History of the Society of Friends in Wrexham. (Quakers).
The Friends resident in Wrexham determined to have a meeting house of their own. On April 7, 1708, accordingly, John James, a dyer, and Hannah Newton, a flax dresser, both of Wrexham, and Richard Davies, gentleman, of Rhuddallt purchased for £32 15s., of Thomas Kynaston, gentleman, of Penley, two recently erected cottages, together with the gardens belonging to the same, situated in Lampint, the street which is now Holt Street.
The site of these premises is accurately shown in the plan which was made in 1823. The premises were described in the deed of purchase: ” All those messuages (1) and houses lately erected by him the said Thomas Kynaston, and all that parcel of land whereon the said messuages now stand, lately purchased [on Nov. 20, 1668] by the said Thomas Kynaston,” of Roger Williams, Catherine his wife, and Alice Jones, ” in a street there called y Lampint, Street y Lampint, the Lampint Street, situated between the lands late of Sir Robert Hanson, Knight, deceased, now in the tenure or possession of Sir John Wynn, Knight and Baronet, his under tenants or assigns, on the north and west parts, and the lands late in the tenure or possession of Sir John Conway, Baronet, on the east part, and the Queen’s highway there on the south part, containing in length along the said highway side eighteen yards or thereabouts, and containing in breadth from the said highway unto the Lands of the said Sir Robert Hanson on the north part five and twenty yards or thereabouts.”
It seems probable that part of the two cottages purchased was fitted up as a meeting house and the other part let out at rent, or used, at any rate, as a dwelling, and it is certain that a portion of the land was set apart as a burial ground. Towards the cost of fitting up the meetinghouse the Friends of the Frandley, Morley, and Nantwich monthly meetings largely contributed. Frandley forwarded £14 10s., Morley £9 16s., and Nantwich £4 3s., in all £28 9s. 4d.
The original licence obtained at this time for the house in Holt Street, as a place of worship was granted at the General Sessions for the county of Denbigh, held in July, 1708, at Wrexham, with the following on the bench : Sir John Wynn, knight and baronet, of Wynnstay ; Kenrick Eyton, Esq., of Lower Eyton; the Rev. Robert Wynne, S.T.P., Chancellor of St. Asaph; Ellis Lloyd, Esq., of Pen y Ian; Peter Ellice, Esq., of Croes Newydd; and Ellis Meredith, Esq., of Pentrebychan.
The licence was worded: “At the request of the people called Quakers, residing in and about Wrexham, the house of John James, dyer, is by the court allowed for a place of meeting for the said Quakers to worship God in their own way. John Evans, Cler. Pac.”
John James and Hannah Newton, two of the three Friends concerned in the purchase of the premises above.
John James was a dyer, whose dye house was in or near the Brookside, and who lived nearly all his life at the house in Town Hill, which Mr. E. E. Palmer, shoemaker, later occupied. He was a very staunch Quaker until his death. In 1733 he proposed to the Nantwich monthly meeting a place suitable for a meetinghouse at Denbigh and offered £5 towards fitting it up. The offer was accepted, and the place was completed for £10. He died about 1740 and left £5 to the Nantwich monthly meeting.
Hannah Newton was a flax dresser, whose shop in Town Hill was where that of Mr. J. E. Powell later occupied. She appears to have ultimately married Robert Owen, also a flax dresser, who had for a long time a shop in Town Hill on the site of the shop later occupied by Mr. C. E. Evans, draper. This Robert Owen was apparently, after Mr. John James, the chief support of Quakerism in the town. Neither of them ever paid church-rates. In the church-rate parochial assessment for 1724, there is written against the name of John James the words: “Says on his conscience he can’t pay,” and against the name of Robert Owen the words: “Will not pay,” Robert Owen died about 1727.
In 1723 so as to secure the meeting house and burial ground at Wrexham, and the burial ground at Holt, for the use of the Society of Friends forever, Robert Owen and Hannah, his wife, at the Great Sessions for the county of Denbigh, held at Wrexham, April 5th, 1723, levied a fine upon the said premises to Edward Davies, gentleman, of Rhuddallt; Thomas Andrews, yeoman, of Worthenbury; and Joseph Urian (2) yeoman, of Eyton, in the county of Denbigh; and four days later (April 9th) a formal deed of trust was entered into between the parties to the aforesaid fine.
Of this deed the following extract contains all the essential points: “That as for, touching or concerning the Building in the said parish of Wrexham that it shall and may be a place for the worship of Almighty God by such well-disposed people (commonly called Quakers) as shall think fit there to do for ever, and that the same shall not at any time thereafter be any otherwise employed by any person or persons whatsoever, likewise that the said parcels of land in the said several parishes of Wrexham and Holt aforesaid, are hereby intended forever to continue, remain, and be for a Burial place of all such person or persons as shall have a will or desire to be buried in the same, and the families of all such persons whomsoever as are or shall at any time hereafter be buried in the said parcels of land in the said parishes of Wrexham and Holt, shall, by the consent of the said Edward Davies, Thomas Andrews, and Joseph Urian, and their heirs, have free Ingress, Egress, and Regress into and upon the said premises for the making of graves and Burial places for the Burial of Bodies of such persons aforesaid.”
The burial register and minutes of the Wrexham Meeting cannot be found, so that of the history of that meeting it is impossible to present those details. However, from the minutes of the Nantwich Meeting that, in 1724, the Wrexham Friends subscribed £4 16s. towards the erection of the Nantwich Meeting House, and that in the early part of 1740, “the friends of Wrexham Meeting having been visited, a good account is given of the service thereof”.
Despite the favourable report, it seems the meeting long survived the death of John James, which appears to have taken place in that same year. When precisely it came to an end, cannot be confirmed. But in 1744 the meeting house (or that part of it which was used as a dwelling) was occupied by a tenant who, for the first time, paid church rates in respect of it. This rather looks as though the meeting was already extinct, and it is certain that after this date no indication can be found of there being more than two Quakers in the parish one of which two Mr. Benjamin Harvey, subsequently joined the Established Church and on July 10, 1753, at 23 years of age, was baptised at the Parish Church.
From about 1767 to about 1781 the meeting house was let, as already has been explained, to the Rev. Thomas Davies for a Presbyterian day school. Before the end of the century it appears to have fallen or been taken down, so that the property henceforth consisted of no more than a piece of land, the burial ground and the site of the old meetinghouse.
This piece of land was let in September, 1801, for £2 a-year, to Thomas Griffith, Esq., who lived at Holt Street House on the other side of the street and who owned also and used as a garden the land on the east side of the burial ground immediately opposite his house. The burial ground was separated from Mr. Griffith’s garden by a brick wall, and this wall in 1805 was taken down by Mr. Griffith, he covenanting with the trustees to rebuild it whenever required to do so, making it nine inches thick and five feet six inches high. And the said burial-ground or plot of land was declared at the same time to be 79 feet seven inches long (from north to south) and 47 feet nine inches broad (from east to west).
The burial ground formed a part of the garden or croft adjoining and is was let to the occupier of Holt Street House.
From Simpson’s Account of Llangollen, now long out of print, that an old house called ” Plas Eva ” or ” Plas Evan,” near the Sun Inn, Trevor, close to the road leading from Llangollen to Ruabon had formerly attached to it a field, containing some gravestones, which was called ” Mynwent y Quacer” or “Quaker’s Graveyard.” ” In cutting the canal, the earth from the excavation was thrown upon the old graves and the inscribed stones that lay upon the surface.” It is very probable, therefore, that it was at Plas Evan that John ap John lived, and this the more, as there appears to be a distinct tradition at Trevor that Friends’ meetings were at one time held at Plas Evan.
- Messuages – dwelling house with outbuildings and land assigned to its use.
- There was a Ruth Urian, a Quakeress, who lived in Wrexham. She was a flax dresser, and in 1704 succeeded Hannah Newton, in the shop in Town Hill, which the latter had till then occupied. In 1717 she is described in the rate books as having ” gone.”
- The only notice as to actual burials in the Meeting Yard at Wrexham that has been found occurs in a memorandum by Mr. Francis Smith. This memorandum records that on 12th day, 1st month, 1728, ” Benjamin Bangs gave 39s. for two burials at Wrexham.” Benjamin Bangs was a rather noted minister belonging to the Cheshire meeting who devoted much of his time to visiting the meetings in North Wales. He died in 1741.
Source: AN Palmer – A History of the Older Nonconformity of Wrexham; Google Images.