Flint - From 'A Topographical Dictionary of Wales' (1849)
FLINT, a borough, sea-port, and parish, in the poor-law union of Holywell, hundred of Coleshill, county of Flint (of which it is the ancient capital), North Wales, 6 miles (N.) from Mold, 5 (E. S. E.) from Holywell, 13 (W. N. W.) from Chester, and 191 (N. W.) from London; containing 2860 inhabitants, of whom 1961 are in the town. The name of this place is supposed to be a corruption of the word Fluent, an abbreviation of the Latin Fluentum. In the old charters and documents connected with the town, its castle is sometimes designated as nostrum castellum supra fluent, "our castle above the tide or flood;" three of the four sides of the castle being washed by the sea at high spring tides. The origin of the town, though undoubtedly remote, is involved in the greatest obscurity. Although it cannot be identified with any Roman station mentioned in the Itineraries, it was nevertheless either of Roman or Roman-British origin, as is proved by the circumstance of its even now occupying a rectangular intrenched area, like that of a Roman place of defence, and by the discovery, at various times, both here and in the neighbourhood, of a vast quantity of Roman coins, fibulæ, &c.; while at the same time it is still traditionally related that a very large town existed here at an early period. The above remains were chiefly found in "old washes," as miners term the spots where they separate ore from ancient scoria; from which circumstance, it has been supposed that the process of smelting lead-ore was carried on at this place by the Roman conquerors of Britain, who probably constituted it a port for the exportation of the metal, and fixed here a small garrison to protect the works and enforce the payment of the duties. It is conjectured by Mr. Pennant that Flint is identical with the place noticed in the Norman survey as "tenementum de Coleselt," comprising one hide of taxable land, and forming part of the possessions of Robert de Rhuddlan, of whom it was held by one Edwin, a free man; and also with the place included, under the designation of "Capella de Colsul," among the benefactions enumerated in the charter of Davydd ab Llewelyn to the abbey of Basingwerk.
Flint and its immediate vicinity have at different periods been the scenes of important and interesting historical events. In the division of his dominions made by Roderic the Great, sovereign of all Wales, among his three sons, it was ordained, that if any quarrel should arise between the Princes of North Wales and Powys, a meeting of the parties was to be held at Morva Rhianedd, on the banks of the Dee, near the site of the present town of Flint, in which the Prince of South Wales was to determine the controversy. Ranulph, Earl of Chester, invading North Wales in the year 1150, was met at Counsyllt, Cynsyllt, or Coleshill, to the west of this town, by Owain Gwynedd, Prince of North Wales, who totally defeated his forces with great slaughter, few escaping death except the prisoners and the leaders of the invading army, the latter of whom saved themselves by the swiftness of their horses. Near the battle field are the remains of an ancient mound or fort of earth, situated on the brow of the eminence above the town, and overgrown with brushwood. On the invasion of North Wales by Henry II., in 1157, after a party of his troops had been defeated at Coed-Eulo, near Hawarden, this monarch advanced at the head of his army along the shores of the Dee to the town of Flint, a little beyond which, at the place where the Earl of Chester had been defeated by Owain Gwynedd, he received a severe check from this prince's forces. Giraldus Cambrensis, in his Itinerary of the journey made through Wales by Archbishop Baldwin and himself, in 1188, for the purpose of preaching the crusades, mentions the fact of their resting one night at "Coleshulle, or the hill of coal," undoubtedly the same place as that identified by the respectable antiquary above-named with the present town of Flint.
Much doubt prevails as to the period of the first erection of the castle, which, from the thirteenth century until the termination of the civil war of the seventeenth, holds a distinguished place in the Welsh annals. Camden, who is followed by Lord Lyttelton, asserts that it was begun by Henry II., and completed by Edward I. Leland, however, adduces the authority of an ancient writer for attributing even its foundation to the latter monarch, who, being encamped on Saltney Marsh, near Chester, preparing for an invasion of North Wales, certainly either originally erected this fortress, or rebuilt it on a new site, to secure, together with Rhuddlan Castle, the country which he had already subdued, and to afford his army a safe retreat, in case he should meet with any disaster. Henry, after his partial defeat at Counsyllt, might have constructed some slight fortification here, for the protection of his discomfited forces, yet the certainty of Edward's being the founder of the present castle is proved by a petition of the inhabitants of Flint, in the year 1281, stating, amongst other grievances, that the king had built the castle upon their soil, by which means numbers of persons were injured, and that, although the justiciary had received a royal mandate to grant them a specified remuneration of land, equal in quantity and quality, they had been despoiled of their property, and had received in lieu neither land nor money. Previously to this, in 1277, the men of Flint had obtained an order for the proclamation of a market at the town; and in 1280 an order had been issued for the custody of the gate of the castle, at which time probably the place was first garrisoned. In 1282 the fortress was besieged and taken by the forces of Llewelyn ab Grufydd, Prince of North Wales, and his brother Davydd; being then, besides Rhuddlan, the only fortress in North Wales in the possession of the English. Edward afterwards resided for some time in the castle, and made the town a free borough; empowering the inhabitants, by his charter, dated from the castle on the 8th of September, 1284, to cut down timber in the woods of Northop, Leadbrook, Keldreston, Wolfynton, Weppre, and Sutton, for the smelting of their lead-ore; and also granting them a right of pasture in these woods. The same monarch, in 1290, issued an order for superintending the works of the castles of Flint, Rhuddlan, and Chester, which places were of the first importance, as commanding a free entrance into his newly-conquered dominion of North Wales.
Edward II. resided for some time in this castle, in which he received with exulting pleasure his banished favourite, Piers Gaveston, who had landed from Ireland at Carnarvon. The castle and town appear almost always, when in the possession of the English, to have belonged to the earldom of Chester, with which they were granted by Edward III., in the seventh year of his reign, to his son Edward, surnamed the Black Prince, to whom he issued an order two years afterwards, to take the castles of Flint and Rhuddlan into his custody, to furnish them with provisions, and place in them sufficient garrisons, as had been done in the same prince's castles of Beeston and Chester. Flint Castle has, in like manner, been always enumerated in the charters investing the eldest sons of succeeding sovereigns of England with the earldom of Chester, when they were created princes of Wales. From a schedule of the 50th of Edward III. it appears, that the town of Flint then yielded to the Earls of Chester a revenue of £56, and that of "Colshul," of which there is a separate entry, £4. 7. 10. But in a later account the profits arising from the former appear to have greatly decreased, while those from the latter increased to an amount nearly equal to the original estimate of those derived from Flint: this revenue has, however, dwindled to a mere trifle.
In 1385, the castle was bestowed by Richard II., with the office of chief justice of Chester, on Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford, and subsequently, in 1399, on Percy, Earl of Northumberland, who, in the following year, on the return of this unfortunate monarch from his Irish expedition, inveigled him to this fortress, for the purpose of delivering him into the power of the usurping Bolingbroke, who was afterwards advanced to the throne, under the title of Henry IV. Having decoyed him from among his friends at Conway, Percy conducted him to Flint Castle, under an escort of Bolingbroke's soldiers, who had met them on the road: here Richard was at first received with every outward sign of respect by his rival and his attendants, who, however, on the following day commenced treating him with indignity, and he was conveyed a virtual prisoner to Chester. During the insurrection of the Welsh under Owain Glyndwr, in the reign of Henry IV., that monarch garrisoned the castle of Flint against the men of the borough, who had joined their revolted countrymen, and were making frequent attempts to gain possession of it. But the garrison resisted every assault, and kept possession of the fortress till the insurrection was quelled, upon which event Henry, Prince of Wales, procured from his father a free pardon for all the burgesses of Flint who had joined the standard of the insurgents.
Soon after the commencement of the civil war in the reign of Charles I., the castle was repaired and garrisoned for the king by Sir Roger Mostyn, Bart., who had raised a force of 1500 men, equipped and maintained at his sole expense. Sir Roger was appointed governor of Flint, which, in the year 1643, was vigorously besieged by the parliamentarian forces under Sir William Brereton and Sir Thomas Myddelton: though closely pressed, the garrison made an obstinate and protracted defence, till reduced by want of provisions to feed on the flesh of their horses; and this resource also failing, and being entirely hopeless of relief, they at length surrendered upon honourable terms. The castle was afterwards retaken by the royalists, under the command of Sir William Vaughan, in September 1645, and was reinforced in the November following by the garrison of Beeston, which, after a gallant but unsuccessful resistance to the parliamentary forces, was allowed by the terms of capitulation to march to this place with all the honours of war. Having received this accession of force, the castle remained unmolested till August 1646; it was then finally surrendered to Major-General Mytton, and in the following year was dismantled by order of the parliament.
The towns is situated on the shore of the estuary of the river Dee, opposite to Parkgate in Cheshire, from which place it is distant five miles. It consists of four principal streets, intersecting each other at right angles, with many smaller ones, dividing it into squares, and exhibiting, with little deviation, the regular plan of an ancient Roman city. The buildings are very inferior in appearance, however, to what might be expected from the regularity with which the streets are disposed; and with the exception of its convenient situation for sea-bathing, which attracts a considerable number of visiters during the summer months, the town possesses few recommendations as a place of residence. For the convenience of visiters, hot baths have been formed, with every requisite accommodation. In the centre of the town is a station of the Chester and Holyhead railway. The neighbourhood abounds with pleasing walks and rides through a finely varied tract of country.
The principal branch of trade, until within the last seven or eight years, was the smelting of leadore, for which purpose extensive works were erected, the proprietors of which, by investing a large capital in the formation of wharfs, and other improvements, materially increased the trade and added to the importance of the town. In these works, erected by George Roskell and Co., in 1812, and containing several very extensive reverberatory furnaces, 6000 tons of lead were annually smelted, from which nearly 40,000 ounces of fine silver were extracted. In 1824, a tower, 140 feet high and 42 feet in diameter, was added, for the purpose of collecting the sulphur from the different flues in this important concern, in the various departments of which 120 persons were employed. The smelting of lead is now discontinued, but the furnaces and machinery, which are of the first order, have not been removed. Reference is made to this branch of manufacture in King Edward's charter to the town, and in the fifteenth century Flint appears to have been famous for its furnaces for smelting the ore. Messrs. Roskell and Co. also erected large alkali-works, which have likewise been suspended, and are not likely to be resumed, as the muriatic acid gas evolved from them deterred strangers from frequenting the town as a bathing-place. The making of boilers for steam-engines is carried on to a limited extent; and close to the town are extensive collieries, in which several hundred men are constantly employed, and 1500 tons of coal are raised weekly: tramroads have been constructed to convey the coal to the wharfs, whence it is sent coastwise to Liverpool, various parts of North Wales, and Ireland. Ship-building to some extent has been lately carried on, and North American timber is imported. The principal exports, in addition to the vast quantity of coal, were, until recently, the produce of the leadworks; consisting of lead in pigs, bars, sheets, and patent pipes, also red lead, litharge, and silver. The estuary of the river Dee is navigable for vessels of 250 or 300 tons' burthen, which can at any time approach the quay; and the various wharfs, piers, and embankments that have been constructed, for the accommodation of the works above-mentioned, afford every facility to the commerce of the town. Fairs are held on the first Monday in February, on July 3rd, and November 3rd.
Flint was made a free borough by Edward I., who, in 1284, granted the inhabitants a charter of privileges, conferring many advantages upon them, including freedom from toll and other demands throughout the kingdom. These immunities were confirmed, in 1327, by Edward III., whose son, the Black Prince, in the 34th year of the reign of his father, confirmed the previous grants, and bestowed upon the burgesses additional favours in a new charter, which, although probably altered in the 2nd and 3rd of Philip and Mary, and the 12th of William III., continued to be the only governing charter till the passing of the Municipal Corporations' Act. The style of the corporation was, "the Mayor, Bailiffs, and Burgesses of the borough of Flint;" and the control was vested in a mayor, two bailiffs, a recorder, a serjeant-at-mace, and four constables. Of these officers, the mayor was such by virtue of his office of constable of the castle, the appointment to which was in the crown; no active duties, however, belonged to the situation, and the mayor's only important patronage was the power to choose a recorder, when one was required by a vacancy occuring through death or removal. The bailiffs, who were elected annually on Michaelmas-day by the resident burgesses paying scot and lot, acted as returning officers of the member to serve in parliament, and presided at the court leet. The recorder remained in office during the pleasure of the mayor, and received from him a salary of eight guineas.
By the act 5th and 6th of William IV., c. 76, the old corporation was abolished, and a new one established, styled the "Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses," which consists of a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors, forming the council of the borough. The mayor is elected by the council, annually on Nov. 9th, out of the aldermen or councillors; and the aldermen triennially, out of the councillors or persons qualified as such, one half going out of office every three years, but being reeligible: the councillors are chosen by and from among the enrolled burgesses, annually on Nov. 1st, one third going out of office every year. The aldermen and councillors must possess a property qualification of £500, or be rated at £15 annual value. Occupiers of houses and shops rated for three years to the relief of the poor, are entitled to be burgesses. The council appoint a town-clerk, treasurer, and other officers, on Nov. 9th; and two auditors and two assessors are elected annually on March 1st, by and out of the burgesses. The revenue of the borough was greatly diminished by an act obtained in 1816, for inclosing the waste lands in the parish, by which the burgesses were deprived of the greater portion of the lands assigned to them by the charter of Edward the Black Prince.
The elective franchise was first granted to the borough, as the shire town, in the 27th of Henry VIII., from which period it constantly returned a member to parliament, in conjunction with the contributory boroughs of Caergwrle, Caerwys, Overton, and Rhuddlan; the right of election in this, as in each of the contributory boroughs, being vested in all the resident householders paying scot and lot. The Reform Act added the towns of St. Asaph, Holywell, and Mold to the former district of boroughs, but did not alter the constituency of the latter, owing to its scot and lot character, except by subjecting each individual voter to the registry, in common with the £10 householders in other boroughs. According to a late return, the total number of voters in the eight boroughs is 803. The mayor of Flint is the returning officer; and the nomination and election of the member both for the county and for the boroughs take place in this town. The limits of the borough, which remain unaltered by the late act, include not only the whole parish of Flint (comprising about 1600 acres), but also the township of Coleshill-Vawr, in the adjacent parish of Holywell, which township, on account of its ancient importance, has given name to the hundred in which the whole is locally situated. There is a separate commission of the peace, and the borough magistrates, who are eleven in number, hold petty-sessions here; but though the town is the ancient provincial metropolis of Flintshire, the assizes and quarter-sessions for the county have for many years been held at Mold. The old guildhall erected in the reign of Elizabeth, having become dilapidated, a handsome hall of hewn freestone, with a marketplace underneath, has been erected at an expense of £2000. The county gaol, erected on part of the site of the ancient castle, in 1785, has been greatly enlarged, and now admits of a due classification of the prisoners: the expense of its erection was partly defrayed by subscription, but chiefly by the county, as is expressed by a neat inscription over the entrance gateway, written by Thomas Pennant, Esq., the antiquary and naturalist, who was a great promoter of the work, from benevolent motives, the former gaol having become quite unfit for use.
The Living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Bishop of St. Asaph. The appropriate tithes, payable to the bishop, have been commuted for a rent-charge of £84. 4. 7., and the tithes belonging to the perpetual curate for one of £226. 19.3. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, being in a dilapidated state, and not affording sufficient accommodation for the increasing population, was taken down in 1846, and a new one erected upon the same site by voluntary contributions, aided by grants from the Incorporated Society and the St. Asaph Diocesan Society, and including a gift of £20 from the Queen Dowager. This edifice was consecrated in December 1848, and consists of a nave, two aisles, a clerestory, and a handsome tower and spire forty-five feet high. It contains nearly 700 sittings, all open and uniform, 300 of which are free. Whilst the workmen were engaged in clearing the foundation of the old church, some curious coffin lids and incised slabs were discovered, which were subsequently purchased by the Cambrian Archæological Association, aided by a small subscription, in order that they might be placed in some public museum in the county, should such an institution ever be established, as has been proposed. A crucifix and a monumental brass were also discovered, but these are in the possession of private persons. There are places of worship for Wesleyans, Calvinistic Methodists, Independents, and Baptists. A National school was built in 1820, by the subscriptions of a few individuals; and a very small Roman Catholic school is supported: the Sunday schools are seven in number, and one of them, in connexion with the Established Church, contains above 300 scholars, including a few adults. The parish is entitled to receive £2 per annum from the Rev. George Smith's charity at Northop, for the benefit of one child. Twelve almshouses were built by the corporation, for the accommodation of poor burgesses; but, from the alienation of the lands of that body by a late inclosure act, they have no endowment. There are a few charitable bequests and donations, producing £1. 6. for distribution in bread among the poor annually, the principal being a gift of £22 by William Venables, in 1712: about four or five other gifts, amounting in the whole to £54, have been either lost, or applied to parochial purposes.
At a short distance to the east of the town are the remains of the CASTLE, occupying the summit of a rock of freestone, which is washed by the tide at high water. The pile comprised within its outer walls a quadrangular area, at each of three angles of which was a strong circular tower, and at the fourth a similar bastion of much greater dimensions, called the Double tower, from its inner inclosure being surrounded by an outer concentric wall, forming a circular gallery, from which four arched openings afforded entrance to the inner and central area, twenty-two feet in diameter. This tower, which was the "donjon," or keep, communicated with the quadrangle by a drawbridge across an intervening moat, which isolated it from the rest of the works; and on account of the prodigious thickness of the walls, and the completeness of its fortifications, it was considered impregnable. From it Richard II. descended to meet Bolingbroke, on being betrayed into his power by the Earl of Northumberland. The principal remains of the ancient fortress are the towers and the east and north walls, now fast going to decay: the foundations of the eastern tower are undermined by the sea, which, in high tides, dashes with great violence against its base. A considerable portion of this interesting and once important structure was taken down in 1785, for the purpose of erecting the county gaol; and another portion fell down in the month of May, 1848: other parts, also, have been removed at different times. It is still nominally under the government of a constable, appointed by the crown, who receives a fee of £10, and it has also a porter, who receives a fee of £6. 1. 8.: the crown has sold its freehold interest in the castle to the county magistrates, but notwithstanding continues to exercise the right of appointing the constable.
About a mile from the town, on the lower road to Chester, formerly stood an ancient cross, from which the hundred of Atiscross, noticed in the Norman survey as comprising nearly all the country between the rivers Dee and Conway, took its name; the shaft of the cross is still preserved, and the ground around it is called Croes Ati: tradition states that a large town once existed here, and the foundations of buildings have been turned up by the plough. This is one of the places at which the scoria and Roman antiquities above noticed have been found. The scoria contained such quantities of lead as to induce the washers of ore to farm these spots, and to smelt it over again, by which means many tons of metal have been obtained. In removing it for that purpose, coins of the emperors Nero and Vespasian were found in a state of high preservation, together with a variety of ancient instruments and ornaments of Roman construction. Among the interesting remains thus discovered may be noticed a rich ornament of gold, elegantly formed of twisted wire, studded with globular beads of solid gold, which appears to have belonged to a bracelet, or necklace, of gold links, ornamented with pieces of blue glass, of which a part only was found; a small head of brass affixed to iron; a stylus, or instrument for writing on the ceratæ tabellæ, or waxen tablets; a species of narrow spoon used to collect tears for the lachrymatory; instruments of sacrifice; golden bullæ, or amulets; two fibulæ, or brooches; various species of buttons; some keys, rings, &c.