18th December 2019
See also the third item in Broadsheet No. 31 on this website.
Pool Park is a large house just off the Llanfwrog-Cerrigydrudion road, some three miles south-west of Rhuthun.
Pre-16th century documentation for Pool Park had not been discovered, but the land was converted into a private hunting ground (or ‘Park’) under the lordship of the de Greys of Ruthin Castle in 1284. Other lordship ‘parks’ were in Bathafarn, Clocaenog, Ruthin and 'Brynkyffa').
From the 16th century these parks were sold or leased.
Pool Park estate is a tale of two inter-related families- one Welsh and one English: the SALESBURY AND BAGOT FAMILIES. They owned the house and estate from the early seventeenth century to 1932, some 300 years.
The Salesbury family
The Salesburys, who changed the spelling of their name, were a cadet or junior branch of the Salusbury family of Lleweni Denbigh, headed by Sir Robert Salusbury. His son John built up the Bachymbyd and Rug estates through marriage. Pool Park was then part of Bachymbyd estate. It is not clear if a house was erected at this time, but the Salesburys certainly had a house built there by the mid 17th century.
COLONEL WILLIAM SALESBURY, one of Sir John’s grandsons, inherited the BACHYMBYD and RUG estates on his father’s death. He also inherited large mortgage debts and spent most of life trying to pay them off. He chose to live at Bachymbyd, in Rhewl (Llanynys) and spent money rebuilding the house as well as Rug in Meirionethshire. He gradually amassed some 30,000 acres, mainly through marriage, and by purchase, in southern Denbighshire and adjacent parts of Meironethshire. Bachymbyd remained the principal residence of the family until later replaced by Pool Park.
He quarreled bitterly with his heir, OWEN, and split his extensive landholdings between him and his brother, CHARLES. Owen got the Rug mansion and the Merioneth lands; while CHARLES acquired the Bachymbyd and Pool Park estates
Charles SALESBURY died without a male heir so the Bachymbyd estate (which included Pool Park) passed to his daughter, JANE. Jane’s mother was the daughter of Eubule THELWALL of Nantclwyd Hall.
Jane is pictured here with her grandchildren.
Pool Park Old Hall
The Bagot family
Jane Salesbury married SIR WALTER BAGOT, 3rd Baronet, of Blithfield Hall, Staffordshire, in 1670, so the estate became part of the larger Bagot lands, as was the case with the property of all heiresses, until 1882!
It seems Walter Bagot did not get all her assets, as on her death in 1695, she bequeathed an endowment to establish almshouses in Llanfwrog (erected in 1705). Interestingly, one of her daughters, also called Jane, and who had married HENRY MORRIS of Llanrhaeadr Hall, also endowed almshouses in Llanrhaeadr in 1725.
This acquisition of 17,500 acres in Denbighshire and parts of Merionethshire doubled Bagot’s income and acreage, making him the largest landowner in Staffordshire. It also doubled the number of mansions he owned; from three to five! Some idea of the wealth of the Bagots from their Welsh and English estates is indicated by an income of over £22,000 in 1886. This has been estimated as equivalent to over £2,500,000 in today’s money; and half came from the Welsh estate. The Bagots were thus one of the richest families in North Wales, comparable to the Watkin Williams-Wynn of Wynnstay, and the Myddelton West family of Ruthin Castle. The 1839 Tithe Maps and accompanying list of owners of land show that Lord Bagot’s land stretched from Llanynys to beyond Clocaneog and as far as Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr and even Llangwm. Most of the land was farmed by tenants, save Pool Park’s home farm and surrounding parkland. It included a sporting estate and fishing lakes as well. The estate also owned two taverns, one in Clocaenog, the Cloin, now gone, and the Crown at Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr.
The BAGOTS were elevated to the peerage in 1740 as ‘Baron Bagot of Bagot’s Bromley in the County of Stafford.’ The second Baron, like his father, called WILLIAM (1773-1856), was the most interesting of the Bagot owners of Pool Park. He rebuilt the house between 1826 and 1829 in an Elizabethan revival style, which cost £4,600. The 1928 sale gives a description of the house – a ‘moderately-sized mansion’ with 6 bedrooms, 2 guest bedrooms and 9 maids’ bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, billiards room; stables, other servants’ rooms, wine cellar, stables, kennels and its own electricity and water supplies. The stone doorway was said to have been moved from Bachymbyd, with claims that it was designed by Inigo Jones.
It was the second Baron Bagot who created Lady Bagot’s Drive to link Pool Park with Bachymbyd in Rhewl without having to leave Bagot land - possibly in the 1820s. It was certainly there in the late 1830s when the survey work for the 1839 Tithe Maps was being undertaken. The carriage drive was to link Pool Park, via its north lodge (now Bingley Lodge), by a more direct route along minor roads to Bontuchel bridge where the upper end of the Drive begins, and then through Rhewl village to the nearby lesser family home of Bachymbyd.
A well-regarded man of culture and an avid early archaeologist, he had two ancient monuments brought down from Bedd Emlyn (Emlyn’s Grave’) and ‘Cadair y Frenhines’ (Queen’s Throne’) atop Llys y Frenhines (Queen’s Court) near Pincyn Llys and re-erected on the lawns in front of Pool Park Hall, to secure their safety. Emlyn is believed have been a local Welsh prince of the 5th-6th centuries AD, so perhpas the earliest named possessor of what would become Pool Park? The sarcophagus stone of ‘Prince Emlyn’ (Emilini Tovisagi [Tywysoci]) is now at San Ffagan museum , near Cardiff, but the whereabouts of what is claimed to be a ceremonial ‘coronation stone throne‘ of the same period is unknown. Both were mentioned in the 1928 sales catalogue.
He also began the afforestation of the Clocaenog moors. A memorial stone pyramid, erected in 1830, states that 1,200 acres of woodland had been planted.
His son, also a William (1811-1887), became the third Baron. He was also a Conservative politician who was MP for Denbighshire, 1835-1852.
By now Bagots no longer lived at Pool Park. Instead, like many other land –owners, they rented out some of their homes and estates to wealthy people.
EDWARD JONES Gent. appeared to have tenanted Pool Park from the early 1830s. He died in 1759.
GEORGE RICHARDS ELKINGTON (1801-65) was the next tenant of Pool Park. He inherited his uncle’s successful Birmingham electro-plating factory and extended it. By 1880 it employed 1,000 people and the family also had a copper works near Llanelli to process ore from Parys mountain, Anglesey. He probably leased Pool Park in 1860 and died there on 22 September 1865. His son, George, then took over the lease until 1870.
ROBERT BLEZARD (1810-1906) was the next person to acquire the Pool Park lease. He was from Liverpool where he had become a prosperous brewer (Liver Brewery). Having made his fortune, he first leased Garthmeilo Hall in Llangwm, which he gave up in 1869 to move to Pool Park the following year. He remained there until his death at the end of December 1906, at the advanced age of 93. He enjoyed a long and healthy life and played an important part in local affairs. Blezard became a JP and great benefactor to the locality and, like Elkington, was a strong Anglican (Llanfwrog Church) and a staunch Tory. His widespread popularity was reflected in a very large turn-out at his funeral at Llanfwrog Church. Ellis’ and Cambrian works closed during the afternoon and muffled bells were rung at St Peter’s. He was buried near the graves of his two grandchildren in Llanfwrog churchyard.
His son and heir, GEORGE BLEZARD, who took over his father’s tenancy of Pool Park, paid for a memorial window for his father in Llanfwrog Church. George was somewhat of a model farmer, noted for his herd of short horn cattle. He maintained a good sporting estate as well. Both Blezards provided much employment and business for local shop-keepers. George gave up the Pool Park lease in 1909, having previously sold his livestock.
The final person to have leased Pool Park was Sir ERNEST TATE (1867-1939), grandson of the sugar magnate (Tate and Lyle), Sir HENRY TATE, in 1910. Tate gave up the lease in early 1929, following the sale of the estate on 7 November, 1928. He then moved to Galltfaenan Hall in Trefnant, previously the seat of the Townsend Mainwaring family; which Tate had purchased in 1926 and subsequently carried out major improvements to. He died there in April 1939. It is now a nursing home for psychiatric patients. Tate, another local benefactor, was also a keen supporter of country pursuits, the Anglican Church and the Conservative party. Like previous tenants he was also well-known for his charitable activities in the Ruthin and Denbigh areas – e.g., Denbighshire Infirmary and Ruthin Hospital. In addition, he was a JP, Deputy Lord-Lieutenant and High Sheriff of Denbighshire in 1919.
It was a common practice for rich urban businessmen or retired military officers to take long leases on English and Welsh country estates. This allowed them to live the life of country squires, while providing much-needed rents for a strapped aristocracy.
An increasingly impecunious Bagot family (like the Cornwallis-Wests in Ruthin) was forced to sell the Pool Park estate (except the house and surrounding land) of some 17,500 acres of farms, land, woodland and shooting and fishing lands in 1928; numerous properties having previously been sold to tenants. Earlier than this, 1,200 acres of land on Clocaneog moor was sold to the Forestry Commission. 73 properties were sold to sitting tenants by private treaty. A lesser sale took place in 1930. The house failed to sell on both occasions.
Three years later, the North Wales Counties Mental Hospital (more familiarly known as the as the Denbigh Mental), in pressing need of additional accommodation for patients (it had over 1,500 patients in Denbigh), purchased the house and grounds for c£1,500. After spending some £4,000 on alterations, it was opened as a psychiatric annex to the main hospital for 70 of the ‘more easily manageable’ male patients in May 1937. These benefited greatly from its limited size, parkland and gardens. Gardening was seen as a helpful therapy for them.
Following a national reorganisation of mental health provisions, asylums were shut down and care switched to a mixture of ‘care in the community’, local hospitals and general practices.
The Denbigh Mental Hospital was closed in 1990, as was Pool Park. In both cases, the closure took place over some six years, being sold by the Health Authority in 1996. Both sites were acquired by developers, but various schemes were either denied planning consent or never materialised. As a result, the empty hospitals suffered badly from vandalism, theft and general neglect.
Pool Park is believed to have been sold to ROBERTS’ HOMES of Ruthin, to be developed as a retirement village, but nothing came of this and the building deteriorated further. In 2012 the company was granted permission to construct a ‘care village’ on the site, but it decided to sell the site in order to concentrate on other projects. The Grade II listed building, now seriously dilapidated mansion was offered for sale, yet again, together with some 23 acres, by Jackson-Staffs in April 2019 for offers over £1.75million. Various suggestions for the use of the property were suggested in the advertisement - housing, a country house hotel or even a new private country retreat. The property is believed to have been sold, but the name of the purchaser has not been disclosed at time of writing (December 2019).
The Prisoner-of-War camp.
In 1928 part of the estate was purchased by the owners of the adjacent Plas Efenechtyd and it was on part of this land that Pool Park POW camp was erected in 1942, principally to house large numbers of Italian prisoners. German captives were housed there from 1945 to 1948. The land then reverted to Plas Efenechtyd.