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In my last post I briefly mentioned a section of Norden’s Survey of 1620 which made reference to the lands of a “Hugh ap Robert ap Howell” on the borders of Minera and Esclusham. There are a lot of Hughs, Roberts and Howells in the history of the area, but the one mentioned by Norden seems to have been a member of a family who were once fairly important – in terms of the society of this corner of East Denbighshire, anyway.
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Deep within the recesses of the Denbighshire Archives is an unassuming little map, only 20cm square, which is nevertheless in its own way a fairly remarkable document. It is, in fact, the oldest surviving enclosure map in Wales, having been drawn up in 1768 with respect to a 5 acre fragment of land in Minera going by the odd name of “The Beg”. This was part of a larger common then called Waen John ap Hugh Kenrick, “waen” being the local form, via a lost definite article, of a word sometimes written elsewhere as “gwaun”, and translating as something like “unenclosed mountain pasture”; a good description of what the area would have looked like at the time. The name is quite interesting in itself, as a person called John ap Hugh Kenrick, gent, appears on local records a century and more earlier, where he seems to have occupied the farm now known as Cae Adar sitting on the border of Minera and Brymbo.

It may therefore be significant that the man carrying out the 1768 enclosure on John ap Hugh Kenrick’s old pasture was also, at some point, an occupier of Cae Adar. His name was Thomas Smith, and though he has been barely mentioned alongside such better-known local industrial magnates as Robert Burton and John Wilkinson, it appears as if he was once an influential figure in mining in the district.

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The River Gwenfro – really just a stream – forms much of Brymbo’s southern boundary, successively separating it from Minera and Bersham townships. Following its course, even over only a few miles, can uncover much of historical interest.

Its name comes, probably, from gwen and bro. The latter can mean a variety of things, depending on the context. “Country” or “locality” is one potential translation, more specifically the “cultivated country”; “valley” (or more specifically “vale” – a large, wide valley) another. Gwen, of course, is “white”; either used in a literal sense or more poetically to signify “fair”, “blessed” or “holy”. So take your pick. “Gwenfro” can even be translated directly as “Paradise – which sounds a bit like the kind of ironic name that the colliers might have bestowed, were it not for the fact that the river name appears back in the 15th century at least.

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A little while ago I wrote about the farm of Gwernygaseg, on the border of Brymbo and Minera townships, and about the old family of Welsh freeholders called Hughes who owned it back in the 17th century and earlier.

In common with most people in this period, the Hughes family have left few traces in the record. Nevertheless in my previous post I quoted a valuable fragment of memoir written by John Denman, the rector of Llandegla. This concerned his “respectable” great-grandfather Mr “Hughes of Gwern-y-caseg” and his grandfather, a Derbyshire man who came to Minera as an “adventurer” to try his hand at lead mining, winning the hand of Mr Hughes’ daughter in the process. Not bad going for an Englishman.

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Gwernygaseg, a substantial stone-built farmhouse, sits in a hollow formed where the Gwenfro meets a tributary stream, its grounds shaded by pines. The name means something like “the mare’s alder grove” or “the mare’s marsh”, depending on the exact translation of gwern, a word described by Alfred Palmer as corresponding closely to the old English term carr. Although always rated under Brymbo, the farm’s location on the bank of the Gwenfro meant it was only just within the borders of Brymbo township, and the majority of the land attached to it – including, for a period, Cae Fadog farm – was in fact in Minera.
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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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