Even some farmland in the area has been changed drastically over the years through the effects of mining and industry. The NCB's opencast mine at Brymbo in summer 1974, looking across towards the site of the later steelworks rolling mill.

Grass, hedges and even trees can grow back fairly quickly if left to their own devices. As a result it’s quite easy to look at the more rural parts of our area of study and imagine that the landscape seen today gives a good idea of the surroundings a hundred years ago, or even three hundred years ago.

In fact, the effects of industry and in particular mining  have wrought substantial change, making the history of the landscape that much harder to read. Probably the most destructive of these changes was the series of opencast coal workings that were carried out between the end of World War II and the mid 1970s. There are still a few places where you can see field boundaries and lanes much as they appear on, say, the tithe maps of the 1830s: over towards Glascoed or in the valley of the Gwenfro on the township’s southern boundary, for example. But much of the rest of the land in between has been dug over for coal, and with it disappeared all kinds of historical evidence that can now only be seen on maps.

In the 1950s there were large opencast workings both in Broughton and on land in Brymbo around Plas Mostyn, leaving only the line of Offa’s Dyke untouched. The fields immediately south-east of the site of the “Wonder Pit”, behind Brymbo Hall farm, were also dug up in this period. From the look of the area today, it’s difficult to imagine the scale of the change, although it’s clear from a glance at a map that the large, regular fields in the area do not follow old boundaries. Luckily, as I mentioned in an earlier post, some photographs were taken by the photojournalist Geoff Charles which show just how much land was removed.

Most destructive of all was the final period of mining between the late 1960s and 1975. This resulted in the removal of a great swathe of land between Brymbo and Tanyfron – although by changing the ground levels it did, in part, help to prepare the ground for the construction of the new steelworks rolling mill.

Looking approximately east from the former entrance to Brymbo Hall (demolished in 1973) on the road between Tanyfron and Penrhos, July 1974. The line of the road itself was later changed.

The pictures shown in this post were taken on a summer day a little over 37 years ago, in 1974. They show the huge pit that was carved out of the hillside to access the coal reserves. In the process, Brymbo Hall (dating from 1624, and probably on the site of a much older house) disappeared, along with the “park” that once surrounded it, the wood on the hill behind, much of the hill itself, and (no doubt) all kinds of interesting historical evidence from the Middle Ages to John Wilkinson’s time.

On the other hand, the extension of the steelworks was an important project at the time, intended to safeguard hundreds of jobs. It was only a few years since many of the residents of Lodge, on the other side of the steelworks, had to leave their homes to make way for another expansion scheme. Under the circumstances the preservation of an existing landscape might not have seemed such a high priority. Still, the loss was regrettable, and irreversible. It changed an environment that a resident of two or even three hundred years before might just have been able to recognise into a new and entirely artificial topography.

The pit on the site of the former Brymbo estate, July 1974.

It’s also interesting to see how the landscape of mining has itself passed into history, as has the steelworks that succeeded it. People do not often think to take pictures of such things (or, at least, not before the era of digital cameras) so any record of them is extremely valuable. They quickly become as remote as the era of John Wilkinson.