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Nicholson's Cambrian Travellers Guide
3rd Edition 1840 - Ruthin

RUTHIN, RHUDD-DDIN, or RHUTHYN, a borough and market town like Denbigh and St. Asaph, is situated upon the summit and slope of a considerable hill, nearly in the centre of the vale of the Clwyd, which runs through the place, but is an inconsiderable stream, serving for the purpose of turning mills. This is an assize town, and is in the hundred of Rhuddyn, Denbighshire, having evidently originated with the Castle called Rhyddin, or the Red Fortress, from the colour of the stone with which it is constructed. Edward I. is said to have erected the present building, yet the Welsh name Castell-coch-yn-Gwernfor seems to indicate that there was a stronghold anterior to that reign. Camden, however, asserts that both the castle and town were built by Roger Grey. Its history affords few interesting incidents. During a fair holden at Ruthin in the year 1400, Owain Glyndwr entered it with a small army, assailed the fortress without success, and after pillaging the inhabitants and burning the town, retreated to the mountains. From the family of the Greys, it devolved to Richard Earl of Kent, who sold it to Henry VII. It was granted to Dudley Earl of Warwick, by Queen Elizabeth. In the time of Charles I. the castle was held for the king till the year 1645-6 ; but after sustaining a siege from the middle of February to the middle of April, it was given up to General Mytton, who received the thanks of the House of Parliament, Colonel Mason was appointed permanent governor, but soon after the castle was ordered to be dismantled. Its situation was not upon the summit, but upon the side of the hill fronting the vale to the w. Camden says that during the reign of Henry VII., through neglect, it became roofless. The dilapidations seem to have been repaired, for the same author subsequently represents it as " a stately and beautiful castle." It is described by honest Churchyard as it appeared in the 16th century as follows : -

" This castle stands, on rocke much like red bricke ;
The dykes are cut, with toole through stonie cragge .
The towers are hye, tbe wanes are large and thicke.
The worke it selfe, would shake a subjects bagge,
If he were bent, to buyld the like agayne ,
It rests on mount, and looks ore wood and playne ;
It had great store, of chambers finely wrought,
That tyme alone, to great decay had brought.
It shewes within, by dubble walles and waies,
A deep device, did first erect the same :
It makes our worlde, to thinke on elder daies,
Because the worke, was formde in such a frame.
One tower or wall, the other answers right,
As though at call, each thing should please the sight ,
The rocke wrought round, where every tower doth stand,
Set forth full fine, by head, by hart and hand."

The poor remains of this once proud pile, consist of a few fragments of towers and fallen walls, reduced nearly to the foundations. A beautiful castellated structure, harmonising tastefully with the ancient remains, has been recently erected within the ruins of the old castle, commanding rich and extensive prospects. While the work was in progress, under the superintendence of the Hon. Frederick West, some remains of the E. entrance into the ancient castle yard were discovered. On removing some rubbish to the depth of 2 or 3ft., the workmen came to the head of a staircase, composed of a flight of 14 steps of red stone. At the bottom a very fine specimen of the multiplied acute Gothic arch of the days of the first Edward appeared, forming a series of six declining arches, communicating with an apartment leading to one of the towers, which flanked the entrance. The dimensions of the room, which is also arched, are 4 yards in length, and about 7 ft. wide, leading through a Gothic doorway, to the spiral staircase of the tower. The niche for the admission of light to the ascent is in excellent preservation, and the steps, 18 in number, are perfect. Ruthin is described as having been a populous place, with the best market in the vale. It is at present a considerable town, containing, according to the return under the population act of 1801, 1115 inhabitants; in 1831 it amounted to 3376. Several gentlemen's seats adorn the suburbs. It has two well supplied markets in the week - on Monday for corn, and Saturday for provisions.

It is one of the contributary boroughs with Denbigh, Holt, and Wrexham, in returning one member to parliament. This is a polling place in the election of knights of the shire. The corporation consists of 2 aldermen, 16 common councilmen, and an unlimited number of burgesses. Besides the hundred there is also the lordship of Ruthin, a manorial right which is vested in the family at Chirk Castle, who appoint a steward to it. The Church, though only a chapel to Llanrhydd, is a spacious structure, anciently conventual, and belonging to the religious house of monks denominated Bons Hommes. It was changed into a collegiate chapter, A. D. 1310, by John de Grey, who formed an establishment of 7 regular canons, endowing it with valuable lands and numerous privileges. The apartments for the canons were connected with the church by a cloister, of which a remaining portion has been converted into a residence for the Warden, now the venerable Archdeacon Newcomb, author of " Memoirs of Dr. Goodman," and of the histories of Denbigh and Ruthin. The roof of the church is admired for its curious workmanship, consisting of small squares with various sculpture, bearing the workmen's names. Near the w. window of the N. aisle, which was once the nave, the squares are painted in imitation of those which are carved. The painter's name was Davies, and difference is very rarely discovered. John de Grey, the founder, was probably buried here, but there is nothing commemorative of him. The barony of Grey de Ruthin is at present enjoyed by Barbara, daughter of H. E. Gould, Esq. who as nineteenth baron assumed the name and arms of Yelverton, and who died in 1810. The only monument worthy of notice is to the memory of Dr. Gabriel Goodman upon which his likeness is elegantly represented by a marble bust. He was a native of the place, distinguished for various learning, but particularly eminent as a linguist. Queen Elizabeth promoted him to the deanery of Westminster, and he was appointed to assist in translating the Scriptures. The first epistle to the Corinthians is said to have been wholly his performance: he was also a chief promoter of Bishop Morgan's Welsh translation. He died Dean of Westminster after 40 years' incumbency, July 17. 1601, aged 73. He supported Camden on his travels, who, through the dean's interest, was made under-master of Westminster school. He founded the free-school here, and his philanthropy continues to live in Christ's Hospital for the aged poor. The Town Hall, standing near the market-place, is a substantial building, and has tolerable apartments for holding the great sessions, this place being preferred to Denbigh as being more central. The County Hall is an elegant modern erection, fronted with white stone, and bearing ample testimony to the good taste of Mr. Turner. The Free School is a good structure, and the endowment respectable. From this establishment young men are sometimes admitted into orders without having graduated at any university. The head-mastership is in the gift of Jesus College, Oxford. A National School is supported by voluntary subscription. The County Gaol is a handsome edifice, designed by Mr. Joseph Turner of Chester, and built in 1775. It has been lately much extended. The apartments for debtors are separated from the felons by a lofty wall; the yards are spacious, and supplied with baths. Even the condemned cells bear marks of humane attention, being upon a level with the ground, dry, airy, and, light. The House of Correction adjoins.

Several characters of eminence were natives of Ruthin, among whom may be mentioned Edward Thelwall, tutor to Lord Herbert of Cherbury; Bishops Goodman and Parry; and Sir Eubule Thelwall, principal and second founder of Jesus College, Oxford.

INNS: The White Lion is a large inn ; the Cross Foxes will be found comfortable.

" The Vale of Clwyd, which is entered at Ruthin, has been deservedly celebrated by all travellers. It may be chiefly considered as a rich scene of cultivation, but it abounds also with picturesque beauty, It is very extensive, not less than 24 m. in length, and 6, 7, and sometimes 8 in breadth. It is almost every where screened by lofty mountains, which are commonly ploughed at the base, and pastured at the summit. Within these boId limits the vale forms one large segment of a circle, varied only in different parts by little mountain recesses, which break the regularity of the sweep. The area of this grand scene is in some parts open and extended, affording the most amusing distances: in other parts it is full of little knolls, and hillocks, and thickly planted with wood. The great deficiency it sustains is that of water. Many little rivulets find their way through it ; particularly the Clwyd, whence it takes its name; but none of them is equivalent to the scene. The Clwyd itself is but a diminutive stream. At one end indeed the vale is open to the sea, but the other is lost in mountains. About Ruthin the scene is woody, and continues so nearly 6 m, further, as far as Denbigh. The view here becomes more extensive, and opens towards St. Asaph, upon a wide and open flat called Rhuddlan Marsh, from a castle of that name, which formerly guarded its confines. The Vale of Clwyd is seen to great advantage from the church tower. Towards the end it appears level as far as Rhyddlan, distant 17 m. The mountains on the E, are very high, but diminish as they approach the sea. Those on the w. side are covered with wood, but the level of the plain contains the greatest profusion of trees. The shallow stream which names the vale, meanders centrically in silence, through this charming expanse.

One m. E. of Ruthin, near Llanrhydd is Bathafarn, formerly a park belonging to the Greys, and afterwards of the Thelwalls. The house stands at the foot of a hill, called .Moel-fenlli. These grounds are in a fine state of cultivation and well wooded.

Near Ruthin is the neat little village of Fynnon St. Dyfnog, remarkable for a well said to posses marvellous properties in the cure of the rheumatism. Passing through the churchyard and thence by an alms-house, to a plantation of trees with a broad gravel walk, deeply shaded, the fountain is observable, enclosed in an angular shaped wall, forming a bath of considerable size. A subterraneous passage leads thence into the pleasure- grounds belonging to the seat of Major Wylyn.

A rude block of limestone, called Maen Huail, occurs in the vicinity of Ruthin. Here tradition informs us Prince Arthur beheaded his rival Huail, brother to Gilder the historian.

To CERIG-Y-DRUDION, pass over a large common, and a hill called CoIledfa, Lord Bagot caused this common to be divided into different allotments for cultivation. On the I. is Pool Park, his lordship's summer residence, situated in a pleasant wooded dell. Some chestnut trees here are remarkably large. Towards Clogcainog the scenery improves, and some glimpses may he caught of Moel Enlly, Moel-y-Famma, &c. Clogcainog 1½ m. is a poor village church had once a finely painted window. A cottage belonging to Lord Bagot is placed in a beautiful syIvan valley, Upon the mountain near a farm called Maes-y-Tyddin Uchav, are two stones mentioned by Camden, one of which is inscribed "AMILLIN TOVISATOC." An uninteresting road of 7 m. conducts us to Llanvihangel. A handsome arch of a large span here crosses the Alwen. The church is remarkably narrow. CERIG-Y-DRUDION, 2 m.

On the road TO CAERWYS, at the distance of I m. on the r. is a road to Plas Ward, close to the river Clwyd ; ½ m. on the I. to Llanrhaiadyr, 3 m.; leave immediately Rhyd-y-cul-gwyn ; proceeding ½ m. on the r. is Glandwyd: a little across the Clwyd lies Llanychen; continue to the I. of the Clwyd to Llanychen 1 m., turn to the r. over the Clwyd to Careg Llwydion, the residence of Mr. Edwards, who some years back, erected thirteen cottages within 1 m. of his residence. They have upper stories for bedrooms; and a skilling at each end one for a cow-house, the other for a milk-room. They are slated, whitewashed, and many of them ornamented with sham windows and balustrades. One cottage has six acres of land annexed to it, which maintains two cows, a calf and a pig; besides some in tillage; rent 9 l. 58. A second has four acres, maintaining two cows, and a pony; rent 8 l. These were the rents in 1799. A third with two acres, keeping one cow, and one pony. It should be remembered that a COTTAGER'S STOCK should be a milch cow, a calf in rearing, and a pig; ponies should be dispensed with, because people in health can bear walking. The Welsh, however, are particularly partial to easy sitting on horseback; they had much rather be carried than carry. It is an indulgence which the women seem to enjoy by custom. You continually meet on the road ill clad women, mounted upon good ponies, but rarely any travelling on foot. To Llandyrnog, I m. from this place, cross to the r. 1½ m. to Llangwyfen, and thence by a mountainous road to CAERWYS, 4 m. or continue from Llandyrnog, by Penrhyn, I m. on I. Ashpool on r. I m. to Gynus, near Bodfuri, 1½ m. where you fall into the road from DENBIGH to CAERWYS. Hwlkin and the Grove, on the r.

On the road to MOLD, at the distance of I m. from Ruthin, the traveller ascends Bwlch Pen Barrus, being part of a vast chain of mountains which terminate the beautiful and extended vale of Clwyd.

The road TO DENBIGH skirts the w. side of the vale, which the termination of the 5th m. branches into two. That to the r. is the new, that on the I. the old road. From the latter the town of Denbigh and its castle, situate on the lofty summit of an inclined plane, makes a grand appearance. The hill upon which it stands is a limestone rock, the more remarkable on account of being the only one in the vale. This fortress being much broken, no good view can be obtained of the whole;  yet even taken separately the parts are beautiful, particularly the gate of the inner castle, which is a noble fragment. The best views of this ruin are from the PARKS. The descent of the hills towards Wrexham overlooks the extensive level of the vale royal of Chester. At the foot Offa's Dike is very visible upon each side of the road. The artist, says Mr. Pugh, should view Cyffylliog, on the way to Denbigh; within 1 m. of which village, at Pontuchel, the scenery is uncommonly grand. " He will find some interesting vistas by following the rocky bed of the river from the mill to the public road. I would advise him to mount the hills, and keeping the vale of Clwyd in sight, he will pass over some fine dingles to Denbigh,"

To Corwen, Mr. Pennant visited the neat little mother church of Llanrhydd. In it is the monument of John Thelwall, Esq., of Bathafarn, and his wife, kneeling at an altar; with their sons and daughters. A bust of St. Ambrose is admirably sculptured. The, vale now becomes narrow, and almost closes with the parish of Llanfair. If the extremity be placed at Pont Newydd, there cannot be a more beautiful finish, where the bridge, near the junction of the Clwyd and the Hespin, and a lofty hill clothed with hanging woods, terminate the view. Went over part of the Coed Marchan, a large naked common, noted for a quarry of coarse red and white marble. Descended into the narrow vale of Nant-clwyd; and for some time rode over dreary commons. Upon one is a small encampment, with a single fosse, called Caer Senial. Near this place entered Merionethshire, and visited Caer Drewyn, another post, in full view of the beautiful vales of Glyndwrdwy and Edeirnion, watered by the Dee. It lies upon the steep acclivity of a hill; is of a circular form, and about ½ m. in circumference. The defence consisted of a single wall, mostly in ruins. Not far hence, near Gwyddelwern, is a place called Saith Maachog. This post, or fastness, of Caer Drewyn is but one of the chain which begins at Diserth, and is continued along the Clwydian Hills into the mountains of Yale. These were temporary retreats of the inhabitants in time of war, or sudden invasions, Descended and found the usual ford of the Dee TO CORWEN impassable, gained again the Ruthin road, upon a common marked with Tumuli. Passed near the house of Rug, memorable as the spot where Gryffydd ap Cynan, king of Wales, soon after his victory at Carno, in 1077, was treacherously surprised. In after times this place became the property of Owain Brogyntyn, natural son of Madog ap Meredydd, a prince of Powys. Crossed the Dee, upon a very handsome bridge of six arches.

To ST. ASAPH, the mountains which form the vale retire into recesses. Their tops are commonly smooth, their bases woody, but their shapes and lines are greatly varied, though the vale itself makes only one large curve. Approaching the end of the vale, after passing through a space of more than 20 m., the mountains draw nearer, till they insensibly close; the whole finishing in a noble bay of cultivation. Ascending the higher grounds, a grand retrospect may be taken. Its bosom, interspersed with lawns, cottages, and groves; the hills on each side retiring one after another; till at St. Asaph the whole landscape blends with the sea. In a clear day the castle of Denbigh, and the tower of St. Asaph, enrich the view.

To LLANGOLLEN, pass Plâs Newydd, D. Shuckforth, Esq. ; and Garth Gynnan, Colonel Richard Kenrick ; on the r. 3 m. 7 fur. Craigfechan I¼ m, Rhos, 2 m., Llandegle, an interesting village, possessing mineral waters, 1 m. 1 fur. Near this place is an old mansion, the property of Sir Thomas Mostyn, Bart., called Bodidris, from Idris, son of Llywelyn Aurdorchog, then lord of Yale. This house is situated in two counties, i.e. Denbigh and Flint. It contains a canopied state-bed, called Gwely Cant Punt (hundred pounds bed), presented by Queen Elizabeth to the ancient family of Lloyd, from which Sir Thomas was maternally descended. The furniture and a cradle are of the same age. Tafarn Dowyrch, 1¼ m.; Pentre Bwlch Turnpike, 1 m. through Bwlch-y-Rhiw Felin, 1 m., where, in the 6th century, Gwell and Sawyl, two sons of the bard and prince, Llywarch Hen, lost their lives in a battle fought to expel the Saxons and Irish out of this part of the country. On r. Crib-yn-oernant; leave on l. Tan-y- Bwlch and Moel Eglwys Eagle ( Craig Eglwyseg lies 2 m. to the I. ) Tyn-y- pystl, 1½m. and Vron Fawr, ¾m. on I. From a summit upon this road, is a fine view of Castell Dinas Bran. Pass the Pillar of Eliseg, in a meadow on I. Vale Crucis Abbey, ½ m. Pentre Felin, 1 m. 1 fur. (on I. Dinbren Hall, Rev. Edward Roberts). LLANGOLLEN, 1 m. 1 fur.

While at Ruthin, a highly interesting excursion may be undertaken. Ascend the hills on the road to Chester, and passing the Loggerheads, turn to the r. across the stratified rocks of Llanferres. If the tourist has not visited Moel-y-Famma, it would be advisable to ascend that-mountain in this excursion. In the church at Llanarmon are some singularly curious monuments. One upon the outside is commemorative of the celebrated Garmon or Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, who contributed with St. Lupus, to defeat the Saxons and Picts, near Mold. In the church is the tomb of the grandson of Unyr ab Moriddig, ab Sandde Hardd, with his figure recumbent. Near this is a very rich gypsum monument, most profusely ornamented with coats of arms, to the memory of Efan Llwyd of Bod Idris, Esq. a captain in the service of Charles I. He died in Anglesea, April 7. 1637, and his remains were deposited here with those of his ancestors. Several urns have been found in this neighbourhood which abounds with tumuli. The northern nations, as well as the Druids, were persuaded that whatever mechanical implements were used by the deceased during his life, would be wanted in the next. Such effects were therefore carefully deposited with their bodies. Hence many singular articles of unknown use, have been found in these tumuli. Near the village is a sycamore with foliage of a beautiful bright gold colour. From this place the walk directly over the hills to Ruthin is uncommonly pleasing; the various objects in the vale are highly interesting. From the summit we survey an immensity of mountain and of wood, till the eye reaches the unrivalled Vale of Clwyd. On quitting the hill, the footpath leads us to the edge of an immense abrupt inclined plane of turf. Still descending along the concave side of this hollow, through a small farm-yard, we approach a sylvan scene, the most retired and tranquil that can be conceived, where peace appears to reign, and where luxury has no fascinations. At the lower extremity of a beautiful lawn adjoining the farm-yard, a railed fence and gate lead to a picturesque moss-covered cottage. A few yards further, occurs Plas-y-Nant, surrounded by enchanting beauties. This little Elysium owes its existence to Thelwall Price, of Bathafarn Park, Esq. who formed it about the year 1763, when the estate came into the possession of the late Rev. Doctor Carter Thelwall, of Redburn, Lincolnshire. Then it devolved to Lord William  Beauclerk on his marriage with Miss Carter, the only daughter and heiress of the Doctor. She followed the admirable example of her good father and mother, but died a few years after her marriage. The estate became afterwards the property of the Rev. Butler Clough, by purchase.

Plâs Llanrhydd, a neat residence with beautiful gardens and pleasure grounds. The little church contains a curious old mural monument to John Thelwall of Bathafern, and his wife kneeling before an altar. Behind are ten sons and four daughters; also kneeling. Re-enter Ruthin along a narrow sandy entrance.

While at Ruthin, visit Craig Eyarth, distant 2 m. following the river. Mr. Pugh says, " Though the pictures are not very numerous, yet they are good. The artist should advance as far as the mill. The wood above the river may afford him some amusement, but when he is inclined to return to Ruthin, and wishes to vary the prospects, it will be advisable for him to direct his course towards the road, and turn up through the wood called Coed-y-Gawen to the top of Coed Marchan, a barren rocky mountain, whence there is a delightful view of the vale."

To St. Asaph, 14 miles. Gilpin
Cerrig-y-Drudion, 13 miles. Pugh.
Llangollen, 15 miles. Bingley; Pugh.
Llanrhaiadyr, 4½ miles. Pugh.
To Mold, 10 miles. Hutton.
Denbigh, 8 miles. Warner; Gilpin.
Wrexham, 18 miles. Wyndham.
Corwen, 12 miles. Pennant; Aikin.


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