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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.

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A few months back, I looked at the early history of the colliery at Brynmally, formerly one of Brymbo’s main sources of employment, from its probable founding in the 18th century by Thomas Brock and Charles Roe to its development under the Kyrke family, who lived at Brynmally Hall. The financial troubles of George Kyrke led to the sale of the property in 1849 to Thomas Clayton, a young entrepreneur from Lancashire with existing experience and marital connections in the coal industry.

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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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My previous post discussed the early history of the Brynmally estate and its colliery – which started operation in around 1753 or 1770, depending on which source you consult. We arrive on firmer ground with the appearance of the coalmaster Richard Kirk during the 1770s. Kirk, who ran or was involved with a number of pits in and around Brymbo and Broughton, was to be central to the district’s mineral developments for the next fifty years.
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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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