Thursday, 21 September 2017

Ruthin Revisited (Third Time Lucky!)

A couple of years ago I visited Ruthin and found so many interesting historical buildings in just one street that I simply had to blog about it

But as you'll see if you click on the link, the oldest house on the street was closed for the winter. The staff kindly let me in to the garden, but to go inside I would need to come back another day.

A few months later, on my way home from a few days break in Llanarmon  DC, I made a not too large detour via Ruthin, to look round Nantclwyd y Dre. I'd checked beforehand, to make sure of opening times, and was confident that this time I would be successful. Alas, a sign outside the door explained that - no specific reason given - the house would not be open that day.

Undeterred, on a trip back from another short break in the area, I tried again. And this time, I managed to get inside this beautiful old building.

The house dates from the 1430s, a time when the area was known for its weaving, and it's thought that the house belonged to a weaver called Goronwy ap Madog. Each of the rooms is decorated to show the different ages of the house, from medieval

to Jacobean

to the 17th century study

with its ornate plaster ceiling

to its time as a Victorian school

The main hallway shows how the house would have looked in the 1940s

Was it worth the wait to see inside this beautiful building? Yes.

But this is not the only rare preserved building in this area. A few miles away, on the road to Llangollen, I discovered a monastery. With a roof on it. It's not often that one can say such a thing, especially when Henry VIII did such a diligent demolition job on most medieval monastic houses. But at Valle Crucis there is much to see beyond the usual ruins.

 Upstairs in the monks' dormitory, there is a row of medieval grave slabs.

I was particularly interested in one of them, which seemed to belong to someone of significance. Only later did I discover that it was the gravestone of Owain Glyndwr's great grandfather, Madog ap Gruffudd. I'm so glad I had the foresight to take a close-up of it...

Although the monastery was dissolved in 1537 it is only a partial ruin and it was a delight to be able to look at the interior of the building. Note the carving on the fireplace and the upper floor wall panel.

The monastery fishpond also survives - the only remaining one in Wales - and the view across from it to the hillside is stunning.

And it's not just medieval buildings which provide stunning views in this area. Just a few miles away is the famous Pontcysllte aqueduct, built by Thomas Telford.

If you can bear it, walk along the aqueduct 

but if you can't, there is a lovely circular walk from the canal basin which takes you along a path, through some woods, to a clearing where you can see this triumph of engineering in all its glory.

Another - relatively - nearby feat of engineering would be a wondrous sight to behold, had it ever been finished. The Jubilee Tower, designed to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of George III can be seen for some distance as you climb up the hill known as Moel Famau.

It can also be seen from the other side of the valley, as you walk round the park at Loggerheads.

It's quite a landmark, even though it's a ruin, you might be thinking. But it's not a ruin; in fact it was never properly finished, as the people in charge of its construction had an argument over workmanship and, of course, money, so that the eventual structure collapsed less than fifty years later.

In this small corner of North Wales I found a building that has survived since the fifteenth-century, but only through continuous habitation and extension work, a monastery that did not fall to ruin after the dissolution, a monument that fell down because of a squabble, and the longest, highest aqueduct. Thomas Telford and the monks of Valle Crucis might have exchanged wry smiles.

[all photographs taken by and copyright of the author]