Each week we will be visiting some of our towns in North East Wales and delving into some intriguing facts from the past which has made them what they are today.
Today we are looking at Denbigh.
The name Denbigh or ‘Dinbych’ in Welsh comes from ‘little fortress’ and has been on records since the 11th century. The medieval walled town very much developed around the building of the castle. Denbigh was amongst the riches towns in Elizabethan Wales and was a powerhouse of culture and enterprise. Denbigh is a quintessential market town with a working community set in the breathtakingly Vale of Clwyd. It sits under the ruins of the castle and has more listed buildings than any other town in Wales, when exploring Denbigh you’re likely to stumble upon a secret garden or hidden gem around every corner. Part of Denbigh’s medieval street pattern can be seen clearly on the Back Row which gives a flavour of its original ambience.
The did you knows…
When Edward I commissioned the castle in 1282 as part of his ring of Welsh fortresses, he had to employ 3000 skilled and unskilled labourers to complete the task. Can you imagine the magnitudinal task of providing shelter, food and supplies for them? The castle was completed 28 years later.
Lenten Pool which is now a roundabout near to Morrision’s was originally a community fish pond which stocked fish to be eaten during Lent.
The building where the library is now situated used to be the market square with open arches.
Cock fighting used to be a historical popular sport and Denbigh had its own purpose built venue. It was such a fine example that it was pulled down stone by stone and rebuilt in exactly the same way in the St Fagan’s Museum in the 70’s and can be visited as part of the tour.
The famous Victorian explorer of “ Dr Livingstone I presume” fame was born in 1841 in Denbigh and his childhood home is a small house situated by the entrance of the castle.
Gwaenynog Hall and its gardener Cadwaladr Puw was the inspiration for Beatrix Potter’s drawings for Flopsy Bunnies and Mr McGregor when she stayed there with her uncle Fred Burton.
Denbigh has been home to many important historical people. Here are a few of them..
- Katheryn of Berain (Catrin o Ferain) (1535 – 1591), is sometimes known as Mam Cymru (mother of Wales), and her life was laden with intrigue. This wealthy heiress from Denbighshire had Tudor blood in her veins, and was a distant relative to Queen Elizabeth I. With her four marriages to high profile Welshmen including a Salisbury, a Clough, a Wynn and a Thelwall , her six children and over thirty grandchildren who all went on to form some of the country’s richest families has made Katheryn one of the most influential women in Welsh history. In Katheryn’s age people married for money, land and power, not love. As a wealthy heiress of royal descent, Katheryn was considered a bit of a catch
- Humphrey Llwyd (1527–1568) was a man of many talents a cartographer, author, antiquary and Member of Parliament. He was a leading member of the Renaissance period in Wales. His motto was Hwy pery klod na golyd “Fame lasts longer than wealth”. Born at Foxhall, the family’s estate in Denbigh, and the county seat of the then county of Denbighshire. As a young man, Llwyd was educated in the sciences and engineering in Oxford which led to a position as a physician to the Earl of Arundel. He was Minister to Parliament for East Grinstead during Elizabeth I’s rein. In 1563, Llwyd returned to live at Denbigh Castle at the permission of Sir John Salusbury who was then the Lord of the Manor of Denbigh. That year, he was elected MP for Denbigh Boroughs. It has been suggested that he promoted passage of the act requiring the translation of the Bible into Welsh but no evidence has been found to support this claim. He is most famous for producing the first accurate map of Wales to be published.
- Thomas Gee (1815-98) Was a Welsh Nonconformist preacher, journalist and publisher. At the age of fourteen he started working in his father’s printing company the now famous Gwasg Gee, but continued to attend the grammar school in the afternoons. In 1837 he went to London to improve his knowledge of printing, and on his return to Wales in the following year, he threw himself into literary, educational and religious work. His greatest achievement in this field was the newspaper Baner Cymru (“The Banner of Wales”), founded in 1857 and amalgamated with Yr Amserau (“The Times”) two years later as Baner ac Amserau Cymru. In 1886 he founded the Welsh Land League to campaign for the rights of tenants. His funeral was at the time the most imposing ever seen in north Wales. In 1914 Gwasg Gee, passed out of the hands of the Gee family, and ran into difficulties until the author Kate Roberts took it on in the 1930s. Others continued to help in the 1950 to save the press. It became one of the principal publishers of Welsh language books for almost two centuries. It ceased publishing in 2001.
*Please remember under current restrictions only essential travel allowed and exercise is only allowed within walking distance. This post is to pique interest for future visits when restrictions allow and to provide some historical insight to our area.