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Nantclwyd House Gazebo, Ruthin


Photo CPAT cs03-41-18

Nantclwyd House

Restoration works to a gazebo in the gardens of Nantclwyd House afforded a valuable opportunity to record an important architectural feature. Nantclwyd House lies on the west side of Castle Street, 100m north of the entrance to Ruthin Castle (SJ 1236158183). The house occupies a street-frontage position, with the gardens extending to the rear. The present house, a Grade I Listed Building, has developed over a period of more than 500 years. The earliest surviving structure is part of a 15th-century cruck-framed hall-house which occupied the southern part of the present street-frontage, which was built using timber felled in the winter of 1434-5.

The position of the hall-house, as well as the width of the inner garden to the rear, suggests that the present plot was originally divided into two burgage plots when the town was laid out in the 13th century, which were later combined. This is supported by an entry in the records of the borough court of Ruthin in December 1435 which states that Gronw ap Madog and his wife Suzanne held two places or plots of ground in Castle Street, adjoining the Lordís Garden at the rear of Nantclwyd y dre, as Nantclwyd House was originally known. The date of this record coincides exactly with the date for the construction of the hall-house and provides strong evidence to suggest that the couple built Nantclwyd House on the combined plots (Williams & Kightly 2007, 6).

Buck print

Extract from the 1742 print of Ruthin Castle by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck.

The garden occupies two areas to the rear of the house, as well as a small courtyard, and is surrounded by high stone walls which probably date from the late 15th century. The inner garden occupies the area to the rear of the house, while the outer garden, formerly known as he Lordís Garden, was purchased in 1691 by Eubule Thelwall, the then owner of Nantclwyd House, although he had previously rented the plot (Williams & Kightly 2007, 16). At the north-west corner of the original garden is the gazebo or summerhouse which is likely to have been constructed by John Wynne and his wife Dorothy, who occupied Nantclwyd from 1733, undertaking several major additions to the house itself. A 1742 print of Ruthin Castle by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck shows the gazebo in some detail.

Photo CPAT 2501-126

The restored gazebo

The gazebo was constructed as a two-storeyed structure, with an undercroft and ground floor built in limestone and a timber-framed first floor. Overall, the gazebo measures 3.3m east to west and 3.7m north to south, although the west wall extends a further 0.7m to meet the boundary wall in order to support the external chimney at the north-west corner, which serviced fireplaces in both the upper and lower rooms.

The area between the gazebo and the boundary walls to the north and east was levelled up to form a platform or terrace at the level of the upper room, surrounded by a brick parapet wall and accessed by steps leading up from the main garden.

On the west side of the gazebo is a tapering passageway which passageway affords access to the undercroft and was roofed prior to the commencement of refurbishment works. The structure does not appear on the Bucksí print of 1742 and is perhaps therefore unlikely to be an original feature.

Photo CPAT 2501-011

First floor interior

The undercroft also incorporates a void between the north wall of the gazebo and the boundary wall, within which the supporting structure for the chimney is visible. The void is roofed by brick vaulting, springing from an extension of the east wall of the gazebo. The brick flue from the first-floor fireplace is angled across to the main chimney and is supported by a series of timbers, some of which are set into the north boundary wall.

The ground-floor room measures 2.3m east to west by 2.6m north to south, and is accessed via passage beneath the terrace which leads to a doorway in the eastern wall. There are windows are set into the west and south walls, of which the western window is a replacement, and a small brick fireplace is set midway along the north wall. The ceiling was originally of lathe and plaster, indicated by nail holes in the ceiling joists, which are set east to west with additional supporting timbers in the north-west corner to support the fireplace on the upper floor.

The upper room is of timber-frame construction and measures 2.9m east to west by 3.3m north to south internally, and 3.2m by 3.5m externally. The doorway is centrally located on the east side and windows are set centrally into the north, west and south walls. A brick fireplace is set in the north-east corner of the room, of similar style to the lower fireplace, although it is larger and has a more substantial brick surround.

Photo CPAT 2520-072

Eastern elevation of the first floor showing timber framing

The basic framing structure consists of sill beams laid on a thin bed of pink mortar, with wall posts at each corner, and studding at around 0.35m intervals. Diagonal braces extended from the upper parts of the wall posts to the sill beams, and the original timbers were tenoned and pegged into the sill beams and wall plates. Internally the walls are formed from lath and plaster attached to the timber frame.

Photo CPAT 2520-028

Gazebo roof structure

The pyramidal roof is supported on a wall plate and comprises four principal rafters which rise from the corners to a central post at the apex, some 1.6m above the wall plate. A cambered beam runs east to west across the centre, and is pegged into the wall plate at either end. The central king strut is tenoned and pegged into the beam, supporting the four principal rafters. At the time of the survey the rafters were separated from the top of the king strut and it is uncertain whether or not they were nailed in place. At the corners of the roof angle ties and dragon beams are pegged to the wall plates with the principal rafters tenoned and pegged into the dragon beams. The purlins are close to the apex and are nailed to the rafters. Common rafters rise from the wall plates, some of which are supported by the purlins, and are nailed to the principal rafters. Two rafters have been replaced on the north side and one each on the west and south sides. A number of later supports have been nailed to strengthen the structure where the original rafters have weakened. All of the rafters have sprockets, tapering upwards, nailed to their ends.

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Right: Roof timbers and supporting structure for ceiling below

At ceiling level four curving beams, notched at one end to the angle ties and nailed centrally to the main cambered beam, have nailed to them numbers of smaller beams extending from the wall plates. This provides the framework to which the underlying laths are attached, running in quarters parallel to the wall plates, forming the quadripartite coved ceiling in the room below.

Photo CPAT 2501-094

Left: Cobble flooring in the possible carriage house to the east of the former brewery

As well as the building survey a watching brief was maintained during a series of groundworks within the inner garden, the results from which have revealed information relating to a series of structures which formerly stood immediately to the west of the old brewery. The earliest structure predated the brewery and its foundations were reused in part for the construction of a later lean-to building with a cobbled floor which may have been a carriage house. Appended to this on the south side was a two-storey studio, both buildings having been demolished in the 1990s.

References

Williams, C J, & Kightly, C, 2007. Nantclwyd y Dre: a detailed History. Ruthin: Denbighshire County Council.


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