Pentresaeson farmhouse lies on the western slope of a shallow valley, at the bottom of which a tributary stream runs to join the Gwenfro at Gwernygaseg. Like many others in the area, it has not been a working farm for many years, but throughout the late 18th and 19th centuries, at least, was one of the largest in Brymbo, in terms of the land attached to it.

This land once stretched away northward as far as the Glascoed, and uphill westward as far as the Cefn; much of it well above the 800 feet mark, high, cold and best suited to rough pasture. Like other holdings in the west of the township, it would have been an unforgiving environment in which to farm. It was once the property of John Wilkinson, who purchased it in around 1800 when, gripped by an enthusiasm for agricultural improvement, he was in the process of expanding the Brymbo Hall estate. For some of this period a family called Harrison tenanted it; Charles Harrison in 1798, immediately before Wilkinson’s purchase, and John Harrison and his sister in 1829. Later in the 19th century a father and son, both named James Wilkinson, farmed there. In this period the immediate area would have changed substantially: for although there were some coal pits nearby from at least the 1680s, and perhaps earlier, the 19th century saw the arrival of the railway and its small halt, the Taylor Brothers foundry, and the adjacent Pentresaeson colliery, though without removing the location’s essentially rural character.

Before the 19th century, the history of Pentresaeson is less clear. Alfred Palmer, our main local historian and point of reference in such matters, seems to have only been able to get as far back as a Wrexham gentleman called George Ravenscroft, who he states owned Pentresaeson in the middle 18th century, and whose “representatives” sold it to John Wilkinson. One piece of evidence we have of an earlier owner, or occupant, is the “John Jones of Pentresise“, likely a tenant, mentioned in a Brymbo Hall estate rental of the second decade of the 18th century. Further back, some of the fields later shown as part of the farm – the Waen Goch or “red moor” – appear in Norden’s survey of 1620 in the ownership of the Griffith family of Brymbo Hall. Some fields in this area were on the very edge of the common, so may represent enclosures of the 17th or 18th century, while Waen Goch at least was held on a 40 year lease, like neighbouring land in the Glascoed, and was clearly a piece of the old “customary land” of the Lordship of Bromfield and Yale.

While Palmer had access to some records now lost, and was given the oportunity to nose around in the private legal papers of the area’s more friendly landowners, he didn’t have the wonderful resource of the Denbighshire Archives. After looking at some deeds now held by them, I find that the owner before George Ravenscroft’s time was a lady called Elizabeth Trygarn. She was from the north-west rather than the north-east, having married into the Trygarn family of (naturally enough) Trygarn in Caernarvonshire. She mortgaged the Pentresaeson tenements and the mortgage was later assigned to Ravescroft. Throughout this period the lessees, and actual residents at Brymbo, were two men called William Nathaniel, junior and senior.

Elizabeth Trygarn owned the properties in her own right, having been left them a few years earlier in the will of her uncle, Thomas Holland, the rector of Marchwiel. The name of Holland is a significant one in the history of North Wales, although again it was mostly associated with the north-west. It was borne by two large, many-branched and influential families, though neither of them were “regarded with much affection” (says the Dictionary of Welsh Biography, quoting Pennant). Despite his later connections with the Wrexham area, Thomas was one of the Hollands of Berw in Anglesey: the last of the line, in fact, as his son predeceased him. He had an interesting career, serving as a clergyman in the Bermudas from 1703 to 1706, before returning to a less exotic posting in Wales and inheriting Berw in 1708.

Back in the 1860s there was still a portrait of Thomas Holland at one of the family houses, depicting him (according to J. Williams in Archaeologia Cambrensis) as “a jolly, portly old gentleman in a curly wig and an armchair“. The portrait is currently lost, but a little information about Holland can be gleaned from his will: it’s a generous one, so perhaps the “jolly” portrait captured his character well enough. One line mentions a sum left to a servant who the family had dragged along to Bermuda with them, by way of compensation for her trouble. It also makes clear that he obtained his land in Brymbo after having it settled on him by his “kinswoman” Elizabeth Holland.

The name Elizabeth Holland takes us back to the very early 1700s, when it appears on the Brymbo rate books. Here she is rated for Ty yn y Celin, the parcel of land (and possibly an attached house) very near Pentresaeson that was once part of the Brymbo Estate. I suppose that if she owned Pentresaeson, and rented Ty yn y Celin from the Brymbo Estate’s owners – at that point, the Griffith family – it would make a certain amount of sense that John Jones “of Pentresise” would also appear on a Brymbo estate rental a few years later. A still earlier tenant of Elizabeth Holland at Pentresaeson was the same Alice ferch Evan who I believe to have been the ancestor of the Lewises of Fron Farm, and whose descendants lived in Brymbo until the 19th century. Alice’s husband, Lewis Thomas, was also rated for Ty yn y Celin in the years before 1700: he appears to be one of the miners tasked by Robert Griffith with digging a pit under Ty yn y Celin back in the 1680s.

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