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The Dramatic Collapse of the North Wall

The collpas eof a section of the norther perimietr wall at Ruthin Castle happened suddenley and without warning on May 17th, 2013. About 30 ft of this substantial limestone wall collapsed onto the footpath linking Castle Street to Cunning Green. The emergency services used thermal imaging cameras and search and rescue dogs to search the rubble. Fortunately no-one was injured. Officers from Denbighshire County Council closed Cunning Green to ensure the wall did not continue to present a risk to the public. The section that collapsed was a retaining wall. It is unusually high - over 2 metres - with ground levels at substantially different heights to either side. There are possibly a number of factors as to why the wall fell down. Tree roots, unusual weather conditions, lack of maintenance and ivy cover may or may not have played a part. It would be unwise to speculate whilst legal and insurance claims are pending. There may never be a clear reason behind why it happened. The retaining wall has now been made safe, although a recent inspection of the wall by the Council’s structural engineer has identified a bulge in another section of the retaining wall above a bench which is causing concern. There is some instability to the wall around the old mill pond near to the public car park; these are fenced off to prevent injury to the public in-case of a further collapse. Otherwise the remainder of the walls, which generally are not retaining walls so they have a much lower risk of collapse, are in a reasonable condition. Some areas would benefit from some minor maintenance, particularly removal of vegetation to prevent more significant long term damage. The footpath has an initial closure of 6 months under a traffic regulation order served by the Council. Under this Order there is a potential closure option of a further 12 months. This is to
ensure that there is no risk or danger of a second collapse and there is a suitable time- scale for repair. How great is the impact of this collapse on the heritage significance of the wall and castle? The northern wall is a Grade II listed castellated limestone wall of picturesque gothic character. It was probably built in the 1820s by Frederick West, who had married into the Myddleton family of Chirk. Sir Richard Myddleton acquired the medieval castle ruins in 1677 after the Civil War. The northern wall follows the line of the mediaeval castle moat, approximately 50-100 yards outside the curtain wall of the castle. Its north side is formed by the late medieval walls of the former kitchen garden to Ruthin Castle (the Lord's Garden). It has group value with Ruthin Castle Hotel, its gateway and lodge, and the boundary walls to the Lord’s Garden. The wall therefore is very significant to the setting of the castle and Lords Garden. It is a key part of the historic park and garden, and a very important part of the conservation area character that makes Ruthin so unique. While it was imperative that the wall was made safe and the rubble removed, its repair and reinstatement is necessary. The next step is to record how the wall was likely to have been constructed. It is important to identify a repair and restoration plan with a conservation structural engineer, and to reinstate the wall using a stonemason with experience in historic building repair. The Council will work closely with the owner and other professionals to provide assistance with regard to how the wall is to be reinstated and to what timescale. After all, the walls enclose Ruthin Castle's history. They hold the memories of Royal secrets and are an architectural statement of a picturesque idyll.
In September 2013, specialist conservationist KIRSTY HENDERSON, reported on the latest developments at Ruthin Castle