Cambrian Traveller’s Guide – Wrexham
3rd Edition 1840

WREXHAM is a considerable market-town, chiefly in the hundred of Bromfield, an enclosed and fertile tract in Denbighshire. It is advantageously situated at the junction of the Shrewsbury, Welshpool, Oswestry, and Chester roads, in the centre of the mining and manufacturing districts of the E. part of the county.

Wrexham is by recent enactment made contributary with Denbigh, Holt, and Ruthin, in the return of a parliamentary representative, and is one of the polling places in the election of knights of the shire. By the returns made under the census taken in 1801, it contained 2575 inhabitants; in 1831, 5484.

Wrexham appears to have been an ancient town, being noticed in the Saxon Chronicle under the name Wrightelesham, or Writtlesham. The town was granted with the lordship of Bromfield and Yale, to Earl Warren, in the reign of Edward I., and Leland describes it as containing ” sum merchauntes and good brokeler (buckler) makers.” At present, the principal trade arises from its lying in the great road from Shrewsbury to Chester. The High Street, where the Markets on Mondays and Thursdays are held, is spacious, and the buildings mostly good. At the upper end of this street stands a public edifice of the Doric order; the upper apartment is used as a municipal Hall, and the piazza below as a kind of diurnal mart. Fairs for cattle are held March 23., Holy Thursday, June 6., Sept. 19. Wrexham is noted for an Annual Fair which continues fourteen days. The Welsh supply flannels of various quality, linsey-woolseys, coarse linens, horses, sheep, and black cattle. Other dealers bring Irish linens, Yorkshire and other woollen cloths, with Manchester, Sheffield, and Birmingham goods in all their varieties. Five extensive areas are fitted up with booths and temporary shops for the accommodation of dealers in cattle from the neighbouring and distant parts of the kingdom. This public mart opens the 23d of March. An Agricultural Society was established here in the year 1796, consisting of about 100 members, under the presidency of Sir W. W. Wynn, Bart. The premiums were from one to five guineas, and to proprietors silver medals. The Free Grammar School was endowed with 18l. per annum by Valentine Broughton, alderman of Chester, for the gratuitous instruction of twelve boys. Certain lands were left to the vicar and churchwardens for the use of the poor, and which, in 1803, amounted to 228. 10s. 2d. There is also property left to trustees by the will of Dame Dorothy Jeffreys, to defray the expense of a parochial school, for which a commodious room was erected by Sir W. W. Wynn, Bart.

The Church is a most elegant structure; and may justly rank with the cathedrals. It forms one of the seven wonders of Wales: these are the mountain of Snowdon, St. Winifred’s Well, Overton churchyard. Gresford bells, Llangollen Bridge, Pystill Rhaiadyr, and Wrexham steeple. This church was erected upon the site of one destroyed by fire, about the year 1457, and exhibits a specimen of design, proportion, and chaste decoration not surpassed by any edifice built in the time of Henry VII. It was finished about the year 1472, except the tower, which was not completed till nearly thirty-four years afterwards. During the civil wars it was converted by the parliamentarian forces into a prison. This beautiful edifice consists of pentagonal chancel, two collateral aisles, and a lofty tower. The windows of the aisles have a flat pointed arch, the mullions ornamented at top; between these are buttresses, terminating in slender crocketted pinnacles. The windows of the clerestory are narrower; the arches rather incline to the sharp pointed style; and the embattled parapet has diminishing crocketted pinnacles, corresponding with those of the aisles. The height of the tower is 135 ft., the shape quadrangular, with handsomely set off abutments, terminating with crocketted pinnacles. The summit is crowned by four pierced lantern turrets, rising 24 ft. above the open wrought balustrade. Statues of thirty saints are placed in the niches of the buttresses; one of these represents the patron, St. Giles, with a hind by his side. The ceiling of the roof is composed of ribs in oak wainscot, in imitation of the stone grained work of the antecedent period. The corbels supporting the bearing timbers are carved, and grotesque heads with shields exhibit the arms of some who contributed to the erection of the edifice. At the w. end of the nave is a grand receding pointed arch, nearly the height of the building, filled with a window, once ornamented with elegantly painted glass, but injured and defaced. This loss has been glaringly compensated by a few diminutive figures, &c. in the upper compartments of the windows in the aisles. The altar-piece is peculiarly beautiful. A fine painting, representing the Lord’s Supper, by De Heere, occupies the central part. A picture by the same artist, of David playing on the harp before Saul, is hung against the wall in the s. aisle. These paintings were brought from Rome, and presented by Elihu Yale, Esq. of Plas Gronw, who lies under a plain altar- tomb in the cemetery, bearing the following inscription: –

” Born in America, in Europe bred,
In Africa travell’d, and in Asia wed,
Where long he liv’d and thriv’d; in London died.
Much good, some ill he did; so hope all’s even,
And that his soul through mercy’s gone to heaven.
You that survive, and read, timely take care
For this most certain exit to prepare:
Where blest in peace the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in the mouldering dust.”

The eagle and pedestal of brass, forming a reading-desk, was the donation of .John ap Gryffydd ap Dafydd, of Ystifan, in this neighbourhood. Under the belfry lies an ancient monument, rescued from rubbish, when the iron gates in the churchyard were erected. It represents a knight in complete armour, his legs extended, and resting upon a couchant dog. An emblematic figure personifies a dragon, with a forked tail terminating in a serpent’s head. Upon the shield is a lion rampant, with an inscription; ” Hic jacet ap Howel.” Upon an altar-shaped monument in the chancel lies a full robed figure of Hugh Bellot, successively Bishop of Bangor and Chester, who died at Bersham, near this town in 1596. He was a great linguist, and, in conjunction with other learned men, bore a distinguished part in translating the Old and New Testaments into English. Opposite is a monument by Roubiliac to Mrs. Mary Myddleton, who died April 8. 1747, aged 59, daughter of Sir Richard Myddleton, of Chirk Castle ; it was erected by Wm. Lloyd, Esq. of Plas Power, her executor and devisee. This fine production of the chisel is calculated to arrest the attention of the most indifferent observer. A most beautiful female form, slightly covered, is represented as in the act of rising from a bursting tomb, roused by a noise out of sleep. Consternation is mingled with dismay in this countenance, yet is surprise and delight most admirably mixed. The design is evidently taken from 1 Cor. xv.52. “The trumpet shall sound, the dead shall be raised incorruptible.” The person this monument is intended to represent died a withered woman, but she is judiciously made to arise, according to the scripture (Phil. iii. 21.), full of youth and beauty. The figure is most interesting and graceful, the attitude correct, and the drapery chaste. In a word, the tout ensemble of this effigy is exquisitely fine, and may justly be ranked with this artist’s statue of Eloquence to John Duke of Argyle, in Westminster Abbey; his Handel in Vauxhall Gardens; and George I. in the Senate House at Cambridge. A medallion at the end of the N. aisle, by the same artist, contains two profile likenesses, in strong relievo, of the Rev. T. Myddleton, and Arabella Hacker, his wife. The drapery of this composition is excellent. Sittings to the extent of 1500 have been recently added: of these 900 are free ; towards the expense of which the Church Building Society contributed 200 l. The churchyard is enclosed with iron rails, and contains several singular inscriptions. The following instance of brevity occurs: –

Here lies Jane Shore,
I say no more ;
Who was alive
In sixty-five.

The town jurisdiction is conducted by county magistrates, who hold a petty sessions monthly. The Town Hall is constructed of brick, formerly open on the ground floor, but now enclosed, used for public meetings, and as a depot for arms. The County House of Correction, includes seven wards for the classification of prisoners, who are allowed a certain portion of their earnings. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, Calvinistic and Wesleyan Methodists, besides a Roman Catholic chapel.

The Wynnstay Arms, and the Lion are the principal inns; several smaller afford good accommodation to the pedestrian. Great praise is due to the Wrexham Horticultural Society, not only for the fine specimens of fruit produced at their meetings, but for the encouragement given to cottagers, one of whom lately received 11s. for various prizes.

Plants in this neighbourhood : -Aspidium lobaturo ; A. aculeatum ; A. oreopteris ; Ophio-glossum vulgatum ; Equisetum limosum; E. hyemale.

At Wrexham, Mr. Edward Randles, although blind, was considered a most skilful organist. A pupil on the harp of the celebrated Parry, he caught the energetic style of his master. His daughter Elizabeth at a very early age exhibited uncommon talents for music. In the year 1800, at the age of two years, she was ushered into public notice; at 3½ years she had the honour of performing before the king and royal family. At six years this extraordinary child could play the most complicated music, and sing any thing laid before her at first sight. During the years 1807 and 1808, her friends conducted her on a musical tour through most of the English counties. In London she performed under the auspices of the Prince of Wales, and the Marchioness of Downshire, at the concert-rooms Hanover Square. She retired for education, but afterwards applied her abilities to the harp.

To CHESTER, Mr. Pennant called at Acton, 1 m., then the seat of his friend Ellis Yonge, now the property and residence of Sir Robert Henry Cunliffe, Bart. The mansion is delightfully situated upon an elevated lawn, amidst many woodland decorations. It has been considerably enlarged and modernised, and is surrounded by richly diversified and romantic scenery. This place formerly belonged to the Jeffereys, among whom was the arbitrary judge of that name, chancellor of England.

Gresford, 3 m., or Croes-ffordd, the ” Road of the Cross:’ is a village of Denbighshire, remarked chiefly on account of its beautiful church, built about the same time as that of Wrexham, and containing a fine set of twelve bells, reckoned one of the wonders of Wales. Beneath the church is a delightful little valley. It is placed upon rising ground at the end of the village, built of freestone, in length 123 ft. in breadth 59 ft. The tower is quadrangular ; its height 90 ft. On one side is a fine statue of Henry VII. The E. window, which measures 21 ft. by 14, has been ornamented with beautiful groups appearing to contain the history of several saints, with some figures of the Virgin Mary in the centre; under each group are sentences in her praise. The virgin’s history ornaments the east window of the north aisle. The interior is very neat, and has been repaired with much taste and judgment. In the N. aisle is a figure completely clothed in mail, a surcoat, and round helmet, with a lion at his feet. His shield has also the figure of a lion upon it. The following inscription is upon the ledge of the tomb :- “Hic jacet Madoc ap Llewelyn ap Gruff. obiit 1331.” Some mural emblems commemorate the Trevors of Trefalin. Among these one by Rogerson, to Sir Richard, in the 80th year of his age, represents the knight in armour kneeling with his wife Catherine by his side. A well executed bust represents John Madocks. Esq. who died September 23. 1794. In the chancel is a monument to John Parry, Esq. by Westmacott. This unique piece of sculpture possesses peculiar points of elegance. In the churchyard are 19 immense yew trees. The cemeteries in Wales are distinguished much by this sombre accompaniment. Gresford Lodge is a low but exceedingly neat freestone mansion, with a colonnaded facade, situated in that part of the valley through which flows the river Alun, hastening to the Dee. It was the residence of Mrs. Parry, relict of the late J, Parry, Esq. from a design by Wyatt; now occupied by W. Egerton, Esq. At the extremity of a lofty impendent declivity, affording an extensive view to the N. and N. E., is a peninsulated field called the Rofts, once a British post, and defended by three strong dikes and fosses, cut across the narrow isthmus which connects it with higher parts of the parish. In one corner is a vast exploratory, mount. On two sides it is inaccessible, from the steepness of the declivity; and on the s. which fronts Cheshire, being of easier ascent, it has been protected by two or three other dikes, now almost levelled by the plough. In one corner of this fortress is a vast exploratory mount; the whole seems to have been an important station.

In the neighbourhood of Gresford, is Upper Gwersyllt-Hall, the seat of Mr. Atherston. The circumjacent grounds are tastefully laid out; the walks on the margin of the Alun are highly romantic, and the views from the higher lawn embrace the mountains in the vicinity of Hope, Caergwrle castle, &c. This was the residence of that distinguished royalist, Col. Robinson, who, in the time of Charles I., was necessitated to leave it; but he regained possession on the restoration of Charles II. The usurping possessor rebuilt and fitted it up in a superior style. From an epitaph in Gresford church, it appears he died March 15. 1680. Jeffery Shakerly, another patriot, who distinguished himself in the royal cause, possessed the Lower Gwersyllt. He commanded a regiment of cavalry during the civil wars, and afterwards bought this estate from its contiguity with that of his friend Col. Robinson. Gresford Lodge, W. Egerton, Esq.; and between Gresford and Pulford, Trefalen Hall, J. Boydell, Esq. Cross the river Alun. Darland Hall, W. Snelson, Esq.; contiguous to which is the Rectory. Two m. beyond Pulford, on the r., is Eaton Hall, Marquess of Westminster. This superb mansion, with the exception of the vaulted basement story, and part of the original hall, has been lately re-erected from the designs of Porden. It is built with a light coloured stone, and has two fronts, consisting of spacious centres of three stories each, with octagonal turrets, buttresses and pinnacles, placed between large wings. The entrance to the w. front is under a lofty vaulted portico, which admits a carriage. On the E. side is a magnificent flight of steps, terminating in three rich and airy arches, which form the middle of an exquisitely beautiful vaulted cloister, which covers the whole centre, and unites the wings. The entrance to the grand saloon is through three arches. This splendid apartment faces a terrace 350 ft. long, whence a rich landscape appears, including the river Dee. The prevailing style is Gothic, of the time of Edward III., but many deviations have been made. A grand flight of steps leads from the vaulted portico in the w. front, to the great hall, which is a spacious and lofty room, rising to the height of two stories, and having a vaulted ceiling, ornamented with family devices at the intersection of the ribs; it is paved with variegated marbles, arranged in compartments, and has on each side four niches. with pedestals and canopies, over ornamented chimney pieces. between which are pictures by West. The subjects are the dissolution of the long parliament by Cromwell, and the landing of Charles II. The saloon contains three large windows. the upper parts of which are decorated with the most brilliant specimens of painted glass, by Collins, from designs by Tresham. The dining and drawing-rooms are very extensive, magnificently furnished, containing much stained glass; the ceilings are decorated with fan-shaped tracery, and the walls hung with pictures by the most eminent masters. The library adjoins. very tastefully fitted up with elaborately carved Gothic book-cases of English oak, containing many ancient MSS., and an extensive collection of classical and standard works. The grounds have received the congenial feature of modern gardening. The venerable avenue to the w. has been extended to a Gothic lodge about 2 m. distant from the mansion. There is another lodge, similar in design, approached from the turnpike-road. The most advantageous views of this seat are obtained from the banks of the Dee. which intervenes between the E. front and the plantations; the other prospect occurs on the Alford road.

Two miles N. W. from Wrexham is Bersham iron furnace. [See RUABON.] Not far from Minera, where are extensive mines, about 3 m. N. W. from Wrexham. is Brymbo Hall, W. Legh. Esq., where the late John Wilkinson, Esq. had a farm of about 500 acres. The situation is bleak, and the soil a hungry clay upon a substratum of ochreous schist. By good tillage and the application of lime, at the rate of ten tons per acre, it was greatly improved. Thus he brought under cultivation 150 acres of wild heath. A crowned head had assisted him in making his compost manures; Offa, king of Mercia, had employed men to bring together the soil. and Mr. Wilkinson went to the expense of forming it into a compost. Large cavities, in the shape of inverted cones, were cut at convenient distances, in Offa’s Dike, which runs across Brymbo farm. The cavities were filled up with limestone and coal, and then burnt. While on an excursion to Bersham iron-works, Mr. Pugh proceeded thence to this spot, taking a passing view of Plas Power, the residence of Thomas Fitzhugh, Esq., delightfully situated, from Brymbo Hall, where Mr. Pugh had the happiness of being received as a friend. Indeed to be an artist is a sufficient introduction to the proprietor, Thomas Jones, Esq. From this place Mr. Pugh visited an extraordinary dingle, called Nant-y-Fridd, the romantic character of which is not surpassed by the wildest scenery of Merionethshire. The side on the the r. for about a mile, is coated by a hazel wood, bestudded with cottages, at the extremity of which a scene opens which compeers with the savage wildness of Nant-Francon. The Cegidog thunders down the rocks in three successive falls. On his return Mr. Pugh digressed from the direct road to visit the cot of Kate of Cymmau, embosomed in the deep and obscure shades of a woody glen. He found her at the age of 84 possessing all her faculties entire; she lived according to nature, undertaking the culture of a garden, and feasting upon its produce. Mr. Pugh has given a view of Kate’s cot, in which he has introduced herself and her dog.

To no one spot in ample space,
To no one race confined,
Content is every where at home,
That home’s the virtuous mind ;
So Kate, whose independent soul
O’er half an acre reigns,
Is truly great, compared with him
Who sighs for large domains.
LLWYD’S Poems,

To MOLD (on the r. Acton Park, Sir Foster Cunliffe, Bart. ; beyond is Gwersyllt Park, and Rhyddyu on the r.), pass Cegidog Bridge, 4½ m. Within a mile of Caergwrle, 1¼ m., the road leads through a romantic glen, after which occurs a bridge of one arch, accompanied by rustic cottages, and overshadowed with trees in beautiful style. The name Caer-gawr-Ileng, ” the Camp of the Great Legion,” seems to indicate that it was once occupied by the Romans. In further confirmation of this conjecture, two Roman hypocausts were discovered here. One was 6½ yards long, 5 yards broad, and about half a yard high, encompassed with walls. The floor was of brick, set in mortar; the roof, supported by brick pillars, consisted of polished tiles, which, at certain places, were perforated; on these were laid brick conductors, which carried off the force of the heat.” Some of the tiles were inscribed ” Legio XX.,” or the 20th legion, long stationed at Chester. Large beds of iron scoriæ have been discovered near Caer Estyn, supposed to be the remains of Roman smelting works; also the vestiges of two roads; one in a direction to Hawarden; the other tending towards Mold; these are traceable in several places. The road is very prominent in the fields on this side Plas Teg, the venerable seat of C. B. Trevor Roper, Esq., of the Dacre family. It appears from these circumstances, therefore, that Caergwrle was an outpost to the grand station Deva, or Chester. This situation was subsequently occupied by the Britons, who built a castle upon the summit of a high rock, at a little distance. The history of this castle is clouded by uncertainty. In the reign of Owain Gwynedd, it formed part of the possessions of Gryffydd Maelor. Edward I. made a grant of it to Prince David. It was afterwards retaken, and the king gave it to his consort Eleanor, who rested here on her journey to Caernarvon, the place of her accouchement; from this circumstance, the name was changed to Queen Hope. While the queen was here, or shortly afterwards, this fortress was set on fire, and the interior of the structure consumed. The remains of the castle consists of a mutilated circular tower, and some fragments of walls. It does not appear to have ever been a large structure, although the site was uncommonly favourable. Aided by the British post Caer Estyn, a station upon the opposite elevation, formed of ditch and rampart, the castle was calculated to defend this pass. The valley here narrows so as to leave little more space than is sufficient to admit the Alun through its romantic dingles. The country, however, opens in the distant vale, and the river expands at the village of Gresford. Nearly the whole of this rock is conglomerate or that mixed kind of gritstone, so coarse in its texture as to bear the appearance of small pebbles imbedded in mortar. It has been applied to the purpose of forming mill-stones, but they are inferior to French burs. The Red Lion Inn, here, is an old building, and its exterior is unfavourable, but the two sisters who keep the house have rendered it elegant within. The surrounding hills consist of limestone, which is burnt upon the spot, and mostly sold into Cheshire. In the overlay of loose earth, are numerous organic bodies, called entrochi and astroides. A singular kind has been found here, with protuberant joints, conjectured to have been parts of the species called Asterias arborescens, arborescent sea star; the branches of which resemble these substances, the shape being cylindrical, made up of several articulations.

On the demesne of Rhyddyn, almost close to the Alun, are two springs strongly impregnated with muriate of soda, resembling the celebrated fountain at Barrowdale, near Keswick, in Cumberland. These were formerly much frequented by scorbutic patients. Here is a fine old bridge over the river Alun, where may be had a complete view of the village, with good angling. Its situation forms a slope to the river, and has three broad parallel streets, intersected by three others at right angles. In the Church are two mural monuments; one is decorated with two kneeling figures. Another commemorates Sir John Trevor, Knight, the conqueror of the boasted invincible Armada, and comptroller of the navy in the time of Elizabeth and James I. The charter of this place comprehends Caergwrle, first granted by the Black Prince at Chester, 1351, by which authority the constable of the castle is bound to choose two bailiffs, on Michaelmas day. A Roman road lies from the village in the direction towards Mold, and is visible in the fields on this side Plas Teg, with an artificial mount close to its course.

About Caergwrle castle grow Plantago maritima; Fumaria claviculata, Astragalus hyperglottis, Carduus marianus. West of the castle upon a lofty hill, is Bryn Yorkin, the paternal seat of Ellis Yonge, Esq., a descendant of Tudor Trevor. The form is quadrangular, with a square wing at each corner, five stories high, erected in 1610, probably by Inigo Jones. The village and church of HOPE lie about 1 m. from the castle, on the N. side of the stream. Caergwrle and Hope form, conjointly with Flint, Caerwys, Rhuddlan, Overton, and Holywell, a prescriptive borough, which send one member to parliament. This ancient structure exhibits great regularity, with a portion of grandeur arising from simplicity of design. A bold centre is presented, 45 ft. in length, and each angle is flanked by a square tower. Pass an ancient house called Ferm, and a little further, Fentrehobin. At a short distance, upon the opposite banks of the Alun, is Hart’s-Heath-Hall, beautifully placed upon a gentle slope, the possession of Gwllym Lloyd Wardle, Esq. It is a large handsome modern square mansion, with three fronts, surrounded by fine plantations. Pont Bleuddin, 1 m. This road runs for 2 m. with Watt’s Dike on the r., viz., – from Hope to Plas Newydd.

On the I. are the two Leeswoods; one the residence of J. Wynn Eyton, Esq.; the other was once the residence of George Wynn, Esq., who spent large sums in the embellishments of his gardens and grounds. Exquisitely beautiful iron gates occur in different parts of the grounds. Those at the entrance of the lawn, in front of the house, are most splendid. From the heights above the house is a most captivating prospect of Mold and its vale. Half m. further is the old mansion called Tower, the residence of E. W. Eyton, Esq. On the I., ¾m., Trebeirdd.

To RUABON, at ½m., cross Watt’s Dike, to Melin Puleston, 1 m. (Near, on the r., Ecclusham Hall ; 1 m. beyond on the I. is Erddig, Simon Yorke, Esq., a place rendered peculiarly beautiful by rich overhanging woods, which are the theme of universal admiration. The walks around this building are laid out with great taste and elegance. There is a path across the park into a road by New Hall to RUABON. On the r., Havod- y-Bwch; a little further on the I., Plas Gronow “. 1 m. further, some houses on the r., called Aber-derfin. The following succeed: – on the I., Havod- y-Bwch, New Hall; on the I. Pentre Clawdd ; on the r. Gardden Lodge, Pen-y-Gardden, and further, Bryn.) RUABON, 4½ m.

To OSWESTRY, advance first to Melin Puleston, 1 m. (1 m. beyond, on the I., Erddig, S. Yorke, Esq. ; Ruabon, 4½ m. On the I. to Whitchurch, 18 m: on the r. to Llangollen, 6 m. (Within 1 m. on the r., Gardden Lodge, and near it Pen-y-Gardden ; and on I. of Ruabon, Wynnstay, the spacious and hospitable residence of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, Bart., a stately pile of building, possessing, from its extent and substantial elevation, a striking character of simple and unostentatious grandeur. And 1 m. beyond Ruabon is Plas Madog, beyond which Plas Kynaston.) Cross the Dee to Whitehurst toll-bar, 2 m. (On the r. to Llangollen, 6 m. ) CHIRK, 2 m. (On the I. Bryn Kinallt, Lord Dungannon, and 1 m. on the r. of Chirk, Chirk Castle, Mrs. Myddleton Biddulph.

About 4 m. on the road to BANGOR ISCOED, is the village of Marchwiel, Townshead Mainwaring, Esq. Its elegant little church, cased with stone, was, in 1788, ornamented with a painted window by Egginton, divided into twenty-one compartments, containing the arms and crests of the families of Myddleton and York, with rich borders.

To Caergwrle, 5 miles. Bingley.
Ruabon, 5½ miles. Wyndham.
Bangor lscoed, 7 miles.
Ellesmere, 12 miles.

To Ruthin, 18 miles.
Oswestry, 14miles.
Mold, 11 miles. Pugh.
Llangollen, 12miles.