Banks and their link with crime

By | Category: Travel rumblings
Nat west in the old Court House

The old Court House in Ruthin

Today, many people consider banks to have exhibited some of the worst excesses of capitalism and their reputation has plummeted. But in Ruthin in North Wales, a couple of banks there have gone out of their way to be linked in a more blatant manner, this time with historical crime.

Described by Simon Jenkins, the current chairman of the National Trust, a as “the most charming small town in Wales,” Ruthin is a compact town that lures tourists from around the world.

In picturesque St Peter’s Square there are three banks, Barclays, HSBC and National Westminster.  All occupy old buildings in the square but did they choose buildings that were old converted town houses or taverns of yesteryear? No, two opted for a more violent past.

Natwest inside

the inside of the old Court House

National Westminster is to be found in a building known as the Old Court House. But it is far more important that just being any old court. It was on this site, some 614 years ago, that a local English marcher lord, Lord Grey de Rhuthyn, tried to defraud a Welsh prince of land. The prince – one Owain Glyn Dŵr by name – torched this building down and started the last attempt by a Welsh prince to regain the country from the English. For a few years afterwards insurrection was rife in Wales. And Nat West is linked with this!! Later when the building was rebuilt it became a court house where prisoners were tried and punished. Outside are the remains of a gibbet used to hang, draw and quarter a Catholic priest in 1674. What we don’t know is how many bankers faced punishment there. If any. Eventually, the building became the bank that is there today.

The stone on which King Arthur beheaded Hueil. Or is it?

The stone on which King Arthur beheaded Hueil. Or is it?

To the right of Natwest’s Old Court House lies Barclays. In front of their building sits an ungainly stone with a small pocket lined in red. The red stain isn’t blood but paint as one parent explained to his young son whilst I stood by. According to legend, this is where King Arthur beheaded Hueil, the brother of the earliest of Welsh historians, Gildas. Why did such a king so renowned in legend as a fair man, a courteous and thoughtful leader do this? Because Haeil mocked Arthur’s limp. But when have you ever seen Arthur portrayed with a limp. And a temper the like of which caused a man to be beheaded?  What role did Barclay’s play in this. Of course there is no evidence of any link whatsoever but why did the bank choose this place to cite their branch? We know that there is no smoke without fire!

Today the town attracts visitors view some of the finest mediaeval and Tudor old buildings that you will see in any town, the pretty square in which these banks sit, its antique shops and the surrounding countryside. And if you happen to be in the area this weekend, then you can take part in “Open Doors” when 23 buildings will be open for the public to see. But will they reveal anything of the role of banks in the town?

No, visitors will just have to enjoy Ruthin and remain in ignorance of how the banks became involved in such crimes.


For more about Ruthin, click here.

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