The Tale of Reynold’s Grave

by Annette Edwards.

There is a small triangle of land at a road junction in the Sontley area just outside Wrexham, it`s been known as Reynold`s Grave for years . The legend surrounding it is that a notorious highway man was caught and hanged there for his crimes, and there is a lane close known by the “Lon Bwgan Ddu” which loosely translates as Black Bogeyman’s Lane.

There may have been some grain of truth in the story, but I then found a letter which had been printed  in the Wrexham Advertiser on 11th June 1870 asking about Reynolds Grave.

 There seems to have been no reply to the letter, and we have no idea who “Curious Stranger” was.

It does seem rather odd though to refer to a “robber” as an unfortunate man.

In the book “History of the Parish of Marchwiel” by Cynthia Rees there is an article about a story Philp Yorke told the Wrexham Advertiser in 1956.

It reads, My father told me that he knew a road mender who had walked in the funeral procession of Reynolds, who had hanged himself in the wood somewhere up by the by Caeser Bank, near where the “General Post office “now is (a jocular term for the Victorian letter box, now no longer in use) I rather wonder whether the name may have had something to do with John Caeser who was the trusted henchman of my great–great grandfather Philip Yorke. The road mender said they carried Reynolds down the lane and buried him at the crossroads which is not a crossroads and drove a stake through his heart to prevent his ghost from walking. The object of the crossroads I take it was – that should the stake fail to penetrate the heart it was still a three to one chance against the ghost walking in your direction. But in the case of Reynolds, it seems that the ghost would have no doubt which way to walk back but to Caesar Bank, the scene of his suicide.  Imagine the inconvenience of this for the good rector of Marchwiel as he returned after evensong past that point to his distant rectory.

It is however  it is a well known fact that no ghost will pass a point in the road where a cross is clearly marked, so a cross was carved on the wall, and when we were children we used to get out of the pony cart and look for it, though I cannot remember now exactly where it was or what it looked like..  What happened was that when the cricket field came into use at Marchwiel Hall, a part of the wall was reconstructed and the stone with the cross seemed to have been turned round and has now disappeared inside the wall. My father was born in 1849 and supposing the road mender to be over 70 when they met, it would date of Reynolds suicide at about 1790. And I rather hope one day to see a figure clad  in the garb of the  late 18th century seated on the fine new concrete bench which the thoughtful council had erected there. And if then he can point me to the exact spot where the body lies, and if any remains are to be found, I dare say that be no a good case could be made for having Reynolds re-interred in Marchwiel churchyard.

Now it seems the legend of Reynold may have finally been revealed thanks to the historical books that are available on line and it seems that Philip Yorke wasn’t that far out in his estimation of the  time that it took place.

The Oxford Magazine September 12th, 1771. 

Chester, September 3.

One William Reynolds, a hatter, about two months ago attempted to destroy himself by cutting his throat, but having not done it effectually, and the wound being immediately sewed up, with the application of other remedies, he in a very short time perfectly recovered : In the mean time, a divine, very eminent for his exalted talents, piety, and learning, as well as for his unwearied diligence in warning obstinate sinners to flee from the wrath to come, waited on this miserable object, gave him the most salutary advice, and prayed the Father of all Mercies to forgive him this enormous crime; but it seems they were pearls cast before swine, for on the 23d ult he effectually hanged himself, by a cord tied to the top of a bedstead. The Coroner’s Inquest brought in their Verdict, Self Murder; his body was therefore put in a coffin, and conveyed in a cart to Marchwiel Parish, in order to be buried in a cross road, (he being a pauper of that parish, although a resident of Wrexham) but the inhabitants being alarmed, and unwilling that such a monster of iniquity should be deposited near their habitations, prevented him being buried that night.

All the next day (being Sunday) he lay in the cart, near the churchyard, with the coffin lid open; Monday about twelve o’clock he was buried in an obscure cross land in the said parish, near a place called Street-yr-Hwch – His predominant vice was drunkenness; he walked by crutches for several years, and was about 70 years of age.                                

The Red Lion is a 17th century village pub opposite the church in Marchwiel and this is most likely where the inquest would have taken place.

So poor William was left in that unmarked spot, but his name is remembered nearly 250 years later. There are no Reynolds at all in Marchwiel parish registers and it`s curious why he would be a pauper there if resident in Wrexham.

At that time the curate of Marchwiel is believed to be John Edwards, and in the registers I found very few entries for that year. It was before the Church was restored in 1778.

Returning to Philip Yorke`s statement about giving poor Reynolds a decent burial, if Richard the Third can be dug up from a car park, surely he could be found !!!!!!!!

Source: Compiled by Annette Edwards. Photo by Geoff Evans.