Amongst the list of Brymbo landowners given in Norden’s 1620 survey of Bromfield and Yale is the following more unusual entry: “Redd, vij s. Thomas Buckley tenet quatuo’ tenetmenta cum pertinenciis nuper terr’ Edwardi Johnes probitione. Attinct’ “. This may not mean a great deal if you’re unfamiliar with Latin abbreviations. Behind it, however, lies the dramatic story of Edward Jones, Esq, perhaps the only one of the area’s gentry executed for plotting – or allegedly plotting – their monarch’s death.

Like most of the other landowners hereabouts Edward Jones was a distant cousin of Brymbo’s Griffith family, being the great-great grandson of Edward ap Morgan of Brymbo via the latter’s daughter, Janet. In the male line, however, Jones was a descendant of Cynwrig ap Rhiwallon, the 12th century arglwydd, or lord, of Maelor Gymraeg. Thanks to the latter his family still had a very large estate in Esclusham; but they also held several parcels of land in Brymbo. They also had an old, rambling mansion known as Plas Cadwgan, located on Offa’s Dyke a little west of today’s village of Bersham: at the time of the hearth tax it was assessed for 16 hearths, a far larger building than any in Brymbo itself (there was a large mound at its back door long thought to be a Bronze Age site, though now assumed to be a mediaeval motte of some kind).

Jones’s father, also Edward, had been the Keeper of the Wardrobe to Queen Elizabeth, and had served as High Sherriff of Denbighshire in the 1570s. He died in 1581 (leaving money to set up a grammar school in Wrexham, amongst other legacies) having set his young son up in influential London circles. It was mixing in this kind of company that was eventually to lead to his downfall.

Jones was recommended to high-powered courtier the Earl of Leicester; he became close friends with another of Leicester’s proteges and a fellow Denbighshire man, Thomas Salusbury of Lleweni. It was perhaps under Salusbury’s influence that Jones, from a family that had previously appeared respectably orthodox, was to profess the Catholic faith. Both men became drawn into a circle of young recusants who despite their associations with the Court were also devoted to aiding and harbouring Jesuit missionaries: a dangerous business at the time.

It was to get considerably more dangerous, however, thanks to the attentions of Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth I’s Principal Secretary: Walsingham was desperate for evidence of Mary, Queen of Scots’ involvement in a treasonous plot against Elizabeth. He finally identified Anthony Babington, a wealthy, fashionable and perhaps rather arrogant member of Salusbury and Jones’s group, as the possible organiser of such a plot. Babington was devoted to Mary, had contacts amongst Mary’s supporters on the Continent, and was carelessly indiscreet. With the help of early cryptography and – according to some – the additional help of agents provocateurs, Walsingham gathered up evidence of a plan to kill Elizabeth and install Mary on the throne with Spanish backing. The net soon closed around Babington, Salusbury, and any others like Jones who had associated themselves with the ‘conspirators’; Jones was said to have been at home in Denbighshire when he heard the news. He attempted to help Salusbury to escape, but they were both soon caught.

In their evidence and subsequent show trials, several of the conspirators blamed Babington. Jones was denounced as having discussed plans for a Denbighshire rising with Salusbury as part of the plot, but maintained that his only concern had been to try and keep Salusbury away from the bad influence of the traitors as much as possible: in his argument against the inevitable death sentence, he is supposed to have said “I beseech your honours to be a means to her majesty for mercy, for I desiring to be counted a faithful friend, am now considered for a false traitor. The love of Thomas Salisbury hath made me hate myself, but God knows how far I was from intending any treason.” However, he continued, if “mercy be not to be had“, he asked that his debts were paid, and asked regarding the land he had inherited “that some consideration may be had of my posterity“; he was married and had a daughter but no son, and the land was entailed to his heirs male. Whether he had genuinely discussed plans for a rebellion or not, Jones was executed on Tower Hill on 27th September 1586.

After his death, his property was forfeit to the Crown. Some of it was eventually bought by the Buckley (or, later, Bulkeley) family, hence the “Thomas Buckley” noted under Brymbo in Norden’s survey; there was a farm or house known as Plas Bulkeley in Esclusham for many years. At this point the land in Brymbo becomes rather hard to trace: Norden sadly gives no clues as to its location. Jones’s daughter Anne, however, was allowed to keep Plas Cadwgan itself and some of its attached land, which through her own daughter was to come to one of the many branches of the large and powerful Myddleton family. The house in fact lasted until the late 1960s, when it was finally (and regrettably) demolished, like so many of the area’s other architecturally significant buildings. Fortunately it was properly surveyed, and images and other records are held by the RCAHMW, so you can still get some idea of the old residence of the Jones family.