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Denbigh, Denbighshire. Called Dinbych in Welsh, Denbigh is nominally the county town of Denbighshire but Ruthin has the county offices and is the seat for the Assizes. Denbigh, like other ancient towns, draws its life from the soil of its shire. Much of the county is hilly or even mountainous, and sheep provide its main income, though Wrexham and Ruabon are centres of the North Welsh coalfield along its southward extension. The county is dominated by the plateau of hills whose topmost point is Mod Sych (2,713 ft). Into that upland platform are set three fertile valleys: the Vale of Llangollen to the South East, of Conway to the West, and of the Clwyd to the East. It is over this last rich vale that Denbigh looks. The contrast between the uplands and the green plains is sudden and striking; in the 17th century, Daniel Defoe was greatly impressed by it and noted, in his account of his travels through England and Wales, that here one came from an unprofitable and windy district into a “most pleasant. fruitful, populous and delicious vale, full of villages and towns, the fields shining with corn . . . which made us think ourselves in England again, all of a sudden”. The 17th century had not developed the appreciation of uncultivated nature; this was left for the more romantic minds of the 19th century.

Denbigh Castle, on its steep limestone height towering above the town, had the history proper to a border fortress and carried the fortunes of the town with it. Before the Norman conquest of England, its story is obscure: but the Castle in its existing shape was first founded by William the Conqueror in his attempt to seize and hold the Marches of Wales. But it did not reach its present extent until 1282, when, following the Welsh War of 1276, De Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, built it under instruction from his master, Edward I of England, to play its part with Conway, Caernarfon, Beaumaris, Criccieth, and Harlech in fettering Gwynedd. The Tudor Queen Elizabeth sold it to her favourite Robert Dudley, who, besides enjoying the title of Earl of Leicester, became Baron Denbigh and Ranger of Snowdon Forest. But its most adventurous part in history came with the Second Civil War. After the first triumph of the Parliamentary forces and the imprisonment of Charles I at Carisbrook, a reaction in favour of the King stirred throughout Britain and particularly in Wales. In Pembrokeshire and the South there was insurrection against Parliament: but it was in the North that the most serious threat arose. The Royalist revival was led by Col, Sir John Owen of Clenennau, whose regiment of foot was recruited as far afield as Machynlleth and quartered itself at Pennal. He marched upon Conway and Bangor. demanding the surrender of Conway by Archbishop Williams. In the words of Carlyle, the Archbishop replied in “high, sniffing terms”, and Sir John Owen retaliated with “imperious capture and forcible possession”. Counter-strategy was directed from Denbigh Castle. The Royalists were defeated near Bangor, Beaumaris fell, and Sir John was imprisoned in Denbigh; a plot to seize the place and free him failed. The outcome of the event was disastrous for the King the war in Wales had been too close and perilous for him to be allowed to live. Something of the part Denbigh played in the control of the North can be seen from the proposal by its Parliamentary Governor to extend the fortifications of the Castle to include the whole town. But the collapse of Owen's forces made this unnecessary.

The Castle keeps much of its early magnificence, and its gatehouse is a remarkable piece of architecture, with eight-sided towers carrying between them a statue; we still do not know whether it is of Edward I or De Lacy.

The mother church of Denbigh stands 1 mile East of it, at Whitchurch. The tower is 13th century, and its roof is hammer-beam; some glass, which escaped the attentions of the Parliamentary troops, dates from the 14th century. It holds monuments to many of Denbighs worthies: Richard Myddelton, Governor of Denbigh Castle in l575-6, father of the Sir Hugh and Sir Thomas who played so active a part in the political and economic life of the area; Sir John Salusbury of Lleweni Hall, whose son was the first to take the much-married Tudor Katheryn of Berain under protective care: and two others of note. The first is Humphry Lhuyd (as he spelt it), an antiquary of the 16th century who deserves wider fame than he has. Born in 1527 and dying in 1573, he was the first to put British historical archaeology on a steady basis. His maps of England and of Wales, published in Amsterdam in the year of his death, set out the succession of cities in Britain from Roman times to his own; and the map of Wales is particularly valuable not only in its printing of Latin, Welsh, and English names together, as they stand for places within the marchlands. but for marking out the divisions of Wales in the three sectors of Gwynedd, Powys, and Deheubarth (the South) from which its varied character grew. The second is the Thomas Edwards who died in 1810; he was noted by George Borrow as the Welsh author Twm O'r Nant (Tom of the Brook), who perpetuated in Wales at the beginning of the 18th century the traditions of interludes or morality plays, which in England died out with the growth of the Elizabethan theatre. One of these moralities is translated by Borrow, very effectively, in Chapter 60 of his Wild Wales. It is a dialogue between Riches and Poverty. Its poetic qualities are not so remarkable as its conclusion that the distinction between wealth and want is as inevitable as that between Sun and Moon.

Another native of Denbigh was Sir Henry Stanley, the explorer of Africa, now best remembered for his words of recognition spoken to the man he was commissioned to discover and bring back from the jungle: “Dr Livingstone, I presume?” Though the cottage in which he was born has been demolished, its photograph is shown in the precincts of the Castle. His real name was John Rowlands. The surname he took from his mother, since his father's was not available: Stanley he adopted from the New Orleans stockbroker by whom he was at last befriended.

The Town Hall of Denbigh is an Elizabethan structure enlarged in 1780. The girls' public school known as Howell's was built in 1860 by the Drapers' Company, apparently after some reflection, since the funds for such a foundation were left them by a Weishman, Thomas Howell, as early as 1540. The black-and-red cloaks worn by the girls as they move about the steep streets of the town are most attractive.

Nearby towns: Abergele, Corwen, Holywell, Llanrwst, Mold, Prestatyn, Rhyl, Ruthin, St Asaph

Nearby villages: Betws-y-Coed, Bodelwyddan, Bodfari, Caerwys, Cerrigydrudion, Clocaenog, Cwm, Cyffylliog, Dinorben, Efenechtyd, Graigfechan, Gwaenynog, Henllan, Llandyrnog, Llanelwy, Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd, Llangynhafal, Llannefydd, Llanrhaiadr, Llanrhydd, Nannerch, Nantglyn, Ruthin, Trefnant, Tremeirchion

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