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“The Foundations of Ruthin”

Before the book was even opened I was very intrigued with its cover which I later discovered was based on the first ever illustration of the town by J. Ellis and entitled 'Ruthin, 1715'. Can you find St. Peter's Church prior to the addition of its steeple? Over time, several learned articles by eminent historians have been written on aspects of the town's development. Other books/booklets have been written on Ruthin’s past from William Davis’s ‘Handbook for the Vale of Clwyd’ with its ‘Topographical and Historical Description of the Town of Ruthin’ (and others) through Rhuddenfab’s ‘Handbook to Ruthin and Neighbourhood’. Many of these are based on recollections and written material by previous authors. The most recent authoritative 'History of Ruthin' of whom the author of Foundations of Ruthin' was a major contributor and co-editor was based on written historical evidence. The main differences between ‘The  Foundations of Ruthin’ and ‘History of Ruthin’ are the inclusion of an evidence base so that readers can see where the history has been derived, the provision of an index so that the knowledge is made more accessible and the compilation of a time-line so that the main events during the seven centuries covered by the book are all available on just over two pages. In addition, each of the six  sections from ‘An Early Welsh Town’ to the very interesting and authoritative ‘Georgian Ruthin’ has its own 'research notes. ‘Georgian Ruthin’ alone has references of 477 Notes! Readers can now see where the new facts in ‘History of Ruthin’ came from and, if they wish, seek out the original  document and judge for themselves whether it has been accurately dealt with. Readers can also see the many publications, which have included aspects of Ruthin’s history especially in medieval times and which include eminent scholars among their authors Eminent Historians who are referred to include Sir Ifor Williams, as far back as 1939 explained the derivation of the name Ruthin—which is contrary to the one often mentioned by other writers. You will be left to decide. Another, an
eminent present day historian is extensively quoted on his work is Dr Matthew Stevens of Swansea on ‘Ethnicity, Gender and Economy in Ruthin, 1282-1343’. Fresh research has allowed the incorporation of sections on an Elizabethan tavern the oldest building description to survive in Ruthin from 1580; the first town hall dating from the early years of the seventeenth century; Christmas church services and most importantly the North-nave roof of St Peter's where, in view of its importance, a special and very comprehensive appendix has been provided. The evidence base also has additional text which allows a deeper knowledge of some historical areas. Principal among these are the boundaries of Little Park, the massive rise in parish rates through the eighteenth century, Georgian poor relief, an early eighteenth century political riot, eighteenth century travel and eighteenth century shops, including a detailed walk with the valuers through Ruthin’s largest shop. Adding illustrations usually enhance any book of this nature. Due to the years covered by this work they will naturally be very few available. However we do have two very interesting ones- both dated 1826. The first entitled ‘Medieval Ruthin’ is an excellent one showing the east to west configuration of the early settlement and the second, showing more detail following the ‘Georgian Ruthin’ section certainly adds interest. I venture to state that never before has there been such a deep seated study of the roots of Ruthin with such scholarly and readable detail, which will not only educate those of us with an interest in our locality but also to the more professional historians nationwide. This short review cannot possibly do the work justice-only your reading of it will do that. Dare I ask what the author will discover for the post 1800 years and when will we see the follow up?
In March 2017, GWYNNE MORRIS finds much to enjoy between the velvet covers of a new book by Gareth Evans