Richard Mills – Founder of the Rhos Herald

by dave edwards

During the 4th Quarter of 1840, in the District of Newtown, Montgomeryshire, the birth was registered of Richard Mills, the son of Richard and Jane Mills (nee Woorsnam) of Great Oak Street, Llanidloes, Montgomeryshire.

In 1841, the census showed that 30-year-old Richard (Senior) was a weaver and his wife Jane was 25 years old.  They had a 5-year-old daughter called Jane and a 3-year-old called Sarah. Their son Richard was 8 months old.

Richard (Senior) had a great love of music, which he tried to impart to his fellow countrymen.  He was a composer and introduced many young working men to the works of Bach, Handel and Haydn.  He had a delicate constitution and his early death, in 1844, aged only 33, was hastened by his extensive travelling through Merioneth and Denbighshire to teach in evening classes.

By 1851, Richard’s widow, Jane, was living at Short Bridge Street, Llanidloes.  She was a grocer and her age was listed as 38.  Her daughter Jane was 15-years-old and Mary was 8-years-old.  Her son, John Henry, was 6-years-old and had been born after his father Richard’s death.  On the day of the 1851 census, 10-year-old Richard and his 13-year-old sister, Sarah, were at the home of their 63-year-old grandfather, Richard Woorsnam, a Flannel Merchant of Church Street, Newtown, in the district of Kerry, Montgomeryshire.  

By 1861, 48-year-old Jane had remarried and her husband was 36-year-old John Pryse, a publisher and bookseller.  Jane’s children on the 1861 census were Jane, aged 24; Richard, aged 20 and a painter; Mary, aged 18 and a milliner and John Henry, aged 16 and a pupil teacher.  Once again, the family were living at Great Oak Street, Llanidloes.  I wonder if the enumerator wrote “painter” instead of “printer”.

On the 1871 Census, 30-year-old Richard Mills was described as a printer and compositor, lodging at 16 Chester Street, Wrexham Regis.  As Richard’s step-father was a publisher and bookseller I wonder if he had arranged for Richard to become a printer.  At this time, Richard was working for Hughes and Son, of Wrexham, as a music compositor.

During the 2nd Quarter of 1876, in the District of Wrexham, a marriage was registered between Richard Mills and Sarah Owen.  Sarah was the 24-year-old daughter of Daniel and Elizabeth Owen.    

I will digress for a little while to tell of Sarah’s background.  Sarah’s parents were Daniel (born c. 1822) and Elizabeth (born c.1824).  In 1861 they were living at Aberderfyn where Daniel was a farmer and a miller.  They had three sons – Frederick (born c. 1846); Daniel (born c.1857) and Richard William (born c.1861).  They also had four daughters – Mary Ann (born c.1848); Sarah (born c.1852); Emma (born c.1854) and Elizabeth (born c.1859).  In 1861, at Aberderfyn, they had three servants – Anne Jones, a 23-year-old house servant; Mary Griffiths, an 18-year-old and 55-year-old Edward Jones, who was a carter.  By 1871, Daniel was a farmer of 80 acres, who employed two men and one boy at Tanyclawdd, Johnstown.  They had a 16-year-old servant called Mary Rogers.  By 1881, Daniel and his family were living at Tanyclawdd Issa, but he was only farming 42 acres by then.  They had a 72-year-old servant called Daniel Davies, who was an agricultural labourer.

Returning to Richard and Sarah Mills, we find them living in Guadron Terrace, Rhosllanerchrugog in 1881.  They had a 4-year-old son called Henry Richard; a 2-year-old called Arthur Owen and a 1-year-old called Ada Elizabeth.  They also had a 14-year-old domestic servant called Mary Powell.

Richard set up a printing business in Johnstown and later in Rhos.  He was also a well-known choral conductor and in the National Eisteddfod of 1876, the Eisteddfod Choir had sung under his leadership.  Mills was also a composer, whose interest and musical ability were very great. He founded the Rhos Choir and composed a number of anthems.  He arranged hymn tunes (e.g. Arabia) and wrote songs such as Beti Wyn and Y Dderwen Lydan (The Spreading Oak Tree), all very popular in their day. His most well known hymn tune is undoubtedly Arweiniad usually sung to the hymn 0 Fab y Dyn (0 Son of Man).  

By 1891, Richard was a Printer Master and his son Henry Richard was his apprentice.  They were living in Hall Street, Rhosllanerchrugog and had four more children by then – 9-year-old Jane Ella; 6-year-old Mabel; 3-year-old Frederick Woorsnam and 1-year-old Dora.  They also had a 14-year-old general servant called Margaret Jones.

In 1894, Richard Mills founded a weekly bilingual newspaper called the Rhos Herald, working from Hall Street.  A total of 3,737 issues were published from 18 August 1894.

By 1901, the Mills family were still living in Hall Street and Richard was a Printer.  Two of his sons worked for him; Henry Richard was a Compositor and Arthur Owen was a News Reporter. One more child had been added to their family – 9-year-old Millicent.

Richard died in 1903.  He had served as the Editor of the Rhos Herald until his death, following which ownership passed to R. Mills & Sons.  In 1911 the business was being run by his three sons and publication of the Rhos Herald continued until 31st December 1966.

WRITTEN BY: Dave Edwards. April 2015

SOURCES: Census Returns; Family Search; B, M & D.; Ronald E. Morris.

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