Last man condemned to die


Staff reporter

THIS month marks a gruesome milestone as the 110th anniversary of the first and last hanging at Ruthin Gaol.

On February 17, 1903, Wrexham miner William Hughes was found guilty of shooting his wife and was hanged at Ruthin prison after his plea of insanity failed.

The condemned cell scene shows Hughes waiting to be led to his execution.

On that fateful day the scaffold would have only been about 15 yards away from the cell.

The cell also had a hole knocked through the outer wall which led to the second storey of the gallows ensuring the prisoner only had to walk a few final steps.

It was recorded at the time that the last thing Hughes did before he left his cell was look at a photograph of his family. As far as is known, he was the only person ever to be hanged at Ruthin Gaol.

Another colourful prison personality was John Jones, known as Coch Bach y Bala, who was a thief and poacher.

He had spent more than half his 60 years in prisons across North Wales and England.

He twice escaped from Ruthin Gaol, first on November 30, 1879 when he walked out of prison with three others while the staff were having supper — a £5 reward was offered for his capture, which happened the following January.

On September 30, 1913 he tunnelled out of his cell and then, using a rope made out of his bedding, he climbed over the roof of the chapel and kitchen and got over the wall.

After seven days living rough on the Nantclwyd Estate several miles away, Jones was shot in the leg by one of his pursuers, 19-year-old Reginald Jones-Bateman.

Jones died of shock and blood loss, which meant Jones-Bateman was charged with manslaughter, though the charges were subsequently dropped.

Ruthin Gaol ceased to be a prison in 1916 when the prisoners and guards were transferred to Shrewsbury.

The county council bought the buildings in 1926 and used part of them for offices, the county archives, and the town library.

During the Second World War the prison buildings were used as a munitions factory, before being handed back to the council, when it was the headquarters of
the Denbighshire Library Service.

In 2002 the Gaol was renovated and reopened as a museum.

Opening times: April-October 31, 10am-5pm Wed-Sun and bank holiday Mondays.

Last admission one hour before closing.

See full story in the Free Press

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