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The landscape of Harwood village was a product of its history and topography as commonland, and of the course of the Industrial Revolution in the north-east of Denbighshire. It left a patchwork of houses and workers’ cottages mingled with crofts and little intake fields; old farmhouses alongside small-scale industry; of old tramroads, hawthorn-bordered lanes, and walls of brownish Cefn stone. The village chapels were an integral part of that landscape, and their names – Bethania, Moriah, Bryn Sion – punctuate older maps, although most have disappeared over the past forty years. If the pits and the ironworks first set the village now known as Brymbo in position, the chapels – and the beerhouses – helped fix it there.

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William Williams of Wern, 1781-1840. Eloquent, charismatic, and handsome, he was instrumental in the early history of Brymbo's Independent chapel. © The National Library of Wales 2014; used under Creative Archive Licence

Although the environment was not quite as hostile as in the mid 18th century, when as we have seen Moses Lewis of the Vron Farm was compelled to shelter a preacher from the attentions of the local authorities, nonconformity still existed in a sort of parallel world to that of the ‘official’ parish in the years before 1800. Brymbo had known some landowners of nonconformist sympathies, but the attitude of much of the local squirearchy can probably be summed up by a comment attributed to, I think, one of the Apperley family, who said that when a man became a Methodist it was usually “preparatory to his becoming a rogue“. The older and more respectable part of the parish nonconformists – the tradesmen and merchants of Wrexham – had their two chapels in the town, the Old and New Meeting Houses, the history of which Alfred Palmer has already given in detail. It was, however, amongst the newer communities of ironworkers and colliers, men with a reputation for riotousness and vaguely-described ‘immorality’, that the village chapels grew up, and in the process helped show these communities that they were equally as significant as their ‘betters’. Like the nature and ownership of those early cottages on the commonland, it was the sort of territory which official records did not really cover.

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It has been a while since I talked about Brymbo, and particularly about its main estate, Brymbo Hall, and the family called Griffith who – in one way or another – owned the land from at least the 1400s up until about 1792, when one of their descendants sold it to John Wilkinson. While genealogy is a subject of limited interest to a lot of people, outside their own families, at least, the rather limited information available on the Griffiths makes them an interesting subject for anyone trying to untangle the history of Brymbo and its community through the centuries. During most of that time they would have been the townships’ most prominent people, alongside the Powells of Gyfynys.

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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.
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