As you make your way through the grounds towards the astonishing Rûg Chapel, you will pass by what is likely a churchyard cross. You might well be tempted to give it short shrift, since the attractions of the Chapel beckon, and they are so very glorious. Still, it’s worth a moment of your time, since it is an impressive thing, in truth. Its origins, however, are entirely elsewhere, since it is not indigenous to Rûg.
Rûg Chapel was built in 1637 at the instigation of Colonel William Salusbury, Hen Hosanau Gleison (Old Blue Stockings), defiant at the Siege of Denbigh Castle in 1646,
‘and he could easily have quarried materials for the erection of his chapel at Rûg from Denbigh Abbey.’
E.Owen, ‘Old Stone Crosses of the Vale of Clwyd’ p. 167
Owen gave the cross a 14th century date of origin, possibly earlier (writing in 1911, the Royal Commission dated it to the 15th century) and was of a mind to identify its original position as being the Carmelite Friary in Denbigh. He may well be right, but it is impossible to be certain. Still, given the Salusburys warp and weft within the fabric of Denbigh, you can understand his thinking - Denbigh’s Hen Hosanau Gleison making off with the base and cross shaft to place in his chapel at Rûg. It makes convenient sense.
The Rûg churchyard cross - brought to the chapel from elsewhere, and with a crosshead recycled from the chapel itself. Was it originally sited at the Carmelite Friary in Denbigh? Owen thought so, and who am I to argue?
What is more certain is that the current cross upon the shaft is not original. During the renovations of the chapel in 1855, a cross was requisitioned from elsewhere in the chapel to produce a complete churchyard cross, of sorts.
‘and the churchyard-cross brought down from its old position on the gable, and placed in its present site.’
Rev. D.R. Thomas, A History of the Diocese of St Asaph’ p.691
The little cross then is alien to the shaft. Those who have looked upon the tabernacles at Derwen, Halkyn, Trelawnyd and Tremeirchion will not be surprised, since crossheads were openly fabulous - and invariably destroyed during the Reformation and the continued vandalism of the 17th century. Owen, as has been said, was convinced that the cross shaft at Rûg was originally sited at the Friary at Denbigh, and so was certain that the tabernacle removed from the Friary to Dolhyrfyd outside of Denbigh originally stood upon the shaft now sited at Salusbury’s chapel. He was of a mind to doodle a wonder as to the possibility of bringing the crosshead from Dolhyrfyd to Rûg, but nothing came of it.
The remains are impressive. The shaft is about 5ft 5 inches in height, squared at its base with convex broaches, socketed into a sturdy block of freestone. The three sturdy steps upon which the base stone is sat have led to it being spoken of as a calvary cross. The cross head is a dinky thing in comparison to the extraordinary examples elsewhere, but has a sort of endearing charm. It’s hard to miss, on the path towards the chapel, but is often given little regard. But stop a moment, and have a little regard. You won’t regret it.
Elias Owen, Old Stone Crosses of the Vale of Clwyd, London and Oswestry, (1886)
RCAHMC, An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Wales: Merioneth, London (1921)
Rev. D. R. Thomas, A History of the Diocese of St Asaph, London (1874)