This book is dedicated to those living and no longer with us who worked so hard at Ruthin Castle both when it was a sanatorium and now as a hotel.
A group of enthusiastic people contributed to this book over a series of 6 weekly Zoom sessions with E Dilwyn Jones, Associate with Book of You, and Kate Harcus of Yr Hen Lys Ruthin from late May to the end of June 2021.
Ruthin Castle became a hospital/sanatorium/medical research establishment in 1923 and remained so until 1962. Officially, it was described as a place for "the investigation and treatment of obscure medical diseases". Interestingly, in less P C days, four words were often added - "Mental cases not accepted".
The clinical director was Dr, later Sir, Edmund Spriggs and then Dr Sydney Patterson.
Important works had their origins in the castle including discovering the link between insulin and diabetes and one doctor involved in the first ever heart transplant which took place in South Africa.
The Second World War and the advent of the NHS in 1948 sent the hospital in to decline. It only had 12 patients when it closed.
This compares with 1925-35 when 4,796 patients were admitted - nearly 500 pa with the hospital capacity being 64 patients and the average stay being 3 weeks.
Famous patients at the hospital included Laurence Olivier and Gilbert Harding.
An interesting staff-member was a Swiss-born radiographer called Marxer who had radiographs published in major medical text books despite having no formal medical qualifications whatsoever.
The exact treatments offered at the castle are not always clear but certainly included treatment for obesity and gastric and duodenal ulcers. Rumours of it being a "drying-out clinic" have been impossible to confirm though it is known that many stars (e g Tony Hancock) would talk of going to a clinic for a "slimming bout" when they were in fact going to dry-out. The "obesity treatment" may have been a code!!
On the left hand side are two treatment rooms on the right is the lab and the kitchen.
Michael Birtwell and (behind the figure) Dave Stephen. These gentlemen actually had a forge in the grounds of the castle where they did lots of wrought iron work, including making many of the gates that are still there today.
On the 1969 investiture tour Prince Charles stayed at the castle. I wonder if he stayed in the Prince of Wales suite? Which was named after Albert Edward (later, King Edward VII), apparently in his younger years as the Prince of Wales, he was a frequent visitor to the castle.
Ruthin Castle used to run extremely popular medieval banquets. All the servers and entertainers would be dressed in medieval attire and people would enjoy a meal as they did in the medieval times. This included eating with your hands and enjoying some sweet mead. This was so popular that there used to be special coach trips that would bring lots of people to enjoy the banquets.
These banquets at the castle ran for around 50 years from 1966/67, having originally been the brainchild of Ken Favell, an architect in the town. Guests were served homemade soup or "cawl" followed by lamb chops or chicken glazed in wine and orange with a baked potato and salad and with a homemade syllabub to finish. Bread was broken off the loaf by hand and the loaf passed from person to person. Only a dagger was initially provided - no other cutlery.
Live entertainment was an integral part of the banquet experience with Bernard and Ena Woolford and several members of their family being very involved in that entertainment - singing and harp music with songs especially written by the likes of the late Gilmour Griffiths, a prominent musician and composer in Wales.
Tourists, especially the Americans, tipped the children in the entertainment group very generously and participating could be very remunerative indeed.
Mead or wine were served in goblets with the food at the banquets and a mix or combination of the two made a lovely drink but, once people went out in to the fresh air after a few goblets, the drink had quite an effect - as certain of the group members could testify from personal experience!
A ticket for the night to include food and the entertainment as well as mead and wine initially cost 17/6 or 88p in decimal money.
Around 120 people attended the original banquets, usually tourists with spare places being filled by locals who bought tickets or were sometimes just given tickets for free.
One staff member at the banquet once threatened a customer who was getting rather rowdy with being thrown out only then to find that the customer in question was Muhammad Ali's manager!
This is a photo of the ladies and gentleman who would perform and entertain people during the banquets.
Meredith Edwards was one of Wales' greatest actors appearing in tens of films after his first "A Run For Your Money" in 1949 - he was originally from Rhos, Wrexham (like Bernard Woolford) and lived in semi-retirement in Cilcain near Mold and was often at the banquets.
Signed by Meredith Edwards and Stuart Burrows
The main, perhaps only, free gift given to ladies at the banquets
Assembled crew promoting a competition where a Mark 1 Escort was the prize
The singers who performed at the castle recorded two albums that people were able to buy.
The castle has looked after peacocks for many years, currently they have 19 living there, they are a highlight for both guests and locals to see.
Staff, including those in the background, were always remembered and appreciated and here are some celebrating Christmas.
The Gorsedd Stones, a modern Eisteddfod stone circle, were created in 1972, to proclaim that the National Eisteddfod was to be held in Ruthin the following year.
The 12 stones, with a central plinth (the Logan stone), are accessible through the grounds of the 13th Century castle and are a reminder that Ruthin was chosen to host the National Eisteddfod, a very important annual event in Wales, in 1973. The tallest stone or monolith is approximately 1.5m in height, and the circle is approximately 20m in diameter. The Logan stone, in the middle, was for the Archdruid to proclaim the festival, and it is here, within the Gorsedd Circle, that the ceremonial dances were performed, and where all new members of the Druid Circle are inaugurated. The 12 stones which form the circle represent the twelve old counties of Wales. The stones are usually taken from the local area, and the stone circles are icons all across Wales, a lasting testimony to Welsh culture at its very best.
The National Eisteddfod of Wales was held in Ruthin in August 1973 and the proclamation ceremony and bardic circle were in the castle grounds a year earlier in 1972.
Thank you to everyone who contributed.
Cllr. Stephen beach
Cllr. Anne Roberts MBE
Cllr. Geraint Woolford
E Dilwyn Jones (Book of You CIC)
Thandi Carklin (Book of You CIC Volunteer)
Kate Harcus (Manager, Yr Hen Lys)