As we drove into Denbigh, we saw a statue in the town square, a man in a curious crouching position, rather than standing up proudly, as most statues do. But, when we entered the castle ruins, it was explained.
On one of the walls was a brown plaque, stating that the explorer Henry Morton Stanley ( Né John Rowlands) was born nearby. Now, at school, they taught us that he was American … and only a little research showed that school was wrong. Maybe they wished to gloss over the fact that he was the first of five illegitimate children? The 18 year old Rowlands did, however, emigrate to America, and change his name to that of his benefactor ,,, later, he even spoke with an American accent. Possibly he, too, was trying to erase his origins?
Anyway, under the auspices of Henry Stanley, his employer and benefactor, he became a journalist, and later journeyed to Africa several times. One of his assignments, for which he is probably most famous, was to find a missing missionary, which he successfully did.
So, of course, the statue is of Stanley, in the classic pose of many a painting, bowing, and with hand outstretched to greet … Doctor Livingstone, I presume!
The castle itself is a ruin, under the protection of Cadw, the Welsh government’s historical and environmental protection service,
In the 13th Century, it was a stronghold held by Daffydd ap Gruffyd, the brother of Llewellyn ap Gruffyd, the Prince of Wales, against the English led by King Edward I. The current stone castle was built after the stronghold fell. Henry de Lacy was commissioned by the King to build it, and was also granted a Borough Charter to establish the surrounding town of Denbigh.
It hadn’t even been finished when it was captured and briefly occupied by Welsh rebels in 1294, but the rebellion collapsed the following year, and the castle was handed back to De Lacy.
In the 15th Century, the castle was besieged twice, but held out, first, against the rebels of Owain Glydwr then against the Lancastrians in the War of the Roses.
During the Civil War, the castle was held by Royalists for six months, before being captured by the Parliamentarians, who ‘slighted’ it to prevent further use. It has been in ruins ever since.
There's more recent history to be found in Denbigh, too. It’s probably a sign of advancing age when you go into a museum, and see artefacts you not only recognise, but actually used ‘back in the day’. So it is with the ‘Wireless in Wales’ museum, which is in a couple of rooms in the Welsh Language Centre building.
For the youngsters, I’d better explain what ‘wireless’ means here. Before the days of wireless keyboards, mouses, TV remote controls and the like, it was simply a synonym for ‘radio’.
Its location is appropriate, for radio did play a part in the revival of the Welsh language … even though broadcasts in that language started relatively recently. I can remember a time when even regional accents weren’t heard on the airwaves (except in ‘The Archers’!)
The museum is based around the collection of the late David E Jones, an avid collector of radios, and a champion of the Welsh language. The collection doesn’t go back quite to the days of ‘Come here, Mr, Watson! I want you!’ but almost … there are several ‘cat’s whisker’ crystal sets here. And, of course, sets of a bygone age …. bearing stuff like ‘Hilversum’ and ‘Lyons PTT’ on their dials. I wonder if these stations are still going? Because you can’t pick them up on a modern VHF set.
I particularly noticed the old stuff that worked off rechargeable ‘wet’ batteries. This was of particular interest, for we had one at home. And, it was from Mr. Adams, who brought a fresh one around every week and took away the old one for recharging, that I got my first interest in radio.
On those old radios, you could trouble-shoot, too. Generally, it was just take the back off, and check for loose wires, and see if there were any thermionic valves not lit, and change them if there were. Nowadays, the only action you can take is try a new battery, and if that doesn’t work, toss it.
There’s also lots of information and interpretative displays … and a knowledgeable and enthusiastic curator on hand if these don’t tell you what you want.
I found it extremely interesting and absorbing … but, in my early days in the Royal Air Force, I was a radio operator/mechanic. Nevertheless, I think anyone would gain something from a visit, too.