Although it saw no large battles, the Civil War in Denbighshire was a bitter and drawn-out affair. The unusually numerous and old-fashioned gentry of the area (praised by Thomas Churchyard in his 1587 poem, The Worthines of Wales) were predictably Royalist in inclination, and supplied many officers of the King’s armies. But the town of Wrexham, and even the surrounding countryside, produced its Parliamentary officers and supporters too: a few are even connected to Brymbo. Samuel Powell, the younger brother of Thomas Powell of the Gyfynys, has already been mentioned as an example of a Parliamentarian among the area’s gentry families.

Two others, however – Captain Hugh Prichard and Captain Edward Taylor – were from the yeomanry, rather than the gentry. The latter certainly took up arms against the King, while the former was very active during the Commonwealth. They were, in fact, old associates, being related by marriage: Prichard’s wife, Ellinor, was a kinswoman of the Taylors, and both men were strongly religious, with nonconformist convictions that doubtless influenced their support of Parliament.

Although both Prichard and Taylor were fairly prosperous, neither came from a socially elevated background: in this respect they were similar to many other nonconformist Parliamentarian officers. Taylor was, according to Alfred Palmer, the second son of a yeoman, Thomas Taylor “of Dutton Diffaeth, near Holt“, a township in the deep country along the River Dee. He lived in Pickhill, another of the lost rural townships east of Wrexham. Norman Tucker adds a further piece of information, that Taylor was a drover, one of the class of men who made a good living, if not always a good reputation, from escorting livestock over the hills from the Welsh farms to the markets of England. Palmer also found that Edward Taylor had married Katherine Presland, also of a Holt yeoman family, in about 1632.

If Taylor represented one facet of Wrexham’s wealth, its livestock market, Hugh Prichard was most likely part of another trade that helped shape the town: the little information that has been discovered about him suggests that he was a tanner. The tanning industry was a lucrative one and Prichard was recorded as owning two freehold estates. One of these was in Broughton; Palmer was “nearly sure” that this was the Gatewen estate. Unfortunately, he did not hazard a guess at the identity of the other estate owned by Hugh Prichard, which was in Brymbo. However, the Brymbo rate books, which mention the land of “Capt. Prichard” in the mid 1660s, suggest that there are only a few possibilities for the identity of this estate: the farm in the south-east of the township later known as the College (and now the site of Tanyfron village), the estate known as Glanyrafon, or the Vron Farm. Glanyrafon seems a likely candidate, particularly as the 1660s will of John Hughes, gent, of Wrexham – from a family which later, according to Palmer, owned Glanyrafon – mentions a messuage and tenement in Brymbo in the possession of “Hugh ap Richard gent or his assigns”. Prichard himself is variously described as “of Broughton” and “of Brymbo“, so may have resided at either (or both) locations, which were in any case only a short distance apart.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Prichard, however, is not so much the time he spent around Brymbo and Wrexham but the time he spent out of it, for he lived at least a decade of his life across the Atlantic. In around 1640 – when the political and religious tensions that were shortly to erupt into full-scale war between King and Parliament were coming to a head – Prichard left his Welsh estates for the New World. He initially turned up in Plymouth, Massachusetts, but soon appeared in Roxbury, where he eventually amassed around 250 acres of land and rose to a position of some significance; he was part of the local militia, and his children were born there.

While Prichard was farming across the Atlantic, his old associate Edward Taylor had a rather more active 1640s, serving as a Parliamentarian cavalryman. He came to sudden prominence after his involvement in the action at Y Dalar Hir, on the seashore at Llandygai, on 5th June 1648, where he was part of a detachment of forces opposing a small group of Royalists under Sir John Owen: Owen1 had been laying siege to Caernarvon Castle. The Royalist resistance ground to a halt after Taylor single-handedly rode at Owen, dragged him off his horse in the middle of some furious swordplay, and took him prisoner. Taylor is supposed to have been ordered to ride straight to London to personally deliver the news of the victory, whereupon Parliament rewarded him with £200.

The final Parliamentarian victory saw Prichard making his way back to Denbighshire. It is strange to think of someone who had farmed in 17th century Massachusetts returning to the gorsy hillsides of Brymbo, but nevertheless he quickly became involved in the new administration in Wrexham, sitting on the County Committees for both Denbighshire and (curiously) Flintshire. The Committees, Parliament’s instrument for rooting out Royalist conspiracy, enforcing (in some cases) religious standards and in particular for overseeing tax collection, soon became highly unpopular in many quarters, needless to say. Taylor also became involved in the governing apparatus of the Commonwealth, as a Commissioner under the 1650 Act for Propagation and Preaching of the Gospel in Wales, doubtless hoping to see the church reformed more in accordance with his beliefs. He was joined by men such as the Wrexham draper, Gerald Barbour, and the occasional member of the gentry such as Captain Roger Sontley, both of whom had been followers of Morgan Llwyd. They had already had the satisfaction of seeing Llwyd appointed as the Vicar of Wrexham. Other associates included Daniel Lloyd, gent, of Abenbury, who was appointed the local receiver of sequestrated estates (and was much disliked for it); Major John Sadler, another Commissioner; Major John Manley, who lived in Brynyffynnon in Wrexham and was the Denbighshire MP in 1658; and Colonel John Jones Maesgarnedd, one of the regicides, who had a house up at World’s End on Esclusham Mountain. Between them they strongly influenced the economic and religious life of the town, although making many enemies in the process (Palmer had a copy of a “scurrilous” ballad, circulated locally, about Lloyd). Later, the Denbighshire committee was to include Sir Richard Saltonstall, another returnee from America, who had leased Brymbo Hall a very short distance from Prichard; perhaps one of the men persuaded the other to settle in the township.

As it transpired, the complete ascendancy of men like Taylor and Prichard was not to last. The Puritan administration in North Wales was always particularly tenuous, especially outside Wrexham itself, and there were too many disaffected gentry in the area for it to stay quiet for long. In 1659, the elderly Sir Thomas Myddleton – Parliament’s most energetic and powerful local supporter in the first war – drew his sword in Wrexham marketplace and declared for Charles II, in a dramatic gesture which perhaps signalled the beginning of the end, even if the subsequent uprising failed (Taylor was commissioned to raise a company of foot to help suppress it). By the following year the Commonwealth was over, and its supporters had to adjust rapidly. The unpopular Daniel Lloyd had already died in 1655, being buried (at his own request) in a field at Pen y Bryn in Abenbury, where Palmer found his broken gravestone still lying in the late 19th century. Major Sadler, dependent on the military pension allocated to those injured in the war, had it stopped by the new administration and died in poverty; Colonel Jones, unrepentant to the last, was executed with the other surviving regicides. Others such as Manley continued their lives in the town, albeit with their religion under close scrutiny.

Hugh Prichard did not live long into the new regime, dying around 1661; his wife Ellinor appears to have survived him for a few years, still living at Brymbo. Taylor however carried on as best he could, once more practising his religion largely in private. He was bound over to appear at the Quarter Sessions in 1664, having been apprehended at a “private meeting“. It was difficult, however, to completely avoid the attentions of the victorious Royalists, as shown in a diary extract quoted by Palmer which gives some idea of the resentments still bubbling beneath the surface:

January 11, 1661/2. I was at Whitchurch…. in my way home with Capt. Taylor and John Wright, Mr. [Roger] Pul[eston, Esq, of Emral] overtook us and drew his sword and would needs fight, saying we were all Traytours, and swearing desperately.

The diarist, Philip Henry, had been Puleston’s teacher.

Although he continued to live at Plas Dio (a house more commonly called “the Parkey”) in Pickhill, Taylor also had a link to Brymbo in the 1660s, for he seems to have taken over Prichard’s former estate there; in fact a “Katherine Taylor” is rated for four hearths there in the hearth tax assessments, and “Capt. Taylor” appears in the township rate books.

Footnotes

Back to post. 1.A later member of the same family was Arthur Owen, who occupied Brymbo Hall during the 1730s.