History of Abbey Farm Rhuddlan
Formerly known as Plas Newydd, Abbey Farm Rhuddlan is set within the area of the Norman town and occupies the site of a Dominican Friary founded around 1258 by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales. It was home to its Prior, Anian de Schonan, Bishop of St Asaph and Dominican friars, a teaching order. They would have been at the forefront of intellectual life in the Middle Ages and came to Rhuddlan in 1256.
Such was their esteem that King Edward I and Queen Eleanor continued to fund the friary after Rhuddlan had fallen into English hands in 1277 . In return, the friars provided honey for the Queen amongst other things.
By 1283 the friary housed 23 friars.
The next 300 years…
The friary was dissolved in 1538 during Henry VIII’s religious reforms before passing into the hands of a certain Henry ap Harry in about 1540.
By the 1740s, the friary had fallen into ruins although much of the structure remained.
Before the current farmhouse was built, there was a small farm building on the western boundary of the farmyard. The site of the Friary was visited by Richard Fenton on 7th September 1808 during his “Tours of Wales 1804-1813”. He noted in his diary ‘a farmhouse with arched windows and doors that was located to the west of the farmyard, purported to be the former Abbots apartments. Also some cowsheds/barns to the southern and eastern boundaries, known as Plas Newydd’.
The Farm House
Research suggests that the original farm house, Plas Newydd, was situated where the static caravan site is today.
When the current Abbey Farm house was built, between 1810 to early 1820’s, it was named ABBEY. It is noted in the 1841 census that Abbey and Plas Newydd are two separate entries with the current farm house being built where the Church once was.
Interestingly, on the baptism records of 1826 the second child of the ‘Roberts’ family to live in the Abbey Farm (note the place of residence as “Abbey”). Previously the first child’s birth in 1824 only noted the area of Criccin.
The main barn building on the southern boundary of the farm yard still today houses 4 high levelled stone mullion windows. Research suggests these are the only remaining elements of the actual Friary and possibly part of the former dormitory.
The cowhouse forms the Eastern range of buildings built late 18th Century. It incorporates a niche towards the North gable end which houses a severely eroded effigy. This is believed to be Anian de Schonan, a Knight of the thirteenth Century.
Sketch from article in Archaeologia Cambrensis
vol X11 July dated 1847
The workshop range is located to the West of Abbey farm yard and was originally a small stable and cartshed. Incorporated into the wall over a doorway is an early 14th Century tomb slab. Original fabrics of the abbey building still remain to the rear of this range.
There are interesting carved stones from the friary to be found in the walls of the farm buildings today. Other stones were removed in 1868 and more in 1923 to St Mary’s parish church. By the altar in Rhuddlan church is the stone slab of a carving said to be the tombstone of William de Freney, Archbishop of Edessa in Syria. His death was around 1290 when he was assisting Anian, The Bishop of St Asaph and a Dominican Prior, at Rhuddlan Friary. He would have been buried in the friary cemetery. This was one of the items moved in 1923. It has been recorded in the past that stone coffins and human remains have been unearthed, presumably from the friary cemetery.