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A few years back I wrote down some notes on the Gyfynys, Brymbo, and the family called Powell who had once owned the house and estate. Although you can still find the name on maps, the Gyfynys itself vanished perhaps two centuries ago, so its site needs to be searched for carefully.

If you walk eastwards down Glyon Lane, Brymbo, towards its border with the township of Gwersyllt, you will come to a junction with Cae Penty Road. In the angle between the two lanes is a small field, raised above the road level. This is the Gyfynys. Enclosing it to the south and west, and bordering Glyon Lane, is another much larger field: this is Cae Penty, the “House-End Field” (or perhaps “Field of the Main House”), of which Alfred Palmer wrote in 1903:

this field […] is famed in the neighbourhood for the crop of snowdrops, violets, and other flowers which it yearly bears, presenting the semblance of an old but abandoned garden

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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 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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There are now a lot of useful online resources for genealogical research, and a lot of very helpful people on message boards and mailing lists who can assist you with it. The basic sources for family history in the nineteenth century at least are well-known: census records, parish registers, and the like. I’m not saying it’s an easy job, because it isn’t, but there are at least some excellent tools to help you.

However, if you’re trying to trace the history of a place along with its people, particularly in the eighteenth century and earlier, things start getting a bit less straightforward. The detailed history of many of the places around Wrexham has yet to be written. If you want to follow in the footsteps of Alfred Palmer, Wrexham’s great amateur historian (or even in those of professional historians like A H Dodd, founder of the Denbighshire Historical Society) then there are a number of ways you can go about finding information.

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Perhaps the earliest depiction of Brymbo Hall, from a 1748 panorama of Wrexham. At this time it was occupied by James Apperley.

Legal documents, particularly Chancery documents, from the 18th century and earlier can be heavy going. Elaborate but often miniscule secretary hand, specialist legal terminology and highly formal syntax can make their interpretation a matter best carried out at home using good photographic copies, a strong cup of tea and a lot of patience. Nevetheless, they can contain a lot of useful information for those tracing the history of a family or of an estate; particularly so if other family papers have not survived the passage of time. James Apperley, who occupied Brymbo during the middle years of the 18th century, is one person whose life can now be traced through old and for the most part long-forgotten court cases: as is his main legal adversary, Jane Wynne.

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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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