One seldom finds a late-Medieval serf's cottage in today's urban environment, but Rose Cottage is such a place. Built on the verge of a very busy highway, the cottage has seen 700 years of life go by, from Medieval pack horses and knights to today's juggernauts.
Rose Cottage used to belong to a farming complex, but the main house and barn was demolished in 1967 having developed into The Ship Inn, and the row of outbuildings attached to Rose Cottage was demolished at an earlier date.
According to photographic evidence, The Ship and the outbuildings were constructed in a similar manner to Rose Cottage. Only Rose Cottage remains, as a memorial to the former community that lived and worked here, the only other reminders being the surrounding field names of Wernfechan, Canol and Uchaf (upper, middle and lower fields) which have long since been built over. Ruthin, being a borough town, was built in 1282 and it is highly probable that this was a demesne farm for Lord De Gray. Most probably, earlier residents farmed it for the Welsh princes.
This is a house with a long history and of simple construction. In 1998 it was bought by Eifion Hughes, the present owner, in a dilapidated and almost derelict condition. The previous owner, a bachelor, had lived there for over 70 years and had let the place go to rack and ruin. Tree roots grew through the pressed earth floor, the walls were crumbling and the 100-year-old thatch, covered with tin sheets in 1949, was collapsing. However, the original three pairs of wooden crucks remained in good condition, due to the raised stone foundation wall on which they had been placed. Inside the house, it still retained its Medieval floor plan within the twin bays formed by the crucks. Today's main entry opens into a large hall, in the centre of which the hearth would have been originally placed. A settle had been built, facing the hearth, and its tall back provided shelter from the front door.
Leading from the dais end of the hall were two doors entering into the inner room which was the private quarters for the family. This is where they slept and withdrew at the end of each day. At the other end of the hall - the passage end - were two more doors leading into the outer room. The original main entry may well have opened into the outer room during its original construction. This outer area served a double purpose, as both a store room and as extra sleeping quarters if necessary. Although a wooden planked ceiling was constructed, there was no access into the loft area, and the roof timbers were black with smoke indicating that it had once been an open hall, with a louver roof vent. During the early- 17th century, the hearth was moved to its present position and a wattle and daub chimney hood was built. This in itself is a rare feature, for the transition from open hearths to chimneys occurred quickly.
All the infill between the timbers was of wattle and daub panels covered with lime wash. During restoration, a hand-patterned piece of lime washed plaster was carefully retrieved and preserved. It is a semi floral pattern, made with charcoal and red ochre. There was a timber mullioned window for each room and glazed windows were later inserted.
When Eifion bought the property in 1998, many locals felt that the only option was complete demolition of such an eyesore! The restoration took two years, and it involved moving 1,300 tons of soil from the small back garden to allow air to circulate. Cadw, The Heritage Agency for Wales, became involved, a detailed examination of the house was undertaken and meticulous plans made regarding the materials to be used for as close a reconstruction as possible. Tenders for construction were sent out, stipulating that the chosen contractor should share the same enthusiasm and compassion for the cottage as Eifion. A new kitchen and bathroom needed to be sympathetically built on to the back as well.
Material came from all over Europe. Old timbers of similar age, shape and quality were found through specialist salvagers and thatch needed to be imported from Austria due to a shortage of Norfolk reed. The new thatch is expected to last for 50 years, and Eifion vows that tin sheets will never be used again! Human hair from the town's barber shops was collected and mixed with straw, clay, mud and lime to form daub for the new wall panelling and lime-based paint was used for that authentic touch. Cast-iron radiators from a now closed local hospital were also purchased. For the décor and furnishings, Eifion's daughter Ffion had the last word. Again the emphasis was on authenticity and originality. Eifion's determination and adherence to keeping as most sympathetic a restoration as possible has turned this old hovel into a little gem. The house is now a living and vibrant property and has once again become a residential family home of unique charm.