This book is the result of 18 sessions that ran between November 2021 and April 2022 covering all aspects of Ruabon. Book of You Associate Dilwyn Jones, Book of You Volunteers Sherine Jones and Sylvia McCabe, along with an enthusiastic group of residents, worked together to produce the varied content.
The book is dedicated to the people of Ruabon, past and present.
Lynne Berry and other participants recalled the excitement if a comparatively famous train was to pass through, or stop, at Ruabon Station.
Rosemary Davies also recalled going to and coming from the secondary school in Wrexham by train and even coming home for lunch on it - quite apart from day trips and the like.
This photograph from over 100 years ago shows no fewer than 37 members of staff then working in one capacity or another at Ruabon Station. Sadly, there are no longer any staff working there. Now there are just machines as the station has become more of a "halt" or pick-up and drop-off point.
At one time, more than a hundred people were employed at the station in one capacity or another making it a significant employer in the village.
"Private Davenport 1914" is just one example of the many significant and emotional partings which took place at Ruabon Station.
Apart from bidding farewell to loved ones off to war, there were numerous examples of children boarding a train for their first day at "the big school" in Wrexham. Youngsters would also be waved off to their first residential job many miles away, and their parents would not then see them again for some months, if not years.
The influence of the railway on life in Ruabon was considerable with both a street and pub being named after the railway bridge. Shops opened at strategic places in the village in order to catch passing trade from those going on a journey or returning from one.
So many recall how very busy the station used to be, not only in terms of staff but also commuters as this photograph clearly shows. Ruabon, like so many other places was hit badly by the major changes brought in by Dr Beeching in the early 1960s. Many felt that the extent of the cuts was never really recognised in relation to job losses, the impact on families etc.
Some people recalled the lack of Welsh on the station signs and the fact that only English versions of Welsh names were included, as here - no "Rhiwabon" or "Bermo" for Barmouth, and only one letter F at the start of Ffestiniog and Dolgellau ending in "ey".
Jo Smith was prominent in the "SAVE OUR STATION" campaign to buy the old station house and make it a village hub. The first effort faltered but, as this digital book was being prepared, the campaign was being given a second opportunity.
The first time, one Facebook post from Jo was given 17,000 likes. Had all those who read the post and pressed "like" have gone one step further and sent Jo a £10 donation each towards the project, £170,000.00 could have been raised and the project would have been an instant success!
This unusual building was used as the village gaol from early in the eighteenth century until the late nineteenth century (1896) when prisoners began to be locked up in a cell in the then new Police Station.
Members of the group recalled that food was not generally given to prisoners as the expectation was that the prisoners' families would provide it. If there was no family, food would be provided via the nearby Police House, but then had to be paid for.
A register of persons gaoled in Ruabon over the years makes interesting reading but, for the protection and privacy of the dead and living, we are not naming names. Suffice to say that many of the offences seem very trivial by today's standards and seem to fall in to three main categories - DRUNKEN BEHAVIOUR - drunk and disorderly, drunk in charge of a horse or bike etc, POACHING AND STEALING - often simply to put food on the family table and INDEBTEDNESS - again often because people were living in poverty and struggling.
During wartime, AWOL (Absent Without Leave) was also a common entry in the register.
Whilst the majority of offenders were male, women did make regular appearances in the register - one for stealing a petticoat.
Apart from the obvious answer of The Round House being called such simply because it is round, the original reason for it being built that way was because of a belief that the Devil hid in corners and, to avoid the Devil, you avoided corners!
Lynne Berry recalled the possibility of being put in the Roundhouse being used as a deterrent or threat by her parents and others if their children were naughty. It was the Ruabon equivalent of "Wait until your father comes home".
Ruabon Bowling Club is one of the oldest around and can trace its origins back over 100 years.
It moved to its current site in 1955 - some say 1953 - but certainly fast approaching 70 years ago.
It was previously at the site of the Wynnstay Public House nearby and on "The Green" which is now part of the Aldi site. These may have had separate clubs of their own.
The 1953-54 season - Benny Rowley, Leonard Johnson, Ivor Morgan, Bill Roberts
Here, we respectfully remember some of the great characters associated with the club over the years:
Bert Bithell - who also played the harmonica
Joe Charles - who was also a world champion draughts player
Darryl Edwards - so encouraging to youngsters
Bill Hughes - always on his bike
Oz Jones - also a good footballer
Sol Jones - who left his bowling bag to Paul Tincello and his actual bowls to Bill Roberts
Bill Meredith - always willing to drive those who either did not drive or did not have a car
Frank Nicholas - remembered for bowling from the hip
Jack Reid/Read - last winner of the old cup
George Williams - also the congregational chapel organist
In this news paper clipping is the Ruabon Royal British Legion Shield which was presented to the Ruabon Bowling Club to be played as a member's singles competition.
The Gorilla was given to the club by one of the team players and was used as an incentive not to lose by the highest score. If you did lose by the highest score then you had to walk around the green with George whilst being clapped on by the other players. Incidentally the Gorilla was named George after our Honorary President George Critchly, who always had a grumpy demeanor but wasn't really. He was a very loyal and supportive member of the club.
When our discussions turned to woman at the club, it was striking both how things have changed and how comparatively recently those changes have taken place.
It was the 1980s before women were seen playing bowls on television and the first record of a female winner at Ruabon was in 1982. That was a Mrs Gillam whose own initial was D but her name appears on the cup as E Gillam - not an error as such but a reflection of the fact that she then was "Mrs Eric Gillam". Pre-the 1980s, the women prepared refreshments for the gentlemen players and otherwise played dominoes, draughts or similar, back at the clubhouse.
This picture is from May 2013 when there was an unusual cold snap with heavy snow over 2-3 days. The season starts on 1st April and usually by May the days are much warmer, but that year was surprising with matches being called off, or rather "snowed off", which is unprecedented in this sport given that it operates during the Spring/Summer months.
Ruabon found success in all the leagues, entering at the bottom but working their way up to the top divisions particularly in the Wrexham and Oswestry league. In 2015 Ruabon entered the Whitchurch League for the first time and won an incredible "treble" as Division 7 Champions, and winners of the Jubilee Doubles competition and Presidents Cup which involved teams from the 5th, 6th and 7th Divisions. This was celebrated with the presentation of the cup pictured.
The pictures represent some of the Ruabon Bowling Club committee members, captains and players from teams that were active in three bowling leagues: Wrexham, Oswestry and Whitchurch circa 2010 to 2018.
Ruabon Bowling club was very successful between 2010 and 2018 but inevitably with players moving on with work or families and some very sadly passing away (but always remembered), Ruabon has now settled into a more social role rather than a competitive one. But it is still in the top tiers with teams in the Wrexham and Oswestry League. Sadly, they had to leave Whitchurch due to the player situation and the travel distance with matches generally played on a weeknight. In the Wrexham league there is a pairs team which plays on a Monday Night, a veterans team which plays on a Tuesday afternoon and a singles team which plays on a Saturday afternoon. In the Oswestry league there is just the one team which plays on a Tuesday night.
Ruabon Bowling Club is always looking for new members of all ages as it truly is a family sport.
This picture shows one Crown Green Bowl which was made of a hard wood called Lignum Vitae. The trees are indigenous to the Caribbean and the northern coast of South America (e.g: Colombia and Venezuela) and have been an important export crop to Europe since the beginning of the 16th century. In the bowling world Lignum Vitae was a hard wood which was very strong; had beautiful colours and grains especially when polished and varnished but most importantly, particularly on the bowling green it would cope with hard ‘knocks’ with very minor scuffs and scratches. Traditionally both Flat Green and Crown Green bowls were made from this wood finished off with discs on either side of the bowl depicting a ‘Letter’ of the alphabet or ‘Numbers’. If someone owned a set of these bowls, then more often the discs would have their initials engraved on them. In the image on this page you can see an example of a Lignum Vitae Crown Green Bowl with an ‘I’ engraved on the disc. That bowl in the picture is the only one that left from the old Ruabon Bowling Club and would have been one of two bowls originally.
A lot of people over the last one hundred years or more from the Ruabon Community have used this Crown Green Bowl with the letter ‘I’. It certainly adds more meaning and sits comfortably with the ‘Wood of Life’.
In more recent times demand for the wood has been reduced by modern materials science, which has led to more polymer, alloys and composite materials that can take lignum vitae's place. These days most of the Crown Green bowls that you see on a bowling green will be made of a composite or plastic; and come in many different sizes with all sorts of designs engraved on them. They also come in a range of different colours, not just the traditional brown or black but reds, greens, blues, multi-coloured and even translucent bowls or ‘Jelly Bowls’ as they are more commonly called.
The postcards show different parts of Ruabon. The black and white postcard is from the Frith Collection.
With the help of John Edwards and Rosemary Davies, we take a trip through Ruabon in the 1960s and note the shops and businesses that existed then - remarkable for a village.
There was a Chip Shop on Duke Street and a Sweet Shop too. Then, there was a Launderette towards the late 1960s, a Turf Accountant's and Richards' Paper Shop before the Post Office. Then, Arthur Phillips' Shop and Hayward's Hardware Store. After the British Legion and The Nant pub, there was the Slaughter House and this was no surprise as the village had no fewer than three separate butcher's shops in those days.
John Edwards recalls calling at the Slaughterhouse quite often when he was a child as his uncle worked there. A gruesome place for a child to visit but also an educational one. After the Slaughterhouse came Mary Crew's Hair Salon where, presumably, crew-cuts were a speciality. Then, there was a coffee shop with its memorable smell and Albert Roberts' Shop selling bikes and Hornby train sets - a young child's dream shop. Ruabon had its own branch of the Midland Bank in those days and there were Owen's Chemists and Lenny Leighton's Paper Shop. Gina's Cafe was very popular and there was a Television Shop and Flynn's Grocer's - formerly Morgan and Davies'. So many villages and towns had numerous grocery stores back in the 60s.
Lang's Garage was on both sides of the road and there were Bailey's Barber's and Digory's Fishing Tackle Shop - quite specialised within a village. Likewise, Ruabon had its own cinema in those days with ante-rooms and bingo - it stood where there now is a car park on the corner near the village hall and bowling club. There was a Co-op too and Dewitts Cafe (again quite a thing to have several cafes in one small village in the 60s) and Breese's and the Cons Club with a specific Bingo Room upstairs.
Rosemary Davies went to Maes-y-Llan School where the teachers were Mrs Laine, Mrs Ling and Miss Davies, then in the upper school Mr Griffiths, the Head, who was a nice and good teacher who enjoyed a smoke, and Mr Joe Evans who was a stickler for punctuality in the mornings. The school dinners for both this school and the church school were cooked at Maes-y-Llan and the church school ones collected by a Mr Edwards.
Later, from Acrefair School, Rosemary came home for lunch on the train and returned for afternoon school in the same way. Any school trips were generally also by train.
Mrs Dot Williams is remembered for dressing up as the much-loved "Old Mother Riley" who was played by Arthur Lucan, pictured here with his wife and side-kick, Kitty McShane.
Another Ruabon character was a Mrs Evans who always wore a tartan cap.
Yet another was Mr Griffiths of "The Bungalow" who never went to the shop himself but waited outside his house until he saw someone passing who could go for him.
Llewelyn was born and bred in Ruabon and was a leading singer in light operas during the second half of the nineteenth century - often appearing in London and in America. He originated roles and toured in early productions of many well-known works, notably those of Gilbert and Sullivan.
Mark Hughes, born and bred in Ruabon. He is a football manager and former international footballer who played 72 matches and scored 16 goals for Wales. He played at various times for Manchester United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, as well as the English clubs Chelsea, Southampton, Everton and finally Blackburn Rovers, before he retired in 2002. He is currently manager of Bradford City. Mark also opened the new Rubaon Bowling Clubhouse
Born and bred in Ruabon, Ken Rees is the person upon whom Steve McQueen's character in the famous film "The Great Escape" was based. Ken Rees is believed to have been the last out of the tunnel in the real-life story and the person tasked with destroying the tunnel to avoid pursuit but he was unable to destroy it as it had been dug so well.
The much-loved star of the Carry-Ons and Hancock's Half Hour and Round The Horne etc was stationed at Ruabon for some time during World War 2 working as a map-maker for the war as he was originally a cartographer by profession. He mentions Ruabon both in his autobiography "Just Williams" and in his one man show in the "An Audience With...." series.
Near Wynneville in the 60's
Where arguably the best quality tile and bricks in Britain where made.
There were two brickworks in Ruabon and the famous red bricks were known for being really hard and strong because of the clay content.
Here is a Ruabon Church built with Ruabon bricks.
Jo Smith lives in a house built of Ruabon brick. She recalls burning out two drills and having to move on to a third when she tried to undertake a minor job in her house which involved drilling in to the bricks.
Memories of scrubbing the step and polishing the Ruabon Tiles. The tiles were seen on steps and in halls, bathrooms and kitchen floors all over the country and abroad.
This model is in the museum of Wales. Vauxhall Colliery was one of a number of collieries in and around Ruabon. It opened in the 1850's and was originally known as the Kenyon Colliery. It's name was changed to Vauxhall in the 1860's.
Princess Beatrice at the colliery in the 19th century.
During the 17th century, Sir John Wynn, 5th Baronet, inherited the Watstay Estate through his marriage to Jane Evans (daughter of Eyton Evans of Watstay), and renamed it the Wynnstay Estate. The gardens were laid out by Capability Brown. Wynnstay was Brown's largest commission in Wales, work beginning in 1774 and completed in 1784, a year after his death. He replaced the older formal gardens with lawns which swept right up to the house overlooking the lake.
Famous occupants included Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn, 4th Baronet. During the 19th century, Princess Victoria stayed there with her mother, the Duchess of Kent. In 1858 Wynnstay was destroyed by fire and was rebuilt on the same site.
After the house was vacated by the Williams-Wynn family in the mid-20th century, it was bought by Lindisfarne College. When the school closed the building was converted to flats and several private houses.
During the time when the hall was a college.
This beautiful house (unfortunately now demolished) once belonged to the owners of Ruabon Bricks in 1891. Apparently in 1912 they added a grand staircase made with oak timbers.
A thirsty village!
At one time, there were as many as 39 "pubs", defined as places selling beer, in Ruabon but now the total number is down to 4. They are The Bridge End, Duke of Wellington, Vaults and Wynnstay.
Some of the past pubs that populated the village were the Bricklayer's Arms (now the Bridge End), the Cross Foxes, the Duke of Wellington, the Eagles (now the Wynnstay), the Feathers, the Goat, the Great Western (aka the Nant referred to in the list of commercial premises elsewhere in this book), the Jolly Collier, the Phoenix, the Royal Oak, the Swan, the Talbot and The Vaults (otherwise the Round House).
Associate for Book of You:
E Dilwyn Jones
Kevin P Jones
Rev Alan Tiltman
Many of the voice clips in this book are from two radio programmes produced by the BBC in the 1980s called "Ruabon Remembered" and the clip of Kenneth Williams referring to Ruabon is from his recording of his autobiography "Just Williams" on BBC Audio.