The country had enjoyed an economic boom during the years of the Napoleonic war, but slipped into an economic depression after the war finished in 1815. There was frequently a short working week in the mines and factories of North Wales. A Commission considering children’s poverty in the 1820’s found that work was only available for three and a half days each week. The mine owners did not pay wages with money, but forced their employees to take food from company owned shops at high prices – the Truck system. The Corn Laws prevented the import of cheaper corn from North America and Russia. The conditions of many industrial workers were very grim. In 1830 the mine and iron workers of Cefn, Acrefair, Rhos and Brymbo went on strike in protest of the Truck system. The Denbighshire Yeomanry were called out to enforce the peace. But conditions did not improve, and some of the strike leaders were imprisoned in Shrewsbury gaol. In 1831 there were further strikes and an estimated 4000 workers set out to liberate their leaders. They were intercepted at Chirk Bridge by the Shropshire Yeomanry. For more information – try inserting “battle of Chirk Bridge” into your web search engine.
After the Irish potato famine in 1845-46 the Corn Laws were repealed. This benefited industrial workers, but had the opposite effect in the countryside where a lot of small grain farmers could no longer make a living. By the 1880’s the land area growing corn had shrunk by about 30%, and 100,000 agricultural labourers had moved to towns or emigrated.
The arrival of the railways made a big impact on local land usage, allowing the rapid marketing of milk and dairy produce. The local economy moved from corn growing to dairy production.
The Oswestry to Whitchurch line was opened in 1864 and closed in 1965. Stations were at Oswestry, Tinkers Green Halt, Whittington High Level, Frankton, Ellesmere, Welshampton, Bettisfield, Fenn’s Bank and Whitchurch.
The Whitchurch to Tattenhall line was opened in 1872, closed to passengers in 1957 and closed to freight in 1963.
Stations were at: Whitchurch, Grindley Brook Halt, Malpas, Broxton, Tattenhall (and on to Waverton and Chester).
The Ellesmere to Wrexham Central line was opened in 1895 and closed in 1962. The modern Wrexham Central station is a terminus at the Island Green shopping centre. The original Wrexham Central station was a through station about 250 metres east of the present station. Stations were at Ellesmere, Elson Halt, Trench Halt, Overton-on-Dee, Cloy Halt, Bangor-on-Dee, Pickhill Halt, Sesswick Halt, Marchwiel, Hightown Halt and Wrexham Central. The name Overton “on-Dee” originated from the railway timetables, to distinguish it from another Overton’s. There was a Co-op milk collection depot at Overton-on-Dee in the 1920’s, and creameries at Marchwiel, Whitchurch and Ellesmere in the 1930’s. The Cadbury factory at Marchwiel had its own railway siding.