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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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The landscape of Uwchmynydd Ucha. Photograph by D Quinn from Geograph

The landscape of Uwchmynydd Ucha. Photograph by D Quinn from Geograph

Over the past few posts dealing with Brynmally and Berse Drelincourt we have lingered a little in Broughton, the township that borders Brymbo to the east and with which it shares many characteristics. We’ll return to the subject of Brymbo soon, but in the meantime, I notice that I have yet to say anything about Brymbo’s neighbours in Flintshire to the north.

The land across the Nant y Ffrith valley is an outlier of the sombre moorland ‘wastes’ into which the top end of Brymbo extends, and for much of the period would have been the same kind of landscape: agriculturally poor, though without the coal outcrops or lead veins that enriched Minera, Bersham and Brymbo townships. The area was called Uwchmynydd or Uwch y mynydd, the ‘higher’ or ‘upper’ mountain, and was included in Hope parish. It was far from an empty space on the map though, and had its own, albeit small, community. Indeed while the residents of Uwchmynydd might have paid their rates into a different pot to those of Brymbo, and conducted their marriages and baptisms at a different church, the social connections between the two were quite intimate. In the late 17th century, the depositions in the court action fought over the will of Griffith Thomas of Brymbo demonstrate the shared ancestry, gossip, and economic activity of the inhabitants of the townships. William ffennah, butcher, and Edward ap John ap Rees, husbandman, both of Uwchmynydd, give evidence and another Uwchmynydd man, John Williams, was also present at the signing of the will.

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Ann Primerose, nee Drelincourt, was along with her mother largely responsible for the charity school and church at Berse.

Ann Primerose, nee Drelincourt, was along with her mother largely responsible for the charity school and church at Berse.

There were few sights, wrote the Wrexham historian Alfred Palmer, which “refreshed” his eyes as much as the early 18th century vicarage of Berse Drelincourt and its setting. Fortunately for us, the house is still visible. The surroundings have sadly changed since Palmer’s time, with the “noble” avenues of trees leading to Croesnewydd house now obscured by the Wrexham bypass, but the house’s simple, gracious architectural style is one of the few reminders of the district in a time before the Industrial Revolution reshaped it for ever.

Berse Drelincourt is not in Brymbo township, but is one of the main landmarks on the old road between it and Wrexham. North of the house stands a small church of the same period, without a specific dedication though sometimes called ‘St Paul’. The church, unusual in a landscape of mainly 19th century chapels, recently closed and is now converted to a house. The church and house were both built by the same family, the Drelincourts; though they themselves lived in London or elsewhere much of the time, the presence of the church and an associated charity school, set up in and around the house, ensured that their influence lingered in the area long after their departure.

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Despite the closeness of Brynmally to the modern-day village of Brymbo, it is not actually in the old township; it lies just over the border, in Broughton. Nevertheless the colliery at Brynmally employed many Brymbo men over the years, and the residence of its owners, Brynmally Hall, was one of the area’s most notable houses. Its name, which mean’s Mary’s (or Molly’s) Hill, is more correctly written as Bryn Mali, though the anglicised version is probably more familiar. The hill, such as it is, forms a low ridge of farmland lying east of Clayton Road and marked by the distinctive tower of the Wrexham-Rhos transmitter. The house of Brynmally lay just north-east of the hill’s highest point, with the colliery a little further to the east beyond that.

The land in question was once attached to the Lower Halcock or Halcog Issa tenement, itself one of the farms belonging to the Gyfynys estate. The Gyfynys had been owned by the Powell family since at least the 16th century, but by the early 18th century the Powells had departed the area and their estates were broken up to satisfy various inheritances. Much of this land, including Lower Halcock, then in the tenancy of Thomas Rogers, came into the possession of a Mr James Morgan of Stansty, and after the latter’s death in 1760 passed to his heirs. Although mining was undoubtedly taking place on surrounding land in this time – with pits at the Lodge and on the Broughton Hall estate – there is not much evidence of either the house or the coal pits at Brynmally, although there has been a suggestion of a reference to the pit on the estate as early as 1753, during Morgan’s ownership. That was soon to change, however.

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The definition of ‘the gentry’ in seventeenth and eighteenth century Wales was rather elastic, and encompassed many families of rather modest means. The dignity of being a ‘gentleman’ mostly attached to the ownership of freehold land, however small the piece of land in question was; and if it could be backed by a pedigree showing descent from some ancient prince or member of the old uchelwyr class, then so much the better. As A. H. Dodd observed, in Tudor and Jacobean times the concept of the proud but impoverished Welsh gentleman, ready in an instant to recite the contents of his “card”, as the home-compiled genealogical tables were known, was sufficiently familiar to become a staple of stage comedy.
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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.