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Exemewe Hall: a Short History

It’s sad to see Barclay’s Bank closing, but it is just another chapter in the long history of a site where at least two previous buildings stood and housed a home, an inn and a shop before becoming a bank. It resembles a mediæval half- timber building, but Barclay’s Bank demolished the old Exmewe Hall in the late 1920s and replaced it with the present copy. It has a splendid site and the mediæval building was built to impress and size, height and the novelty of the construction methods were all used to achieve this. The Earliest Owners The earliest identifiable owners were the Rowells, who were followed by the Sergeants. In 1402, John le Sergeant’s daughter, Sybilla, inherited the Exmewe Hall site. She married Thomas Exmewe, whose family was involved in the leather industry. No evidence has been found for the building of Exmewe Hall, but it was possibly built by the Exmewes, who were wealthy and the last, Sir Thomas Exmewe, became a leading goldsmith and Lord Mayor of London. The Tudor House Sir Thomas Exmewe sold all his interests in Ruthin to Edward ap Thomas (Goodman) in 1518/9. The Goodmans lived at Exmewe Hall until they left Ruthin and, by 1604, were a gentry family at Merllyn in the parish of Llanfair. The Goodmans lived in some style. The parlour was adorned with family portraits. Parts of the house were wainscotted, there were cisterns to store water and the windows were leaded and glazed. The house was remembered in the Goodman family in 1671, a generation after they had left Ruthin, as Exmewe Hall—‘Exmewe House’ only appears in recent times. It was probably expanded between 1548 and 1579, but the former Beehive on the south, which survives to this day, remained in separate ownership until the eighteenth century. In 1599, the Goodmans bought the large property at the rear. Stuart and Georgian Developments In 1675, the house was sold to Ruthin mercer, John Price, where he ran a shop and the King’s
Arms, the classiest inn in late Stuart Ruthin. It is likely that the building gradually became known to all as “The King’s Arms” or “John Price’s shop”. In 1715, Exmewe Hall held eight businesses including an ironmonger, a mercer, a barber, a grocer, a butcher and a smith with an inn. In 1718, Robert Myddelton bought for £300. The King’s Arms became a house and shops in 1760. The rear buildings stretching down Clwyd Street as far as the Castle Bell, became the Llandegla meat market in the mid-eighteenth century and were replaced by today’s mock-tudor houses and shops in 1878-1881. Victorian Chemists Throughout the Victorian period, chemists shared the frontage of Exmewe Hall with a draper’s shop. Around 1856, William Rouw became the chemist and provided supplies to the gaol and the Castle estate. He and his son, Theodore, sold soda water and ginger beer, essence of ginger, lead, starch, paint, oils and turpentine. They became the local agents for patent medicines and branded goods, including tea. The Rouws also made perfume using the local lavender crop sold as “Perfume of the Vale” and “Rouw’s Lavender Water”. The Rouws became wealthy and influential. William Rouw was a magistrate, and both he and Theodore served on the borough council, and Theodore was mayor for two years, captain of the borough fire service, welcomed the Prince of Wales to his shop in 1899 and received a royal warrant. The business continued into the 1920s when Barclay’s Bank bought the chemist’s portion of Exmewe Hall and demolished it and had replaced it with the present replica by 1928. They relocated their branch from Clwyd Street to the Square.

Gareth Evans

March 2018