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Historic Documents Discovered

During the recent restoration of the Morning Star, a cache of documents was discovered in the roof of the old building. They were four very dirty, tightly screwed up bundles of papers more like lumps of wood giving precious detail on the business of an alehouse and on ordinary life in early Victorian Ruthin. The Star has been in Clwyd Street for a long time. CADW lists the Morning Star, which bears a date inside of 1639, as possibly a seventeenth century purpose built inn. The builders who oversaw the recent work believed there were parts of the building which pre-dated the seventeenth century. The earliest record of the building is as the North Pole in 1756 when James Edwards, bricklayer, was the licensee and it became the Star in 1775, with Richard Percival, also a bricklayer, as the licensee. The Star offered a place to meet, refreshment, accommodation and stabling on a main road into Ruthin. Information and news would be exchanged and trade, often illicit, was conducted over ale. Enough land existed alongside the Star to allow the growth of a stable trade and as traffic increased this would develop into an important source of income for the Star. The siting of a gaol across the road gave a further boost to its fortunes. There is an 1845 description of the Star’s interior. The public areas were at the front of the building, with a bar and a par- lour on either side of the lobby entrance. Behind, these was a kitchen and then behind that extending into the rear wing were a brewhouse and pantry. A cellar lay below the public areas. Upstairs were 4 bedrooms and above these were lofts intended perhaps for the Star’s servants. In the adjacent yard there was a malthouse and a stable where implements connected with the Star’s carriage and farming trades were kept. In 1841, Ruthin borough had a population of 2,431. lts economy consisted of dozens of small retail and craft businesses with a few professionals. At Ruthin, these businesses interacted at twice weekly markets on Mondays and Saturdays and eight annual fairs and at frequent public and private occasions. For their meeting places there was plenty of choice. The Star was part of a large hospitality sector of 51 different outlets. On Clwyd Street alone, the Star
competed with nine other taverns and 2 retailers of beer. The regular clientèle of the bar of the Star would be found partly in and around Clwyd Street where in 1851 over half the neighbourhood were labouring or craft families who met and relaxed with similar people visiting the town. One of licensees, John Williams’ bar account books has survived. He offered small lines of credit to his regular customers to tide them oval while they waited for payment from their own customers. The bar book contains bought ale in quarts, pints or half pints, sometimes some tobacco ant some spirits. Sometimes the customer has hosted a party and many a deal would have beer struck between traders and chairmen at the Star. Surviving blank bills show that the Star offered breakfast, luncheon, dinner, supper, ‘sanviges’, tea and coffee as well as ‘servants eating’ which suggests an all day food provision catering for anyone, with the servants getting the worst deal. Food would be served in the parlour which was a comfortable room with tables and chairs and carpet and a fireplace. John Williams, the innkeeper, bought seeds for vegetables so the Star grew food for the inn; there are no bills for vegetables, milk and cereals and their farming interests may have supplied these but they could also be bought for cash at the twice weekly town markets. They bought lamb, veal, beef and mutton but no pig meat or poultry which they probably supplied themselves. They reared pigs in the Star yard no doubt making |11 use of all food scraps and brewing waste. The Star ran a horse and carriage hiring business using' the large barn which stood in the yard outside the inn. In 1839 extensive repairs were carried out to the cart and a new manger installed. The trade was important as everything not grown or available locally had to be carried in by horse and cart or on foot. The carriage business fitted in well with other parts or the inn's trade. Refreshment: food and accommodation fo! thirsty travellers or for those bringing in goods for smiths! despatch were all available ant no doubt enthusiastically of feted by mine host and his servants.
A brief excerpt in September 2011 from GARETH EVANS’S story of on of Ruthin’s earliest taverns