698
1705 - 1740 Records of Davies family occupation at Caerfallen
1763 – 1802 Records of Roberts family
1839 The Tithe map from Denbighshire tithe apportionment No. 16 shows Caerfallen in Llanrhydd Parish. The landowner is listed as Miss Harriet Middleton and the occupier as John Garner. The premises are described as “House yard”
1851 The 1851 census of Ruthin district 4b page 34 shows Caerfallen to have 167 acres and 2 employees
1861 The Ruthin census shows everyone at Caerfallen is unmarried. Joseph Garner Aged 45 head of household.
1891 Edward Thomas aged 33, wife Jamme and 2yo twin daughters
1901 Gwen Bonner aged 28 and son
1913 In 1913 Caerfallen was owned by Col Cornwallis West who had acquired it through inheritance. The Myddeltons had died out in the male line in 1796. Their Ruthin Estates passed through marriages to the Cornwallis West family who in the 1870’s owned 2200 ha in Denbighshire including Caerfallen.
Over June 10th, 11th and 12th 1913 a major portion of the Ruthin Estate including Caerfallen was sold at auction. Caerfallen was bought with 137 acres by Mr W G Lecomber for £5000.
Mr Bonner who held the farm on an annual tenancy continued in the tenancy under the Lecomber ownership.
1925 William Godfrey Lecomber died January 8th 1925 and his estate was distributed later in the year including the sale of Caerfallen.
1925 sees the start of the Hooson time at Caerfallen. The farm was bought with 141 acres by John Mahler as a wedding present for his daughter Kathleen Mahler and son in law George Hooson.
On taking possession of the farm George and Kathleen were allocated only one sitting room and one bedroom as the Bonners continued to live there for a short period as was the custom.
Two privately published books “I Remember” by Kathleen Hooson and “The memoirs of A Very Fortunate Man” by George Hooson record much about life at Caerfallen from 1925 until 1955.
The farm became a busy and successful dairy and market garden delivering produce to Ruthin and Denbigh. Often more than a dozen people were living in the house.
During the Second World War many German and Italian prisoners of war worked on the farm
Water supply – In 1925 water was pumped by hand from a well in the dairy floor..
A new water supply was developed by Mr Hooson after he recognised that a spring Fynnon Y Wern rose in a neighbours field. An hydraulic ram was installed to pump water to the farm. This was still operating in the 1960s.
1955 Caerfallen was bought by Mr W L Henderson for £12,500 starting the current Henderson ownership.
The farm has primarily been a stock farm rearing calves to beef stores from 1963 when dairying ceased until 2000 when D L Henderson retired.
Modern farming is impossible in the old buildings at Caerfallen and today the land is farmed on a grazing let basis producing beef cattle from stores.
1978 Caerfallen House was listed by the Secretary of State for Wales as a Grade II*.
2005 The buildings at Caerfallen were listed Grade II in their own right. The long range of west side buildings that were known as “The Shippon” were listed for their group value with Caer’afallen as part of a complete farmstead group.
The North side range which we now know was partially built in 1664 was also listed as “a large multi-purpose farm building abd cart shed, well detailed and retaining its agricultural character. Group value with Caer’afallen farmhouse and L-Shaped farm range to SW”. This group of buildings are known as the Piggeries, the stables and the garages going from West to East.
David Henderson (DLH) mentioned the following:-
Mr Hooson said there is a massive stone “the size of Caerfallen house” in the top corner of Cae Canol near the water trough. DLH has hit a large stone when ploughing the area.
There are many large stones near the road hedge in the cross the road field which made knocking in fence posts very hard. Indeed several large (approx. 50cm round) were ploughed up in 2012. They are in the bottom far corner now.
The back playing field of Ruthin School has been seen described as “Caerfallen field” on a map .