Hope Parish Website

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We are grateful to Mr David Healey for sharing these articles with us, copies of which can also be found in our Parish Magazine.

Dave Healey on issues associated with local history and heritage

The Local Heritage Archive

The Local Heritage Archive, which is based in Hope Community library, has undergone a makeover which means those accessing the information should find it easier to find what they are looking for.

I am indebted to an enthusiastic team of volunteers for doing the work needed to establish this archive. Thanks must go to Jane Tilston, Janis Gerken and Kate Williams for their invaluable assistance with this task. We have also worked closely with Flintshire Record Office who now have several of the original documents which were lodged with the archive.

Stage one of the project involved sorting out an immense amount of miscellaneous material and getting it catalogued and put into folders. This took a great deal of volunteers’ time but it did enable the Local Heritage Archive to be officially launched earlier this year on 25th February.

At this stage, however, it was apparent that, whist all the material was in folders, there was not a great deal of order to the material and virtually every folder was a ‘miscellaneous’ one consisting of a somewhat random selection of documents. It was therefore decided that the team would move to stage two of the project, which involved grouping the documents into files in a way which produced a degree of order from the chaos which existed.

Now we have several folders which are devoted to particular themes. There are two folders devoted to local churches, chapels and religion, two folders containing material on Caergwrle Castle, a folder which includes information on Caergwrle Spa, one on Transport and Industry, one on the Packhorse Bridge and so forth.

Inevitably there is still a great deal of material which is grouped in ‘miscellaneous’ folders. However this material is now reduced in volume and it is easier for the researcher to see what is available. Two further folders have now been added to the collection. They contain hard copies of all of the ‘Our Heritage’ articles which have been written for Hope Parish Magazine going back to 2010 when they began. The Local Heritage Archive contains a considerable amount of material that what used in the compilation of A Ramble Around the Historic Village of Caergwrle and it is very good to hear that Pete Evans, author of Resurrection River – A 4,000-year walk along the River Alyn, also found material in the Archive which was helpful. Let us hope that future authors are able to tap into this resource in order to make the story of our heritage more assessable to the community.

The following guidelines for use of the Local Heritage Archive have been agreed by members of Hope Community Library:

1. Members of the public wishing to view files in the Local Heritage Archive should view the catalogue available at the main desk.
2. Single files can be requested and should not be removed from Hope Community Library.
3. Files should be returned to the main desk after use.
4. Only one file can be viewed by an individual at a time.
5. Any member of the public wishing to donate items to the Local Heritage Archive should contact the Archive Officer and complete a form which includes contact details and a description of the item involved.
6. Items are considered to be on loan to the Local Heritage Archive and should be returned to the owner upon request.
7. The Local Heritage Archive can only accept items which are documents, not artefacts.
8. Contact details of the Archive Officer are given at the end of this article.

Hope Community Library is open to the public on
Monday 9:30am – 12:30pm, 3pm – 7pm
Tuesday & Wednesday 9:30am – 12.30pm
Saturday 10am -12 noon

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.


October’s heritage article has been contributed by Allan Poynton.

Wall Texts in the Parish Church

In October 1951 the Liverpool Daily Post contained articles headlined “Relics found in Hope Church” and “1533 Murals uncovered in Hope Parish Church”.

The articles referred to extensive restoration that had been carried out in the previous 7 weeks during which workmen had initially uncovered small fragments of colour and then, as they proceeded carefully, more wall painted texts were revealed.

A London expert was consulted who visited Hope Church and she confirmed the significance of the findings. We are grateful that she treated the two areas of text on the arcading, thus ensuring that they have been available for us to admire and ponder over since their discovery.

Some 60 years later, in 2012, current members and friends of Hope Church agreed to set up Friends of Hope Parish Church with the intention of conserving the fabric and our most important artefacts. Our current project is to establish the status of these wall painted texts; perhaps a modern scholar could establish the current state of conservation, advise on if and how we can safely improve the appearance and clarity of the texts, and identify what the texts actually relate to.

So, on 29th August 2017, Dr Andrea Kirkham spent most of the day inspecting the two areas of text, plus the now very obscure fragments mounted on the wall opposite the vestry door.

Andrea is a Registered Conservator specialising in wall texts, and has over the 30 years’ experience in this area. She was recommended to us by senior people at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments for Wales.

She made a number of significant findings:

She believes the texts date from around 1630 (She suggests that the figures “1533” previously thought to refer to a date might actually be a Biblical reference)

As hinted in the 1951 reports there are earlier texts also partially exposed.

The 1950s treatment was wax based, a process no longer used and actually banned in the later 1950s since it attracts dust and reacts badly in damp conditions.

In small test areas Andrea was able to remove the wax to reveal a much clearer image.

As an aside, she remarked on the fact that the pulpit dates from the same period.

We now eagerly await the considered report from Andrea to provide us with more information and provide recommendations about how we might proceed.

The Friends have already sponsored the conservation of other church artefacts; it is likely that conservation of these texts would be significant but also a technical challenge and a correspondingly significant financial challenge. However, we have also discovered that there are many trusts around that are prepared to help by sponsoring work which enhances our understanding of the local heritage.

Friends always welcomes new members, and all members of the community are welcome to join. Application forms are available in church and on this website. Click here


September 2017 Remembering the Anti-Tithe Commotion

Guided tours of both Caergwrle Castle and the village recommenced during August. With the help of Sophie, our eldest granddaughter, aged 10, it has been possible to add an element of costumed drama to the event. One episode which we particularly enjoyed was an activity which we developed to represent the local protest which took place against the collection of tithes.

Tithes were a tax of one tenth of a person’s income which were payable to the Church. There are several Biblical references to support this tax but it became particularly controversial in the course of the nineteenth century.

Originally tithes were paid in kind which meant that crops collected had to be stored in a specially constructed tithe barn. In some places, such as Hawarden, the original tithe barns still exist. However, in the case of Caergwrle the three buildings of Florence Cottage (1895), May Cottage (1898) and Ty Llwydd (1899) in Castle Street are said to be on the approximate site of the old tithe barn. As a result of the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 the system of payment in kind was replaced by one of monetary payment in England and Wales. This meant that Tithe Commissioners had to visit each village in order to draw up a Tithe Award and produce a Tithe Map to show land ownership so that the payments could be calculated. Locally this happened in 1843. Technically tithe barns were now redundant; however, the tithe officials would still take crops or cattle for auction if they were unable to receive the correct monetary payment.

The tithe was paid to the Anglican Church and was unpopular in Wales which was predominantly Nonconformist. The situation was aggravated by the period of agricultural depression which set in after the 1870s and there were outbreaks of violence in the 1880s, known as the ‘Tithe War.’

Clwyd Record Office publication (1978)

The ‘Tithe War’ came to Caergwrle in 1888 when a local resident, Mrs Braithwaite, a widow, who was said to have had eight children, one of whom was disabled, had difficulty in paying the full amount. The village saw a build up of tension in the weeks leading up to the collection of the tithe and Mrs Braithewaite’s sympathisers made preparations for a protest.

The commotion was witnessed by local man William Roberts, who had been born in 1878 and was himself ten years old at the time. He later wrote:

One of those (who refused to pay the tithe) was Mrs Braithewaite, a widow, who rented a few acres from Mr Hughes of Ty Cerrig. She had a few cows and a horse. She refused to pay the tithe. Consequently the authorities distained on her. The bailiff came and took one of her black cows. Eventually they drove the cow to Rossett market to be sold under the hammer. I can remember seeing crowds booing and making a regular riot

The memoir of William Roberts is an important local source but we are also indebted to the report of 21st April, 1888, which appeared in the Wrexham Advertiser, for further details of what happened.

Local people constructed two effigies to make their point, one of a vicar and the other of a bespectacled auctioneer. A placard tied to the effigy of the vicar read:

Dearly beloved brethren –
It’s money I want
I must have it now
If I can’t get it
I’ll sell the black cow

The placard on the auctioneer had the words:
Your Lordships – I am authorised by dearly beloved brethren to sell widows and orphans in order to get my pound of flesh – a Cockney Lawyer

Sophie uses miniature models of the vicar, the auctioneer and the cow to help depict the story of Mrs Braithewaite’s cow

A crowd of local people hooted horns and beat tins in a bid to prevent the black cow from being seized. However, with the protection of soldiers, the authorities managed to seize the cow.

They drove it to Rossett market but were apparently unable to sell it there and it had to be taken to Chester.

The effigies, used in the protest, were later taken to the Assembly Room of the Derby Arms where an ‘indignation meeting’ was held. The Wrexham Advertiser gave quite a detailed account of the proceedings.

The Chair was taken by Mr Bowman, of Hope Hall who was supported by Messrs Bellis, Speed, Swetenham and the Rev Morgan Jones. Mrs Braithewaite also occupied a prominent position. The effigies were placed in the background of the platform

The account summarises some of the speeches made, which were largely in favour of disestablishment of the Church in Wales as a means of resolving the issue. It is apparent that there was considerable local sympathy and support for Mrs Braithewaite.

Mrs Braithewaite, the heroine of the meeting, expressed her thanks for the sympathy extended to her, and thought it was a pity that Wales was connected with England. She also complained of the cruelty of the emergency men on the cow on the road…

The Caergwrle episode was part of a much wider agitation that was taking place and it was clear that something had to be done. In 1891 an Act was passed which made landlords, rather than tenants, responsible for the payment of the tithe. The landlords could pass the charge on to tenants by increasing rents and the tenants could scarcely refuse to pay for fear of eviction. This has the effect of ending the protests but the resentment remained. The issue rumbled on until the Welsh Church Act of 1914 came into effect in 1920. This disestablished the Church in Wales and brought payment of tithes in Wales to an end. It was not until 1936 that an Act was passed that actually ended tithes completely in England.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.


August 2017 The story of the River Alyn

A number of local people have commented favourably on the new Carreg Gwalch publication of Resurrection River by local author Pete Evans. I was delighted to see this book about the River Alyn for sale at Theatre Clwyd and took the opportunity to purchase a copy. Apparently Pete is a first-time author whose book is the product of a Creative Writing class run at Wrexham Library. It is written in a highly original, almost poetical style which many readers will find very appealing. It is also laced with good humour and a rare candour which gives an insight into the personable nature of the author. The book was called Resurrection River because the River Alyn actually disappears underground for part of its course – an occurrence which adds to the intrigue of the journey.

I know the expression has lost its potency but it has to be said: once I started to read the book it had me gripped and it was difficult to put it down. The book is an absolute mine of information. The author takes us on his adventure to trace the source of the river. In the course of this adventure we encounter the extremely rich heritage that lies beside this captivating feature of our landscape. I personally learned a great deal from the book.

I had a brief encounter with Pete in Hope Community Library before the book became available and he told me that it was due to appear. He has subsequently told me that he found the material in the Local Heritage Archive, which is stored at the Library, to be of great assistance in the task of researching material for the publication. It is particularly heartening to see that the Archive, which is one of the outcomes of the HLF-funded Caergwrle Sense of Place Project, has contributed towards this achievement.

In email correspondence with Pete he told me that:
“The book is a result of my chief hobbies of walking, natural history, history and daydreaming. It evolved considerably as it was being committed to paper, I originally intended it to be a Robert Macfarlane style celebration of the joy of walking through the glorious countryside on our doorstep, interspersed with some historical notes.”

“Whenever I looked for information on some point of interest I had come across, I found myself being drawn on wonderful tangents. The draining of the lead mines in the Loggerheads area took me to St. Winefride’s Well, St. Mary’s Church in Mold led me to the amazing Margaret Beaufort. Every time I picked up a book there seemed to be a connection with the Alyn, I’m a great fan of our Victorian engineers, while reading a biography of Thomas Telford, I discovered there was a plan, sadly not followed through, to build a canal from Pontcysyllte to Chester, which would have flowed through the Alyn valley past Gresford, this would I’m sure have complemented his masterpiece aqueducts on the Llangollen canal and the Menai Suspension Bridge. All Saints church in Gresford took me on a medieval pilgrimage, while numerous historical routes took me across the packhorse bridge. The book just kept expanding, I spent many happy hours in all seasons walking her banks and researching her secrets.”

The book is lavishly illustrated with a total of 91 photographs and a map. Many of the photographs are the work of Pete’s wife, Sophia, and include the cover photograph of the lake at the former Fagl Lane Quarry site. Again it is heartening to see this local feature receiving a prominent position in the publication.

It is clear that Pete pursued the course of the river in all weathers but his stories of explorations during blizzard like conditions, with deep snow on the ground are a tribute to his stamina in achieving his mission as are his episodes of falling head-over-heels down icy banks.

Pete continues:
“The Jewel of the Alyn must be the Mold Cape, (not wishing to take anything away from the Burton Hoard and Caergwrle Bowl which are exceptional finds). The Mold Cape is the largest piece of prehistoric goldwork to be found in Britain – it is internationally significant. Its tale is a fascinating one, unearthed from its burial mound after millennia, its fragments were almost immediately lost save for the efforts of a curious vicar and painstakingly reconstructed over decades to transform it from what was initially thought to be a horse peytrel or breasplate into the magnificent cape we see today – it truly is unique and a testament to the goldworking skills found on these Isles from antiquity to the modern day.”

“The quest for the elusive otter delivered many glorious sunrises on the river, whenever my legs tired or the going got tough, a kingfisher or dipper would magically appear to lift the spirit.”

Does the author eventually achieve his goals? Where is the actual source of the River Alyn? And does he actually achieve a sighting of an otter? Those are just a couple of reasons for reading this very worthwhile publication.

Adding a concluding comment to his email Pete said:
“I’m incredibly lucky to live in Hope (In both senses of the word). From my front door, I am gifted a walk for every mood. The Wat’s Dyke path can be followed North or South – the latter following the Alyn with a convenient resting point at the Holly Bush Inn. I can select walks which take in Caer Estyn for trees/hill fort, Caergwrle Castle for history, Fagl Lane for lake life, Hope Mountain for uplands and I have 2, 3 and 4 bridge variations on walks along the Alyn. I am very much looking forward to walking the length of the new Wales Link Path (Llwybr Cyswllt Cymru) which links the Wales Coastal Path at Saltney Ferry with the Offa’s Dyke Path, and runs across the fantastic path-magnet that is the Packhorse Bridge. I’ve so far got to Dodleston (twice) before being tempted away from those green and red chain-link markers. So many paths…so little time!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.


July 2017 Remaining positive about Caergwrle Castle

Readers may have read recent news about vandalism at Caergwrle Castle. Concerns about divot holes, left by metal detecting, were raised by a member of the public who passed a note to me at a recent meeting of Hope Community Council.

I went to the site to investigate and was shocked to see that, not only was the information correct about metal detecting, but there had also been a fire made in the bread oven of the Castle itself and that some damage had been done to the masonry of the feature.

It has to be stressed that it is illegal to use a metal detector or light a fire within the area of a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The bread oven itself was discovered during the period of archaeological excavation that took places under the auspices of Clwyd Archaeological Trust between 1988 and 1990 and was the subject of a report written by the Principal Archaeologist, John Manley (Manley. J. 1990. ‘A medieval bread-oven from Caergwrle Castle. Clwyd’. Archaeology in Wales 30. 21-24.) The feature is of particular note because it was almost certainly used to provide bread for the large number of workers who were employed to reconstructed the Castle by Edward I after it had been damaged by its initial founder, Prince Dafydd ap Gruffudd.

The good news is that the event has acted as a catalyst further consideration to be given to the issue of the long-term management of the Castle itself. It is currently the responsibility of Hope Community Council, as owners of the site, to address issues associated with both the woodland and the monument itself.

The Castle, however, is a monument of national importance – it is the last Castle built by a native Welsh Prince and its story provides an entry point to an understanding of a critical period in the history of the Welsh nation. That Prince was himself the first person in British history to be hung, drawn and quartered for the crime of High Treason. Given its national importance it is being argued that Caergwrle Castle should actually be cared for by CADW and the case is being made for this to be given consideration. From the local point of view there is concern that local residents should not be required to foot the bill for the upkeep of a national monument. Expertise in managing a national monument has never been a requirement for those standing for election to the Community Council!

The incident did give rise to a very positive meeting between representatives of CADW, Flintshire Countryside Services and Hope Community Council at the Castle site recently. The damage was examined and discussions about repair and future management of the site were very encouraging. Let us hope that from the challenge presented by the current vandalism may act as an opportunity to secure a much better deal for the long-term management of the site.

There is, of course, the need for an over-arching strategy to ensure that young people, who might otherwise be involved in anti-social behaviour and vandalism, are more fully engaged within the local community. This is for a discussion elsewhere.

Among the strategies to ensure that our heritage is better protected from vandalism one approach must include that of continuing to encourage visitors to the Castle site so that an increased public presence acts as a deterrent. Again this is in addition to other measures which are outside the scope of this article.

The HLF-funded Caergwrle Sense of Place Project provided the opportunity for a number of bilingual leaflets to be produced which help to show the importance of the Castle within the context of events of crucial significance in the story of the Welsh people.

Caergwrle Castle is far too easily overlooked but it should be viewed as one of the archaeological gems of Wales. Readers who have access to any venues or locations where they may be able to place copies of the leaflet, in order to encourage tourism to the area, are encouraged to contact author.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.


June 2017 A year in the life of Hope Community Library

Services in Flintshire have been going through a big period of change. Due to financial pressures, where reductions in budgets mean hard choices and the possible loss of services, alternative delivery models have proved to be a solution to keeping services alive whilst managing the budget. The Council has worked to prevent several amenity closures by encouraging its professional teams to break new ground with innovative ideas. This has involved the Council working with a number of community groups on several successful Community Asset Transfers (CATs). Public assets transferred from Council ownership to community or charitable groups to be run for the benefit of the community have so far included a community centre, libraries, leisure centres and a swimming pool. Hope Community Library is shining example of the success of this strategy.

Since May last year, Castell Alun High School and the Friends of Hope Community Library have operated a community run library and school library in Hope Library at Castell Alun High School. The model has proved to be immensely successful because the School has taken on the responsibility of overall management of the building itself. Volunteers have been extremely valuable in putting additional systems in place and in ensuring that the Library is able to offer more hours of service to the community with an attractive and refreshed stock of books. The community of Hope is fortunate in having volunteers who have considerable experience of having worked in libraries and this local expertise has proved to be a valuable resource. It is also important to acknowledge the initial financial support of £4,000 from Flintshire County Council, £2,000 from Hope Community Council and £1,000 from Hope, Caergwrle & Abermorddu Carnival Committee as being of great importance.

However, extensive community support has also enabled Hope Community Library to add considerable value to what the Library offers and the Library itself has developed to become a very important hub in the local community. I am indebted to Sadie Waterhouse of the Friends of Hope Community Library for collating details of the following events which took place during the first year of the Library as a community venture.

The scene was set when 9-year old Sophie Pritchard agreed to present a Meet Hetty Feather Event in which Sophie, dressed as Jacgueline Wilson’s character, described what she found enjoyable about the author’s books about Hetty. This event proved to be a popular success and it became quite apparent that there was a local demand for such activities.

The Roald Dahl Centenary event provided the opportunity for another event and Peter Smith, who had himself once worked in a chocolate factory, led a popular story-telling session about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Around 10 children joined in a craft session which enabled them to make characters and scenes inspired by the story.

Halloween 2016 presented the opportunity to offer a Library open day with art activities. Members of the community were able to see what the Library has to offer and put forward ideas on what they wanted from their Library. A number of these such as rhymetime are now being run by the volunteers. Art sessions were run with local artist, John Roberts. Around 20 people attended this event with coverage in the local press.

The Christmas Holiday provided the opportunity for a Film screening of Arthur Christmas This proved to be very popular community event with around 35 children and adults enjoying the festivities. Craft activities and games sessions were also run by volunteers throughout the holidays.

The Local Heritage Archive was officially launched as part of the Caergwrle Sense of Place Project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. During the morning members of the public were able to view documents held in the local archive as well as try their hand at jigsaws of local places and meet a medieval scribe played by Charles Evens-Gunther of the Samhain Welsh Medieval Society. The Local Heritage Archive has been a valuable resource for the published ‘A Ramble Around the Historic Village of Caergwrle’ which may be purchased from the Library for £5.00. All proceeds from sales in the Library go towards the Library. The Archive has added a new dimension to what is available in the Library and has proved to be very popular.

To celebrate World Book Day in March 2017 the Library held story telling sessions and craft activities. Children enthralled in making models of their favourite characters or scenes from their favourite books. Several children came dressed as their favourite characters and brought life to the occasion.

Easter provided the opportunity for volunteers to provide craft sessions, games and an Easter egg hunt through the library throughout the Easter holidays. Once again these events proved to be popular and helped to demonstrate the added value which the Library is adding to community life.

With equipment provided by the British Heart Foundation, local community member Alison Dunlop provided the opportunity for members of the public to practice their CPR for adults and children and also provided guidance on general first aid, which included dealing with choking. Those taking part found this to be a worthwhile session and agreed that difficulties in accessing emergency services make it increasingly important for members of communities to be trained in these skills.

The Library has served as a venue for Cwtch a chanu, a bilingual rhymetime involving stories and singing sessions once a month. The sessions are run by volunteers, some of whom are Welsh speakers and some who are Welsh learners, and have been supported by Menter Iaith who have advertised the sessions as part of the Welsh on Tour month. Volunteers will also be starting a monthly Paned a Sgwrs (cuppa and chat) session with support from tutors at Coleg Cambria. The first session will be held on 31st May at 7pm.

The Community Library held its first birthday celebration on the 6th May. The amazing Mr Magico put on an enthralling magic show which entertained young and old alike. Around 35 children and adults enjoyed the magic and birthday cake with the local press providing coverage of the cake cutting.

The Library will be running its own Summer Reading Scheme throughout the summer holidays. The theme will be myths and legends inspired by the Wales Year of Legends.

Considerable thanks must go to Castell Alun High School and to the tremendous team of volunteers of Friends of Hope Community Library for making the first year of the Library such a success and a model of community resilience during challenging times.

Hope Community Library is open to the public on
Monday 9:30am – 12:30pm 3pm – 7pm
Tuesday & Wednesday 9:30am – 12.30pm
Saturday 10am -12 noon.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.


May 2017 A Picture of Hope

This month’s article centres around one picture, which has not been previously seen by the current fraternity of those who delve into the heritage of our locality. It is a copy of a watercolour, dated 1904, which is attributed to ‘A.R.’

The original has been in the possession of Mr David H. Sherwin of Leicester for over fifty years. On Palm Sunday Mr Sherwin made the journey to Hope. He was hoping to arrive in time to be able to show the picture to those who were gathered in the Church Hall after the service. In stark contrast to the tranquil scene which the picture shows Mr Sherwin’s plans fell foul of modern traffic problems. By the time he arrived he found the Hall was empty.

I am therefore indebted to John Ferrari who encountered Mr Sherwin and spent some time with him before directing him to my house where the original was taken out of the glass and photographed. Mr Sherwin has given permission for the photograph to be used in Hope Parish Magazine but he retains the copyright and it may not be used for commercial purposes. My thanks go to Mr Sherwin for making so much effort to share this important part of our heritage with us.

The original has an interesting provenance. It was given to Mr Sherwin by his aunt whose father was a groom at Plas Teg Hall. Plas Teg Hall was, of course, owned by the Trevor-Roper family but a search of relevant census material has not yet revealed a possible candidate with the initials ‘AR’. The name of the artist therefore currently remains a mystery.

©David H. Sherwin

Hope Parish Church has been at the centre of the community of Hope for centuries and its sixteenth century tower is seen to be the single-most important feature of the 1904 watercolour. John Ferrari has contributed his own research on the history of the Hope Hall Estate in articles which have appeared in the magazine and was quick to identify the other buildings which can be seen in the picture.

From the far left we see the White Lion which stands at the corner of Stryt Isa. The 1901 census lists 34-year old Arthur Hill, who was apparently a cattle dealer, as being the head of the household. Also in residence were his wife, Emily aged 35, a daughter also called Emily (12) and sons Arthur Edward (8) and Thomas Percy (5). The White Lion apparently also accommodated Arthur Hill’s brother-in-law Thomas Davies (42), who was a general labourer, and his nephew Edward Lewis (9).

Then, moving right, we have the Rectory, which is now Chestnut House. Thomas Evans Jones was listed in 1901 as the 56-year old resident clergyman. His wife (50) was Frances Margaret and their children were Loiusa Mair (19), Austin Lloyd (16), Catherine Sophia (14), Frances Margaret (11) and Charlotte Wineford (7). Bertha Davies was the 26-year old cook and the resident family was also supported by a 15-year old housemaid, Annie Bleiddys.

In front of the Church and slightly to the right, is the old thatched Red Lion. The publican was the 63-year old, widowed Elizabeth Moses. Also in residence, are her grandsons, William Frederick Maddock (18) and Percy Maddock (12). William was listed as a brewer’s clerk at the time. Sadly William was one of the sixty men of the parish who lost their lives during World War One. William is believed to have been killed on 9th July 1916 at Marmetz Wood. His story has been researched by Andrew Moss for www.flintshirewarmemorials.com and may be seen at:

In the distance we see what was known as Hope Hall Cottage Farm (now Hope Cottage Farm) and, on the corner of Kiln Lane, Japonica Cottage (now often referred to at the ‘Old Post Office’ and currently a private residence.)

The picture shows the heart of the nucleated settlement of the village of Hope as it was in the early years of the twentieth century. It is a scene of blissful tranquility and it is obviously one the artist, who seems to have positioned him or herself somewhere in the vicinity of what is now St Cynfarch’s Avenue, felt worthy of capturing.

Thanks must also go to Rev. Adam Pawley who was initially contacted by Mr Sherwin and passed on his contact details.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.


April 2017 A Ramble Around the Historic Village of Caergwrle

Dave Healey has expressed thanks to the large number of people who are contributing to the HLF-funded Caergwrle Sense of Place Project. The response has been overwhelming. The publication of A Ramble Around the Historic Village of Caergwrle represents an important achievement for a community with a strong sense of the past.

The booklet draws upon information gained as a result of the Project’s Memories Days and considerable interaction with enthusiastic members of the local community during guided tours of the village. It has also drawn upon a wealth of information that is now stored in the Local Heritage Archive which has been developed at Hope Community Library as part of the Project. Dave expressed thanks to the team of volunteers that have put in hours of work in preparation for the successful launch of the Archive at a recent event.

The Flintshire village of Caergwrle has features which take visitors on a journey from medieval to modern times. The booklet’s back page summarises they key features described:

The distinctive features of the medieval Dyke system and the Castle itself are reminders of the importance and close proximity of the border. The Packhorse Bridge is symbolic of changes in transport which anticipated an era of growth and later industrialisation. The arrival of the railway provides us with a case study of the impact of cross-border travel and of tourism on a traditional Welsh community: the winners and the losers and the challenges to the Welsh language.

We see evidence of the Nonconformist religious revival, of conflict over the payment of tithes to an Anglican Church and of the subsequent decline of the religious movement and the closure of chapels. We see the rise and fall of the Temperance Movement which challenged what it considered to be the social evil of its time. There is evidence of the vital role which Friendly Societies played in promoting the well-being of members before the establishment of the National Health Service. The War Memorial testifies to the sacrifice made by the brave men of the village in two World Wars. There is evidence of the world of work, of industrialisation and differences of social class.

There are stories of criminal activity and of traditional methods of crime detection and law enforcement. We gain an insight into early schooling and forms of childhood activity and amusement. We see a village community that was self-sufficient and met its own needs before the age of supermarkets, the revolution in communication and the growth of internet buying and changes in the way services are delivered. It is a nostalgic tour: it tells us much about what we have both lost and what we have gained, but also about ourselves and the journey that we have made into modern times.

In introducing the booklet, Dave said:

During the writing of this Ramble it has become apparent that the village of Caergwrle has surviving features which relate to significant themes and episodes in the national history of Wales. Indeed, because comparisons can be made with communities in other parts of country, the story of Caergwrle is likely to resonate with a much wider audience than that of the village itself.

Although Dave himself conducted guided tours of Caergwrle last summer he said individuals and groups should feel free to use the booklet for their own guided tours of the village. He especially welcomed the idea of volunteers becoming ‘Caergwrle Ambassadors’ and giving guided tours as fund-raising activities in support of local causes.

It all helps to raise the profile of the local heritage, help good causes and promote vibrancy within the community. There are many people who have a knowledge of the village and I hope this booklet will encourage them to continue to share that knowledge for the benefit of future generations.

Copies of A Ramble Around the Historic Village of Caergwrle are available for sale at Hope Community Library at a price of £5.00. All funds raised from sales at this venue will be used in support of the Library. A Welsh translation of the book will also be available shortly.

Hope Community Library is open to the public on
Monday 9:30am – 12:30pm 3pm – 7pm
Tuesday & Wednesday 9:30am – 12.30pm
Saturday 10am -12 noon

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.


March 2017 Good Progress for HLF Project


February 2017 Year of Legends is Good News for Caergwrle Castle

The Welsh Government’s decision to make 2017 the Year of Legends is good news for Caergwrle Castle. Although it stands in ruins today, Caergwrle Castle is closely associated with key events in Welsh medieval history. Its story is entwined with that of the legendary conflict between the Welsh Princes themselves and with King Edward I of England. The HLF-funded Caergwrle Sense of Place Project has provided an opportunity for the village to rise to the occasion and to promote itself. What follows is a sneak preview of what will eventually be a bilingual leaflet to promote the Castle as a gateway into key aspects of Welsh history.

The Project has enabled a team of local specialists to utilise their skills for the benefit of the community. Michael Roberts, himself a legendary medievalist and illustrator, has provided the some fantastic artwork. Delwyn Ellis, noted for his stunning local photography, has agreed for his work to be used. Yours truly is providing the text and local design specialist, Bill Smuts, will be drawing everything together. The exact format of the leaflet may change but what follows are the basic ideas behind ‘The Rise and Fall of Caergwrle Castle.’

The leaflet is but one aspect of the work of the Project. The work builds on memories sessions and feedback from guided tours which took place last year. Several other community engagement initiatives were also supported by the project team. It is the intention to re-establish the guided tours of both the Castle and the village in warmer weather, produce a published guide to the heritage of the village and establish a local heritage archive in Hope Community Library.

North Wales itself has been named among the top places in the world to visit in 2017 according to Lonely Planet’s Best Travel list. The economic impact of tourism in Flintshire alone is valued at £220 million per annum. Let us hope that 2017 provides an opportunity for visitors to enjoy the delights of our heritage.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.


January 2017 On the trail of our Temperance heritage

The Temperance Movement was a dynamic and militant failure. It mobilised thousands against what it considered to be the greatest social evil of its time – the demon drink. However, unlike its American counterpart, it failed to establish Prohibition in Britain and it failed to win the hearts and minds of the vast proportion of the British population. Perhaps the grand failure of the Movement accounts for the fact that it is often overlooked as an important social phenomenon. More importantly, perhaps this explains why some of the buildings associated with Temperance are now faced with the prospect of being left to crumble.

The Temperance Movement was established in Britain in the early half of the nineteenth century and initially advocated moderation in drink. However, as communities became more industrialised it became clear that an increasing number of hard-working men were spending their wages in public houses to the detriment of their families. The Temperance Movement moved from a position of moderation to one of total abstinence of alcohol. The Movement drew strength from members of Nonconformist Chapels who used non-fermented wine for Holy Communion as an alternative to alcohol. It grew in strength in Wales during the second half of the nineteenth century because of the strong attachment to Nonconformity. Battles were fought out in the towns and villages of Wales between the ‘drys’, who believed in Temperance and the ‘wets’ who did not. Some of the buildings in Caergwrle stand as a testament to the vigour with which dry crusaders fought for their cause.

In Wales the Temperance Movement achieved a victory when, in 1881, Gladstone’s Liberal Government passed the Sunday Closing (Wales) Act which made it illegal for public houses to sell alcohol in Wales. However, one of the loopholes in the Act was that licensees were allowed to sell drinks to ‘bone fide travellers’ who were passing through and needed refreshment. The local impact of the new legislation was to put Caergwrle’s Bridge Inn under the spotlight for all of the wrong reasons.

The Bridge Inn was next to the railway station and it had a thriving business based on the large numbers of Merseysiders who travelled to Caergwrle on Sundays. Meanwhile, local people, who lived in the village, were not legally entitled to buy a drink. The Bridge Inn was therefore the obvious place for less well-known local people to use if they wanted to buy a drink on a Sunday because they could mingle with the crowds and pretend that they were travellers. In 1891 it was said that “the Chief Constable received more complaints of Sunday drinking at the Bridge End Inn than anywhere else in the Mold Division.” It became customary for the licensee to require Sunday customers to produce a railway ticket to show that they were ‘bone fide travellers.’

The Chief Constable was not the only person to be concerned about the close proximity of the Bridge Inn to the railway station and the temptation which it offered for travellers. The local members of the Temperance Movement opened a strategically placed Temperance Tearoom on the opposite side of the road to that of the Bridge Inn. This offered alternative refreshment to that of alcoholic beverage.

The building is now recognised to be a Building of Local Interest but it is currently in an extremely poor condition. It it is a fundamental part of the story of the battle that was fought out between the ‘wets’ and the ‘drys’ within the locality. It is sad to see this part of our social history is at such serious risk. It is to be hoped that the building may yet be given a new lease of life so that it can be retained as evidence of this aspect of the heritage of the village.

Chronologically the Temperance Tearoom was not the earliest example of a local Temperance building. The Friends of Temperance built the building known as ‘Trewynfa’, 50 Derby Road, in 1883, from funds raised by public subscription, so that young men could find non-alcoholic refreshment there.

The Hall became the meeting place of a local group of the Independent Order of Rechabites, a Friendly Society which was committed to the principles of Temperance. The Rechabites took their name from Jonadab, son of Rechab, who founded an order of abstainers from drinking wine in Biblical times. As they were a nomadic people the Society adopted a unit of organisation known as a ‘Tent’. The local ‘Estyn Tent’ was active in collecting subscriptions for a sick fund for members and in securing medical assistance from a surgeon. It attempted to sustain its membership by organising events and non-alcoholic refreshments in the Hall. Their cause was strengthened by involvement of the Salvation Army who used the premises for meetings until 1884, when they moved to their own Citadel in Castle Street. An advertisement, dated 1886, shows that entertainment at the Workmen’s Hall included singing by members of the Wesleyan Choir.

The Temperance Movement nationally had been given a boost by the passing of the Act of 1881 and the local Tent was active in writing to prominent politicians, including W E Gladstone, to oppose plans to compensate publicans as part of the Local Government Bill in 1888. In 1890 it passed a resolution favouring the establishment of a junior ‘Tent’ under the control of the adult ‘Tent’. The secretary was instructed to write to the surgeon to see how much it would cost to have juveniles included under his care. However, in spite of a promising start, the local Rechabites failed to win sufficient support to be able to continue to run the Workmen’s Hall and the building was sold to become a private house in 1905. The Workmen’s Hall was remembered by William Roberts, who wrote that it ‘was used as a cafe, assembly rooms upstairs and a reading room. Owing to lack of support, it failed and the premises were sold.’

The Queen’s Café in Caergwrle is yet another example of a building that was used to combat the perceived evils of alcoholic beverage. As many as 150 people would dance there regularly. Under the proprietorship the Ellames family it offered luncheons, dinners and teas and catered for large or small parties. It survived as a Temperance building until relatively recent times and several local residents have fond memories of it as a popular billiard hall. In later years it was converted into the flats of Carlton House but the main building has been preserved and serves as a reminder of this aspect of our heritage.

The contest between ‘wets’ and ‘drys’ was a national and international phenomenon. It impacted upon the lives of millions of people. There are a significant number of local people who have a family connection with someone in the past who had signed the pledge not to allow alcohol to pass between their lips. Every effort should be made to preserve the buildings which represent an important episode in the story of our heritage.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.


December 2016 Hands up who remembers the Derby Cinema?

I must express a debt to Terry Eccleston for information which throws light on the history of Caergwrle’s Derby Cinema. The Eccleston family built and owned the cinema and Terry has a wealth of information about its history.

One of his proud possessions is a poster, in pristine condition, which advertises films that were showing at the cinema in the week beginning Monday 18th July, 1931.

The black and white building, in Castle Street, which is now used for commercial purposes, used to be the cinema. It was built in 1921 by W. E. Eccleston & Son, Building Contractors. Initially the cinema was owned by May Rollason (nee Eccleston) and run by Newlove and Milner of Chester to show silent, black and white movies.

The cinema attracted significant numbers of customers in its early years as there was nothing much else for young people to do. People travelled from the villages of Llay, Kinnerton, Leeswood, Coed Talon, Cymau, Ffrith and Llanfynydd to see the films. A newspaper cutting dated 1975 remarked: “Older residents can recall the days when the antics of Charlie Chaplin and his contemporaries were seen on the screens of the Castle Street Cinema and have a nostalgic affection for the old building.” Elderly residents have remembered Mrs Pearl Roberts playing the piano during the silent films.

Maureen Harson remembered that the cinema showed one film on Monday and Tuesday, another film on Wednesday and Thursday and yet another one on Friday and Saturday. Young people scrounged a sixpence from wherever they could to go there.

Some local shops found that their close proximity to the cinema brought them extra business and they made a point of staying open in the evenings. Some of the earliest recollections of the Derby Cinema have been passed down the family of Val Wilkinson, the wife of Stuart who writes the Nature Notes for Hope Parish Magazine. Val’s mother went to the cinema with her Nain on Saturday evenings in the 1920s. Afterwards they would call at the Castle Street hardware store for ‘half a pound of beautiful tripe’ that was displayed in an enamel bowl in the window, along with cans of paraffin, tools and other items which the shop sold. This shop was run by the mother of Kitty Williams who later ran the shop herself and is affectionately remembered as one of Caergwrle’s characters by local residents.

Alec Wynne remembered that local shops, like the butchers and the grocers, had free tickets for the Derby Cinema, which they gave to youngsters who did jobs for them. The cinema supplied tickets to the shops because the shops helped to advertise what was showing at the time. In addition, Alec remembered there being a special threat for cinema-goers at Christmas time. There were two large barrels; one had apples in and the other had oranges in. Children could pick from either as they left the cinema.

During the Second World War it was necessary to either book a seat or stand in a very long queue with people travelling from. The Derby Cinema was taken over by Mr Jervis of Buckley in 1946. Whilst the cinema remained popular in the early 1950s a large number of people bought television sets in order to watch the Queen’s Coronation in 1953 and this was the beginning of the end for several small cinemas. Whilst it took a while for the impact of television and changes of fashion to have an effect, the Derby Cinema was starting to struggle for customers. 1965, under the ownership of F. R. Crowley of Brecon, it finally closed. By then it was reported to be only making £7 a week with an average weekly attendance of 48. Gill Roberts has remembered that the last projectionist was her grandfather, Alf Roberts who was known as ‘Little Alf.’

The building remained empty for some years and was the subject of rumour and speculation. Planning permission for the site to accommodate a supermarket was refused in 1967 on the grounds that the car park was not big enough and would cause vehicles to park in Castle Street thereby interfering with the flow of traffic. On 30th July 1971 The Chronicle reported that Mr Barry Jones, now Lord Jones and then MP for East Flintshire, had informed Hawarden Rural District Council that residents of Castle Street had complained about the unsightly and alleged dangerous condition of the old Derby Cinema, which had been closed for some years. The local members agreed that the area was unsightly and needed tidying up and it was decided to serve a notice upon the owner under the Public Health Act 1961.

By 1974 the Chronicle was reporting that Evans Brothers, the local firm of plumbers and heating engineers, having purchased the site a year earlier, had removed overgrown hedges, erected a tidy fence and were giving the building a facelift with a view to using the frontage for office space and the rear for storage. The building reopened with a new use in 1975.

The Derby Cinema played a significant role in the local community and is part of the bigger history of entertainment it the first half of the twentieth century. It had its heyday when there were small cinemas pecked across Britain, stimulating the imagination of young people and enabling them, in old age, to have shared experiences and fond memories the good old days of their childhood.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.


August 2016 Heritage project gives village a sense of place

Organisers have hailed a memories session, held at Caergwrle’s Presbyterian Church Hall as a success. Caergwrle Sense of Place Project Coordinator Dave Healey said:

“There was a steady stream of people coming to the event throughout the day, with over 50 people passing through. Caergwrle residents have a very strong attachment to their heritage and were very keen to share photographs and memories.”

The event included a mock-up of a 1950s shop which was staffed by ten-year old Sarah Massey, with assistance from her mother Karen. The first customer of the day was Mark Tami, MP for Alyn and Deeside, who purchased goods using pre-decimal currency and traditional scales for weighing. Several residents shared their memories about some of the shops that were run by members of their families in bygone times. Mark Tami MP said:

“Events like this one are very important in giving people a sense of belonging in a community. Caergwrle has a fine heritage and one that the people rightly take a pride in.”

Heritage Consultant Lorna Jenner commented:

“It was good to see so many local people calling in to look at the exhibitions and share their memories. We gathered a wealth of new material, including receipts for beer purchased from the Birkenhead Brewery Company that were found under old skirting boards during the renovation of the former Derby Arms, an invoice and receipt book from the 1940s for Jack Hurst, Grocer, baker and confectioner, adverts for Gwalia Forge and Rhyddin Hall Park Spa plus numerous photos. 94 year old Doris Clark recalled how pleased she had been to move from a cottage on the mountain into one of the new council houses in 1950 as they had running water and electricity! All these memories, photos and memorabilia will help us to build up a bigger picture of life in Caergwrle through the ages.”

Photo above: Bill Smuts and Lorna Jenner record memories of Margaret Jones.

The event was part of the HLF-funded Caergwrle Sense of Place Project which aims to collect memories and publish A Ramble Around the Historic Village of Caergwrle.

Photo below: Doris Clark and Margaret Marsh discuss old newspaper cuttings from the Leader.

Those who attended were captivated by many old photographs that were on display and became actively engaged in discussing these, old newspaper cuttings and artefacts about the village. Videos of the famous Historical Festivals, which were held at Caergwrle in the late 1980s and 1990s, were shown throughout the day and several visitors commented that they had seen themselves on film.

Special thanks should go to Hope Parish Church members Blodwyn and David Ellis who provided refreshments and were of great help with the event. Members of the Caergwrle Community Action Group also played an active part in organising a comments and suggestions box. This proved to be a valuable exercise in community engagement with many comments in support of the trip down memory lane and pertinent suggestions for village improvement.

As part of the Project tours of Caergwrle Village will alternate with tours of the Castle each Wednesday until September. Tours start from High Street Car Park at 6pm, and last approximately one and a half hours. Donations will be invited in support of Hope Community Library which will provide host to a local history archive.
Arrangements for the tours are as follows:
Tours of Caergwrle Castle on 3rd, 17th & 31st August
Tours of Caergwrle Village on 10th & 24th August

Stout footwear is recommended for the tours. The tours will be family friendly with certificates for each type of tour being issued to children who take part. It is hoped that volunteers will agree to become ‘Caergwrle Ambassadors’ and arrange tours themselves in support of worthy causes. Materials can be provided to assist those who are willing to play a part in a Project which aims to raise the profile of the local heritage.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.


July 2016 Early Years in Hope National School

I have just had the pleasure of printing out a hard copy of 131 pages of the family history of the Eccleston family, sent to me, as an e-mail attachment, by Mr Terry Eccleston. The history was compiled, initially, by his father, Harold Eccleston, between 1973 and 1974 and was rewritten by Terry in 2001. It is a very important historical memoir which is of interest for reasons beyond the scope of the current article. From the local point of view it has arrived in time to shape the outcome of the Heritage Lottery Funded Caergwrle Sense of Place Project which is seeking to record local memories in order to raise the profile of the local heritage. This month’s article draws on a mere fraction of this invaluable source and makes use of the existing archive of photographs to illustrate Harold’s Eccleston’s early years at Hope National School.

Harold was born on 30th September 1893, which almost certainly meant that he was attending Hope National School when it was what we would now call a ‘Victorian School.’

The school had been built in 1838 and was one of the Welsh schools reported on by school inspectors in 1847. Records of the school inspections were printed in books with blue covers and, because they were notoriously bigoted against the Welsh, the episode is referred to by Welsh historians as the ‘Treachery of the Blue Books.’ Needless to say the report is far from flattering about the Hope school but it does provide a context for understanding the experience of local youngsters. Hope School was described as a school for boys and girls, taught respectively by a master and mistress, in separate rooms built for the purpose. There were 70 pupils on the roll although only 40 seem to have been present on the day of the inspection. The inspector’s negative comments included one on the building itself and the level of provision:

“There are no means of ventilating the school-rooms, except the windows; and the back windows, having been broken by the boys, were closed with shutters…The apparatus are insufficient, and funds are very inadequate. The master complained very much of the insufficiency of his salary, alleging that he could not live, but for a small pension he receives as a retired soldier.” (1)

Although the inspection reports were biased there seems to be no reason to doubt that, within a decade of having been built, the school had become unsuitable for teaching purposes. Harry Eccleston’s account of his own early childhood experiences now provides corroborative evidence to suggest that the accommodation left much to be desired by the end of the nineteenth century:

“My Aunt Florrie was by this time a pupil teacher at the Old National School [now the Church Institute in Caergwrle] and used to walk there every day from Estyn Villa and have her lunch with us at Castle View, so, of course, when the time came for me to start going to school, I went with her and sat with the infants in the gallery. The room was divided into two classes and half of it had a wide series of steps from floor level to a height of five feet at the back. It was badly lit, the walls were damp and the steps upon which we sat and the floor were terribly dirty and dusty. We used slates to write and do our sums on and I can still smell them now.”

Several readers, like myself, will have recollections of having used slates themselves at primary school. However, I do not remember my own primary school, in the Lancashire village of Ainsdale, being in such a poor condition.

The archives of the Hope & Caergwrle Heritage & Conservation Society contain a photograph of the Hope school children, dated 1902. Harold Eccleston would have been aged 9 at the time and may be one of the pupils shown.

It will come as no surprise to several readers that there was no concept of Health and Safety at that particular time and pupils were expected to do things that are unimaginable by today’s standards. Harold explained what happened at school:

“If you wanted a drink one of the older boys had to go, in all weathers, down to a well, which was on an island between the river and the mill race, to fetch some water. The old mill was working then and during our playtime it was quite usual for us school children to go there and stand and watch the corn being ground.”

Harold made no comment about lessons although one incident did stick in his mind. It seems that he and the other children witnessed an early collision on Rhyddyn Hill. A road accident may well stick in the mind of youngsters, but these children witnessed a particularly yesteryear version of a crash:

“On one occasion a wagon was backed up to the mill doorway for loading which placed the horse right across the road leading down from Rhyddyn Hill, when suddenly, another horse and cart, coming down the hill, took fright and ran away only being stopped when the shaft of the cart penetrated the side of the stationary horse. This was a source of conversation and excitement for many days at school.”

Hope National School was condemned by school inspectors in 1905 and, in 1906, a new school, now Ysgol Estyn, was opened on Hawarden Road as the first school to be built by Flintshire County Council. The old school building became the Church Institute and was subsequently modernised to become Bridge End Mews.

In 1985 the stone cross from the roof of the old Church Institute was erected as a feature to front the new Church Hall and so retain a link with the old Church School of bygone years.

I would like to reiterate my thanks to Mr Terry Eccleston for sharing the history of his family which will undoubtedly serve to supply material for future articles.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523

(1) To see the 1847 Hope School inspection report and those of other Flintshire schools follow the link below: http://digidol.llgc.org.uk/METS/SEW00004d/frames?div=1&subdiv=0&locale=en&mode=reference


June 2016 Remember the Memories Session on 25th June

The HLF-funded Caergwrle Sense of Place Project was successfully launched at an event at the Presbyterian Church Hall on Saturday 30th April. Speakers included David Rowe on the Pubs and Brewery of Caergwrle, Margaret Dunn on Discovering Old Welsh Houses and myself on A Ramble Round the Historic Village of Caergwrle. A special word of thanks should go to Hope Church members Blodwyn and David Ellis and Pat Grimshaw-Smith for considerable assistance on the day, especially with the provision of refreshments. Thanks are also due to members of the Samhain Welsh Medieval Society and Age of the Princes who were able to remind us of Caergwrle’s medieval past.

The project team includes Lorna Jenner and Bill Smuts, who did such valiant work during our memories session for the commemoration of the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. They are now asking for your memories and photographs about the village of Caergwrle. This session will be held on Saturday 25th June at the Presbyterian Hall between 11am and 3pm. For those who have memories or photographs to share this provides a unique one-off opportunity.

In due course it will be possible for copies of documents, which are currently in the community, to be made more readily available to the public in the local heritage archive, which will be developed in Hope Community Library as the library becomes a community asset transfer. Important originals will be deposited in Flintshire Record Office.

One of the intentions of the project is to produce a booklet which uses features and buildings of the village as ‘pegs’ to hang memories on. It may be that local residents have distinctive memories about, for example, the time when people got their water from the Pistyll in Hope Street, or about the role played by the village’s pubs or chapels at critical times in our history. Was the former Drill Hall of Caergwrle, now the Social Club, used for storage of tanks and jeeps by the US Army during World War II? Does anyone remember their parents or grandparents telling them stories about some of the buildings of the village? Does anyone have any other stories that are in danger of being lost? We need to document these memories and build them into the story of our community.

The booklet will be used to assist with guided tours of Caergwrle and it is hoped that volunteers will come forward to help to raise the profile of the village as ‘Caergwrle Ambassadors’. Please contact me if you feel able to assist in this way.

The local area is poised to see a heritage renaissance and it is hoped that the Caergwrle Sense of Place Project will compliment initiatives being taken elsewhere. We expect to see progress with the Park in the Past Project at the former Fagl Lane Quarry site. Friends of Hope Church are doing sterling work in moving towards a Heritage Trail which will share the little known secrets of the Church and its environs with a wider community. The commencement of work to restore the old coach house at Plas Teg highlights the potential of another local attraction. The Wales Link Path, which will link the Coastal Path to the Offa’s Dyke Trail via Caergwrle’s Packhorse Bridge, is also expected to bring significant numbers of walkers into the area.

It is vital that rural village communities retain their vibrancy and promote themselves, especially if they wish to see shops and services remain. They also need to retain their rural character if they are to avoid becoming part of an ever-increasing urban sprawl. Celebrating the distinctive heritage of a locality helps us to preserve the identity and character of a community.

Thanks must go to Charles Evans-Gunther for assisting me in promoting the village of Caergwrle at a recent event run by North East Wales Heritage Forum at Connah’s Quay and also to Michael Roberts and Dewyn Ellis for permission to use their photographs in the pop-up which depicts key aspects of the local heritage and drew a considerable amount of attention.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.

May 2016 Caergwrle Project wins Heritage Lottery Fund support

The Hope and Caergwrle Heritage and Conservation Society have received £9,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for an exciting project to raise the profile of the heritage of the Flintshire village of Caergwrle. Caergwrle, or more appropriately, Abermorddu, was the site of the discovery of the Bronze Age ‘bowl’ which takes pride of place as an iconic exhibit in the ‘Origins of Wales’ gallery of National Museum, Cardiff. A replica of the Bowl, carved by the late Charles Harston, can be seen in Abermorddu County Primary School. Although the exact location of the find is subject to discussion the Abermorddu housing estate of Maes Cibyn (‘Field of the Cup’) was named after the discovery.

The village possesses a medieval castle, which played a generally unacknowledged but critical role in Anglo-Welsh relations in the thirteenth century. It was initially built by the Welsh Prince, Dafydd ap Gruffudd, who became the first person in British history to be hung, drawn and quartered for the crime of High Treason. Dafydd knocked down his own Castle to slow down the armies of Edward I. It is documented that during the period of the Edwardian rebuild one shilling was paid for each of 27 Welshmen’s heads that were brought to the Castle.

The village also has one of the finest examples of a packhorse bridge in Wales and several distinctive buildings which are significant in the history of the local community. The Packhorse Bridge was recently used to launch the ducks for the Carnival Duck Race.

The funding will support several facets of a ‘Caergwrle Sense of Place Project’. Volunteers will work with Flintshire Record Office and the newly-established Friends of Hope Community Library to establish a heritage archive of materials, including those relating to the history of Caergwrle, in Hope Community Library when it is transferred as a community asset, from Flintshire County Council, to Castell Alun High School and the group of Friends.

The project will be officially launched at an event in Caergwrle Presbyterian Church Hall, High Street on Saturday 30th April. The event will include an exhibition of the heritage of the village and a number of speakers.

Future planned events include a ‘Memories Session’ at the Presbyterian Church Hall on Saturday 25th June. Local residents will be invited to bring old photographs with their memories to a planned session which will help to produce a published ‘Ramble Round the Historic Village of Caergwrle’, linking memories to existing features and buildings.

It is hoped that the profile of Caergwrle’s medieval castle will be raised by events which will include an element of re-enactment and also that volunteers will be encouraged to give guided tours of the village and castle.

Commenting on the award Dave Healey, chair of Hope and Caergwrle Heritage and Conservation Society, said:

“It is great news that HLF have agreed to support this ambitious project. We aim to make the most of the opportunity to celebrate the heritage of the village and encourage aspects of its heritage to be managed with greater care. The Project is part of a vision to support Caergwrle as a vibrant, inclusive, attractive and sustainable community where residents can live healthy and enriched lives and also as a desirable place for others to visit.”

Richard Bellamy, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund Wales, said: “Sharing Heritage is a wonderful opportunity for communities to delve into their local heritage and we are delighted to be able to offer this grant so that the Hope and Caergwrle Heritage and Conservation Society can embark on a real journey of discovery. Heritage means such different things to different people, and HLF’s funding offers a wealth of opportunities for groups to explore and celebrate what’s important to them in their area.”

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.


April 2016 A Century of Memories

Mrs Elizabeth Edwards, nee Lees, is looking forward to receiving her congratulatory message from the Queen, for reaching her 100th birthday, on 30th October 2016.

Elizabeth currently lives in Dartmouth but she has an association with our area and fond memories of the time when she lived here. The story of how contact came to be made with her is itself something of interest.

Because these articles go on-line they are read across the world and the author receives feedback from different part of the globe. In this case the contact was made by Mrs Lucy Bell, Elizabeth’s granddaughter-in-law, who lives in South Africa. Lucy passed on the contact details of Brian Lees, Elizabeth’s nephew and an e-mail correspondence developed with Brian whilst he was on holiday in Teneriffe. Brian undertook to visit Elizabeth, upon his return to England and ask her what she remembered of her childhood spent in our area. This article is based on the details provided by Lucy in South Africa and Brian’s conversations with Elizabeth.

After consulting Brian, Lucy explained the local link:

Elisabeth’s father, Frank Lees, was manager of the Westminster Colliery near Wrexham, the family having moved from Yorkshire when she was a toddler. When the colliery closed they moved into the pub business. The family moved to the Bridge Inn at Caergwrle in about 1933.

When GM’s father was colliery manager they lived at Summerhill near Wrexham and she and her brother (2 years older) attended the local primary school. He used to give her a lift to/from school on his bike.

She went to Grove Park Grammar school in Wrexham and was later the Almoner at Wrexham Maelor Hospital.

After she married Nick Edwards they lived at Alltami near Mold where they ran a horticultural nursery…I know she mainly ran the business during the war when – I believe – their quarry sand was used for making bricks.

Following conversations with Elizabeth, Brian Lees reported that:

GM’S family were licensees of the Bridge Inn from 1933 to 1955. Firstly GM’s parents in turn and then her brother, Donald, (my father) were licensees. Caergwrle brewery used to supply bitter to the Bridge and customers used to order a pint of “local”. There used to be a bowling green at the rear but it was dug up during WW2 to grow vegetables. During the war it was frequented by US soldiers based at Llay and by Royal Engineers based at Plas Teg near Pontblyddyn.

The archives of the Hope and Caergwrle Heritage and Conservation Society contain a photograph of the bowling green that existed behind the Bridge Inn. There has been some discussion about the bowling green as local people recall there still being some evidence of it remaining at late as 1986 when it was finally removed for the creation of a car park and restaurant premises
Brian himself supplied a photograph of the Bridge Inn, taken in 1953, at the time of the Queen’s Coronation. The bunting and flags can be clearly seen. The Lasell and Sharman Brewery of Caergwrle had been closed down in 1945 after being taken over by Burtonwood Breweries. Burtonwood itself is seen to be supplying the Bridge Inn at the time of this photograph. Brian lived at the Bridge Inn from 1945 to 1955 and attended Hope Primary School. He recalls dances being held at the Village Institute (formerly the old building for Hope Primary School and on the site of the Bridge End building which currently includes a dental practice.)

It is doubtful that either Elizabeth or Brian would recognise the Bridge Inn today as a popular Oriental Restaurant or the new bakery of ‘Honey’s’ to the rear. However, they may well remember another part of our heritage: the ornamental portcullis gateway of the former Spa site which is clearly viewable on the other side of the River Alyn. That is, our course, another story in our impressive heritage. In the mean time it seems appropriate to wish Elizabeth very best wishes and congratulations as she reaches her 100th birthday.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.

See also news of a special heritage event in Caergwrle on 30th April by clicking here


March 2016 Is Rural Transport on the Road to Community Resilience?

Governments across Europe are grappling with problems of austerity and this is having a particularly severe impact on local government across Britain. One of the key casualties is rural transport. Increasingly cash-strapped local authorities are finding that they can no longer subsidise bus routes that are not commercially viable. As with a number of other services and amenities, it is rural communities which have the lowest number of service users and therefore it is services in these areas which are at greatest risk. This situation has the potential to change significantly something that we have taken for granted as part of our heritage. This month’s article looks at what is being done to develop community resilience to lessen the impact of the withdrawal of bus subsidies in Flintshire.

The financial outlook to 2018 shows uncertainty with regard to the future of the Welsh Government Bus Service Support Grant after 2016. All subsidies are expected to end by 2018 with serious implications for current provision. Flintshire County Council has been flagging up the issue for some time and invited elected representatives from Town and Community Councils to attend two workshops which were held in June 2015. The intention is that only a core network of bus routes will be maintained in Flintshire, largely made up of commercial bus services, with minimal support provided to ensure that essential regular connections are retained at key hubs along the routes. Other commercially operated routes could also operate within the County but these would be independent of control of the Council and would not receive any subsidy. The workshops invited those present to assist with identifying the proposed core network and help determine the minimum standard required in terms of days/hours and the frequency of services along each route. The workshops also sought to identify the potential locations of transport hubs and the standard facilities required at each hub.

The locally popular DB1 service is one of the commercial services which is independent of the proposed core network and is used by residents to visit Chester. It is to be hoped that this service will continue to have a viable future. It is possible that work, which is currently being undertaken by Flintshire Countryside Services, to establish a Wales Link Path, for walkers, between the Coast Path at Saltney and the Offa’s Dyke Path at Llandegla would give a boost to this service as walkers may wish to use the service in order to return to the their starting point after walking part of the new path. Various local initiatives including Park in the Past, the development of a heritage trail at Hope Parish Church and a possible Sense of Place Project at Caergwrle, could attract many visitors to the area and make it viable for the service to continue. It is in our interest to strive to build a robust community which sends out the right signals to inform market intelligence.

Unfortunately some Community Councils sent no representatives to the Flintshire workshops and they played no role in the shaping of the proposals which feature in the proposed core network. As their communities are ‘in the dark’ they are in a weak position to play a role in building community resilience to address community needs. Town and Community Councils need to be informed and in a position to work together to ensure that the needs of their various communities are being met.

The workshops did bring about revisions to the original map showing the core network. A link between Buckley and Deeside was established in order to ensure that more residents could get to and from work from Buckley to the Deeside Enterprise Zone. In addition, and of particular relevance to the Parish of Hope, a link was established from Dobshill, via Penyffordd, to Wrexham. This effectively means that there should be a core bus network which enables local people to get to and from Wrexham Maelor Hospital.

Some leadership will be provided by the Deeside Business Forum, which considered a report from Flintshire County Council at its meeting in January 2016. Members of the business community are concerned that employees are able to get to and from work. Askar Sheibani, Chair of Deeside Business Forum, is confident that members of the business community will subsidise transport costs to enable employees to travel.

It looks like various forms of community transport will have to be developed to take residents to hubs where they can connect with the core network. There will have to be an audit of existing forms of community transport and an identification of community needs. Because austerity has hit harder and sooner in some parts of England and Wales there are several models of community transport available and the workshops did give examples from Cumbria, Monmouthshire, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire and explained how they work. A recent BBC Countryfile programme also featured an example of community transport that has developed in the Dales.

Within Flintshire there are some forms of community transport already established, one of which is Welsh Border Community Transport. With financial support from several Town and Community Councils, WBCT uses twenty volunteers to make 30,000 journeys a year in parts of the county. Organisations and individuals pay a small membership fee which allows them to book a bus when they require it, societies, clubs, care homes and churches. Shopping trips to local supermarkets are arranged for elderly people. A Community Car Scheme takes elderly and disabled people for medical appointments. WBCT is a registered charity, which is interested in recruiting more volunteers, and may be contacted on 01244544474. In addition, some local people use NHS-provided transport for hospital appointments which can be obtained by telephoning 03001232317.

The reduction in services subsidised by Flintshire will be staggered over two financial years. At the moment consideration is being given to reducing those services which are considered to be unsustainable in the current financial climate. Further work will be done to reduce services in 2017-18. Transportation officers are now in process of visiting Town and Community Councils to try explore possibilities of them assisting in the development of community based transport systems. Flintshire has made a commitment to hold further workshops in order to share good practice regarding the forms of community transport which are developing across the County. By working together it is hoped that Flintshire can avoid several of the problems which have occurred elsewhere. A list of bus services which are currently being considered for a reduction of service can be viewed at:


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.


January 2016 End of an era at the Castle

The twenty-one year lease, whereby Flintshire Countryside Service managed Caergwrle Castle on behalf of the landowners, Hope Community Council, has now come to an end raising questions about the future management of the site.

Over the last two decades the Service is to be credited with a number of achievements which are not generally recognised or appreciated. Throughout that period Flintshire Countryside Service ensured that the site was always well kept, presentable and safe, by carrying out weekly patrols, safety checks and litter picks.

The Service had an excellent working relationship with local schools. Caergwrle Castle played a central role in the History GCSE coursework of several cohorts of local secondary school children for a period of some twenty years, many of whom were deeply impressed by this feature of our heritage.

In addition, several hundred primary school children also experienced a series of medieval activities at the site. Flintshire Countryside Service provided invaluable assistance in transporting large items of kit to the site so that these activities could take place. Indeed, the Service assisted with the transportation of disabled children so that the activities could be as inclusive as possible. At least two generations of local people have respect for this aspect of our heritage as a result of these enriching experiences. The Service also worked with education groups such as Forest Schools to give valuable outdoor experiences to children from deprived backgrounds.

The Service involved the community in activities which included bashing the bracken in the moat so that the Castle was well presented and in an appropriate state for guided tours. Initially this involved volunteers centred around the Bridge Inn in Caergwrle and later, students from Castell Alun High School. More recently members of Caergwrle & District Community Action Group have taken on this role, with members of the Samhain Welsh Medieval Society re-creating scenes which resemble those depicted in the Luttrell Psalter.

There was also a significant programme of woodland management on site which was agreed with the Forestry Commission, Flintshire’s Tree Officer and now, Natural Resources Wales. These schemes, which drew in extra income for the site, tried to achieve a balance between biodiversity, recreational access and landscape vistas. There have been times, within the period of the lease, when significant tree felling and woodland management has ensured that there were significant ‘windows’ so that the Castle could be seen. Unfortunately tree growth has become a problem in the last decade, with many local people feeling that there is a need to redress the balance between what is desirable from an ecological point of view with increased visibility of the site.

John Purchase, Flintshire Woodland Officer, removing a Turkey Oak from the Castle Hill

By working closely with local the community Flintshire Countryside Service appreciated the need for improved access to the site. The Service overcame numerous obstacles to secure Scheduled Monument Consent and the necessary funding of £6,000 to ensure that a set of steps could be constructed by the East Tower, the most obvious point to improve access at the site.
In addition a smaller set of steps were constructed at a point between the East Wall and the North Tower. These two sets of steps greatly facilitate access also help to preserve the monument itself from the effects of people climbing over walls and damaging the masonry.

The Service has been at pains to promote an awareness of the history of the site. It was fully supportive of a local initiative to develop an interpretation panel displaying the cartoon history of the site. The panel served its purpose for several years but it did show signs of wear and tear and regrettably, vandalism. Flintshire Countryside Service therefore sought funding of £3,000 to design and erect an entirely new panel, and a new welcome board with a map at the entrance. These boards give a valuable insight into the story of the Castle and what the site has to offer.

It was part of Flintshire Countryside Service’s vision to develop a publicised walk round the Castle Hill as one of the County’s attractions. The original leaflet has now been encompassed into the new ‘Discover Rural Flintshire’ leaflet out this year. Caergwrle Castle also features as one of the top nine ‘Handpicked Heritage’ sites in a new ‘Welcome to Flintshire’ leaflet.

In terms of access to the site the Service also sought funding of £50,000 to upgrade and resurface the path leading to the Castle. This has done much to facilitate access for elderly members of the community. They also used volunteers, such as those from the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV), to construct steps, handrails and repair other paths, walls and wall features on the site. One way or another, Flintshire Countryside Service accessed significant grant funding and voluntary labour for the Castle.

The Service has had extensive experience of navigating what would otherwise have been a difficult path with regard to legal constraints imposed by the site as a scheduled monument, where operations close to the Castle require special Scheduled Monument Consent. The whole area is also within a Conservation Area, which requires particular procedures to be followed with regard to woodland management. http://www.flintshire.gov.uk/en/Resident/Planning/Tree-conservation-and-preservation.aspx

Where extensive tree-felling is undertaken it is also necessary to secure a licence from the Natural Resources Wales: https://naturalresources.wales/forestry/tree-felling-and-other-regulations/tree-felling-licences/?lang=en The complexity of the process of navigating these legal constraints, especially for a woodland management plan, cannot be overestimated.

Now that the lease has ended the responsibility for management of the site, and legal liability, has reverted to Hope Community Council. Hope Community Council has continued to employ Flintshire Countryside Service until the end of the financial year which has given some time to enable the Council to look forward to establish a new era of management.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.


December 2015 Will Caergwrle Castle’s gateway mystery ever be solved?

Approximately a hundred local people and visitors (only some of whom are pictured) enjoyed the Halloween Ghost and Mystery Tour of Caergwrle Castle which was organised by the Caergwrle and District Community Action Group.

The tour was given by the ‘ghost’ of Prince Dafydd ap Gruffydd, Lord of Hope and the original builder of the Castle. He was also the first person in British history to be ‘hung, drawn and quartered’ for the crime of High Treason.
Photograph by Charlene Harston of Caergwrle & District CAG

Those present heard chilling stories of the 27 Welshmen whose heads were taken to the Castle in return for payment of one shilling each, several ghostly heads being on view as they ascended the Castle Hill. They also heard that the period of archaeological excavation unearthed bones which included those of a black rat; a discovery which provided a cue for involvement of children in a hands-on Black Death activity.

However, the adults present were invited to grapple with the key mystery of one of the most enigmatic castles of Wales: how did people actually enter Caergwrle Castle in medieval times? Discussion of this issue was the backbone of GCSE History coursework for local secondary school children for a number of years.

One of the suggestions made was that the main entrance was through the East Tower. The idea is supported by the absence of a defensive moat at this point and the height of the archway from the tower to the inner ward. The archway is much higher than normal for a tower doorway and suggests that it was constructed for a person on horseback. However, the presence of a fireplace, directly opposite the suggested entrance, suggests that any heat generated by the fire would be lost once the door was opened. Thus the point that now serves as the main point of entry for the Castle may or may not have been the original gateway.

Another suggestion was that the main entrance was at a point between the North Tower and the buttress by the East Wall. Although there is a well-worn route across the moat nowadays, this theory involved a combination of a drawbridge and wooden footbridge to gain access to the inner ward at a point, next the well, where a small set of steps now exists. This was an idea which curried some favour before the archaeological excavations of 1988-1990, which seemed suggest a more likely possibility for the main gateway.

The archaeological excavations revealed a structure, to the north of the North Wall, which was considered to have been a ‘barbican mound’. The photograph shows it after it was revealed in 1988. This structure had been ‘lost’ as a result of the growth of vegetation but the recent Medieval Bracken Bash has now made it more visible. A ‘barbican’ is a defensive structure which adds support to a gateway.

This appeared to be a rock outcrop which had been left deliberately so as to create a confined area in front of the gateway, the weakest point of the castle. The current Castle interpretation panel includes an illustration, by Anne Robinson, of what this may have looked like at the time.

The idea developed that a small defensive structure had been constructed on the mound to act as an added defence to the north of the gateway. This was believed to have been one of the modifications, made by King Edward I, in the rebuilding of the castle in 1282-83. Edward’s diggers, of whom 600 were recorded, had extended the area of the moat, leaving the rock outcrop in situ. This, it was argued, had then been connected to the northern bank of the new moat extension by a raised footbridge. The ‘barbican mound’ served to concentrate any enemy forces in a confined space so they could then be picked off by archers from the northern wall of the Castle battlements. Further entry, for friendly forces, was afforded by a drawbridge, which linked the mound to the gateway in the Castle’s northern wall. The gateway was therefore through the northern wall.

However, Charles Evans-Gunther has now perceptively challenged the conventional wisdom of this theory. By drawing attention to the drawing of the Castle which was made by Samuel and Nathanial Buck in 1742, which Charles states ‘doesn’t seem to show this barbican mound.’

The illustration is interesting and does show several features of the Castle as they may well have been it 1742. The main features, which stand today, of a buttress-supported east wall, part of a north tower, part of a northern wall and even a local house, Plas yn Bwl, are clearly evident.

Interpretations of what is shown immediately to the north (or to the right) of the North Wall may differ. There is a raised bank shown, but this seems to be the bank of an un-extended moat rather than the ‘barbican mound’. If we are to take the illustration at face value it suggests that the extension to the moat, which is evident today, actually occurred after 1742, and not as part of the modifications made by Edward I.

The Castle itself was plundered for stone to be used for local building materials and the area to the west of the site has been quarried extensively. The current interpretation panel includes an illustration of stones being robbed from the North Wall of the Castle during the seventeenth century.

One is left with the possible conclusion that the extension of the moat which created a ‘barbican mound’ was actually caused by quarrying of stone, which took place during the period after 1742.

Charles Evans-Gunther has opened up a debate which adds interest to the mystery of the original location of Caergwrle’s gateway. It is, of course, possible that the main entrance to the Castle was through the North Wall, but the defensive ‘barbican mound’ seems to have received a bit of a battering. It could be that this is a mystery that may never be solved.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.


September 2105 Bridge Over Troubled Waters

This evocative photograph, taken by Delwyn Ellis, serves to remind us of the beauty of our heritage when it is cared for and protected. Caergwrle’s Packhorse Bridge is probably the oldest bridge to span the River Alyn and it is one of the finest examples of its type in Wales. However its story acts as a reminder of the need to take prompt action when required.

There have probably been bridging points between Hope and Caergwrle from the earliest of times and it seems likely that this included one at the current Fellows Lane location. A bridge here was probably repaired, with timber, upon the orders of the Black Prince in 1365. It was in a dilapidated state again by 1654 when Squire Ellis Yonge, of Bryn lorcyn Manor, petitioned Flintshire Quarter Sessions to repair “Pont Caergwrley” over the River Alyn. Yonge seems to have been the driving force behind moves to construct a more robust one from stone. Although it has been repaired several times, with some alterations, the essential design of the bridge stems from this period.

Packhorse bridges were generally of a narrow construction and the Caergwrle example contains two V-shaped recesses in the parapet walls for pedestrians who might meet a packhorse train whilst crossing the bridge. Writing in 1957, George Lloyd considered there to have been another two recesses in the original structure as well as an additional two cutwaters, one of either side of the bridge. (Flintshire Packhorse Bridges, Flintshire Historical Society Record Series Vol. 17.) The low parapets were intended to allow the passage of bulging packs slung on each side of mules and packhorses.

Illustration by Anne Robinson for Discover Hope & Caergwrle

The bridge made a seven-arched connection between Hope and Caergwrle and also served to link Chester to the Ffrith Packhorse Bridge, which crosses the River Cegidog. Relatively remote parts of North Wales, as far afield as Bala, were given direct access to the most important market centre in the region.

Although the bridge was narrow, no one could accuse the Squire of skimping when it came to its length. Seven arches may seem an extravagance, the normal flow of water not appearing to merit them. However, it is now apparent that they were needed in order to take the full force of the flow during exceptional times of flooding. Perhaps the squire had witnessed periods of serious flooding and there was a degree of wisdom in his design.

That foresight and wisdom has not always been present and it is clear that there have been times when the bridge has suffered through neglect. On 25th May, 1956, the Wrexham Leader carried an article drawing attention to the silting up of the seven arches and complained that even the tops of the arches were no longer visible. The article went on to argue that young trees were sprouting from the aged masonry and expressed the fear that the weakened structure of the bridge would be “damaged by heavy flood-water”. The Parish Council at the time urged the then Flintshire County Council and Dee Conservancy Council to carry out the necessary repairs but it seems insufficient was done to address the problem. Half a century later, in November of 2000, the prophetic words of the correspondent came true: the Packhorse Bridge was hit by the freak floods which wreaked havoc across Britain.

The blocked arches could not cope with the torrent of rushing water and the bridge itself became a dam. By checking the river’s flow, the bridge actually forced thousands of gallons of water across the floodplain and into nearby homes.

Neighbouring residents only received relief from flooding when the weakened masonry of the bridge finally gave way, releasing the surging torrent to tear into the downstream banks of the Alyn. The early warnings had not been heeded and it was left to the successor authorities to foot the bill.

In summer of 2001 the Packhorse Bridge was given a new lease of life as a result of restoration work, carried out by Flintshire County Council. The estimated cost of repair was in the region of £100,000, and was split between the then Welsh Assembly and Flintshire County Council.

Past experience shows that regular work is required to ensure that the Packhorse Bridge does not suffer from further structural damage. Silt accumulates under the archways, trees sprout from the masonry and the mortar in the stonework continues to need attention.

It has been necessary for Flintshire County Council to take remedial action of a number of occasions since 2001, most notably in January 2009 following the collapse of an arch in 2008. Once again the cost was borne jointly by Flintshire County Council and the Welsh Assembly, the latter contributing the sum of £43,966.

The Packhorse Bridge before restoration work in July 2015

By late July of 2015 it was apparent trees were sprouting from the walls once again. In addition, the deterioration of the parapet stonework was so bad in some places that the bridge was an easy target for vandalism. Flintshire County Council was made aware of the situation; work on the Packhorse Bridge was already on the list. On the evening of 24th one of the coping stones was removed and thrown into the river. A further stone was removed on 27th: Caergwrle’s heritage was under attack and this time it was from those who should have known better.

It has to be acknowledged that Flintshire County Council tackled the job at breakneck speed, turning what might have been perceived as a threat into an opportunity for improvement. An inspection was carried out by Streetscene on 28th. A team was on the job on 29th and by 30th the Packhorse Bridge was looking better than it had looked within the living memory of many residents.

The Streetscene team recovered the missing stones from the River Alyn and put them back into place. They removed rooted trees that were causing structural damage and took a large amount of weed and silt from beneath the blocked archways. They completely exposed an archway that had virtually disappeared and opened up another channel for the river to prevent further damage by flooding. Six of the seven original archways are now open for floodwater to pass through.

Flintshire’s swift action has been greatly welcomed. If the area is hit by freak flooding again every effort has been made to avoid damage to the bridge. The team involved deserve to be commended.

Recent experiences do, of course, provoke several questions. Are there ways by which we, as a community, can work to preserve important parts of our heritage? Can we engage young people in ways which generate respect for monuments like the Packhorse Bridge and Caergwrle Castle? How will these monuments be managed during a period of severe austerity given the apparent expense involved? To what extent can the community itself act so that future generations can enjoy our heritage?

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.


August 2015 Battlefields Tour of Ypres and the Somme

I have recently had the privilege to accompany 42 students and four staff from Castell Alun High School on a three-day Battlefields Tour to Ypres and the Somme. I am indebted to Mr David Goodchild, Humanities Learning Manager, who made excellent arrangements for the tour and to Mrs Meryl Jones, Miss Carys Parry and Mr Jonathan Roberts for an experience that will remain with me forever.
The tour also highlighted the value of the work done by http://www.flintshirewarmemorials.com/ and those from the Parish of Hope, who have researched our fallen servicemen.

We laid wreaths for those, who fell at Ypres, but whose bodies have not been identified. The School took part in the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate. Connie Jones (9M), Nia Shone (8R) and Alex Moutrie (9M) laid a wreath in memory of all who fell. I was accompanied by Lucy Randles (8N) and Jamie Jones (9T) from Caergwrle Ward and laid a wreath in memory of Private John Edward Speed and Acting Sergeant Robert Owen Rowlands, both of whom were from the Parish of Hope and are remembered on panel 22 of the Menin Gate. Thanks to the work of Gill Roberts we were able to learn more about the lives of these soldiers and identify more fully with the loss borne by our community at the time.



The Menin Gate records the names of 54,896 Commonwealth soldiers who went missing at Ypres. At Tyne Cot Cemetery we found Private Geoffrey Trevor-Roper was named on one of the many panels there that remember another 35,000 officers and men who fell at Ypres and whose bodies were never identified. The Menin Gate was not big enough for all those who went missing and there are separate memorials for soldiers from New Zealand and Newfoundland. Viv and Eifion Williams have researched the Trevor-Roper brothers as they are named on the Mold Urban Memorial as well as those within the Parish of Hope. They were the family associated with Plas Teg and their case shows that losses were also felt by well-to-do members of the local community. In this case two brothers died at Ypres within a fortnight of each other. The son of Captain Charles Cadwaladr Trevor-Roper was the famous Dam Buster, Richard Trevor-Roper, who is named on our Second World War memorials.


At Mametz Wood we were moved by the sight of the Welsh Dragon clutching barbed wire, the symbolism of the bravery of Welsh soldiers leaving us with lumps in our throats. We remembered Corporal William Frederick Maddock who worked at the Red Lion as a brewer’s clerk. His battalion fought here in one of the most iconic battles involving Welsh soldiers and he died on 9th July 1916. Andrew Moss has enabled us to establish a local ink with this memorial:

At the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme we found the memorial itself to be undergoing renovation and we could not look for the names of those who are remembered there. Corporal William Frederick Maddock, is listed here. We also remembered Lance Corporal Edward Thomas Roberts, the butcher’s errand boy who served as a messenger between trenches on the Somme. His family lived in the Gwalia in Caergwrle and the loss was so great that his mother was reluctant to accept it. The word ‘missing’ is engraved beneath his name on the memorial in Hope Church. We are indebted to Andrew Moss for his research:


Our tour also took in several other sites of great interest. At Musee Somme 1916 in Albert we explored a 230 metre long tunnel gallery which was filled with cases of World War One memorabilia and reconstructions of aspects of trench life.

We also visited Lochnagar Crater Memorial, where we saw what has been described as ‘the largest crater ever made by man in anger.’ It was created as a result of mines being planted at the end of a tunnels constructed by Tunnelling Companies of the Royal Engineers in order to blow up German positions. Many parts of this area are strictly out-of-bounds because of the amount of live ammunition which is found. Farmers still uncover the remains of soldiers who died here.

We found poppies, the flower associated with those who fell in World War One, to be particularly prolific in the fields in this area.

At Sanctuary Wood Museum we were able to experience something of the conditions of the trenches ourselves although we had to wear wellingtons or boots which we had brought for the occasion.
We found British and Commonwealth cemeteries to be well maintained and set out in ways which showed real respect for those who lost their lives. There was a sharp contrast between the Canadian Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland memorial site and the German cemeteries of Fricourt and Langemark, which had mass and multiple graves for soldiers.

Our last day concluded with visit to a further two iconic Welsh memorials. We visited Artillery Wood and saw the grave of Private E. H. Evans, also known as Hedd Wyn. He was the Welsh language poet who was killed at Passchendaele in 1917 and posthumously awarded the bard’s chair at the National Eisteddfod, held that year.

The other iconic Welsh memorial was that of the Welsh dragon which stands on a cromlech near Ypres where soldiers from Wales fought on the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele. It remembers all those of Welsh descent who took part in the Great War.

The whole visit was an incredibly moving experience, enhanced by the good company of friends on the staff and the excellent students who took part. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.


July 2015 Hope, Caergwrle and Abermorddu Carnival

It is pleasing to see that much-loved feature of Our Heritage, the Hope, Caergwrle and Abermorddu Carnival is now firmly re-established as a permanent event. Credit must go to those on the committee, under the Chair of Cllr Lynn Davies, who have laboured hard to bring us this event once again.

For 2015 the Carnival Queen will be Esther Rhodes-Leader. The Ladies-in-Waiting will be Eloise Williams and Holly Cropper and the Hope Rose Queen will be Alesha Williams.

This article takes the opportunity to publicise the programme for the day:

The Carnival has an appeal to residents and visitors of all ages and contributes greatly to a sense of community cohesion. Everyone will have their own favourite aspects of the Carnival.

One of the features which I personally welcome is the way in which it keeps alive some of the features of our village traditions. Do join us in welcoming the return of the Old King and Queen by the River Alyn at Bridgend around 7pm on Friday 3rd. Rumour has it that the event is going to be something of a ‘hoot’ this year.

The Carnival will also be keeping alive features of re-enactment which formed a distinctive part of Our Heritage during the period of the Caergwrle Historical Festivals. Paul Harston will be marching the Roman group Deva Victrix on to the field. At the time of writing the community awaits further news of Paul’s exciting Park in the Past Project with baited breath.

Photograph by Keith Bell

The Samhain Welsh Medieval Society will be there yet again. The society has written a play on Magna Carta for the 800th Anniversary of that event and performed it earlier in the year at Flintshire Record Office. The Society is hoping to be able to present it again this year along with the popular medieval puppet show.

Samhain member, Steve Davies, plays King John at a performance of a play about the Magna Carta at Flintshire Record Office

This year the established groups will be joined by Historia Normannis, a 12th century group which focuses on the period of events between the reign of Henry I and King John. This group was featured on TV’s “Weekend Warriors” and are very popular locally at Whittington Castle.

Members of Historia Normannis at Whittington Castle

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.


June 2015 They came, they saw and they conquered Fagl Lane Quarry

There was a tremendous sense of both relief and achievement on the face of Cellan Harston as he arrived at the site of Fagl Lane Quarry with 20 other Roman re-enactors who had undergone the sponsored 10-mile march from Chester to raise funds for The Parc in the Past Project. Roman re-enactors had travelled from London, Devon, Hadrian’s Wall and the Midlands to take part in the tremendous feat. The Parc in the Past Project is expected to include a re-constructed Roman fort and Iron Age village. As a glimmer of light appears at the end of what has been a long and challenging tunnel, this month’s article celebrates a fantastic achievement: the Romans came, saw and conquered what, at times, seemed to be an unobtainable objective.

Thanks should also go to those who walked with the soldiers, keeping them safe from the traffic and collecting donations along the way. Phil and Jan Bradshaw of the White Lion were good enough to host an exhibition on the Parc in the Past Project at very short notice. Members of the public were briefed on what the project hopes to achieve by directors Amanda Brewer and Robin Brown.

The project is the inspirational idea of Cellan’s father, Paul Harston, (photograph courtesy of Keith Bell), who was in turn inspired by his father Charlie. Paul has toiled long and hard to overcome numerous problems in order to bring the project to fruition. Lord Barry Jones gave his important support to the project and assisted in unlocking some of the doors that appeared to be jammed.

We can now expect to see the initial developments taking place between 19th and 26th July of this year. The Romans expect to put competing archaeological theories to the test in construction exercises which include the building of two ramparts, using difference types of technology. At its most basic level it appears that one rampart will be constructed on top of an internal timber post framework. Apparently archaeological evidence, in the form of excavated postholes, suggests that this may have been one of the techniques employed by the Romans. Another rampart will also be constructed without the internal timber post structure being erected. The competing theories will be put to the test as the Romans undertake a dramatic series of attacks on the two ramparts to see which fairs better as a result of a battering. Testing two contrasting theories is likely to make a good television programme.

The actual fort building, which will draw on the lessons of the previous season, is scheduled to take place in 2016. It is hoped that a Celtic Iron Age village will also be constructed so that the contrast between the two forms of settlement can be seen.

(Photograph by Keith Bell)

This, of course, is only one aspect of the Parc in the Past Project which also aims to make an innovative contribution to biodiversity by seeking to enhance the site in ways which will see the return of species which the site has lost. The quarry used to be the best site in Clwyd for nesting sand martins. It used to be a breeding ground for little ringed plover. It was pleasing to see these two species receive specific mention as target species in the exhibition which was on display in the White Lion Pub. More ambitious plans include the planting of black poplar trees. Where these exist elsewhere in parts of England they have sometimes been associated with the extremely rare and exotic golden oriole. As the list of what may be achieved goes on we see that we are really planning for the future and talking about developments that will really be of benefit to our grandchildren and their grandchildren.

Meanwhile it is understood that Flintshire Countryside Services are working on a plan to link the Offa’s Dyke National Trail to the start of the Wales Coastal Path and to have a link which goes through Caergwrle, where separate developments are likely to give rise to a raising of the heritage profile of the village. Friends of Hope Church have their own plans for a new trail of the Church and the National Trust is believed to be interested in the future of Plas Teg. In time it is possible that the Hope, Caergwrle and Abermorddu area will see and benefit in part of the renaissance of interest in tourism in Wales, which currently brings in £1.7 billion as a result of receiving 10 million visitors from other parts of Britain.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.