HENRY DYKE DENNIS 1863 – 1944

by Annette Edwards

Henry Dyke Dennis was born 10 November 1863 at Hafod Y Bwch, he was the son of Henry Dennis and Susan Hicks Stephens, both his parents were from Cornwall. Many mining captains and engineers had made the move to North Wales because of their experience in working the Cornish tin mines. The family moved to Ruabon where a new home was built, it was called “New Hall Mansion” At the age of 17 Henry Dyke was still a scholar, but later became a mining engineer as his father had done.

On 1 June 1892 Henry Dyke married Mabel Jagger at Llangollen Church, she came from a wealthy family as her father was Samuel Thornton Jagger Esq of Dinbren Hall, Llangollen.

It was a grand celebration, starting the night before with a ball at Dinbren, there were many well-known people from Wrexham and Llangollen on the guest list. The nuptials took place the following day, Llangollen was decorated with flags and many cannons were shot.  The list of presents showed they had enough silver cutlery to last a life time, but Mr Rowland’s the grocer gave them a case of chocolate.

There were representatives from Hafod Colliery, Westminster Colliery, Wrexham Colliery, Minera Mines, Westminster Quarries, Cefn Quarries, Hafod Brickworks, Pant Brickworks, and many more works in the area. This shows just how much industry the family was involved in at that time.

Henry Dyke and Mabel started married life at Hafod House where they had 4 children.

In 1908 the Westminster and United Collieries Group began to sink the pit at Gresford, Henry Dyke was the pit owner. It was completed by 1911 and was one of the deepest in the Denbighshire coalfield.

Henry Dyke Dennis will forever be linked with the Gresford disaster which happened on 22 September 1934 when an explosion killed 266 men and boys, only 11 bodies (eight miners and the three rescue men) were recovered, the rest still lie where they died. There were very few mining families in the locality that were not affected by the tragedy, by the end of September 1934, 1,100 Gresford miners were unable to work and a relief fund was set up.  At the inquiry it was found that safety issues had been a concern, the colliery had made losses in 1933, and the pit manager, William Bonsall, had been under pressure from the Dennis family to increase profitability even though he was not a trained mining engineer.

At Gresford the role of mine agent, which would normally be held by a technically experienced person with authority to stand up to both manager and owners, had not been filled for some time since the previous agent’s retirement. The owners (Dennis) refused permission to re-enter the section and no examination or inspection of the deeper parts of the shaft was ever undertaken.

This decision was thought of as a deliberate attempt by the mine owners to cover up any evidence against them and to the cause of the explosion.

The only conviction against the management at Gresford Colliery was for inadequate record-keeping, for which William Bonsall was fined £150 plus costs.

Henry Dyke Dennis took control of the Hafod brickworks became a private limited company in 1934 – Dennis Ruabon Limited – and continued to produce materials including tiles, chimney pots and ornamental terracotta.

Henry Dyke and Mabel were still in New Hall in 1939 and he died there on 26 June 1944. Mabel stayed at the New Hall and died there in August 1947.


MABEL JAGGER 1867 – 1947

Mabel was born at Rock Ferry Cheshire on 7 September 1867; she was the daughter of Samuel Thornton Jagger a bookkeeper and Sarah Knowles. Her father was from Liverpool and her mother from Claughton, Cheshire.

By the time Sarah was 3 the family had moved to Woodlands, in Trevor, but before then the family had lived in Tranmere. Mabel isn`t at home in any of the census records after 1871, so it`s not known where she was until her marriage in 1892, she`s not likely to be a servant anywhere!

When Samuel Thornton Jagger was in Trevor he had no occupation but was “living on dividends” when he died in 1903 his effects were over £115000.


Source: Researched by Annette Edwards. July 2018. Photographs by Graham Lloyd.

Grave no: J-02349 & 02350 & 02351