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Most of the large villages that lie immediately west of Wrexham have quite modern origins. They date from either the 19th or even the early 20th century, sprung from the need to accommodate thousands of workers in industries which have since vanished. In the area of the old township of Brymbo, you can find settlements of this type (Vron and Tanyfron); there are also older villages which expanded substantially in the same period, such as Bwlchgwyn, or Brymbo village itself. These older settlements resulted from an earlier phase of industrial development, when landless labourers built cottages encroaching on the old commons: hence the original name of Brymbo village, “Harwood”, which had been the name of the common on which it was built.

There are also cases of hamlets which failed to expand and have even since shrunk, like Pentre’r-fron, a possible “Pentre Glascoed” and – in a more modern era – Penrhos. One village in particular, however, was both entirely the creation of 19th century industry and was later largely destroyed by it. This was the Lodge, on what had been the township’s very eastern border, adjacent to Broughton.

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The deposition of Robert ap Hugh of Brymbo "taken at the dwelling house of William Langford called the Swan in Ruthin...on Wednesday the foureteenth day of January in the second yeare of their Majestyes raigne King William and Queene Mary"

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it can be difficult to get much sense of the intimate detail of people’s lives before the 19th century. Most people left few records behind them and those that remain tend to be weighted towards the more wealthy or landowning classes. Nevertheless, it is sometimes possible to locate documents that help to fill in some of the missing detail.

Brymbo in the late 17th century was still a largely rural township, although coal mining was already well under way. The political and religious upheavals of the Civil War were still – just – within living memory, but it must by then have been a rather quiet place: the first stirrings of the industrial future were still several generations away. In the meantime its farmers and labourers would have continued much as they had done for the previous few hundred years, working to keep their livestock fed and barns full through the tough winters of the period sometimes called the “Little Ice Age”.

One of the township’s residents in this period was a man called Griffith Thomas. Thanks to an exchequer case concerning his will, some documents relating to which remain in the National Archives, we can uncover not only a surprising number of details about him, but also about his relatives, neighbours, and other people in the area, and about their day to day lives.

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This is site about Brymbo, a township once part of Denbighshire, and its history. You can read more about the site in general, start with the most recent posts or with the archives listed below.