The Ney, Wrexham

by Annette Edwards.

Opposite the Wynnstay Arms is a new (ish) apartment development named Ney Court, it replaced the buildings that were taken down when one side of Yorke Street was demolished back in the 70s. The apartments were erected at the back of the building that remained.

The name Ney comes from a much older place that was situated between the Churchyard and Yorke Street and eventually was not more than an alleyway that ran from High Street to Temple Row. This was much earlier than the Overton Arcade a little further up High Street.

It`s designated as a Conservation area as being a part of Medieval  Wrexham: St  Giles’ Parish Church  and  Precinct.  The  precinct,  and  the  narrow  enclosed  streets  and  alleyways  to  the  north,  east  and  west,  Temple  Row,  The  Ney,  Overton  Arcade,  Church  Street  and  College  Street  which  link  into High Street, Town Hill and Abbot Street, retain a medieval character.  

The Ney is still there between the Eastern Sheraton Restaurant and the “Crafty Dragon” which was formerly the Provincial Welsh Insurance Company. Back in the 70s it would have been the entry to the Vogue Cinema, Fagin’s etc which were very popular at that time.

This is the story of the Ney and some of its people in the 19th century.

In Palmers History of Wrexham he calls it the Nef, an open passage from High St to the Churchyard, 3 dwellings,

On 26 July 1839 there was a marriage settlement in which it is called both Nef and Ney. The documents are held in Denbighshire Archives. The marriage took place at St Giles Church. It`s possible the Marriage Settlement was a “wedding present” whereby the legal owners /trustees retain ownership and the beneficial owners ie bride & groom, get the rents from the properties

(i) William Puleston of Wrexham, co. Denbigh, draper (son of Richard Puleston farmer)

(ii) Theophila Williamson of Wrexham, spinster, eldest daughter of Francis Williamson, late of Wrexham, brazier by Theophila his late wife formerly Theophila Ellis one of the granddaughters of Robert Samuel of Wrexham, gent.

Included in the properties were –  Five cottages in alley way off High Street known as the ‘Nef’ otherwise ‘Ney’ leading to the churchyard with messuage and shop.

William and Theophila were living in Mold by 1841.

In 1841 there were only 3 households in the Ney.

 (1) James Carman a tailor, his wife Elizabeth, and also with them was Thomas Bailey who was possibly her brother. James was baptised in Queen Street Chapel, Chester in 1809, his parents were John, also a tailor and Mary of Foregate Street. In 1838 at St Giles, James had married Elizabeth Bailey from Wrexham; her father was Thomas Bailey who was a Chaise Driver.  

By 1851 they were all still in the Ney, Thomas had also become a tailor. On 26 May 1855 the death of Elizabeth was announced in the news.

On the 17th instant, at Mount Street, Wrexham aged 39 Elizabeth, wife of James Carman, clothier. Town Hill Wrexham.

By 1861 James had fell on hard times and was in the workhouse. Thankfully he came out and was lodging not far from his old home; he was with Samuel Stretch, a hairdresser and his wife Emma who were living at the end of Church Street. Sadly he returned to the workhouse where he died, his death didn’t go unnoticed and was announced in the news.

5th February 1881

CARMAN-Jan. 23rd, at Wrexham Union Workhouse, aged 71 James Carman, tailor.

Thomas Bailey moved up to Adwy Clawdd where he lodged with John Davies and his family, who lived in Rhos Berse Road,  he never married and sadly by 1891 he was in the Workhouse,  he died there at the age of 67 and was buried in a paupers grave at Wrexham Cemetery on 24 December 1896. 

2)  Jane Williams aged 56 “Sells Cakes”  Jane was still in the Ney in 1851 now a bread hawker, she was born in Denbigh about 1786 and was a widow living alone.  Jane is not found after this and has most likely died.

3) Elizabeth Jones 75 Confectioner, Phoebe Jones 30, Mary Nicholls 13 . These have not been traced.

The buildings on High Street were much altered in the first half of the 19th century but the Ney was still a shortcut for many years later. High Street and the Ney were mentioned many times over the years, often in respect of it`s bad condition and the court cases held in Wrexham.

 In  July 1855 parts of the town were in a bad condition and the Ney was one of them.

“COMING EVENTS.” THE cholera has already made its appearance in London—are the inhabitants of Wrexham fully prepared for its visit, should it by chance pass this way? We are afraid they are not, and as that Sir  B Hall`s Bill has been withdrawn from the House of Commons, it is very uncertain when they will be ready. Still something should be done, we should say, to abate the nuisances which lie around us on all sides. Heaps of green bones under the very sleeping rooms of the townspeople, evidently will not be permitted any longer to poison the air.  We are very assiduous in watering our streets- why not employ the Fire engines of the” Provincial” at the top of Bank-street, in the Ney, and the purlieus of Pentrefelin, to flood off the filth of every description which is now permitted to remain there in all its glory ? Supposing this to be accomplished, what objection could there be in any reasonable person against Baths and Washhouses, so that the poor might have a chance of making themselves nearly as clean as the streets? We repeat again, the Cholera is amongst us shall we prepare our ourselves for the coming event, or not ?—” that is the question.”

By 1859 there were plans for a new building on High Street and some of the older buildings were being demolished, these were in the Ney itself and  also on High Street.

12th November 1859

THE NEY It may be some object to the public to be made aware that the passage from High-street to Temple Place, called theNey, is closed during the taking down of the old buildings, for the propose of clearing the ground for the erection of the new offices of the Provincial Insurance Company.

WREXHAM IMPROVEMENTS. We have repeatedly of late had occasion to refer to the numerous improvements that were going on around us in all directions, and the rapid manner the town is increasing both in extent and population. The last summer has been particularly prolific in new buildings, some of them of a very ornamental and imposing character. We believe none of these recent improvements will equal what is now taking place in High-street, where, we perceive, operations have been commenced for the erection of the new offices of the Provincial Welsh

Insurance Company. The wretched hovels in the Ney, that have been so long such an eyesore and a nuisance in that thoroughfare, and the two old houses in High-street, occupying the space between Mr. Overton`s  and Mr. Broughton’s, are now being taken down, to be replaced by a handsome pile of building that will surpass anything yet erected in our leading thoroughfare.

12th July 1862

WREXHAM. NORTH AND SOUTH WALES BANK.—We are glad to hear that the Provincial Insurance Company have succeeded in setting a portion of their beautiful new premises for a purpose that will be quite in unison with the general design and ornate character of the building, and for which it is in every respect most admirably adapted. The Directors of the North and South Wales Bank have taken a lease of the ground floor, fronting High-street, more commodious premises having become quite a necessity, owing to the extensive increase of the business of the Bank . The frontage of the ground floor of these premises having been leased to the North and South Wales Bank  the warehouses and cellaring will be let separately. The former, as many of our readers in this locality are aware, extend nearly the whole length of the passage from High-street to Temple-street, called the Ney.” They are fireproof–light-well ventilated—cool in summer, and, if required, can be warmed by means of hot water pipes in winter. The cellars are also very good, but these, we apprehend, will be let in conjunction with the warehouses,

The new Insurance Offices were erected and the Ney became part of the building but it soon became a problem. In June 1864 there were complaints that it was dirty and the Surveyor was asked  to request the Provincial Insurance Company to keep it cleaner.

At a meeting in  November 1866 it was brought up again by the Sanitary and Building Committee where several nuisances were discussed. The pit in the Hirdir was still said to be in a foul state, and the receptacle for all the dead cats in the neighbourhood. Mr Rowland called attention to the number of nuisances committed in the Ney, and recommended that it should be cleansed by the borough men.

In  February 1868 there was a meeting of the Local Board to  The Ney. The Town Clerk said the  Provincial Insurance Company had declined to give their assent to the corporation to sweep the Ney. They undertook to do it themselves.

By November 1875 it was decided a lamp was needed.

THE NEY  Alderman Jones called attention to the early closing of the Ney, which, although a public thoroughfare to his knowledge for the last 40 years, had been closed as early as six o’clock in the evening. As the guardians of the public ‘rights, the Council ought not to tolerate such a proceeding. As it was a very dark place, and one where many nuisances were committed, he suggested that it be left to the General Purposes Committee to place a lamp there. Agreed to

Another discussion was held in January 1876 about the use of the Ney.

THE NEY. The Provincial Insurance Co. wrote, through their solicitors, to propose that the town have the use of the Ney, as a thoroughfare, on payment of a nominal sum to secure to them their right of possession, the Council to keep it in repair. Mr Smith said he had equal rights with the Provincial Insurance Company. A long discussion followed, in which several members asserted that the Ney had been a public thoroughfare for over 20 years, and it was at first thought that steps should be taken to compel the Insurance Company to remove the gates, but upon the information of Mr T. Roberts, who had lived over the passage until 1851 and had always caused the passage to be closed at night, it was agreed to allow the dispute to remain in statu quo.

By  December 1884 the passageway  was in need of repair.

NOTES AND QUERIES. TOWN AND COUNTRY. I hear many complaints of a matter which, although trifling, is the occasion of much annoyance. We have had lately plenty of rain, and as far as the Water Companies are concerned that is a boon to be thankful for. Those who traverse the Ney passage pretty frequently have during the last week, or whenever there is rain, found something to complain of. There are in the passage three or four loose tiles, and when these are pressed by an incautious foot a flood of water splashes over the unlucky pedestrian’s garments. To put matters right would not entail a heavy expenditure, and, as the place is largely used, the necessary improvements should be made without delay.

In  December 1895 a town resident sent a letter to the newspapers.

THINGS TO BE ATTENDED TO. Sir .-There are a few things I should like to call attention to through your paper. The first refers to the recent widening of Rbosddu-road, between Egerton-street and Argyle-street. The lamp, which was over the back entrance to Dr. Richard Williams’s house, has been taken away, and up to the present has not been replaced. The other growl is that the Ney, running between the Conservative Club and the North and South Wales Bank; and which leads from High-street to Temple-row, is in a wretched state. A number of the tiles are loose, and in wet weather when you place your foot on one of these a quantity of dirty water is suddenly squirted over you. I feel sure that these matters have only to see the daylight to be remedied.

It was brought up again in March 1900

WREXHAM INTERESTS. At the meeting of the Wrexham Town Council, a large number of important matters came up for consideration. We are glad to note that, thanks to the assistance of Mr Bevan, the Ney passage will be repaired, and, we presume, cleansed.

Over the years the Ney was the scene of many crimes and misdemeanours that were brought to court.

7 January 1857

A SMASHER. Samuel Rowland, a considerable portion of whose life is spent in perigrinations from Wrexham to Ruthin, and from Pentrefelin to Bridewell or the Union House, was in custody charged with breaking the window of Mr Thomas Roberts, grocer, High-street. From the evidence given by Mr. Roberts, it appears that the prisoner entered his shop on Wednesday, and demanded a new year’s gift. The assistant desired him to leave, which he obstinately refused to do and made use of very bad language. He was put out several times, but persisted in coming in again. They ultimately took him out and started him down the Ney, when he returned and put his fist through the window.

21st November 1857

A BRICK OF A WOMAN.—Thomas Wynne, of Tuttle. street, Wrexham, summoned Jane Jones for assaulting him in High Street  the 6th instant. He was, he said, quietly going down High Street with a basket of apples, when the defendant  followed him, and when he got by the Ney entry, she threw a brick at him, which cut his  forehead and rendered him senseless.

3rd July 1858

STEALING DRESSES.—Elizabeth Johnson was in custody charged with stealing 27 yards of cotton print from the shop of Mr. Robert Jones, draper, High-street, Wrexham. Elias Powell, stated that he was in the shop on Saturday afternoon, when he saw the piece of print produced disappear from the door, and thinking it had fallen down he went to pick it up. When he went outside the shop he saw the prisoner with it under her arm by the Ney. He described her to the police, who afterwards apprehended her.

1st August 1868

A CHASE AFTER A THIEF.—On Friday morning a man presented a silver watch for sale at the shop of Mr Heywood, High-street. Mr Heywood’s son, suspecting all was not right, managed to communicate with the police, and Sergeant Nadin was quickly on the spot. At the end of the Ney there stood another man of a suspicious appearance, whom the one in the shop on being asked about him, acknowledged to be his brother. On perceiving Sergeant Nadin appear on the scene the one at the end of the Ney took to his heels, and the sergeant ran after him. He was eventually caught and locked up.

15th May 1869

THE BUTCHERS AND THE BYE-LAWS William Hayes was summoned by the borough surveyor for slaughtering animals on his premises without the same being licensed. Mr Turner said that on Friday, the 7th inst., he gave his foreman instructions to watch the defendant’s premises. John Roberts was then called. He said: I am in the employ of the Local Board. Mr Turner gave me instructions to watch Hayes’s premises on Friday. I saw a calf taken there alive, and on Saturday morning I watched again, and saw him take a pig and two calves up the churchyard and through the Ney to the Market Hall. I heard a pig squealing as if it were being killed about ten o’clock on Friday.

10th September 1870

AGNES BURKE This unfortunate” was in custody on a charge of riotous conduct. At noon on the previous day she was near the Wynnstay Arms Hotel engaged in shutting her fist at and threatening another woman, who apparently had no desire for a contest. But she was not to get off so lightly as she wished, for the amiable Agnes took hold of her, abased her to some purpose, and concluded the matter by trying the thickness of her opponent’s head against the wall of the Insurance Office-making a decided impression upon her cranium. On the approach of Sergeant Nadin she expressed her contempt for the officer in anything but delicate terms, but before he came up to her she skedaddled down the Ney. She was, however, caught by Nadin, and had to be dragged out into the street, and a handcart had to be brought for the purpose of conveying her to the bridewell, before she would consent to walk.

21st January 1871

A DARING ROBBERY FROM MESSRS. BAUGH AND JONES’S OFFICES.—A most artful robbery was com- mitted at the offices of Messrs Baugh and Jones on Friday last.  Mr Jones and the office-boy left the premises about one o’clock, Mr Baugh being then in charge; but as he required a particular description of paper, and had no one to send for it, he too left the office at a quarter to two, and ran down the Ney to Mr Potter’s shop. He was away about fifteen minutes, and on his return he found evidences of the office having been entered by someone unconnected with it.

Late 1970s Yorke Street (Hayley Angel Paice-Wright)

11th March 1876

BOROUGH MAGISTRATES’ COURTS.  A NICE MOTHER. Eliza Bevan  a married woman, and mother of four children was charged by Inspector  Wilde with being guilty of prostitution in the Ney passage at one o’clock on Sunday morning.

14th April 1877

STEALING A SHEEP’S HEAD. John Mack was brought up on remand charged with stealing a sheep’s head from the stall of Mr Whitehou«e, butcher, Butcher’s Market. Mr Wright, Market Hall keeper, said he was going from the Pedlar’s Market into the Butcher’s Market when he saw the prisoner leave Mr Whitebouse’s stall with something under his coat. He ran off down The Ney into Temple Row and down the steps into Mount-street, and as he turned into the yard of the Victoria Vaults witness came up with him, and the something under the latter’s coat turned out on examination to be a sheep’s head (Laughter).

2nd June 1877

NUISANCE IN THE NEY .  Wm Simister  was charged by Mr Higgins with having  committed a nuisance in the Ney.  The complainant stating that the Practice of committing nuisances in this particular  passage was  of constant complaint.

1st April 1882

UNPROVOKED  ASSAULT ON A  TRADESMAN. Isaac Evans was charged with assaulting Mr Edward Smith, High-street, on the previous evening, and also with committing wilful damage to the complainant’s premises.—Complainant said about a quarter to eight o’clock on Thursday evening, having previously  heard a good deal of knocking in the Ney passage adjoining his shop, he sent one of his young men to open the door, when the prisoner commenced to be abusive to him. The assistant told complainant there was a powerful-looking man at the door, and on his going out to see what he wanted, the prisoner said he wanted to see Mary Ellen. The prisoner, who was in drink, then said, if you don’t let me see her, I’ll smash the b–y door open and suiting the action to the word, he did smash two of the door panels completely in, splitting them from top to bottom. Complainant then took hold of him and pushed him along the Ney, subsequently sending for a police officer. When they got into High-street, an officer was coming up at the time and he prisoner was given into custody.

Late 1970s Yorke Street (Hayley Angel Paice-Wright)

Sources: Researched by Annette Edwards, with help from Jill Rose. Yorke Street photographs supplied by Hayley Angel Paice-Wright November 2020.

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