The Courthouse of the lordship of Ruthin symbolises the recovery of the lordship after Owain Glyndŵr's revolt. Trees were felled in 1421 to build it. Four arches made of green wood formed the sides of the new Courthouse and supported the roof and remain in place today.The Royal Commission on Ancient Monuments in Wales believed the original building consisted of a central open hall set between two storeyed end bays and the 1926 restoration reinstated the original concept which we have today. TUDOR AND STUART CHANGESThe sale of the lordship to the crown in 1507 changed its status and the ground floor probably appeared after then and became engulfed by shops in the sixteenth century. By1579 fifteen shops were accommodated on its ground floor. Further changes extended the original building westwards by a bay in a different style and three stumpy projections were added to the south side, at least one with a foundry. The building was known by various names including the 'Chequer chamber' but from the early sixteenth century its most consistent name was the Pendist. The courtroom was still an important part of government machinery in the mid seventeenth century until replaced by the Shire Hall in 1663. The Pendist was the scene of the execution of Father (now Saint) Charles Meehan, an Irish Franciscan in 1679. Convicted of being a Catholic priest, he was hung, drawn and quartered. The remains of a gibbet are on the north side near Castle Street. During the Stuart period most of the small shops on the ground floor merged into one large shop.GEORGIAN SHOPSRuthin's largest eighteenth century shop developed in the Pendist. Shops replaced the lordship court which was relocated and in the 1770; it was meeting in the town's tavems. Throughout the century the owners of this shop had close political and financial connections with the Chirk Castle estate, acting for them and
supplying the estate with hardware and building material. The shop was known as 'Old Hall and was the largest in Ruthin and the southern Vale of Clwyd's premier shop. VICTORIAN IRONMONGERSThe Courthouse became exclusively a commercial property and from at least 1827 was mainly occupied by a grocery and ironmongery business. From 1850, it was run by the same family: first, Evan Jones until the mid-1870s succeeded by his son, John Evan Jones and then by his grandson, Herbert Evan Aldrich. For most of this time their business was called Siop Pendre. The former upper courtroom became an auction mart which Herbert Aldrich took over as a show room with his shop occupying the four oldest bays and sometimes called 'Ye Olde Courthouse', Goods for sale would be impressively displayed outside creating a must-visit experience for most visitors to Ruthin, like today's Tesco. The bankruptcy of the Castle Estate led to the sale of the Courthouse in 1913 and the age of the shopkeepers at the Courthouse began to end.BANKThere were only two tenants by 1913, and one was replaced by the National Provincial Bank in 1914. The bank purchased the building outright in 1923 for £2400. Aldrich's had left the building by 1926 and the bank proceeded with what was probably a much needed restoration.The bank demolished the rear extensions improving the rear view of the bank and the top of Well Street. Centuries of adaptations to provide commercial space were stripped away and The Court House was restored reinstating the central open hall set between two storeyed end bays.Aesthetically, the restored building is a triumph closing the south of St Peter's Square and complementing the Georgian Castle Hotel and the reconstructed Exmewe Hall on either side. It is one of the most photographed buildings in Wales and rightly so. The bank saved the building but has now plunged its future into doubt. Let us hope a suitable use can be found.
In March 2017, GARETH EVANS looked back at one of our most historic buildings