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Many earlier documents about Brymbo mention a house, or property, called “Plas Newydd” – “new hall”. From these documents it is clear that the house was part of the Brymbo Hall estate. It is also clear that neither the house nor the placename can now be found.

One thing we do know is that the property pre-dated the steelworks, and had its own land attached to it. It certainly appears on the Land Tax assessments of 1798 amongst the lands then owned by “Jno. Wilkinson Esq“, where a Robert Jones is recorded as the occupier of “Half Plasne.d“, assessed at three shillings and sixpence, with the remaining half occupied by Wilkinson himself.

However, it also appears on township rate books well back in the 18th century: Richard Jones is rated for “Plaise Newydd” in the 1730s, and Evan Edwards a little later on. Lastly, Edward Jones, gent, is described in a deed of 1695 as being “of Plas Newydd” in Brymbo.

There are two clues to the location of Plas Newydd. Strangely, Alfred Palmer – who will usually give some history for even fairly small properties – mentions it very little, but in discussing the ironworks he says that Wilkinson constructed his blast furnace “in a hollow” adjacent to Plas Newydd. This blast furnace is, of course, the “old no. 1” still in existence, which is either the Wilkinson structure or John Thompson‘s rebuild of it. Despite the changes to the surrounding landscape, you can still make out the “hollow” in which the furnace and the remainder of the oldest parts of the ironworks sit, and which was probably once the ravine of a brook which ran down from the area of Brymbo Pool. Plas Newydd must have been adjacent to this immediate area.

The other piece of information is provided by the Brymbo tithe map drawn up in the 1830s. There are several copies of this map in existence, but the version held by the NLW, linked to above, helpfully labels the ironworks as the “Plas Newydd Works”.

Putting all this together we are looking for a building that was part of the Brymbo Hall estate, immediately adjacent to the site of the ironworks, and which was at some stage a largish house – large enough for someone describing themselves as “gent”, in any case. However, unlike the Brymbo estate’s other houses, such as Penrhos, it did not survive as a separate farm into the era of modern mapping. Where was it? Looking at older photographs and maps, there is one building which may possibly fit.

In early photographs of Brymbo ironworks there is a large building immediately south-east of the works itself and the still-surviving “Agent’s House” (which has itself been suggested as pre-dating the Wilkinson era). The postcard view at the start of this article, looking more or less west-north-west across the valley from Long Lane, shows this building clearly at the left, just beneath one of the stands of trees that once grew on the hillside. The building is not Brymbo Hall, which would be well to the left in this view, or the Agent’s House, which is out of sight further back into the “hollow” in the hillside mentioned by Palmer. It is difficult to make out from the surviving photographic views but its outline seems domestic, rather than industrial.

A check of the tithe map and schedule shows that this building was in existence at the time they were drawn up. It was described as a “House and Garden”, owned by the ironworks owners and occupied by John Fraser (the Agent’s House is nearby, listed as “Agents Office &c” and surrounded by a small potato patch). A small lane ran past it linking the ironworks with Brymbo Hall, with a stable yard a little to the north also tenanted by Mr. Fraser. To me, this seems the most likely candidate to be Plas Newydd: it is the only large house close to the ironworks, or close enough for the ironworks to take its name from it, and the only part of the Brymbo Hall estate on the tithe maps not already identifiable as one of the estate’s other farms. It could also be described as adjacent to the site of the blast furnace (there are buildings to the north of the ironworks site, but they appear to be part of Brymbo village, and therefore built on commonland rather than on the Brymbo Hall estate). I’m not sure who John Fraser was but I strongly suspect he was a senior ironworks employee – the Scottish surname points towards the Scottish management team parachuted in by Robert Roy and his associates around this time.

Comparing against later Ordnance Survey maps, this building – or a rebuilt version on the same site – clearly survived until fairly late on as steelworks offices until replaced by a modern block. The Ordnance Survey shows the building as having essentially the same outline from the 1870s through to the 1950s. So, perhaps we can speculatively say that Plas Newydd was a house that, probably from the late 17th century onwards, stood on the hillside a little north-east of Brymbo Hall, and which both gave its name to the ironworks and eventually became assimilated into the ironworks buildings. I suppose it was ‘new’ because it was newer than Brymbo Hall itself.