The Cemeteries of the Wrexham District 1 - Ruthin Road
(From Issue 50 of Hel Achau, February 1997)
In accordance with our previously announced intention we have this week paid a visit of inspection to the Old Cemetery situated on the Ruthin-road. We may commence by remarking that the general appearance of the cemetery is far from picturesque or pre-possessing, and affords a striking contrast to the pretty little park-like enclosure lying peacefully between the Bersham and Ruabon-roads. The Ruthin-road cemetery, in fact, seems to be left pretty much to take care of itself, and at present does duty to a great extent as a sort of recreation ground for children hailing from the aristocratic district of Pentrefelin. These youngsters may be seen almost any time swarming the boundary walls and disporting themselves amongst the tombs which mark the resting-place of some of Wrexham's most noted citizens and valued public men; and the contemplation of some of these monumental records forcibly recalls the eminent services rendered by those who not so long ago took a leading part in connection with the social history of the town and district, but who, judging from the neglected appearance of the graves and their surroundings would seem to be almost forgotten, notwithstanding that in life they held a foremost place in the estimation of their fellow-men. After all, the climax of the most gifted life, the grand finale to the most brilliant career is "a shroud, a coffin, and a grave!" It has been said there are "Sermons in stone" - there are certainly instructive homilies in tombstones and many a valuable lesson may be learnt from silent meditations in the cities of the Dead.
"How wonderful is death!
Death and his brother - sleep!"
And yet how seldom do we contemplate life's journey's end. Death has been described as "an event in life" still "all men think all men mortal but themselves, and an eminent local divine, in reference to this peculiar phase of human nature, and the singular apathy existing in regard to a future state, has said ". Tell a man his private character is being impeached, that his best friends fight shy of him, that his business is on the decline or that his health is in a critical state, and upon all these points he is sensitive enough but speak to a man about his moral health and spiritual condition, face to face, plainly, about his investments in eternity, his prospects in the future, his preparedness to appear in another world in which he is to live forever and ever, and the man will look as unconcerned as if he hadn't a soul to be either lost or saved! Truly, therefore, the indifference and insensibility of the great masses of mankind in regard to their spiritual danger and the consequences of alienation from God is one of the most amazing features in the moral condition of man!
Although this old cemetery was no doubt intended as the burial ground for the inhabitants of Wrexham proper, it has evidently formed the place of sepulture for a considerable section of the population in the surrounding districts of Brymbo and Broughton, the Cerney, Bersham, Gwersyllt, Vron Deg, Hafod, Berse, etc. Here youth and age lie side by side - the rich and great and those unknown to fame. Some have "died, their honour at the height" some "full of years" and others of whom it may be said "Heaven gives its favourites early death", some whose departure was signalized by "pomp and circumstance" others at whose deaths "there were no comets seen!" Some of the earlier dates on the headstone's include those of "Richard Jones, ironmonger, Wrexham, 1793; The Williamsons of Wrexham, 1794; Thomas Penson, architect, Wrexham, 1824, and his wife Charlotte, 1813; W. H. Gummow, builder, 1832; The Poyser family, 1818; Jane, wife of Ed. Williams, timber merchant, Wrexham, 1829; Thomas Hoofe, farm bailiff at Plas Power for nearly 40 years, died 1840, "the faithful and highly-respected servant of Thomas Fitzhugh, Esq.". One ancient-looking stone, near the chapel, is in memory of Samuel Challender, late the Talbot, Wrexham, who died in May, 1806. Another quaint little headstone, inscribed with red and black letters, "Sacred to the memory of A. Hayes, 1814." One of the most conspicuous monuments is a tall iron pillar erected near the boundary wall abutting on the Ruthin-road to the memory of Samuel Jones and his wife, of Brymbo Cottage. Close by is a slate slab recording the accidental death by a fall from St. Mark's Church, in May, 1857, of John Williams, mason of Menai Bridge. A stone to the memory of Elizabeth, wife of John Thomas Hardwicke, late town missionary of Wrexham has the following verse:-
My father's house on high
Home of my soul - how near
At times to faith's far-seeing eye
Thy golden gates appear
Another stone records the death in Dec., 1886 of Edward Lovatt, for 35 years parish clerk of St. Giles Church, Wrexham.
Amongst the vaults are those bearing the honoured names of the Kenyons, the Cunliffes, the Warters, of Wrexham and Bangor Isycoed, the Overtons, of Wrexham, &c., and near the entrance to the chapel a large stone bears the following in Latin :- "Infra sepultus jacet Joseph Wilkinson, excelsit, 22 Aug., 1818, natus annos 59". Another stone records the death of Robert Harrop, who was killed on the Brymbo Railway in July 1852, the same stone being erected to the memory of the young man's father and mother, Samuel and Elizabeth Harrop, of Brymbo. In a comer at the east end of the cemetery a stone marks the spot where lie the three unfortunate boys of Sergt. Hugh Jones, who, in the winter of 1885, met their death whilst skating on what is known as the Parkey Pool.
Coming down to more recent times, the honoured name of Peter Walker, whose resting place is marked by a plain granite pillar, surmounted by a funeral urn, brings back many pleasant May-Day memories and recollections of princely banquets and innumerable generous actions on the part of one who was pre-eminently a benefactor to Wrexham. The deceased gentleman, who died in 1882, was Mayor of Wrexham in the years 1866 and 1867, and whilst most worthily upholding the dignity of his important office he was ever the genial friend of all who enjoyed the pleasure of his acquaintance. In the immediate vicinity of the chapel a well-cut stone records the death in 1846, of Elizabeth, daughter of John and Elizabeth Bury, of Wrexham; and also the death in May, 1850, of Elizabeth, wife of John Bury; and not many yards distant is the tomb of Joseph Floater, headmaster of Wrexham Grammar School, who died August 14th, 1868, just seven years after his wife, Mary.
Amongst other well-known names in connection with Wrexham are those of Thomas Griffiths, surgeon, who died in 1846, at the advanced age of 93, and Mary, his wife, in 1845, at the age of 82; Dr. Dickenson, fourth mayor of Wrexham, and uncle to our present esteemed chief magistrate, Dr. Palin (also for many years consulting surgeon to the Wrexham Infirmary); Joseph Clarke, of Penybryn House, who was mayor of Wrexham in 1864; Dr. Gerrard, one of the oldest medical practitioners in Wrexham for nearly half a century, assistant to Dr. Edward Williams, of Holt-street House; Thomas Williams, wine merchant, of Bryntirion (one of the handsomest tombs in the cemetery); Alderman Richard Evans, who died in 1863; the Rev. John Jenkins, for several years curate of Wrexham, and who took the keenest and most active interest in the temperance movement; James Davenport, of Hope-villa; Thomas White of Park Lodge &c.
Other names familiar to many are those of the Jacksons, of Little Erddig; the Johnsons, of Esless Hall; Charles Edwards, the Well House, Wrexham; the Troyerons, of Llwyn Onn; the Hughes', of Fennant; the Ollerheads, of Wrexham; members of the Fyfe family; the Evans' of Holly Bank; the Whitley family, &c.
Amongst the military inscriptions we notice that of "A Redan Hero - Sergeant John Jones, of Plas Power, who served in Her Majesty's 41st Welsh Regiment". Side by side is another stone to the memory of the deceased sergeant's two brothers, the stone bearing the couplet:-
All you that pass by -
As you are now, so once was I.
A few yards away are stones to the memory of Sergeant Joseph Harrison, 55th Regiment; also in memory of Sergt. James Henderson, Royal Denbigh Militia; Joshua Baxter, late adjutant Denbighshire Yeomanry Cavalry, who died in 1863; and Moses Levingston, late adjutant of the East Denbigh Local Militia, who died in 1837, "having served his King and country 46 years".
Upon some of the more ancient headstones, the inscriptions, although concise, convey rather meagre information. For instance, it is not an easy matter satisfactorily determine who "John Jones, aged 46, died 1802" may have been; and "E.W., 1794", "E.D., 1799?", "E.R., 1805" and "J.J., 1813" are also somewhat difficult of identification.
Note: The burial ground at Ruthin Road came into use in 1783 as that of the parish church of St. Giles became full. The last burial took place at Ruthin Road in 1915. It was converted
into a Garden of Rest in 1959 and into a public park in 1963.