The Old Court House, built in 1401
Ruthin is a town in Denbighshire. It stands on and around a hill in the southern part of the Vale of Clwyd. The older part of the town contains Ruthlin Castle and Saint Peter's Square which stand at the top of the hill, while the lower slopes house the later parts of town, down to the recent developments on the floodplain of the River Clwyd (which became apparent on several occasions in the late 1990s, after which £3 million was spent on new flood control works. Ruthin also has villages on the outskirts of the town such as Pwllglas and Rhewl.
The name 'Ruthin' comes from the Welsh language; rhudd (red) and din (fort), and refers to the colour of the new red sandstone which forms the geologic basis of the area, and from which the castle was built in 1277-1284. The original name of Rhuthin was 'Castell Coch yng Ngwern-fôr' (red castle in sea-swamps).
There is evidence of Iron Age and later Roman settlements in the area. However, little is known of the history of the town before Dafydd ap Gruffydd built Ruthin Castle, for which work began in 1277. Dafydd was the brother of prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last native Prince of Wales, but he forfeited the castle when he joined his brother in rebellion against King Edward I. Edward's queen, Eleanor of Castile, was in residence in 1281. The Marcher Lord, Reginald de Grey, Justiciar of Chester, was given the cantref of Deffrencloyt and his family governed here for the next 226 years. The third Baron de Grey's land dispute with Owain Glyndŵr triggered Glyndŵr's rebellion against King Henry IV which began on 16 September 1400, when Glyndŵr burned Ruthin to the ground, reputedly leaving only the castle and a few other buildings standing.
A Ruthin native, Sir Thomas Exmewe was Lord Mayor of the City of London in 1517-18.
During the Civil War the castle survived an eleven-week siege, after which it was demolished by order of Parliament.
The half-timbered Old Court House (built in 1401), now a branch of the NatWest Bank, features the remains of a gibbet last used to execute the Irish Franciscan priest, Charles Meehan. He was a wanted man, implicated amongst the Titus Oates plotters, when shipwrecked on the Welsh coast and taken up for treason. He was drawn, hanged and quartered in 1679.
In the 18th century Ruthin enjoyed prosperity as a town on drovers' routes from North Wales into the Midlands. The town was reputed to have "a pub for every week of the year". By 2007, however, there are only eleven pubs in the town.
The first copies of the Welsh anthem, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau ("Land of My Fathers"), were printed in what is now the Siop Nain tea and gift shop on Well Street.
In 1863 the railway reached the town. The route ran from Rhyl on the north coast, through Denbigh and Ruthin to Corwen. Thereafter the line joined a route from Ruabon through Llangollen, Corwen and Bala to Barmouth. The railway and railway station closed in 1963 as part of the Beeching Axe.
Ruthin Castle was demolished by order of Parliament during the Civil War. It was rebuilt in the 19th century as a country house. From 1826 until 1921 the castle was the home of the Cornwallis-West family, members of Victorian and Edwardian high society. It is now a luxury hotel, the Ruthin Castle Hotel.
The first House of Correction, or Bridewell, was built at the bottom of Clwyd Street, next to the river, in 1654, to replace the Old Court House, where able-bodied idlers and the unemployed were sent to work. Following John Howard's investigations into prison conditions the Denbighshire justices resolved to build a new model prison in Ruthin on the site of the old Bridewell. Work began in January 1775.
In 1802 the prison had four cells for prisoners and nine rooms for debtors. By 1837 it could hold 37 inmates. The Prisons Act of 1865 set new standards for the design of prisons — as the Ruthin County Gaol did not meet the standards plans were drawn up for a new four-storey wing, and the new prison accommodating up to 100 prisoners, in the style of London's Pentonville Prison was built at a cost of £12,000. On 1 April 1878 the Ruthin County Gaol became HM Prison Ruthin, covering the counties of Denbigh, Flint, and Merioneth. As far as is known, only one person was ever executed in the prison, William Hughes of Denbigh, aged 42, who was hanged on 17 February 1903 for the murder of his wife, his plea of insanity having failed. Another colourful prisoner was John Jones, known as Coch Bach y Bala – who was a kleptomaniac and poacher who had spent more than half his 60 years in all the prisons of north Wales and many in England; he twice escaped from Ruthin Gaol, first on 30 November 1879 when he walked out of prison with three others while the staff were having supper — a £5 reward was offered for his capture, which happened the following 3 January. On 30 September 1913 he tunnelled out of his cell and using a rope made out of his bedding he climbed over the roof of the chapel and kitchen and got over the wall; after seven days living rough on the Nantclwyd Estate several miles away, Jones was shot in the leg by one of his pursuers, 19 year old Reginald Jones-Bateman. Jones died of shock and blood loss, while Jones-Bateman was charged with manslaughter, though the charges were subsequently dropped.
Ruthin Gaol ceased to be a prison in 1916 when the prisoners and guards were transferred to Shrewsbury. The Council bought the buildings in 1926 and used part of them for offices, the county archives, and the town library. During the Second World War the prison buildings were used as a munitions factory, before being handed back to the County Council, when it was the headquarters of the Denbighshire Library Service. In 2002 the Gaol was extensively renovated and reopened as a museum.
The Craft Centre
The Craft Centre had 10 studios occupied by craftsmen who could be observed by tourists working at glass blowing, ceramic manufacture, painting, furniture restoration, etc. The original Craft Centre was demolished early in 2007, and a new Craft Centre opened in July 2008 in a £4.3 million scheme which contains six craft workshops, larger galleries and an expanded craft retail gallery, two residency studios, an education space and a tourist information centre, as well as a restaurant.
Nantclwyd y Dre
Nantclwyd y Dre (previously known as Tŷ Nantclwyd), in Castle Street, was built about 1435 by a local merchant Gronw ap Madoc, and is believed to be the oldest surviving town house in Wales. The building was sold to the county council in 1982, restored from 2004, and opened to the public in 2007. It contains seven rooms which have been restored to represent various periods in the building's history.
Ruthin hosted the National Eisteddfod in 1868 and 1973. The National Eisteddfod visited Ruthin in 1992 and 2006.
- "Ruthin flood defence plan unveiled". BBC Online. 2001-11-07. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/wales/1642512.stm. Retrieved 2007-06-08.
- Thomas Nicholas. Annals and Antiquities of the Counties and County Families of Wales. http://books.google.com/books?id=M34ystsNDn8C&pg=PA380&lpg=PA380&dq=vale+of+clwyd+geology&source=web&ots=I4IO1PDZah&sig=BpxYMlCde3yGeK3b3P5CutxnEQk#PPA381,M1. Retrieved 2007-10-08.
- Northall, John. "Ruthin castle". http://www.castlewales.com/ruthin.html. Retrieved 2007-06-08.
- "£3.1m for craft centre's renewal". BBC North East Wales news. BBC. 2005-12-10. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/north_east/4517136.stm. Retrieved 2006-11-27.
- "Canolfan Grefft Rhuthun / Ruthin Craft Centre". http://www.ruthincraftcentre.org.uk/. Retrieved 2008-09-17.
- "> "BBC News article of 2006 about the Urdd, in which it states: "This year the eisteddfod returns to the site of the Bro Glyndwr Eisteddfod of 1992"". http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/north_east/5025078.stm">.