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Alms Houses to City Centre


High Street, Cathedral & Upper St Asaph.

Walk down the left hand side of the High Street until you reach the former Alms Houses. At present the building houses “Lulu Spice”. It was built as alms houses in 1680 by Bishop Barrow, for “eight poor widows of good character”. After falling into disrepair the houses were rebuilt by Bishop Bagot in 1795.

Next door is No 1 High Street, and then Beulah House (City Glam) built in 1730, which later became the “Victoria Printing Works”. {See the small sliding windows at the top}. The “Chiropractic Clinic” with “Established 1760” and Glasgow House are mirror images of one another. {Look at the windows with their changes in the glazing}.

The right hand building with steps was the cobbler and saddler (Mr Jack Williams); it later became the “Rhyl & District Co-operative Stores” and the steps were known as the “Co-op steps”. On the same side, Elwy Bank, once the Bank of St Asaph, is notable for its rare surviving wall paintings of the Napoleonic era.

The oriel window on the left is above a former butcher’s shop – see the tiles below. The Ruabon red brick buildings, “City Newsagents”, “Cathedral Frames” and the “Kebab House”, date from 1905. The foundation stone for Church House was laid in 1908. It was a successful venue for concerts, dances and meetings. It is now the offices of Swayne Johnson, Solicitors. The new Diocesan Building stands on the site of the once thriving Central Café.

The black and white “Corbett’s Turf Accountants” was a Tea Room and Free Reading Room; the former becoming a chemist’s and eventually a printer’s. {Look for the mosaic: “Established in 1810”}. The Reading Room became a fish shop prior to becoming a betting shop.

The fine mid 18th century Georgian house is marked as a Savings Bank on the 1854 map, but has had a series of uses including solicitors’ office, jewellery manufacturer, barber’s shop, library and insurance office. Today it is “Cartref NI Ltd”. {plaque in “memory of Lizzie”}. Between the Cartref NI & “St Asaph Cathedral Song School” is an intriguing doorway.

The Song School (built in 1810), was previously the Diocesan Registry and prior to that the Chapter House. However the original Chapter House, attached to the NE wall of the Cathedral Chancel, was destroyed during the Civil War, and never reinstated. {Note the worn steps and boot scraper}. Walk through the Cathedral gateway and on your right is an almost hidden doorway that leads to the “undercroft”.

Inside a series of cupboards and cases contain various artefacts. It is no longer open for viewing. Look to your left on the Green and at the Memorial. This commemorates Bishop William Morgan whom, amongst others, first translated the bible into Welsh in 1588.

Go in the west door entrance of the Cathedral and pick up one of the laminated guides. Don’t miss the “Translators’ Chapel” on the left by the organ and the effigy of Bishop Anian on the other side. On leaving the Cathedral, head towards the cross roads known as “The Cross”, where “The Bryn Dinas” and “Jacob’s Ladder” are landmarks. The entrance to the Bryn used to be on the diagonal. “Jacob’s Ladder” was previously a café and health food shop run by “Mencap”; before that Turner’s Storesand Tea Rooms, and earlier the main sorting Post Office.

At the beginning of Mount Road you will see the “Off License” (formerly a chemist) and Jan’s whose shop had been a butcher and a wallpaper shop. Next on the right is Bryn Gobaith (Hope Hill) whose terraced houses were built for retired clergy. This is the route the stage coach took, coming up from Old Bont Dafydd to theWhite Lion Inn. Continue along Mount Road and note Elwy Court on the left, which on the 1871 OS map is the Vicarage. Further along on the left are some fine Victorian terraced houses and Trefelwy, unexpectedly, has a fascinating cellar with a carved stone cross.

The Cemetery Chapel of Rest is now a business, and Hebridean sheep keep down the undergrowth in the cemetery, which is open to the public. At the junction of Mount Road and Red Hill is “Fairholme School”, formerly “The Mount”. Turn down Oak Lane and continue until you find the old defunct railway bridge. Look to your right and the route of the railway can be discerned in the landscape. Returning, you can walk through the “new” cemetery and find the small wooden gate in the far corner and continue through the old grave yard which is now a wildlife haven. Turn left out of the “kissing gate” on Mount Road and back to the centre of St Asaph.

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