Cobden Mill Enamelled Matchbox

The illustration on this enamelled match box is of Cobden Mill on Watery Road adjacent to the railway line in Wrexham. The mill was built after the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 and is named after Richard Cobden, leader of the Anti-Corn Law League, an organization of vital importance then and only occasionally referenced by political commentators on television today.

During the various wars with France, between 1792 and 1815, it was impossible to import vital wheat supplies from Europe and the price of wheat almost quadrupled in Britain. Farmers rushed into producing wheat and the big estates raised land rents. With the end of hostilities, imports resumed, prices fell, the economy crashed, and the Government (attuned to the landed interest) passed the Corn Laws which imposed controls on all imported wheat, oats and barley so maintaining the price of grain here and ensuring the landlords got their rent. Over time the Corn Laws became incredibly unpopular: the price of bread was kept artificially high which threatened and did cause starvation. Industrialists also opposed the laws.

Richard Cobden and John Bright were the two leading lights of the Anti-Corn Law League. They campaigned against the laws and eventually Robert Peel, the Conservative PM, forced the repeal of the laws through Parliament, much to the anger of some of his backbenchers. Cobden and Bright visited Wrexham during their campaign and spoke to a large gathering in Yorkshire Square. Both men have streets named after them off Bradley Road; along with Robert Peel and Charles Villiers, a Liberal MP who repeatedly introduced private member’s bills to repeal the Corn Laws.

Cobden Mill received imported grain via the docks at Liverpool and Connah’s Quay. This imported grain helped to lower the price of bread. At one time, the mill was the largest commercial building in the town. It finally closed during the Great Depression. All that remains is an inscription stone in the boundary wall on Watery Road.

Source: Wrexham Museums.

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