The exact origins of the name of the Aleppo Merchant Inn are shrouded in history and very difficult to follow up as the parish records were destroyed along with the church in a fire in the 1800’s. In fact, when the Daily Mail newspaper published a question on the matter in their “answers to correspondents” section, seven completely different stories were sent in and published over 3 separate editions.
Some say that it was named by the retired captain of a ship of that name, the ship that is currently on the Inn’s sign is the Cunard steamer “The SS Aleppo” which was built over 200 years after the founding of the Inn and is therefore historically inaccurate. Others claim that the Inn derived its name from a special pudding made there containing liberal amounts of middle eastern raisins and spices sourced in the ancient city of Aleppo, now in Syria.
The most likely, however, is that the Inn is named not after a ship, but a man - The Merchant Of Aleppo - backed up by what few records we have been able to obtain. The man was named John Matthews, the son of Robert Matthews of Llangollen, who was born in the late 1500s or early 1600s.
He went to work for the Mercer’s Company of London, one of the oldest livery companies in the country, whose trade was in wool and linen with the Middle East, returning with exotic spices, cotton and silks which were traded in the city of Aleppo.
It is said that he made a not inconsiderable fortune doing deals outside of his official remit and on his return to Britain in the late 1620s or early 1630s, came to the village of Carno, en-route back to his native Llangollen, where he had a liaison with a young lady of the Wilson family, tenant farmers of Ty-Uchaf.
He quickly found farming unfulfilling and opened the farm as an Inn, named after himself, The Aleppo Merchant, gaining a licence from the king to sell “spiritous liquors” in 1632, a few years before his early death in around 1640, having already moved on again. The licence was subsequently held continuously by a member of the Wilson family for the next 307 years until the Inn was sold to Southams brewery in 1939.
Hiswill provided generously for his family, being worth around £8 million in today’s money, including the purchase of two farms in the Llangollen area, to be let in order for the income to provide a scholarship for the male members of his family to attend Ruthin or Llangollen grammar schools. This legacy again continued for nearly 300 years until it was taken over by the charities commission in the 1930s.