WREXHAM, a market-town and parish and head of a union, chiefly in the hundred of BROMFIELD, county of DENBIGH, but partly in the hundred of MAELOR, county of FLINT, NORTH WALES, 24 miles (S. E. by E.) from Denbigh, 16 (E. S. E.) from Ruthin, and 187 (N. W.) from London; including the chapelries of Bersham-Drelincourt and Miners, and the townships of Abenbury-Vawr, Abenbury Vechan, Acton, Bieston, Borras-Bovah, Broughton, Brymbo, Eselusham Above, Eselusham Below, Dour-ton, Stansty, Wrexham-Abbot, and Wrexham-Regis; and containing 13,134 inhabitants, of whom 6031 are in the townships of Wrexham Abbot and Regis, forming the town. This place, which is of very remote antiquity, is noticed in the Saxon Chronicle under the names of Wrightesham and Wrightelesham, from which its present appellation is most probably derived.
From its situation on the eastern side of Clawdd Offa, or Offa’s Dyke, it was enumerated among the towns of the Saxon kingdom of Mercia, but was, at a subsequent period, included in the district called Welsh Maelor. Edward I. granted this town, together with the lordship of Bromfield and Yale, within which it was comprised, to John, Earl Warren.; but scarcely any thing of historical importance appears ever to have distinguished it. In the reign of Henry VIII. it was noticed by Leland as a trading town, having some merchants and good’ buckler-makers.
During the civil war in the time of Charles L, the church was converted into a temporary prison; no remarkable event, however, took place here, except that in March, 1646, some of the parliamentarian soldiers mutinied for their pay, seized Colonel Jones, the treasurer, and others of the commissioners, and compelled Colonel Mytton, who had just entered the town, to make a hasty retreat to Holt Castle.
The TOWN is pleasantly and advantageously situated at the junction of the Shrewsbury, Welshpool, Oswestry, and Chester roads, at the distance of little more than eleven miles from the latter place, and in the centre of the mining and manufacturing districts of the eastern part of Denbighshire; it consists of several spacious streets intersecting each other at right angles, the houses in which are in general neatly and substantially built; it is well paved and lighted with gas, and the inhabitants are plentifully supplied with water. A small theatre is occasionally opened for dramatic performances; and races are annually held early in October, on a course a little to the northwest of the town, on the right of the road to Mold.
No particular branch of trade or manufacture is carried on in the town; but the parish, which is about twelve miles in length, and two and a half in breadth, abounds with mineral wealth, and extensive works of various kinds are conducted in different parts of it. In the township of Esclusham Below are some important paper-mills, situated on the banks of the river Clywedog. In that of Minera are lead-mines and collieries: the working of the former is almost suspended, owing to the great influx of water, notwithstanding the united power of several steam-engines, which are employed to draw it from the mines: the coal-works are upon a large scale, the Vale of Clwyd being principally supplied from this source; and there are other collieries at Esclusham above Dyke, at Broughton, and in the township of Brymbo, in which last place are also iron-works, established by the late John Wilkinson, Esq.
The coalmines generally vary from a hundred to a hundred and twenty yards in depth, and in some parts, they are sunk to the depth of two hundred yards; the strata of coal vary from eighteen inches to fifteen feet in thickness. The ironstone of the district is found in detached nodules, in beds intermediate with and below the coal strata, and is of the usual kind of argillaceous ore, containing from thirty to thirty-five per cent of metal, it is often smelted with a small portion of the richer ore from Ulverstone, which is brought hither for that purpose, and is thought to improve its quality, being much prized for its peculiar tenacity.
A foundry for cannon was established at Bersham by the late John and William Wilkinson, Esqrs., from which not only our own Government, but some of the continental states, particularly Russia, were formerly supplied; but these works are now in ruins, the only tenable part having been converted into a corn-mill. The iron-works in the parish have indeed been long in a neglected state, appearing to have been superseded by those in Rue on and Gresford adjoining; though, as the ores both of lead and iron are rich and abundant, the works may again be brought into active operation, whenever a sufficient improvement in trade demands it.
When the Ellesmere canal was projected, it was in contemplation to construct a branch from Pont-y-Cyssylltau to Chester, through Broughton, Brymbo, &c.; but the plan was abandoned, owing to the want of water sufficient for a high level, and other circumstances; and the only present mode of conveyance is by land carriage to Chester.
The rateable annual value of the whole parish, with the exception of the small township of Abenbury-Vechan, in the county of Flint, is £29,827, of which the return for Wrexham-Abbot amounts to £2970, and that for Wrexham-Regis to £7670.
Markets are held on Monday and Thursday, the latter being the principal; and fairs take place on the Thursday after the second Wednesday in January, March 23rd, Holy Thursday, June 16th, Thursday after the second Wednesday in August, September 19th, third Thursday in October, and Thursday after the second Wednesday in December.
The fair, the greatest in ‘North Wales, commences on the 23rd, and lasts fourteen days; and, for the accommodation of the various dealers attending it, five extensive areas are fitted up with shops and booths: one of these commercial halls confers twenty-eight votes for the county upon its proprietors, who are principally inhabitants of Huddersfield.
The fair is attended not only by those of the neighbouring district, but by tradesmen from distant parts of the kingdom; the chief commodities brought to it by the Welsh are, flannels of various qualities, linsey woolseys, coarse linens, horses, cattle, and sheep; the dealers from remote places expose for sale Irish linens, Yorkshire and other woollen cloths, and every variety of Birmingham, Sheffield, and Manchester manufactures, with which the greater part of North Wales was formerly supplied -hence for the remainder of the year. By the act of 1832, to ” Amend the Representation,” Wrexham was made contributory with Denbigh, Holt, and Ruthin, in the return of a parliamentary member; the borough to consist of the two townships of Wrexham Abbot and Regis, together with a very small detached portion of that of Esclusham Below, situated within the town. The elective franchise is vested in every person of full age occupying, either as owner or as tenant under the same landlord, a house or other premises of the annual value of ten pounds and upwards, provided he be capable of registering as the act directs; the number is three hundred and thirty. It has also been made one of the polling-places in the election of knights for the shire; and is under the jurisdiction of the county magistrates, who hold petty-sessions in it every month.
The town-hall is a large brick edifice, at the top of High-street; the ground floor, formerly open, but now enclosed between the pillars that support the upper story, consists of a spacious and lofty room, once a court of justice, but at present only used for public meetings, and as a depot for arms. A county house of correction, situated here, comprises seven wards for the classification of prisoners, who are allowed a portion of their earnings.
The LIVING is a vicarage, rated in the king’s books at £19. 9. 91.; net income, £746; patron, Bishop of St. Asaph; impropriator, Sir W. W. Wynne, Bart. The church, dedicated to St. Giles, is a spacious and venerable structure, in the later style of English architecture, deservedly regarded as one of the finest ecclesiastical edifices in the principality. The steeple of the original one was blown down in 1331; and in 1457 the entire church was burnt. In order to promote the rebuilding of it, an indulgence of forty days, to be continued for five years, was granted to every one who contributed to that work, and the present edifice was erected, about 1472, the glass used in the windows having been brought from Normandy; the tower, however, was not finished till about the year 1506, as appears by a date on the building.
No fewer than one thousand five hundred and fifty sittings have recently been added, of which nine hundred are free, the Incorporated Society for erecting and enlarging churches and chapels having given the sum of £200 towards that purpose. The exterior is embellished with grotesque sculpture; and the tower, which is very, lofty and highly enriched, consists of several successive stages, panelled throughout, and decorated with numerous statues of saints, among which is that of its patron, Giles, in canopied niches, elaborately wrought: from the loftiness of its elevation and the light open-work turrets by which it is crowned at the angles, it forms a conspicuous and highly interesting object, as seen from every part of the surrounding country.
The interior consists of a nave, chancel, and north and south aisles; the nave separated from the aisles by columns and pointed arches, and lighted by a fine range of clerestory windows; the roof of carved oak richly ornamented, and supported by springers resting on embellished corbels. The chancel is divided from the nave by a curiously wrought iron railing, and is octangular at the east end; the altar-piece is injudiciously embellished with rich columns of the Corinthian order, and in the centre is a painting of the Last Supper, presented by Elihu Yale, of Mils Gronow, who also gave a painting of David playing on the harp, which is in another part of the church; the roof of the chancel appears to be of more ancient date than those of the nave and aisles, and on one side are three stone stalls elaborately sculptured.
The fine brazen eagle, formerly used as a reading-desk, and purchased for the parish by John ab Grufyd439 d ab Davydd, of Ystiva, in 1524, is still preserved, and is occupied by the clerk during the performance of the communion service. Among the most ancient of the monuments is that of a knight in complete armour: at the feet is a dog, and beyond it a dragon, with the point of the tail terminating in a serpent’s head; on the shield is a lion rampant, and around it an inscription of which only the words ” “Hie jacet” are legible. In the chancel is an altar-tomb, on which is a recumbent effigy of Dr. Bellot, successively Bishop of Bangor and Chester, in his episcopal robes: he died at Bersham, in this parish, m 1596; his funeral was cele. brated at Chester, but his body, according to partic lar request, was interred here. Nearly opposite to this tomb is an exquisite and highly interesting monument, by Roubilliac, to the memory of Mrs. Mary Myddelton, of Chirk Castle, in which she is represented rising from the tomb in all the freshness of youth and beauty; above is a shattered pyramid, with a cypress tree, and near it an angel with a trumpet.
At the corner of the aisle is a monument, also by Roubilliac, to the Rev. Thomas Myddelton and Arabella his wife; their profiles are finely executed on medallions, with a curtain, partly drawn aside, the drapery of which is exquisitely sculptured. There are also several monuments of very good design and elaborate execution, to William Lloyd, Esq., and his son; to the Fitz-Hughs, the Pulestons, the Longuevilles, and others. In the churchyard is the tomb of Elihu Yale, governor of Madras, whose singular epitaph represents him as born in America, bred in Europe, to have travelled through Africa, and to have been married in Asia; and there are also other tombs deserving of notice, one of which, bearing a curious inscription, records the interment of Daniel Jones, parish-clerk of Wrexham, who died in 1668.
There are places of worship for Wesleyans, Baptists, Independents, Welsh Methodists, and Presbyterians, and a Roman Catholic chapel, within the parish. The Free grammar school was instituted in 1603, by Valentine Broughton, alderman of Chester, who endowed it with £10 per annum, afterwards increased by a rent-charge of £3 from Mrs. Gwen Eyton, and by £5 interest from a bequest of £100 of Ralph Weld; the income now amounts to £18 per annum; in addition to which the master has a good residence and school-room built by subscription, in Chester-street, about thirty-five years since, and worth £25 per annum: six boys are instructed free, and the master is allowed to teach pay scholars and receive boarders. A free school for boys and girls was founded and endowed in 1728, under the will of Lady Dorothy Jeffreys, who left £400 for the purpose, with which, and a sum of £120, previously bequeathed by her daughter Margaret for a similar object, and an accumulation of interest on both sums, an estate was purchased for £822. 7. in the parish of Holt, containing 691 acres, and now yielding a rent of £100.
The boys’ school is held in an indifferent room that was formerly a barn, the gift of Sir Watkin Williams Wynne, and is not well attended; but the girls’ school is carried on in a large and commodious apartment, built by subscription in 1817, with a house adjoining for the mistress, who has a salary of £40, and is under the control of a committee of ladies: both establishments are conducted on the National plan, and about eighty girls attend the latter, to the support of which the funds are chiefly devoted. In the parish is also a school for teaching, clothing, and maintaining twenty girls, founded, and endowed by Mary, widow of the Very Rev. Dr. Drelincourt, Dean of Armagh, and their daughter, Lady Primrose, in 1762, with the farms of Upper and Lower Berse, which, with two cottages and interest of money saved, now produce an income of £205. 14. per annum; for a more detailed account whereof see the article Bersham-Drelincourt. Besides the above, there are also ten day schools, one of which, containing 60 boys, is supported by an endowment of £35 per annum, bequeathed by Dr. Daniel Williams; and in the remaining nine about 280 children of both sexes are educated at the cost of their parents.
There are, too, five boarding schools, in which (with the exception of two paid for by voluntary contributions) about 185 children are taught at their parents’ expense; and an infants’ school, containing 125 children, is partly supported by subscription and partly by a weekly payment of 1 d. from each child. A Sunday school, maintained by subscription, consists of 100 males, who attend the Established Church; and there are four others, connected with dissenters, which afford gratuitous instruction to about 290 males and females. All the schools above mentioned, except that founded by the Drelincourt family, are in Wrexham-Regis and Wrexham-Abbot.
In the other townships of the parish are a day school of 36 girls, supported by Mrs. Fitz-Hugh, of Plas Power, who allows the mistress a salary of £12 per annum, together with coal and candles; another of 10 girls, maintained by endowment; and nine day schools, in which 210 children are educated at the expense of their parents; also 13 Sunday schools, affording gratuitous instruction to about 1400 males and females, and connected with dissenters; and another Sunday school, consisting of 200 males and females, conducted by a superintendent and 25 teachers, and with a lending-library attached.
There are considerable funds, arising from bequests and donations, for distribution among the poor of the parish; to whom have been left lands containing 12i acres, now producing £14 per annum, (partly, however, for the benefit of the poor of Holt) by Gerrard Barber, in 1660; a similar bequest by Elizabeth Jones, in 1663, yielding £3 per annum; a most liberal bequest in the same year by John Hughes, of Rhos Ddfi, of the lands of Eythen Ddfi, in the township of Bieston, comprising about 634/ acres, worth £124 a year; and a grant by Jane Eyton, of above 14i acres of land in the parish of Holt, paying a rent of £24, but £2 of which she directed to be paid to the poor of Ruabon. In addition, were various consolidated gifts, with which two purchases of land were made, that now yield a rental of £46 per annum; and the total amount of all these charities is £204. 6. 8., the distribution of which for the use of the poor and the purposes of the parish is regulated by the vestry, generally at Christmas. Connected with the Presbyterian communion is a grant by Elizabeth Roberts, sister and heiress of the above Dr. Williams, who, in 1752, advanced £175, with which six cottages and their appurtenances were bought in the town, now producing a rental of £37.14., divided among widows and others of that sect.
The same lady also created an annual rent-charge of £60, which is allotted to ministers of different congregations, except £2, given to the clerk of Chester-street chapel, Wrexham, and a like sum to its poor. In 1812 a magnificent bequest was made by Mr. Joshua Hughes, a native of this place and a merchant of Jamaica, who gave £2000, the interest to be annually divided among six of the poorest housekeepers; the principal is vested in the three per cent. consolidated Bank annuities, the yearly dividends amounting to £82. 8. 9.; and three persons are selected from the town, and three from the rural district, to enjoy the gift, which amounts to £13. 14. 9i. for each. And, lastly, in 1815, Ana Roberts left £100, the interest to be distributed on Christmas-day. among 20 widows of the parish, which is also entitled to receive £2 annually for the education of a child, from the Rev. George Smith’s charity at Northop.
The poor law union, of which this town is the head, was formed March 30th, 1837, and comprises the following 56 parishes and townships: namely, the townships of Bangor (parish of Bangor-Iscoed) and Abenbury-Vechan (parish of Wrexham), the chapelry of Tryddin (parish of Mold), the extra-parochial district of Threapwood, and the parishes of Hope, Erbistock, and Worthenbury, in the county of Flint; the townships of Eyton, Pickhill, Ryton, and Sesswick, in the parish of Bangor-Iscoed; of Allington, Borras-Rifrey, Burton, Erlas, Erddig, Gresford, Gwersylt, Hay, and Merford with Hoseley, in the parish of Gresford; of Cacca-Dutton, Dutton-Difieth, Dutton-y-Brfin, Holt, Ridley, and Sutton, in the parish of Holt; the chapelries of Bersham-Drelincourt and Minera, and the townships of AbenburyVawr, Acton, Bieston, Borras-Bovah, Broughton, Brymbo, Esclusham Above and Below, Gourton, Stansty, Wrexham-Abbot, and Wrexham-Regis, in the parish of Wrexham; and the parishes of Marchwiel and Ruabon; all in the shire of Denbigh: and the townships of Agden, Bradley, Chidlow, Chorlton, Cuddington, Malpas, Newton-juxta-Malpas, Oldcastle, Overton, Stockton, Wichaugh, and Wig-land, in the parish of Malpas; and of Shocklach Church and Shocklach-Oviatt, in the parish of Shocklach; all in the county of Chester.
The union is under the superintendence of 61 guardians, and contains a population of 39,542, of whom 36,721 are in the Welsh portion. Offa’s Dyke is traced in various parts of the parish, and is plainly visible in the township of Esclusham, which, in reference to it, is divided into Esclusham above and Esclusham below Dyke; it also intersects the township of Broughton, and, in every part of the parish in which it appears, is in a very perfect state, but particularly in the grounds of Pentre Bychan and Phis Power. Wat’s Dyke passes along the western boundary of the town of Wrexham, and, taking a northerly course, is continued through the township of Stansty to the river Alyn, near which it enters Llai (Llay), in the parish of Gresford.
The remains of two Roman baths were discovered in the town, in the year 1806. In the vicinity are numerous gentlemen’s seats, for which, even in the time of Churchyard, the poet, (celebrated as the author of the “Worthiness of Wales,” &c., and who died early in the 17th century), it was peculiarly distinguished. Among those in the more immediate neighbourhood are, Pentre Bychan; Plas Power; Cefn; Acton Park, once the seat of the family of Jeffreys, and the birthplace of the notorious judge of that name, a spacious mansion delightfully situated in extensive grounds, richly diversified with picturesque and romantic scenery, and commanding views over the town and the adjacent country, which abounds with features of beauty and interest; Erddig, the romantic hanging woods in the domain of which are deservedly the theme of general admiration: this mansion, approached from the Ruabon road, has been considerably enlarged and modernized by Wyatt; in the saloon and other apartments are many fine paintings; and the library contains a large number of Welsh manuscripts, including the valuable Seabright collection; Brymbo Hall, a fine specimen of domestic architecture, said to have been from a design by Inigo Jones, and embracing the most extensive prospect in the neighbourhood; and several others in the adjoining parishes, in the accounts of which they .are respectively noticed.
Here also are the remains of many old mansions, now occupied only as farmhouses; among which are, Cadwgan; Hafod-y-Wern, formerly the residence of the Pulestons; and Esclusham Hall, also a seat of that family.
Mr. Edward Randles, organist at Wrexham, towards the close of the last and early in the present century, although blind, was one of the most skillful performers on the harp in the kingdom; and his daughter, Elizabeth, was an unexampled prodigy of juvenile proficiency in music; having had the honour, when only three years and a half old, of performing on the piano-forte before the king and royal family.
Source: Various sources used; An Account of Wrexham 1833;