North and west of Brynmally colliery lies an attractive area of small, wooded hills, tiny deep-banked lanes, and old farmhouses, with a few relics of an industry that it is now difficult to imagine ever being here. The parishes of Wrexham, Gresford and Hope meet at this point, the latter lying across the Cegidog to the north. Much of the area is now given the name of Ffrwd – over the years it has also been spelt in the Anglicised form “Frood”, the latter particularly applied to John Thompson‘s colliery and ironworks which once occupied land at the very extremity of Brymbo township.

The main estate here actually spanned the various township and parish borders. Some deeds describe the estate as being called either Ffrwd or Cae Mawr, but it seems that Cae Mawr could more strictly be distinguished as part of the estate in the township of Gwersyllt and parish of Gresford, while the Ffrwd was more properly applied to the main house itself, which lay just within the township of Broughton (and parish of Wrexham). The site of the house is probably represented by the present day Ffrwd farm, on the right of Glyon Lane as you walk east towards Windy Hill. Along with the Ffrwd came over forty acres of the land immediately south of Glyon Lane, within Broughton township. Yet other parts of the estate were, confusingly enough, within Brymbo. By the mid eighteenth century this included a fifth part of the old mansion or “Capital House” known as the Gyfynys, which many years before had been the home of the Powell family, and which lay just across the fields northwards from Ffrwd. The Gyfynys had by this time dwindled to the status of a farmhouse, tenanted by the Matthias family, who farmed the Grosvenor estate’s land at Brynyffynnon. The Ffrwd estate also had land up towards Penycoed, including a field known as “Tir Merched Cadwgan”; this had appeared in Norden’s Survey of 1620, owned by Thomas Powell of the Gyfynys.

All this was, by the 1760s at least, in the hands of a family called Griffiths, who lived at Ffrwd itself. The few documents that I can find give an impression of a ‘parish gentry’ family who, in an era of large estates and great landowners, were undergoing a gentle decline from gentry to farmers: the inclusion of a ‘moiety’ of the Gyfynys in their possessions suggests a possible link with the long-departed Powells through marriage. Other than that there is little to go on, particularly as the family largely escaped Alfred Palmer’s attentions. A John Griffiths of Broughton is, however, noted on the voters’ list of freeholders for Wrexham parish in 1741. Another member of the family was John Griffiths, gentleman, who in 1765 married a woman called Margaret Jones, daughter of Richard Jones of Acton, and whose marriage settlement mentioned much of the estate already described.

By this time the land at the Ffrwd was of great interest to the local coalmasters: Griffiths granted a variety of leases to the Kyrke family in the 1790s, and pits were sunk on several parts of the estate. The main pits seem to have been at Coed y Brain, a field just within Gwersyllt parish and curving alongside the route of the abortive Ffrwd canal as it ran to its terminus, and at Cae Gwydd (it appears to be the Coed y Brain pit that is shown in the artist Edward Pugh’s painting of the Ffrwd canal, with Caergwrle castle appearing in the background). Other, earlier workings on the estate were located in the wooded land immediately behind Ffrwd farm and known as “the Yord”. It was here that the basin of the canal was dug, and despite its rapid abandonment there are still remnants of canal water in the vicinity, although most of the line of the canal was later occupied by a railway branch. This also closed long ago along with the collieries it served.

John Griffiths was still noted as the owner in 1799, but seems to have died the following year. The couple had two children: Ann, who remained a spinster and lived at the Ffrwd, and Mary, who married a farmer called John Jones of Hafod farm, up in Hope parish. Mary and John’s eldest son, another John, is the “John Jones, Hafod” noted at the time of the tithe assessments. This second John Jones still lived up in Hope, while the Ffrwd itself was tenanted by Edward Parry, who it turns out – according to the family wills – was Jones’s son-in-law, married to his daughter Mary Ann: it seems that the Joneses tended to choose their spouses locally. An indication of the continued closeness of the Jones family to the coal industry is given by the fact that Jones nominates “my Friend James Kyrke of Glascoed” as an executor in his will, dated 1844 and proved in 1849. In it he pointedly describes himself as a “farmer”, despite being a freeholder and the grandson of someone who described themselves as “gentleman”, and indeed mentions his farming implements, which he leaves to his wife.

I’ve already posted this image once, but it fits well here: buildings at the site of the old Ffrwd Inn, probably built by Samuel Davies (Copyright E Evans, Geograph Project http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/623435; licensed under CC 2.0)

Leaving the Ffrwd farm on the right, the road almost immediately turns sharply right at another range of old and now derelict farm buildings: you have now left Broughton township for Gwersyllt, although the fields to your left are mostly still in Brymbo. These buildings, rather than the former home of the Griffiths family, are marked as ‘Ffrwd’ on the tithe maps, although they are younger than the farm itself. They were, I think, built by a man called Samuel Davies around 1800, the range of buildings including an inn going variously by the names of the Ffrwd Inn (reflecting the name of the old estate nearby), the Three Jolly Colliers (no doubt reflecting most of its customers) and the Race Horses (probably reflecting the interests of the ironmaster John Thompson, who owned the ironworks a short distance away). Davies seems to have had his fingers in a lot of pies, as he appears to be variously described as a “coal miner” and “victualler” in various deeds, and owned the land on which one of the local blast furnaces – Thompson’s, I suppose – was located. He also owned the Tai pub nearer Brymbo, which he eventually sold to Thompson along with other of his property. Davies purchased the land on which the Ffrwd Inn was built from Josiah Boydell in 1800. As Boydell was tasked with most of the enclosure awards in the vicinity (Minera’s, for example, or that of Hope parish) and generally got some land for himself out of the process, I suspect that the Ffrwd inn is built on a fragment of what was once Gwersyllt common. We know that at least some of the Gwersyllt commmonland was located at Windy Hill very close by, and that coal was once dug there, as mentioned by one of Edward Lhuyd’s informants in 1699 or thereabouts. Although the lovely name “Windy Hill” sounds modern, or at least nineteenth century, it is in fact at least three centuries old, as Lhuyd used it.

Beyond Samuel Davies’ inn, the road once passed over the canal, and forks. The left hand fork takes you up to the Ffrwd Methodist chapel, an austere little building first built in 1843, and then on to Windy Hill, the old common, and beautiful views over towards Hope Mountain. The right hand fork takes you past the farm known as the Bellan, which belonged to one of the estates in Gwersyllt, and then back behind Brynmally, where we started.