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Denbigh, Denbighshire

Historical Description

Denbigh, a town, a municipal borough, the capital of the county, and a parish in Denbighshire. The town occupies a steep acclivity, overhung by a castle-crowned rock, on an affluent of the river Clwyd, at the W side of the vale of Clwyd, 5½ miles S of St Asaph, and 208 by rail from London. It has a station on the L. & N.W.R., was originally called Caledfryn, signifying a "rocky hill," and takes its present name from two words which signify a " small hill." It witnessed feuds and conflicts in the old Welsh times, and was the rendezvous of the chief tains under the last Llewelyn against the English. Edward I. bestowed the seigniory of Denbigh on Henry Lacy, earl of Lincoln, who walled it and built its castle. Thomas, earl of Lancaster, Hugh de Spencer, the Crown, the Earls of March, the Earl of Salisbury, and Dudley, earl of Leicester, successively held possession of it. Queen Elizabeth was entertained here by the latter, and Charles I. halted here for three nights in 1645. The castle sustained a siege of four months in 1646 by General Mytton, and was blown up at the Restoration.

The town, as seen from some distance, looks very picturesque. It comprises one long main street, smaller diverging streets, and a spacious market-place, contains many good residences and shops, and has undergone great modern im- provement. The space within the ancient walls is nearly a mile in circuit, rises 240 feet above the level of the vale below, and commands a grand view. It now contains little more than the fragments of the castle, a bowling-green adjacent to them, the castle-house and grounds, and St Hilary's chapel. The walls were prodigiously strong, having been formed of two thick masses of masonry, filled up between with stones and hot cement, and some fragments of them still remain, including one gateway and the Burgesses' Tower. The great gateway of the castle is a grand specimen of ancient military architecture, was flanked by two large octagonal towers, and still presents a vast Gothic arch and one of the flanking towers, and a portion of the other. A statue of Henry Lacy, earl of Lincoln, is over the arch, and passages and dungeons to the extent of 120 feet have been explored. The rest of the castle is in an utterly ruined condition, presenting nothing but shapeless fragments of masonry. The interior is laid out as a recreation ground. The old parochial church, situated at Eglwys-wen or Whitchurch, about a mile from the town, contains a large altar-tomb of Sir John Salusbury, who died in 1578, a mural monument of Humphry Llwyd the distinguished Welsh antiquary, a brass to Richard Myddleton, governor of Denbigh Castle, who died in 1575, and a marble tablet to Thomas Edwards (Twm O'r Nant), a modern Welsh dramatic poet. It is now used as the cemetery chapel. The church of St Mary, consecrated in 1874, is a handsome edifice in the Decorated style, and contains a fine reredos of Caen stone. St Hilary's Chapel, once the garrison church, is a plain dilapidated building. Close by are the ruins of a large church, begun by Dudley, earl of Leicester, in 1579, but never completed. There are Roman Catholic, Congregational, Baptist, Wesleyan, and Calvinistic Methodist chapels. A Carmelite priory was founded at the foot of the town about 1289 by the Salusburys of Lleweni, but little more than the site remains. The orphan school for educating and maintaining fifty-five girls is a handsome edifice of 1860, erected at a cost of about £18;000, and sprang from funds left in the sixteenth century by Thomas Howell, under trust, of the Drapers' Company. The annual income is about £2000. The lunatic asylum for North Wales, situated near the town, is a fine edifice built and enlarged at a cost of £52,000, and has accommodation for 500 patients. There is a town-hall, a market-hall, assembly rooms, an infirmary, a grammar school, a literary institute, and a library and reading-room. The railway station is a picturesque structure with arched basement and surmounting tower.

The town has a head post office, two banks, is a seat of petty sessions and county courts, and publishes two Welsh newspapers and one English weekly. Markets are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and fairs every month. A general country trade, and some manufacture of shoes is carried on. The town was chartered by Edward I., is governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors, and unites with Holt, Ruthin, and Wrexham in sending a member to Parliament. The borough has a commission of the peace. It extends 1¼mile everyway from the market-cross, and includes all Denbigh parish, and parts of Llanrhaidr-yn-Kimmerch and Henllan. Acreage, 8980; population, 6412. The town gives the title of Earl to the Feilding family. Among the natives of Denbigh are Sir Hugh Myddleton, son of Governor Myddleton, and the founder of the New River Company, and Mr H. M. Stanley, the African traveller.

The parish comprises 1523 acres; population of the civil parish, 4507; of the ecclesiastical, 5192. The rocks include limestone. The living is a rectory, united with the perpetual curacy of St David's, in the diocese of St Asaph; gross value, £354 with residence. Patron, the Bishop of St Asaph. The perpetual curacy of St David's was formerly a sei arate charge, and continued so till 1868.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Registration districtSt. Asaph1837 - 1935
Registration districtRuthin1935 - 1974

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

For births, marriages, and deaths in Denbigh from 1837 to 1935 you should search for the St. Asaph Registration District.
For births, marriages, and deaths in Denbigh from 1935 to 1974 you should search for the Ruthin Registration District.

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Denbighshire is available to browse.

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following newspapers online: