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A photograph of 1905 shows the Eagles Hotel, Clwyd Street, Ruthin without the rendering we had, until recently, been so accustomed to. It looks as if the original brickwork was covered up a few years after the photograph was taken. Robin Wolley has a theory. “Around the tun of the late 19th century I think there must  have been a secret renderer at work in Ruthin and Denbigh. Whenever he saw a building which he thought might be improved by rendering he made a pitch to carry out the work.” The eagle- eyed Robin has spotted that perhaps only one individual was responsible and he seems to have left his trademark curly detail around the windows. The many rendered buildings which we see in, for instance, Clwyd Street and Well Street, are a testament to his permanent influence on the look of the town. Of course, Robin’s ‘secret renderer’ may be a figment of his imagination but it is clearly a reasonably inspired guess. What is certain is that, during the 17th and 18th centuries, when the present frontage of the Eagles was added, brick was the preferred medium. It was used for notable buildings in West Cheshire, especially Chester itself, and Ruthin may have come under the influence of its neighbours over the border. Then, at the end of the 19th century, rendering become the fashion, and that when the face of Ruthin was changed. Robin thinks for the worst,
and he hopes that one day the owners of other buildings will follow the example of the Eagles. Robin considers that the render did not do much harm, paradoxically because it was not very well applied. It was hollow underneath. which meant that the mortar and cement didn’t stick or leave marks on the brick. If, on the other hand, the renderer had done a proper job, the render would have stuck, and being non-porous, would not have allowed the brick to breathe. “You take a risk whenever you decide to remove the render from a building”, said Robin, that the brick underneath has been damaged. In the case of the Eagles, the risk paid off. We gather there was not much left inside, but there was a door of 1450, suggesting an early date for the beginning of the Eagles. Fascinatingly, there appears to have been no connection between the Eagles Hotel and the Eagles Stores. But no traces of through doors have been found. Early photos show that the Stores first opened in the l900s; they do not show any connection with the hotel. Most people we have talked to thoroughly approve of the new-look Eagles, now Fineline. As for those who now work there, the words of Emyr Jones would doubtless be shared by all of them, “the place is an absolute joy to work in”. Secret renderer, eat your heart out.

Eagle-eyed

In December 2005, DEREK JONES talked to Robin Wolley, architect at the Eagles Hotel restoration