Ruthin (Rhudd-Ddin or Rhuthyn) - From 'A Topographical Dictionary of Wales' (1849)
RUTHIN (RHUDDDDIN or RHUTHYN), a borough, a market and assize town, a parish, and the head of a poor-law union, in the hundred of Ruthin, county of Denbigh, North Wales, 8 miles (S. E. by S.) from Denbigh, and 210 (N. W. by W.) from London; the borough containing 3333 inhabitants, of whom 1331 are in the parish. The Welsh name of this borough, Castell Côch yn Gwernvor, has induced historians to conclude that there was an ancient British fortress here, prior to the time of Edward I., who is said to have been the founder of the present castle, which, from the colour of the stone, obtained the appellation of Rhûdd-ddin, "the red or brown fortress," from which the town also derived its present name, or rather from the stratum of red sandstone pervading the parish. Edward granted the place, together with the cantrêv of Dyfryn Clwyd, and some other lands now constituting the lordship of Ruthin, to Reginald, second son of John de Grey, by whom some historians, and among them Camden, assert that the castle and the town were both originally founded, by permission of that monarch. The castle and lordship of Ruthin remained for several generations in the undisturbed possession of the family of de Grey; and the town, which, under their protection, continued to advance in prosperity, became at an early period a considerable place, and had one of the best markets in the Vale of Clwyd. Little, however, is recorded of the history of the castle, which appears to have been wholly unconnected with any of the political transactions of the conquest of Wales. Reginald de Grey was summoned to parliament in the fourteenth year of the reign of King Edward I., by the title of Lord Grey of Ruthin.
In 1400, Owain Glyndwr, who, in resistance to the government of Henry IV., spread devastation through almost every part of the principality which acknowledged the authority of that monarch, made a sudden attack upon this place during the fair which was held here, and, after some fruitless attempts to take the castle, plundered the inhabitants, burnt the town, and retreated in safety to the mountains. The castle and the lordship continued with the Lords de Grey, whom Edward IV. elevated to the earldom of Kent, till the reign of Henry VII., when they were sold by Richard, Earl of Kent, to the king, and were made an appendage to the crown. Henry VIII. granted the castle and its dependencies to his natural son Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, at whose death they again became royal property, and were bestowed by Queen Elizabeth on Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick. After the earl's death, the possessions, a second time reverting to the crown, were assigned on lease by James I. to Sir Francis Crane, to whom they were subsequently sold in the time of Charles I.
During the parliamentary war in the reign of this monarch, the castle was garrisoned for the king, and in 1644 was attacked by Sir Thomas Myddelton and Colonel Mytton, but resolutely held out against the besiegers, who found themselves unable to reduce it. In the following year, 1645, Prince Maurice passed through the place, and, after inspecting the garrison, continued his route through North Wales to Chester. The castle was again besieged in February 1646, by Major-General Mytton and a strong force, to whom, after an obstinate defence, the garrison surrendered on honourable terms, in the month of April following; and the fortifications were soon afterwards demolished by order of the parliament. Upon the Restoration, the castle and its dependencies were purchased by Sir Richard Myddelton. To the ruins of the former an elegant castellated mansion was some years ago added by the Hon. Frederick West, which is now the residence of his son, F. R. West, Esq., M.P. for the Denbighshire boroughs, who possesses the lordship.
This parish and that of Llanrhûdd, which were originally one, and are still ecclesiastically so considered, are bounded on the south by the parish of Llanvair, east by the same and that of Llanarmonin-Yale, west by Llanvwrog, and north by Llanbedr. They contain by admeasurement 1989 acres, of which it is computed that about one-third is in the parish of Ruthin, and two-thirds are in that of Llanrhûdd; 1220 acres being arable, 596 meadow and pasture, 90 woodland, and 83 common. The surface is beautifully diversified, the eastern part of Llanrhûdd embracing a portion of the Clwydian hills, and the western part of Ruthin the meanderings of the river Clwyd, with the fertile and luxuriant meadows on its banks. The hedge-rows are of stately timber, consisting of oak, ash, and American poplar, some of which have arrived at a great size; and the agricultural produce is equally rich and abundant, yielding fine crops of wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, and turnips, together with grass and hay.
The town is beautifully situated on the summit and acclivity of an eminence in the picturesque Vale of Clwyd, at the base of which, and partly through the town, flows the river from which the vale takes its name, at this place an inconsiderable stream, serving only to work some mills in the neighbourhood. The appearance of the town, which is wellbuilt, is pleasing; and the vicinity is embellished with several gentlemen's seats, and comprehends some varied scenery. It is bounded by a chain of lofty mountains, upon the highest of which, called Moel Vammau, is a pillar of freestone, to commemorate the Jubilee of George III. No particular trade or manufacture is carried on, except what is necessary for the accommodation of the inhabitants, who are principally engaged in agriculture. It has been for some time in contemplation to make the river Clwyd navigable from this place to the town of Rhuddlan, sixteen miles distant; a project that might be carried into effect at a comparatively inconsiderable expense, and would conduce materially to promote the prosperity of the town. The market, which is abundantly supplied with corn, is on Monday, and there is a second market on Saturday for provisions. Fairs are held on the second Monday after the 12th of January (a general one for horses, cattle, pigs, &c.), on March 19th and 20th, the Friday before Whit-Sunday, on the 19th and 20th of April, the 2nd and 3rd of July, 8th August, 30th September, 10th November, and the second Monday in December (a general fair for the sale of horses, cattle, &c.). Those in April and July were established agreeably with a resolution passed at a meeting of the inhabitants, held under the sanction of the mayor and council, Jan. 12th, 1841. During the hay and corn harvests, the farmers of the Vale of Clwyd attend every morning at the market-place to hire labourers for the day, who assemble here for that purpose, with their scythes and reaping-hooks; a custom productive of evil both to the employer and the employed, the weather and the number of hands often occasioning a difference of two shillings a day.
Prior to the passing of the act 5th and 6th of William IV., c. 76, the government of the borough was vested, by charter of incorporation granted by Henry VII., in two aldermen, sixteen commoncouncilmen, and an indefinite number of burgesses: the aldermen were chosen annually at the court held for the lordship, at Michaelmas; and they, immediately on assuming office, appointed the councilmen. The corporation is now styled the "Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses," and consists of a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors, forming the council of the borough, of which the municipal and parliamentary boundaries are the same. The council elect the mayor every year on Nov. 9th, out of the aldermen or councillors; and the aldermen sexennially out of the councillors, or persons qualified as such, one-half going out of office every three years, but being re-eligible: the councillors are chosen on November 1st, by and out of the enrolled burgesses, one-third retiring annually. Aldermen and councillors must each have a property qualification of £500, or be rated at £15 annual value. The burgesses consist of the occupiers of houses and shops who have been rated for three years to the relief of the poor. Two auditors and two assessors are elected on March 1st, by and from among the burgesses; and the council appoint a treasurer, town-clerk, and other officers, who hold their offices during pleasure.
Ruthin is one of the contributory boroughs which, with Denbigh, return a member to parliament. The right of voting, under the Reform Act, is in the old resident freemen, and in every person of full age occupying, either as owner, or as tenant under the same landlord, a house or other premises of the annual value of not less than ten pounds, provided he be capable of registering as the act demands; the number of tenements of this value, within the limits of the borough, is about 140. The exact limits of the borough are not clearly defined in the charter, but by prescription are held to comprise the whole of the parish of Ruthin, part of that of Llanvwrog, the hamlet of Llanrhûdd Isâv, in the parish of Llanrhûdd, and part of the parishes of Llanynys and Llanvair-Dyfryn-Clwyd. Ruthin is a polling-place in the election of the knights for the shire; and, from its central situation, has been selected, in preference to the town of Denbigh, for holding the assizes for the county: the quarter-sessions are held alternately here and at Denbigh. The powers of the county debt-court of Ruthin, established in the year 1847, extend over the whole of the registrationdistrict of Ruthin, except four parishes, which are under the Denbigh debt-court. A court leet for the lordship occurs twice a year, namely, within one month after Easter and after Michaelmas; and a court baron takes place every alternate Saturday; at both which the steward presides: the latter is also a court of record, taking cognizance of plaints and civil actions arising within the limits of the lordship; and the offices of steward and recorder of this court, when the lordship belonged to the crown, were patent offices.
The town-hall, situated near the market-place, is a substantial edifice, but in no respect remarkable for its style of architecture. Prior to the erection of the county-hall, in the town, it was used for holding occasionally the great and quarter sessions, but is now used solely for the meetings of the corporation, which take place in the council-chamber, and for the lordship courts, &c. This building has been most handsomely repaired, at the expense of the owner of the manor. The county-hall, in which the great sessions are held, and the quarter-sessions alternately with Denbigh, is a beautiful modern structure, and, with the county gaol and house of correction, also situated here, is highly creditable to the talents of the architect, Mr. Turner. The gaol has lately been enlarged by the erection of a building for female prisoners, and comprises six distinct wards for male, and four wards for female, prisoners, for whose classification it is thus well adapted; together with six solitary cells. The males are employed on the tread-wheel, or in knitting worsted gloves, and the females in washing for themselves and the other prisoners; the former are allowed the whole of their earnings in knitting, and the females receive one shilling per week for washing, and fourpence in every shilling which they earn by sewing. There are two infirmaries in the prison. Divine service is performed twice, and a sermon delivered once, on every Sunday by the chaplain; and prayers are read daily by the chaplain or the gaoler to the prisoners, who are supplied gratuitously with Bibles and religious tracts.
The living is a rectory, consolidated with that of Llanrhûdd. The tithes of the two parishes have been commuted for a rent-charge of £462. 1., forming the endowment of Christ's Hospital, in Ruthin; the warden of that establishment is the principal minister of both churches, and appoints a curate to each, who is responsible to him for its spiritual care, the prescribed duties of his office requiring him only occasionally to share in their labours. The patronage of the wardenship is in the Dean and Chapter of Westminster; net income, £263, with a glebe-house. This place forms the head of the rural deanery of Dyfryn Clwyd. The church, dedicated to St. Peter, was made collegiate and parochial about the year 1310, by John, son of Reginald de Grey, who endowed it for a prior, or warden, and a few regular priests, to perform mass at the mother church of Llanrhûdd, the chapel at the castle, and this church. It is still not unfrequently called "the Collegiate and Parochial Church of St. Peter," retaining its name prior to its being refounded by Dean Goodman. It is an ancient edifice in various styles of architecture, and appears to have been built at different periods, or to have undergone material alterations. The tower, and the south and west fronts, which are of the most modern date, are greatly inferior to the rest of the building. The interior is of better character, and the roof, which is of carved oak, panelled, richly sculptured, and apparently of the time of Henry VII., is supposed to have been constructed by that monarch after his purchase of the lordship from the Earl of Kent; on the panels are the inscriptions, in relief, "Jesus Mercy," "Lady help," "Mater Maria, ora pro nobis." One hundred and forty-four sittings were added in the year 1824, towards defraying the expense of which, the Incorporated Society for the erection and enlargement of churches and chapels granted the sum of £50, in consideration of which ninety sittings were declared free and unappropriated. There is an organ, presented by the Hon. F. West; and a vestry-room, with a library, has been built at the west end of the church, at the expense of the present warden. Here are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, and English Independents.
The Free Grammar-school was founded in 1595, by Dr. Gabriel Goodman, Dean of Westminster, and was endowed by Queen Elizabeth, in the same year, with one-half (now £300) of the tithes of Llanelidan, for the support of a master and usher, for the gratuitous instruction of boys born in the town of Ruthin and parish of Llanelidan, and the instruction of others at certain charges; the master to be appointed by the Bishop of Bangor, and the warden of Christ's Hospital in this town, and the usher to be chosen by the master. The master's house, the schoolroom, and dormitories, and library above, were repaired and improved in 1831, by means of donations from the bishop, the warden, and the master, and other liberal contributions, which are recorded on a card in the schoolroom. Two-thirds of the endowment are paid to the head master, and one-third to the usher, under a decree of the Court of Chancery in 1750; and the same proportion is observed with regard to the tuition money of the pay scholars, which amounts to above £7 per annum for each. The number of free scholars averages about 15, and each of these, also, pays above £4. 10. a year. The school has two exhibitions to either of the Universities, under the regulation of a decree of the Court of Chancery in 1824 (hereafter noticed), which are in the gift of the warden of Christ's Hospital, and other trustees; and other exhibitions instituted by the Rev. Edward Lloyd, rector of Ripple, the number of which varies from two to four, according to the fluctuating income of the estate purchased with his pecuniary bequest, in 1740. That bequest produced the sum of £1247. 9., with which was bought the messuage of Carreglwyd and 69¼ acres of land, since extended to nearly 79 acres by an allotment on Mold mountain, in the parish of Mold, county of Flint, and now yielding a rent of £100 per annum. Each exhibition is £25, but occasionally only £20; and is held by the scholar for four years. Ruthin school has likewise a claim, in conjunction with the school of Bangor, to a fellowship founded in St. John's College, Cambridge, by Dr. John Gwyn, in the 13th of the reign of Elizabeth. Among the eminent men who have received the rudiments of their education in the school, may be noticed, Dr. John Davies, author of a Welsh grammar and dictionary; John Williams, lord keeper, and Archbishop of York; John Wynne, principal of Jesus' College, Oxford, and successively Bishop of St. Asaph, and of Bath and Wells; Dr. Tucker, Dean of Gloucester; the Right Hon. Lloyd, Lord Kenyon; the Hon. Mr. Baron Perryn; Lord Chief Baron Richards; Dr. H. Owen, rector of St. Olave, Hart Street, London; Dr. Edwards, archdeacon of Brecknock; and Dr. Cotton, Dean of Chester. The present warden is the Venerable R. Newcome, archdeacon of Merioneth, who has written Memoirs of Dean Goodman, the founder, and Dr. Godfrey Goodman, Bishop of Gloucester, nephew of the dean; and is author also of histories of the castles and towns of Denbigh and Ruthin. A very handsome new National school has been built, capable of containing 200 children: the school has an endowment of £8 a year. There is an equally fine building, erected in Llanrhûdd parish, at the entrance of the town of Ruthin, for the education of children on the British and Foreign system; and five Sunday schools are held in the two parishes.
Christ's Hospital was founded by Dr. Goodman, Dean of Westminster, under letters patent of the 32nd of Elizabeth, for a priest and twelve poor persons (ten men, and two women to attend them), all unmarried at the time of election, and above fifty years of age. Dr. Goodman, prior to this time, had erected twelve almshouses for so many persons; and by letters patent of the above date he incorporated the society under the designation of the "President and Warden of Christ's Hospital, in Ruthin," and endowed the same with the tithes of Ruthin and Llanrhûdd; appointing the Bishop of Bangor for the time being president, and the priest, warden. These two have the entire government of the hospital, and also of the grammar school instituted by the same benefactor. The houses, which are in good repair, are pleasantly situated on the east side of the churchyard, with gardens, and the almspeople receive each three shillings every week, and £1 quarterly, with coal, and gowns and shoes every year; these additions being the produce of various benefactions.
Dr. Goodman, Bishop of Gloucester, in 1655, bequeathed lands in Yale, to the extent of 60 acres, to which an allotment of 44 acres was added under the Llanarmon-in-Yale inclosure act of the 51st of George III.; and also bequeathed lands in the county of Carnarvon; the produce of the former, now £55 per annum, to be distributed weekly in bread to the poor of Ruthin, and the rents of the lands in Carnarvon to be appropriated in apprenticing two boys, and to the support of a traveller beyond the seas. The latter bequest, which consisted of two farms, one of 150 acres and the other of 546, in the parish of Llanberis, the former let for £40 and the latter for £70 per annum, was converted by a decree of the Court of Chancery, in 1824, into the two abovementioned exhibitions for the grammar school, instead of supporting a traveller; the funds have been greatly increased by the opening of slate-quarries on the property (on which account a sum of £800 has accumulated in the three per cents.), and will now apprentice three boys with fees of £15 each, and allow of two exhibitions to college of £22. 10. each, besides leaving a surplus of nearly £40 per annum. There are several other charitable donations and bequests, the produce of which, about £17 per annum, is distributed among the poor, in money and clothing, on St. Thomas's day. The poor-law union of which the town is the head, comprises the following twenty-one parishes and townships, namely, Aberwhielor, Clocaenog, Cyfeiliog, Derwen, Evenechtyd, Llanarmon, Llanbedr, Llandegla, Llandyrnog, Llanelidan, Llangwyvan, Llangynhaval, Llanrhaiadr-inKinmerch, Llanrhûdd, Llanvair-Dyfryn-Clwyd, Llanverras, Llanvwrog, Llanychan, Llanynys, Nantglyn, and Ruthin. It contains a population, according to the last census, of 16,619.
The ancient castle occupied the declivity of a hill fronting the Vale of Clwyd towards the west, and from the extensive foundations and remaining portions of the walls, appears to have been a structure of great strength and magnificence: the remains consist chiefly of a few fragments of the towers, and of ruined walls nearly levelled with the foundation. From various parts of the site are rich and extensive prospects, embracing many interesting objects. Near the town-hall is a rude block of limestone, called Maen Huail, on which it is said the celebrated Prince Arthur beheaded his rival Huail, brother to Gildas, the historian. Ruthin mill, a curious ancient edifice, having on the apex of the eastern gable a red stone cross, is supposed to have been originally the chapel of the cell of White friars, mentioned by Leland as formerly existing here, but of which no records are preserved. Notice is also taken of a cell of Bonhommes, at this place, probably the original establishment for which John de Grey, with the consent of the Bishop of Bangor and the rector of Llanrhûdd, made the church collegiate: the apartments of the canons were connected with the church by a cloister, a remaining portion of which has been converted into a house for the warden of Christ's Hospital: the parlours and hall are much admired for their beautifully groined roofs. The elegant castellated mansion erected by the Hon. F. West, on the site of the ancient castle, forms an interesting and beautiful feature in the prospect of the town.
Dr. Gabriel Goodman, Dean of Westminster, one of the translators of Archbishop Parker's Bible, and principal promoter of Bishop Morgan's Welsh translation; Edward Thelwall, tutor to Lord Herbert of Chirbury; Dr. Parry, Bishop of St. Asaph; Dr. Godfrey Goodman, Bishop of Gloucester; Sir Eubule Thelwall, Knt., principal, and second founder, of Jesus' College, Oxford; and Sir Thomas Exmewe, lord mayor of London in 1517, were all natives of this place. The barony of Grey de Ruthin is at present enjoyed by Barbara, daughter of the late baron, whom she succeeded in the year of her birth, 1810: this lady was married first to the second Marquess of Hastings, who died in 1844; and secondly, in 1845, to Captain Hastings Reginald Henry, R.N., her present husband.