This post follows on from the previous one, completing a walk through the southern part of Brymbo township filling in any historical details I might have missed in previous posts. You should therefore imagine yourself stood on the crest of the hill that leads up from Tanyfron village past the old steelworks site, at approximately the point where the gate of Brymbo Hall once stood.

This stretch of road is called the Brymbo Road on modern maps, which may seem odd as it does not head directly for the modern village, or go near its older parts. The name could however date from the days when Brymbo was applied to the township itself, rather than the village, which in its oldest form seems to have been called Harwd after the common it lay on or near. On the other hand it could be entirely modern, as it’s called the “Penrhos Road” on the official 1971 notice of opencast works north of it. The section of road as far as the substation is entirely modern, as its older incarnation was swallowed up by the extension to the opencast.

The Brymbo Hall Smithy, as it was called, is shown on older maps as standing on the corner at the site of the present-day substation. For a time a track led north-east from here to Brymbo Hall Farm, the Hall’s ‘home farm’ that stood in the wood behind the main house. Many of its buildings dated from the early part of the 19th century (it was cleared away in the early 1970s as part of the opencast, but can be glimpsed in the background of this picture from the Geoff Charles Archives at the NLW). The road crossed Offa’s Dyke at more or less this point, the dyke originally running north through the site of the Brymbo Company’s “Wonder Pit”; part of the heavily overgrown colliery tips are still visible on the northern side of the road. It was probably on this section of the dyke that “a great quantity of the bones of horses, in a state of excellent preservation, and horse-shoes of rude workmanship” were said (by Samuel Lewis) to have been unearthed in the early 19th century by workmen levelling the area to build tramways. The tithe map of the late 1830s shows that there was once also a lane running directly northwards from the smithy to what is now Brake Road, but like the dyke it once ran alongside it was presumably buried under the steadily increasing spoil tips.1

The existing road turns sharply westward at this point, becomes noticeably narrower, and runs uphill. On its right hand side, past the colliery bank, is a field that was formerly part of the Hall’s demesne land, and which was recorded as being named “Tir Modwin” (Modwen’s land) on an early 19th century survey. Immediately on the left, however, is a house often still known as the “pinfold”: this was the site of the township gwarchae, pinfold or pound, where animals that had strayed on the common would have been rounded up. It is overshadowed by another bank of colliery spoil presumably raised from the shafts at Penrhos just to the west.

Cottage at Penrhos crossroads, with the old Saron schoolhouse just visible at the roadside on the left

Penrhos today consists of a single house and two farms, but for a time in the nineteenth century was the home of several families; more than one small row of cottages has been demolished over the years, although one cottage still stands at the junction with the road to Mount Pleasant. As mentioned in a previous post, the name Penrhos comes from the common moor or rhos which centuries ago stretched to this point (in Palmer’s time there was still a cottage on it, locally known as “Rhos Hall”). The farm on the left, now called Rhos-y-coed but originally also called Penrhos, was one of the small freehold estates mentioned by Palmer, who says that from the 1770s onwards it was owned by the same Murhall-Griffith family who also owned the College Farm elsewhere in the township. Its history before that point is slightly more murky, though a Hugh Hughes “of Pen Rhose” appears in the rate books for the 1720s. A messuage called “Pen Rhos” in Brymbo also appears in a 1763 lease of lands belonging to John Humberston Cawley of Gwersyllt; Cawley’s mother had been the coheir of the estates belonging to Dorothy Jeffries and the Robinson family, so perhaps Penrhos had passed through the Robinsons’ hands, like a lot of other land in the immediate vicinity. A line of buildings, presumably workmens’ cottages, is also shown here on older OS maps. The farm buildings themselves were for many years an inn called the Red Lion, and in the later 19th century, when a Mr. William Maxwell Griffiths was the pub’s landlord, the area was dotted with coal workings. The Lower Penrhos pits were on the south side of the road, opposite the Brymbo estate land, and were for a period leased by the Vron Colliery’s owners. A tramway ran from Penrhos, alongside the road to Mount Pleasant, and connecting with the Brymbo Company’s facilities: it was constructed in the 1860s at the instigation of Charles Darby, who said it would relieve use of the road itself. Other than the spoil tips, however, there is little left above ground of what by the 1870s must have been a fairly cluttered industrial site.

Passing over the crossroads the road continues to climb. On the left is the ruin of a relatively modern brick building, Saron, built in the late 19th century: a schoolhouse attached to the Baptist chapel in Brymbo village. Before its construction, up to seven small cottages stood on the adjacent ground; they were demolished in the late 19th century. The land just beyond Saron to the west was the site of No.8 pit, described by historian Derrick Pratt as “once the most productive pit in the field”. After 1842, however, when a serious fire broke out in the Main coal, it was used to raise ironstone, and finally closed by 1860.

Penrhos, still one of the area’s remaining working farms. It was formerly one of the larger farms making up the Brymbo Hall estate.

On the right is the entrance to one of the Brymbo estate’s main farms, also known as Penrhos. It still carries the name today, though it has also been referred to in the past as Penrhos Mawr.  Late 19th and early 20th century OS maps, confusingly, label it both “Penrhos Isaf” (“lower”) and “Penrhos Uchaf” (“upper”) at various times, but it is simply Penrhos on the old tithe maps. Penrhos had likely been part of the estate since the time of the Griffith family, rather than being one of John Wilkinson’s later acquisitions, and it still has a large, handsome stone-built farmhouse. At the time of the sale of the estate by Wilkinson’s trustees  it was tenanted by a John Hughes. It is not immediately obvious if any holding can directly be identified with Penrhos in Norden’s 1620 survey. The landowner John Griffith’s main tenements are recorded in 1620 as leased by “Roberti Raphe”, “Roberti Mathew” and “Gruffith ap John”, perhaps the tenants of what later became the Penrhos, Mount Pleasant and Mount Zion farms, but the information given is too limited to be certain which (if any) is referred to.

Just along from Penrhos is John Wilkinson’s engine house, a landmark too well known to require much extra detail here. By the time of the Brymbo Company, in the 1840s, it was out of use and converted into a cottage. Just past here, on the right (or north) of the road, is a gorsy, spoil-covered area that marks the location of the Upper Penrhos pits, where more coal shafts were in operation until 1885. The earliest Ordnance Survey maps show a few surface buildings and a tramway running back in the direction of Mount Pleasant, the embankment of which is mostly still visible in the fields.

Past the engine house and the old colliery site, the lane climbs to a summit before descending to the valley of the Gwenfro, giving a view of much of the upper or western part of Brymbo township. Down on the left is Plas Mostyn Bach, part of the old property of the Mostyn family, and beyond it, on the township border, the farm called Gwernygaseg. Much of what you can see in front of you, including some of the land up the hill on the other side of the Gwenfro, was added to the Brymbo estate by John Wilkinson during his period of ownership. The road drops between high gorse hedges to the crossroads at Pentresaeson and the turnpike road that we last saw back at Llidiart Fanny; there was once a tollgate here. On the right is the Smelt Wood, a clump of beech trees that are unusual in this landscape and probably represent some deliberate planting long ago; perhaps on the orders of John Wilkinson, or possibly an earlier owner of the estate. The field in which they stand was once known as “Lodge Mary“, Mary’s Lodge. Though it’s impossible to prove it would be nice to think this refers to Mary Griffith, heiress of the estate in the 1720s.

Footnotes

Back to post. 1.There is probably a remembrance of this road in the odd alignment of the row of old cottages at the bottom of Brake Road, which run north-south. When built they would have lain at the northern end of the road from the smithy.