The Salusbury arms

Gules (i.e. red background), a lion rampant argent (i.e. white), crowned or (i.e. gold)
between three crescents of the last (i.e. gold).

Lleweni Hall (1792), the principal seat of the Salusbury family.

Lleweni Hall, painted by John Hughes in the early 19th century.

'According to our Welsh records , Lleweni was originally called Llysmarchweithian, the Court of Marchweithian [ancestor of Katherine of Berain] one of the founders of the Fifteen Tribes, or patrician families, of North Wales; but tradition makes it to have been nothing more than Pwll-y-Llyffant, or Toad's Pool, until Sir John y Bodiau* slew the white lioness in the Tower of London, and was, henceforth, commanded by the king to bear a white lioness ("llewen") on his shield, and set one over his hall door; and thence called the place Lleweni. This evidently refers to the heraldic motto - Sat est prostrasse leoni. Indeed, the author, although a very sanguine Welshman, cannot help coming to the conclusion that it is quite possible that Lleweni may be a Welsh corruption of the Latin 'leoni', the very word inscribed over the entrance of the ancient palace, as its being an English 'barbarism' of the Welsh 'Llwyni' or 'groves'. It is not known to what the legend refers, but it may be rendered, "It is enough to have prostrated to a lion, - to have done homage to a lion" or, "it is no disgrace to have succumbed to a lion," or, "the magnanimous lion requires no more than homage as a title to the territory." Most of these heraldic mottoes are ambiguous. Whether these armorial bearings refer to any grant or title from Richard Coeur de Lion we know not. The three crescents and Saracen (as seen under Sir John y Bodiau's head) evidently refer to the Crusades.

The ancient palace of Lleweni was, in its time, one of the most princely mansions of North Wales, and although it stood on a dead level, surrounded by its extensive Forest, it commanded an enchanting view of the Castle and Town of Denbigh, - a city built on a hill; its eastern side. The original house was built in 720 A. D. This venerable and interesting mansion was taken down for materials to build Kinmel Palace. The old Lleweni Library (a collection of ancient, curious and rare works, valuable MSS, connected with the history of the Salusbury family, and the annals of Denbigh Castle; paintings of old masters, &c.,) became either scattered or lost. The fine-toned old organ, which once stood in the great hall, is that now in St. Hilary's Chapel [Denbigh]. The late Lord Dinorben's father also cut down the remains of the ancient forest, and realized a very large sum of money by the timber, having bought Lleweni for 209,000, much less, it is said, than the real value of the estate.'

Quoted from 'Ancient and Modern Denbigh'.

'Before his [Sir Robert Salusbury Cotton's] death the Lleweni estate had been sold to the Hon. Thomas Fitzmaurice. The subsequent history of Lleweni may be of interest. Briefly, what happened was that Fitzmaurice erected there a large bleaching works at a cost of 20,000 for the treatment of linen woven on his Irish estate. Lleweni was sold and re-sold, and after the bankruptcy of Lord Kirkwall the works were closed down. Richard Fenton visited Lord Kirkwall at Lleweni in 1808. Unfortunately he does not give any details of the hall, but after a long description of the magnificent Gloddaeth Hall near Llandudno he adds: "But this hall is nothing to that at Lleweni either in size or perfection of costume."

Lleweni bleaching works

Lleweni was afterwards bought by the Dinorben family for 209,000, and the remains of the ancient forest cut down. The Hall was dismantled and some of the material used in extending Kinmel Hall. The collection of paintings, etc., was dispersed, and the organ which stood in the great hall was taken to St. Hilary's Church, Denbigh. The present Lleweni Hall is used as a farmhouse, and is not mentioned by the Inspectors of Ancient Monuments Commission for Denbighshire (1911).'

Quoted from 'Denbighshire Historical Society Transactions'.

Lleweni in 2003.

*This means 'Sir John of the Thumbs', so called because he apparently had two thumbs on each hand. According to local tradition he slew 'Y Bych', a mythical animal which inhabited some obscure den in Denbigh and which emerged periodically to kill and eat a Burgess.

'It is worth recording that the story of Sion y Bodiau's [d. 1578] slaying 'Y Bych' was being related by some of the older inhabitants of Denbigh as recently as circa 1925 as an onomastic tale [i.e. a story explaining the origin of a word - in this case 'Denbigh']; the climax of the story came when Sion, having slain the beast, said in a loud voice "Nid oes dim bych mwy!" Hence the name "Dimbych" [meaning 'no more dragon'] which is always pronounced "Dimbych" by native-born Denbighites!'

Quoted from 'Denbighshire Historical Society Transactions'.

If Sir John of the Thumbs was the man who died in 1578 and whose tomb is pictured below, he presumably cannot be the same man, also called Sir John Salusbury it seems, who slew the white lion in the Tower of London, as described above. I suspect that a much earlier legend (concerning the killing of a dragon) has been attached to the wrong person.

The tomb of Sir John Salusbury of Lleweni (d. 1578), 'Sir John of the Thumbs', and his wife, Jane Myddelton..

**'Ancient and Modern Denbigh' refers to a painting of Sir Thomas Salusbury, 2nd baronet (d. 1643), as follows:-

'He was a distinguished loyalist in the time of Charles I., and was represented as on the point of quitting his family to join the army, and taking leave of his lady and three children; dressed in a buff surtout and brown boots, with a rich scymetar at his side; being attended by two greyhounds and a groom, dressed in a long linen gown, with the Salusbury arms as a badge on his shoulder, and holding a horse.'

Back to 'The Descent of Hughes'