SEVEN HUNDRED YEARS.
Select an item from the dropdown menu below to view our large collection of history.
The church in Ruabon was first mentioned in 1258, when it was dedicated to St Collen. Some medieval fabric still survives, including the fourteenth century western tower, which has perpendicular features, and the arched western door, also of the fourteenth century. A south-eastern chapel was built in 1755 and a north-eastern in 1769. It was re-modelled by T.F. Pritchard, a Shrewsbury architect, between 1769 and 1770, and it was substantially rebuilt between 1870 and 1872 by the London architect Benjamin Ferry on behalf of Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn.
The church contains some important works of art. Tomb chests from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries include that of John Ap Ellis Eyton and his wife Elizabeth, who died in 1526, and a well detailed and vigourous alabaster tomb chest with two recumbent effigies and angel weepers. Important wallpaintings include the late-fourteenth or fifteenth century (restored in 1870) Works of Mercy with texts in Welsh on the south wall. It depicts a series of trios of figures – angel, donor and recipient – with appropriate gifts (leg of chicken, a cup and pitcher, and clothes) or an attitude of solicitude. The right-hand end of the scene is truncated by a later window. Their costumes suggests a late fourteenth century date (Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries (2) IV, 517). Another painting was uncovered and photographed in 1870, but was subsequently plastered over. It was located to the right of an inserted window in the south wall and the photograph appears to show a much damaged female figure with staff and crown, probably depicting the Coronation of the Virgin. It is probably late fourteenth century and was possibly the end of the Works of Mercy painting rather than a seperate scene. There are also Royal Arms of 1780 on boards over the south doorway. The frame has a semicircular pediment, date and GR on lower frame.
There is also fine sculpure, including pieces by Nollekens and Rysbrack. The former was responsible for the free standing life-size figure of Hope with an anchor completed in 1773, and the latter for the reclining effigy, sarcophagus, pyramid and angel holding a medallion, executed between 1751 and 1754.
RCAHMW, November 2010.
The Wynnstay Influence
The fortunes of the house of Wynnstay were established after the Civil War by Sir William Williams ( 1634-1700), descended from Cadrod Hardd, a tenth-century Lord of Anglesey. He was a successful lawyer and was elected Speaker of the House of Commons in 1680-81. As Solicitor General he prosecuted the Seven Bishops in June 1688 and, although he failed to gain a conviction, he received a baronetcy. He purchased the estate at Llanforda and through marriage joined it to Glascoed. It was Sir William Williams (1665-1740), the second baronet, who shaped the destiny of the family by gaining the prize of Wynnstay for his eldest son, Watkin. The route to Wynnstay was by way of a successful marriage alliance. The second baronet married Jane Thelwall ( d. 1706); this brought him into family connection with Sir Watkins Williams Wynn (1628-1719) of Wynnstay, a member of the Gwydir family.
This family was descended from Owain Gwynedd (d.1169), Prince of North Wales, and through him from Rhodri Mawr, ‘the great’, King of Gwynedd, Powys, and Deheubarth (d.877).
Sir John Wynn of Wynnstay possessed many estates -Rhiw Goch, Maenan, Eglwysfach, Glasinfryn – which came as part of the Gwydir patrimony. In addition, Sir John Wynn purchased the manor of Much Wenlock, and other land in Shropshire. The Wynnstay estate included the former estates of Valle Crucis Abbey, among which was the township of Wrexham Abbot – between a third and quarter of the whole town. These estates he left to Watkin Williams (1692- 1749), son of the second baronet, on condition that he took the surname of Wynn ‘and quarter my coat of arms in the first place’. In 1715 the young Watkin Williams married Ann Vaughan, coheiress of Edward Vaughan of Llangedwyn and Llwydiarth in Montgomeryshire and Glanllyn in Merioneth. The Vaughan family were descendants of the princes of Powys. Edward Vaughan died on 5 December 1718 and Sir John Wynn in January 1719. Watkin Williams Wynn came into possession of over a hundred thousand acres, chiefly in the counties of Denbigh, Montgomery and Merioneth. Luck, astute management and marriage alliance brought the Williams Wynn family from the comparative obscurity of an Anglesey rectory to make them leaders of the North Wales gentry.
Sir John Wynn was anxious to establish a definite link with Ruabon Church which he envisaged as a mortuary chapel for the house of Wynnstay. To this end he charged his heirs to erect a monument in the chancel of the church. The fortunate Watkin lost no time in carrying out the wishes of his benefactor. The Articles of Agreement dated 10 November 1719 between Watkin William Wynn of Wynnstay and Robert Wynne of Ruthin, Statuary, are for the erection, for a sum of £450, of three marble monuments.
Thomas Pennant describes the memorial as ‘…a great monument of Henry Wynn, tenth son of old Sir John Wynn of Gwedyre, who died in 1671. His attitude is that of a fanatical preacher; and his dress a most unhappy subject for the sculptor …on one side kneels Sir John of Wynnstay and on the other Jane, his wife’. Philip Yorke of Erddig writing in 1799 calls it: ‘ a mass and massacre of marble, ludicrous to look on’.
Robert Wynne was born in Llanbedr about 1655. He was apprenticed to Peter Roberts, a member of the Worshipful Company of Masons of London. He returned to Ruthin by 1707 where he had a sculptor’s workshop, the ‘Elabatory’, as it was called, in Well Street. He died a pauper and is buried at Overton in Maelor.
Sir Watkin Williams Wynn was known as the ‘Great Sir Watkin’ by reason of his dominance of the gentry of North Wales, as a skilled parliamentarian, and his espousal of the Stuart Cause. His Jacobite sympathies led to the foundation of the Circle of the White Rose or Cycle Club, a dining club to promote their return. Sir Watkin’s first wife died childless in May 1748 and he lost no time in marrying Frances Shakerley in July. Two children were born, the eldest Watkin in April 1749 and William in April 1750 (d.1763). Sir Watkin’s death whilst hunting near Acton, Wrexham, coincided with a Methodist prayer meeting at which the petition was made -‘0 Arglwydd cwympa Ddiawl Mawr y Wynnstay’ (0 Lord, cast down the Great Devil of Wynnstay). His death took place on 26 September 1749.
Sir Henry Wynn
To the right of the Rysbrack monument is a plaque to the memory of Sir Henry W .W .Wynn., KVB., GCH., d.1856 and Frances, his wife, d.1854. He was the youngest son of the fourth baronet and had a successful career in the foreign service as ambassador in Gascony, Switzerland and Copenhagen
The Sale of Wynnstay
The chief concern of the seventh baronet (1885-1944), Sir Herbert Lloyd Watkin Williams Wynn, was the maintenance of his estates. The huge mansion of Wynnstay could not be serviced owing to the decline of domestic service and the economic and social changes brought about by two wars. During the 1914-18 War, Sir Watkin established a munitions factory at Wynnstay and took part in the manufacture of shells. The seventh baronet died on 24 May 1944 and a Reading Desk (the vicar’s Stall) which exhibits the Wynnstay arms is placed in his memory .He was succeeded as eighth baronet by his son, Watkin, who died on 9 May 1949. Before his death the decision had been made to sell Wynnstay. The family retain Llangedwyn and Cefn St Asaph as their country residences.
A brass set of altar cross and candlesticks are inscribed ‘To the Glory of God and in loving memory of my husband Watkin Williams Wynn, 8th Baronet 1891-1949, and of Watkin, our dearly loved only son, 1925-1946. Love never faileth’
Monuments & Memorials
The many monuments and memorials are from the eighteenth and nineteenth century .Here they are discussed in terms of family relationships etc., rather than location. On the whole they reflect the prosperity acquired through the rich deposits of coal, iron-stone and clay for brick making.
Ann Rowland (d. 1796), the wife of John Rowland of Plasbennion, built four almshouses at Nant y Gwalia. Their son, Edward Rowland (d.1815), of Gardden Lodge, was a successful iron master and coal owner. His son, Edward Lloyd Rowland (d.1828), was bankrupt in 1823 and his trustees sold the estate to the British Iron Co. Edward Lloyd (d. 1760) of Plas Madoc left to the poor of Ruabon £150 to be distributed in coals and schooling for three boys and two girls. His sister Elizabeth ( d.1758) married Jenkin Lloyd (d. 1760) of Clochfaen, Llangurig. Their daughter Sarah Youde (d.1837), heiress of Plas Madoc and Clochfaen, is remembered by the hatchment (a diamond-shaped frame painted black and enclosing the full armorial bearings of the deceased and it was usually hung outside the house for the period of mourning). Sarah married, as her second husband, the Reverend Thomas Youde (d.1773). Their grandson, Jacob Youde William Hinde (d.1887), assumed the name of Lloyd and was known as Chevalier Lloyd of Clochfaen. The Chevalier (a dignity conferred by papal decree) paid for the restoration of the Wall Painting and erected, in 1871, a rich inlaid brass and other inlay to the memory of Jenkyn Lloyd of Plas Madoc and Clochfaen and Elizabeth his wife and Sarah Youde. The Chevalier was proud of his descent from Cynwrig ab Rhiwallon (f.l073) who is reputed to have rescued Gruffydd ap Cynan, King of Gwynedd, from imprisonment in Chester.
The Plas Madoc property was mortgaged to George Hammond Whalley ( d.1878). He was member of Parliament for Peterborough and a barrister. His support of the Tichbourne claimant cost him a fortune. He took a great interest in local affairs and was owner and founder of the Cefn and Rhosymedre Water Co. The Lloyds of Penylan have their monuments, that to Ellis Lloyd (d.1712) is possibly the work of Robert Wynne of Ruthin. He was chief inspector of the public revenues in the Duchy of Cornwall, chief notary in the North Wales Court of Sessions and Chancellor to the Bishop of Norwich. Edward Lloyd Kenyon (d.1843) was the last of the line. Other memorials are to clergy of Ruabon, Lewis Jones (d. 1770) and Evan Morgan Roderick (d. 1900). Another to Charlotte Eva wife of Canon E. W. Edward, vicar (1862-1897). Randle Jones (d. 1754) was Recorder of the Lordship of Bromfield and Yale and agent to Sir John Wynn and Sir Watkin Williams Wynn. Randle left fifty pounds for the poor and for the education of two boys.
The Medieval Building
The church tower dates from the fourteenth century and is a Cheshire-type construction. It has diagonal buttresses, a west door with Decorated wave moulding, battlements but no pinnacles. There are two light bell-openings and a stair tower in the north-east angle. The south wall of the church shows places of medieval work with a blocked thirteenth-century doorway to the east of the porch. Inside, a pre-Perpendicular roof-line is seen above the tower arch. There is evidence of a Perpendicular remodelling ( c.1350-1530) in a few remaining features: a north window, the aisle west windows, a pair of crocketed buttresses at the east end, and cusped niches internally on each side of the east window.
The north and south doorways are of this period. There are three badly mutilated sepulchral monuments dating from the first twenty years of the fourteenth century. Colin Gresham identifies two as mutilated effigies. The first is a military effigy with an inscription round the edge of the shield’ Here lies Iorwerth ab Awr’, an ancestor of the Lloyd’s of Plas Madoc. The heraldry on the shield is a Lion rampant guardant. The second has the same heraldry on the shield and reads ‘Here lies Hywe1…’ the rest is lost. Gresham notes that the combination of hands conjoined and shield placed over the body and arms is unique amongst the effigies of North Wales. The third is an heraldic slab which again fails to reveal much about the person commemorated and is a memorial to one Llywellyn ap.
It is possible to reconstruct the appearance of the church before the radical reordering begins in the middle of the eighteenth century. The rural dean in 1749 described the church as consisting ‘of three small Isles’ .This accords with the drawing of Thomas Dineley, Chaplain to the Duke of Beaufort, in The Account of His Official Progress Through Wales in 1684. The earliest description of the church is by that extraordinary poet Thomas Churchyard whose topographical verses, The Worthiness of Wales (1587), extols:
‘Ruabon Church is a fayre peece of worke… with pillars large and wide… The trimmest glasse, that may in window bee (wherein the roote, of Jesse well is wrought) …Yea all the glasse of churche was deerely bought’.
In 1754 the itinerant Irish bishop, Dr Richard Pococke, noted ‘There are remains of some painted glass on the east window, and of a fine carved Rood loft’. From these vague descriptions we have some idea of the nature of the church from its enlargement before the Reformation to its alteration in 1770 and 1870. It was a reasonable size with three aisles, a plain tower, a Perpendicular arcade and a simple exterior. A fine carved rood screen and loft divided the nave and chancel. The roof richly carved, the walls decorated with paintings and the windows adorned with fine medieval stained glass. Churchyard noted the effigy of John ap Elis Eyton and his wife Elizabeth. ‘A monument…amid the queere. I spyde’ but he had no knowledge of the medieval wall paintings which were hidden in obedience to the Order in Council of 1547 directing the ‘obliteration and destruction of all popish and superstitious books and images so that the memory of them shall not remain in their churches and houses’ .
The changes brought about by the Reformation are well documented, for example in the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535, the official valuation of ecclesiastical and monastic revenues which gave details of every benefice in England and Wales. For Ruabon it records the end of many of the customs of the church. From henceforth gone were ‘the offerings to our lady’ and the income from holy water. When Queen Mary brought back the old religion, the Book of Ieuan ap William ap David, Constable of Ruabon Township in 1554, recorded the changes:
A new font made by Lewys (the) mason was set up on the 15 September 1538;
on the 17 March 1548-9 the pulpit was made;
on Whit Sunday 1549 mass was discontinued, or rather the Service was altered,
and on the 4th January 1550-1 the altar was pulled down,
the first silver lost on the 12th August 1551.
A typical Renaissance figure was Dr David Powel, Vicar of Ruabon 1570-78. He was one of the most versatile and scholarly of the Welsh Elizabethan clergy. Bishop William Morgan acknowledged his help in the translation of the Bible into Welsh. Powel was named as one of only three ‘preachers’ in St Asaph diocese. As an historian he was one of the representatives of the revival of learning in Wales and as personal chaplain to Sir Henry Sidney, President of the Council of Wales, he was asked to translate the work of Humphrey Llwyd. The result was the publication in 1584 of a ‘Historie of Cambria’, now called Wales. Powel added to Llwyd’s work and in particular made much of the Madoc story of the discovery of America in the twelfth century. This was of vital importance as anti-Spanish propaganda in colonial and trade rivalries at the time of the Armada. Powel was a close friend of Dr John Dee and Blanche Parry, mistress of Queen Elizabeth’s household.
The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
Nothing of note is known about the church in the seventeenth century .The most significant parochial act was the establishment of an endowed Grammar School in 1618 by Richard Lloyd, vicar. The first known schoolmaster was Jeremiah Davies, Curate of Ruabon 1626-1637, and it became customary for successive curates to serve this office until well into the nineteenth century .The Reverend John Robinson, vicar 1675-1703, further endowed the school but in reality his Will changed the character of the school from a grammar school to a bilateral school. It created an endowed grammar school and a The public elementary school under the same roof.
The troubles of the Civil War divided the loyalties of the parishioners. An entry in the burial register for the 8 April 1644 is followed by the note: ‘All the rest of the yeares were lost to the souldioures’. What else was lost to the military is not recorded. There is a tradition that Cromwell stayed at Plas Madoc less than a mile from the church. Captain John Lloyd of Plas Madoc was a Royalist member of the Chester garrison. Notable dissenting Parliamentarians were Captain William Wynne, who built Wynne Hall in 1649, and John Kynaston. Sir Thomas Myddleton, the Parliamentarian General, throughout the long wait until the Restoration protected and provided charity for poor scholars, ejected clergy and their families and in particular Humphrey Lloyd, the sequestered vicar, and Edward Pritchard, Curate of Ruabon.
The St Asaph Diocesan Visitation Returns which survive from the beginning of the eighteenth century show a flourishing community in Ruabon ably led by its clergy and well supported by its influential laymen. The Reverend Richard Davies served as vicar for forty years (1706-1746). He repaired the vicarage and supported by a curate maintained regular services in the parish church in both the English and Welsh languages and catechized the young. The sacrament of Holy Communion was administered on the first Sunday in the month and at the great festivals. The monthly attendance varied between 50-100 and the highest Easter figure recorded is in 1744 when there were 300 communicants. In his Will he followed the example of his predecessor, Vicar Robinson, and endowed alms houses and gave liberally to the cause of education and remembered the poor. Of the character and achievements of Davies’s successors in Ruabon for the next hundred years there is very little which has survived.
The South Chapel
Dame Frances chose Michael Rysbrack, who was one of the leading sculptors of the day, to erect her husband’ s monument. It is in the classical style and faithfully follows Rysbrack’s design. The Agreement was made on the 21 March 1750 and cost £485. The long Latin inscription was composed by Dr William King (1685-1763), principal of St Mary’s Hall, Oxford, ardent Jacobite and friend of Dr Samuel Johnson.
The size of Rysbrack’s monument created a problem; the chancel was small and over crowded. More space had to be found and a Faculty was granted to Dame Frances, in 1753, to add a chapel at the south east end of the church, adjacent to the chancel ‘… to make erect and build a handsome convenient Isle or building… in order to erect monuments seats and pews therein and making a burying vault underneath the same or otherwise to apply the same to Godly purposes’ .The work was carried out in 1755 and is recorded in some detail in the Wynnstay accounts.
Alongside Rysbrack’s monument to the third baronet is a mural tablet to his second son born posthumously. William W.Wynn (b.19 April 1750-d.11 August 1763). It is of great refinement, with oval medallion and sarcophagus in the style of Robert Adam.
Restoration and Enrichment 1770
The fourth baronet was reaching his majority and was in a position to spend money: the estate was clear of the debts left by the Great Sir Watkin. The restoration of the church was put in hand against the background of the ‘Grand Tour’ of the young baronet, and the preparations for his coming of age in l770.
The restoration, which was undertaken as a matter of necessity for repair, became a grand design, the unity of which was unfortunately destroyed a hundred years later. The undertaking was seen as a partnership between the parish and the Williams Wynn family. The people of the parish were responsible for the structural alterations – the raising of the roof and pillars and the paving of the aisles. They were also to replace the pulpit, reading desk and the pews, where necessary, and after the dust had settled ‘ornament’ the church.
In order to meet the expense a church rate was to be levied ‘the same to be made and done at the proportionable Expences… of the said Minister, Churchwardens, Parishioners and Inhabitants’. On the same day, 5 June 1769, a Faculty was granted to Dame Frances to erect another chapel on the north-west side of the chancel, uniform with the chapel erected in 1755. The Monumental effigy and the large memorial to Sir John Wynn were now removed from the Chancel into the north Chapel. By September 1768 the young Sir Watkin was in Milan. Writing home he comments ‘I am exceedingly glad …that the Parish are so civil about raising the Roof of the Church, &c’ and in November from Rome adds: ‘the sooner Pritchard begins to repair & Beautify the Chancel of Rhuabon Church the better’
The church as we view it today is the result of drastic alterations by the enthusiastic Victorians. In 1845 the work of disturbance began. Open seats were substituted for pews, the reading desk and pulpit were moved nearer the communion rails. William Davies of Cefn Mawr designed and made new communion rails together with a Gothic reredos extending across the east window. The sixth baronet (1820-1885) opened an arch at the north side of the chancel presumably to clear part of the old chancel for additional seats. The Mansion of Wynnstay was destroyed by fire in 1858 and immediately rebuilt, the work being completed about 1865. Sir Watkin, the sixth baronet (1820-85), favoured Benjamin Ferrey with his patronage. A pupil of Pugin and his biographer, Ferrey’s reputation rests mainly in his churches. Basil Clarke is severe in his judgment of Ferrey’s churches: ‘They are all timid, orthodox and harmless for Ferrey was rather a close adherent of precedent than a bold originator’ .After the rebuilding of Wynnstay Sir Watkin contemplated the restoration of the church.
In January 1867, ‘Sir W. W. Wynne explained to the Vestry that his architect Mr Ferrey had promised to furnish him with a plan and estimate of the necessary Repairs & Restoration of Ruabon Church’ .Ferrey was empowered to provide the plans and supervise the work which began early in 1870. Mr William Williams of Bangor was the contractor. The major part of the cost was met by Sir Watkin who subscribed £1,600. Sir Stephen Richard Glynne, Bt., noted the changes in 1872:
‘The restoration has been completed. The arcades have been replaced; five pointed arches on pillars alternately octagonal and circular; also a new clerestory, of which the windows are alternately square-headed, and of a spherical, triangular form. The roofs are all new. A chancel-arch is added on marble shafts, and a new east window. The aisle-windows are new, Decorated, of three lights; the organ removed to the south aisle, and the Wynnstay seat into the tower. A curious mural painting has been discovered in the south aisle, appearing to represent the corporal acts of mercy.’
The handbook prepared for the re-opening of the church contemplated further alterations:
‘These, however, are not all the improvements Sir Watkin intends making. He has very generously promised to present a new stone pulpit and reading desk, and to remove the communion rails under the chancel, in order to afford more space. The interior will be framed with encaustic tiles, and new chairs will be placed within.’
Fortunately this work was not carried out. Entrance porches were erected a few years later at the north and south doors. The 1870 restoration was the end of major architectural changes.
Stained Glass Windows
The stained glass is dominated by the work of Ward & Hughes of London; and in some instances signed by their designers T .F .Curtis and George Parlby. The windows are full of Biblical events in the life of Jesus.
The east window (photo) is to the memory of Marie Nesta Williams Wynn, born October 23 1868, died January 26 1883 was erected June 1884. The window is detailed in the surviving account:
‘To a five light East window being the “Marie Nesta Williams Wynn” memorial cont’s subjects of “The Crucifixion” Our Lord setting a child in the midst of the disciples, the Transfiguration, and the Raising of Jairus’ daughter, the small opening above being occupied with a figure of St Agnes with her emblem, a cherub, angels holding flowers, the Alpha & Omega roses and lilies..cost £236.15s.’
The window in the south chapel was erected in 1872 at the direction of Marie Emily, the wife of the sixth baronet, in memory of her two brothers, Grenville (d.1865) and Arthur, Captain in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers who fell at the battle of the Alma, Sept.20 1854. The window depicts scenes from the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of Jesus.
The window on the south wall was designed by George Parlby in 1892 to the memory of Susan Hicks (1831-91) the wife of Henry Dennis (1825-1906) of New Hall, Ruabon. Henry Dennis was a Cornish mining engineer who sank new collieries, established terra cotta works, water works and gas works in this district. The window depicts ‘the good wife and the beauty of family life’.
The west window of the south aisle is signed T.F.Curtis and is to the memory of Watkin Williams Wynn sixth baronet (d.1885). The window depicts our Lord’s mission on earth, the Incarnation, the Presentation in the Temple, the Proclamation of the Gospel the Adoration of the Angels, and the symbols of Alpha and Omega.
The west window of the north aisle is signed by T .F .Curtis and was designed by George Parlby 1898. It was installed by public subscription to the memory of Ebenezer Wood Edwards (1830-97), 36 years vicar, and Charlotte Eva his wife (d.1889). The window is remarkable for the number of crosses shown in each of the panels. During the closing years of his life Wood Edwards was a cripple and had to walk with the aid of a crutch.
The east window of the north aisle was designed by George Parlby and is also dedicated to the memory of Charlotte Eva Edwards. The window refers to the words ‘Well done Good and Faithful Servant’, ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord’, ‘Enter thou into the Joy of thy Lord’.
The monopoly of Ward & Hughes is broken:
The north window of the west end, by Gibbs, over-shadows the Lady Henrietta monument. The window was installed by subscription to the memory of William Jones of Plas Newydd, (d. 1872) aged 81 years. He was an agent to the Wynnstay estate. The window depicts the Ascension and, on each side, illustrations of the parables of the Vineyard, the Good Samaritan, the Talents, and the Tares.
The centre window of the north aisle is an unattributed but interesting example of early neo-Gothic stained glass. It is to the memory of Anne Rowland of the Bryn, who died 1859, aged 79 years. The window depicts the Raising of Lazarus, the Two Sisters, and the appearance to Mary in the Garden.
The Lych gate is the Parish Church memorial to the fallen of two World Wars. It was dedicated in November 1920 by the Archdeacon of Wrexham, the Venerable W .H. Fletcher, with musical accompaniment by the bands of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, Ruabon Silver Band and the Church Lads’ Brigade. It is built of Cefn Stone and the upper part is carved in Wynnstay Oak. The architect was T .H. Hogg, of Wrexham and the contractors F. Roberts & Sons, Trevor. depicts the Raising of Lazarus, the Two Sisters, and the appearance to Mary in the Garden.
Sharing of the Church
For many years the Catholic community attempted to establish itself in Ruabon:
‘From a tiny family -perhaps the least in God’s household – of five or six, we have lovingly watched Our Lady’s family grow in the service of her Divine Son. Now our gathering in the bare loft we hire for Holy Mass seldom numbers less than 90.’
These words form part of a ‘Petition for the building of a new church in Ruabon’ , presented by the Catholics in Ruabon, to Bishop Petit of Menevia, from the Duke of Wellington Inn, Ruabon, 22 January 1953. In 1957 Bryn Hall was purchased for use as a church and the first Mass was said on the feast of St Richard Gwyn, the local Welsh martyr. However, during the next twenty years serious structural faults were discovered and the building unhappily had to be abandoned as being unsafe. We are ecumenically-minded in Ruabon and the most exciting thing that has happened is the inauguration of a sharing agreement between the Anglican and Roman Catholic congregations. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Menevia and the Anglican Bishop of St Asaph were present when the Sharing Agreement was inaugurated by a joint service of Evensong on Sunday 20 January 1980 during Christian Unity Week. Both bishops warmly welcomed and endorsed the sharing and gave it their blessing. As we have seen, the possibility of sharing arose because of the dilapidated state of St Michael’s Roman Catholic Church. It seemed hypocritical, foolish and uncharitable for £100,000 to be spent on the building of a new church. We have put into practice the famous dictum of Cardinal Mercier, ‘We cannot love each other if we do not meet each other’ .The Roman Catholics use the north chapel as the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. We share all things, cleaning, grass-cutting, the cost of insurance and church maintenance. On occasions we worship together and run joint social events. The administration of the church is the responsibility of a joint council composed of Roman Catholic and Anglican members.
Church and Community Hall
The first fruits of our fellowship is the building of an extension on the north west side of the church for church and community use. We are grateful to the Community Task Force for sponsoring the scheme, for providing free labour and the excellence of their craftsmanship. The architectural partnership TACP of Wrexham under the guidance of Mr R.B. Heaton, B.Arch.,FRIBA, has supervised the work. The cost of materials has been met by the shared congregations and was in the region of £33,000.
New Church Roof
The church roof of the Grade 1 listed church at St. Mary’s, Ruabon, has been replaced at a cost of £120,000 with the help of grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund (£55,500) and CADW (£48,000).
The project lasted from January to August 2010 with the work being carried out by Emerton Roofing (Western) Ltd of Nantwich under the supervision of architect, Graham Holland.
The vicar at the time, said, “The church at St. Mary’s is recognised as having many very special items of architectural interest and a very rare wall painting. The present roof has lasted 140 years so we expect to be watertight for several generations to come. We are grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund and CADW for making the work possible.”