Mold - From 'A Topographical Dictionary of Wales' (1849)
MOLD, a parish, comprising the borough and market-town of Mold, and the chapelries of Nerquis and Tryddin, in the unions of Holywell and Wrexham, hundred of Mold, county of Flint, North Wales; containing 10,653 inhabitants, of whom 3557 are in the borough and township, 6 miles (S.) from Flint, and 200 (N. W.) from London. The British name of this place, Y Wyddgrûg, signifying "a lofty and conspicuous hill," and also its Romam appellation of Mons altus, of like import, were derived from a mound on the north-western side of the present town, now called the Bailey Hill, a lofty eminence, partly natural and partly artificial, upon which a fortification appears to have been erected at a very early period, but whether originally by the ancient Britons, or by the Romans, is not accurately known. The only plausible arguments for ascribing it to the Romans are, the eligibility of its site for a place of defence, its proximity to the seat of some of their mining establishments, and the discovery of a gold coin of the Emperor Vespasian near the spot. The advantages of the situation caused it to be subsequently selected as the site of a more stately castle, by the Normans, who in their own language, describing its elevated situation, designate it "Montault," of which the name Mold is supposed to be a contraction.
The historical events connected with the place refer to a remote period. Soon after the final establishment of Christianity in this part of the principality, a severe conflict occurred between the combined forces of the pagan Saxons and Picts, who were carrying desolation through the adjacent country, and the inhabitants, of whom numbers had been recently baptized. The latter calmly awaited the approach of the enemy at a spot within a mile of the town, since called Maes Garmon, or "the field of Germanus," under the command of Bishops Germanus and Lupus, the former of whom, having given his troops orders to repeat after him the word "Alleluiah," led them on to battle. This triumphant shout, uttered by the whole army, struck such terror into the hearts of the pagans, that they fled on all sides; numbers perished by the swords of their pursuers, and many, attempting to escape, were drowned in the neighbouring river. The victory occurred in Easter week, in the year 420, and has been distinguished by historians with the appellation of "Victoria Alleluiatica;" the memorial of it has been perpetuated by the erection of a pillar, in 1730, upon the piece of ground where St. Germanus is said to have stood, on the base of which is a Latin inscription commemorative of the event.
From this period till after the Norman Conquest little is known of the history of Mold, the first notice of which, under its present name, is in the ninth year of the reign of William Rufus, when that monarch granted it to his vassal, Eustace de Cruier, who did homage to him for the territories of Mold and Hopedale. These Eustace erected into a kind of inferior lordship marcher, and for the defence of his newly-acquired territories he built several castles, and among them, in all probability, the castle of this place. In the time of Henry I., Mold formed part of the extensive possessions of Robert, Seneschal of Chester, surnamed, from his residence here, Robert de Montault, or Montalto. During his occupation of the castle it sustained many severe attacks from the Welsh; but it was so strongly fortified, both by nature and by art, that it resisted every effort to reduce it; and in numerous subsequent sieges, during a period of fourteen years, it opposed an impregnable barrier to the attempts of the native Britons to repossess themselves of the lands of which they had been despoiled by the Normans. The garrison, which was very numerous, made repeated inroads on the adjacent territories of their Welsh neighbours, till, in 1144, Owain Gwynedd, Prince of North Wales, in retaliation for their depredations, invested the castle in person with a large body of forces, took it by storm, put all the garrison to the sword, and is said to have levelled the walls with the ground: it is, however, stated that he occupied it by a small body of troops in 1149, when he advanced to give battle to Ranulph, Earl of Chester, whom he defeated with great slaughter. It appears to have been subsequently rebuilt by the English, from whom, in 1198, it was again taken by the Welsh, under the command of Llewelyn ab lorwerth, who kept possession of it for some time.
After remaining alternately in the hands of the English and the Welsh till the year 1240, it was stipulated in the treaty of peace concluded at that time between Henry III. and Davydd ab Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, that the latter should surrender all such territories as had been claimed by the vassals of the former, except those of Mold, which he was suffered to retain in fulfilment of a treaty previously made between him and the Seneschal of Chester. The year following, Henry revoked this treaty, and entered into a new agreement, by which he compelled Davydd to deliver up to Roger de Montalto, Seneschal of Chester, the whole of his lands in the lordship of Mold, together with the castle and its dependencies. In 1245, Davydd besieged the castle, which he took by storm, putting the whole of the garrison to the sword: Roger alone escaped the carnage, being fortunately absent from the castle at the time of its surrender.
The castle, always an object of obstinate contention between the native Princes of North Wales and the English, appears soon afterwards to have fallen into the possession of the latter, who held it till the year 1263, when it was besieged and taken by Grufydd ab Gwenwynwyn, lord of Powysland, who razed it to the ground. It was again rebuilt by the English, was restored to the family of De Montalto, and placed under the custody of Roger de Clifford, justiciary of Chester, against whose oppressive tyranny, and that of his deputy, Roger Scrochil, the inhabitants of Ystrad-Alun, or Molesdale, were loud in their complaints, a short time previously to the final subjection of the principality by Edward I. In 1322, Sir Grufydd Llwyd, who had been knighted by that monarch for bringing him the news of the birth of his son at Carnarvon, and who, for some time after Edward's death, had continued a faithful adherent to the government of Edward II., finding the English yoke no longer tolerable, took up arms; and having assembled a large body of his countrymen, and overrun all North Wales and the Marches, he seized upon this castle. He kept possession of it, however, only for a very short time: his insurrection was not attended with success, and he was soon afterwards defeated and taken prisoner.
From this time, little more occurs of any military movements in which the castle of Mold had a share. It remained in the hands of the descendants of Robert de Montalto, who in 1302 had done homage for it to Edward, Prince of Wales, at Chester; but in 1327, the last baron, in failure of male issue, conveyed it to Isabel, queen of Edward II., for life, and subsequently to John of Eltham, younger brother of Edward III., on whose decease without issue it reverted to the crown. It appears to have continued an appendage of the crown till the time of Henry IV., by whom the castle and lordship, together with Hope and Hopedale, were granted to the Stanleys, afterwards Earls of Derby. Its final demolition, as a place of strength, is supposed to have occurred during this reign, and is attributed to Owain Glyndwr, who, in the course of his determined efforts to overthrow the government of Henry IV., committed depredations upon most of the estates in the principality belonging to the partisans of that king. On the first division of the principality into counties, in the time of Henry VIII., Mold was annexed to the county of Denbigh; but in the thirty-third year of that monarch's reign it was assigned to the county of Flint, of which it has ever since continued to form a part. During the civil war in the 17th century, the ancient mansion of Gwysaney, near the town, was garrisoned for the king; but in 1645 it was taken by the parliamentarian forces under Sir William Brereton. The lordship of Mold remained in the possession of the Stanleys till the death of James, the seventh earl, a zealous adherent to the cause of Charles I., and who, after the battle of Worcester, was made a prisoner, and beheaded at Bolton, in Lancashire. Upon his death the lordship was sold by the parliament; and a proposal having been made for re-purchasing it by the Earl of Derby, the conditions of which that nobleman failed to fulfil, Charles II., in 1664, ordered that the former purchasers should retain it.
The Town is pleasantly situated on a gentle acclivity in a small but fertile plain, watered by the river Alyn (which is here crossed by several bridges), and surrounded by rugged eminences, rich in mineral treasure. It consists principally of one long street, intersected at right angles by two smaller ones; is well supplied by a company with gas and water, and is tolerably well paved. The houses are not distinguished either for their regularity or style of building, but in the environs are numerous handsome seats and elegant mansions; the surrounding scenery is diversified, and highly embellished with features of picturesque beauty. The views from the higher grounds, though confined, extend over a tract of country richly cultivated, and varied with objects of interesting character and romantic appearance.
The parish contains, with the chapelries of Nerquis and Tryddin, about 20,000 acres, of which it is computed that 9000 are arable, 8000 pasture, and 3000 woodland. On the north it is bounded by Northop, on the west by Kîlken, on the east by Hawarden, on the south-east by Hope, and on the south-west by Llanverras, between which two last parishes the chapelries of Nerquis and Tryddin are situated. The road from Chester to Denbigh intersects the parish, and passes through the town, from which also branch off turnpike-roads to Ruthin, Wrexham, Holywell, &c. In 1847 an act was passed for the construction of a railway from Mold to the Chester and Holyhead line in the parish of Hawarden, with branches to the Upper King's Ferry on the river Dee, and the Frith lime-works. The river Alyn flows through the parish in a south-east direction, and is joined by the river Terrig. A bold undulated surface especially marks the southern portion; clay and a wheat soil predominate in the east and south, but a lighter kind of land prevails in the west and north. The parish abounds with mineral wealth. The western district is particularly rich in lead-ore, which is generally found imbedded in limestone or chertz; but the operations are much impeded by the subterraneous stream of the Alyn, which here runs under ground for the space of somewhat less than a mile. The eastern part contains coal and ironstone of excellent quality, which are procured in great quantities for the supply of the neighbouring works; and some fine seams of cannel coal exist within two miles to the south of the town: calamine is also obtained in the parish. In the townships of Argoed and Bistre, in the northeastern part of the parish, is potters'-clay in abundance; and large manufactories of earthenware and fire-bricks have been established, providing employment to the poor in that district. Near these works are others for smelting lead; and almost adjoining the town is an extensive cotton-mill. This mill, for the spinning of cotton-twist, is situated on the river Alyn; it was erected in 1792, first lighted with gas in 1812, and greatly enlarged in 1825, and at present affords occupation to more than 300 persons. Upwards of 4000 acres of waste land were inclosed in the parish under the provisions of an act obtained in 1792. The market days are Wednesday and Saturday; and fairs are held on February 13th, May 12th, August 2nd, and November 22nd.
The completion of the railway above mentioned will tend greatly to develop the resources of this part of the county. It traverses a district extremely rich in coal, iron, and limestone; and from the tables which have been prepared, it appears that the district will probably yield a mineral traffic of from 600,000 to 800,000 tons per annum. The report presented to the company by the directors, early in the year 1849, stated that the main line would be opened for passenger traffic in the summer of 1849, and that the mineral branch might be completed in the autumn of the same year. It also stated that, up to the close of 1848, the sum of £97,155 had been expended on the works. The line has since passed into the hands of the Chester and Holyhead railway company, of whose great line it forms a feeder.
By the act of 1832, for "Amending the Representation," Mold was constituted a borough, contributory with Flint and other places in the county in the return of a member to parliament. The right of voting is vested in every male 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 £10 and upwards, provided he be capable of registering as the act directs; and the present number of such tenements within the limits of the borough, which are co-extensive with the township of Mold, and include an area of about 570 acres, is about 110. Though Flint is the county town, yet, from the want of a hall there, and the central situation of this place, which is now within the North Wales circuit, the assizes are held here, in a handsome shire hall lately erected. The powers of the county-debt court of Mold, established in 1847, extend over that part of the registration district of Holywell which comprises the sub-districts of Mold and Flint.
The Living is a vicarage, rated in the king's books at £10; patron, the Bishop of St. Asaph; impropriators, R. Knight, and P. D. Cooke, Esqrs. The tithes of Mold have been commuted for £2015. 8. 11., of which a sum of £1645. 8. 11. is payable to the impropriators, one of £333 to the vicar, who has likewise a glebe of two and a half acres, and a glebehouse, and one of £37 to the curate of Bistre and Argoed. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, is a spacious and handsome structure, in the purest character of the later style of English architecture. It consists of a nave, north and south aisles, and a chancel, with a lofty square embattled tower, enriched with sculpture and crowned by pinnacles, and which, though erected so recently as 1773, precisely corresponds with the general design. In taking down the old tower, the workmen discovered, at about a foot below the ground, a layer of burnt wheat, barley, rye, and beans, three inches thick, upon an earthen floor from four to five yards square; under which was deposited in regular order a great number of human bones, about half a yard in depth, with a stone that had been worked into the foundation, whereon was inscribed "Here lieth the body of Gwenllian, daughter of Evan ab David ab Yorwerth." The walls of the church are crowned with an elegant pierced parapet, under which are figures of animals finely sculptured in stone.
The interior of the edifice, which contains 1100 sittings, is richly embellished with architectural details and sculptured ornaments. The nave is separated from the aisles by a range of seven light clustered columns with foliated capitals, supporting on each side a series of obtusely pointed arches, the spandrils of which are adorned with sculptured devices of angels bearing shields charged with emblematical allusions to the Passion of our Saviour, among which is a representation of the Veronica, and with the armorial bearings of such benefactors as contributed towards the erection of the church, among which the arms of the Stanley family are conspicuous. Both aisles are lighted by spacious and lofty windows of elegant design, enriched with tracery, and corresponding in form to the arches of the nave; and at the extremity of each aisle are three canopied niches, in which were formerly statues, now destroyed. The niches in the south aisle are almost concealed by monuments, including a very superb one to the memory of Robert Davies, of Llanerch, Esq., the antiquary, who died in 1728, on which is his effigy in an erect posture, habited in Roman costume. Near this is a mural monument to his grandfather, Robert Davies, of Gwysaney, the ancient residence of the family prior to their acquisition of Llanerch in the Vale of Clwyd. In the same aisle is an ancient tablet to the memory of Robert Warton, otherwise Parfew, abbot of Bermondsey in Surrey, and afterwards Bishop of St. Asaph, from which see he was translated in 1554 to that of Hereford, where he died, in 1557, and was interred: above his armorial bearings, in a shield on which are also quartered the arms of the see of St. Asaph, is a label inscribed "Robtus pmissione Divina Ep'us Assav," supported at one end by an angel, and at the other by a bishop. Under the foundation of the church, a stone was dug up in 1783, bearing the words Fundamentum Ecclesiĉ Christus, 1597, and the letters W. As. Eps., referring to William Hughes, Bishop of St. Asaph, who died in the year 1600. This stone is supposed to show the date of the south aisle; for, although Bishop Warton is said to have been a considerable benefactor to that part of the church, it is probable that he merely designed it, and was the principal contributor towards its erection; the work, it is thought, not being actually commenced until the time of Bishop Hughes. The nave and north aisle were built at an earlier date: ab Shenkin, who was vicar of Mold before 1506, is stated to have glazed two of the windows in the north aisle.
There are several chapels within the parish; namely, one at Nerquis, three miles from the town; another at Tryddin, about five miles distant; one for the townships of Leeswood and Hartsheath, at Pont Bleiddyn, which contains 406 sittings; and a fourth at Waen, for the townships of Gwernafield and Hendrebiffa, containing 524 sittings. A chapel, also, has been built for the townships of Bistre and Argoed; the first stone was laid in 1841, and the whole was completed in 1842, with a square bell-turret, and containing 656 sittings, 449 of them free. All the five livings are in the Vicar's gift, except that of Tryddin, which is in the patronage of the Bishop. There are places of worship in the parish for Independents, and Calvinistic and Wesleyan Methodists. Of the eight Church-schools, that in the town is supported partly by an endowment of about £19 per annum, arising from a rent-charge of £11 by the Rev. Hugh Lloyd, in 1744, and from bequests of £100 each by James Hughes, in 1723, and Mrs. Martha Dodd, in 1780. The building was originally a dissenters' meeting-house, and was purchased for £360, of which £260 were raised by subscription, in 1819, and a sum of £100 was added by the National Society: a stable attached was converted into the girls' school. The old school-house was formed into a savings' banks, the upper part being occupied by the parish-clerk; and the whole pays a rent of £4, received by the master. A handsome new schoolbuilding is now erecting. The endowments of the Nerquis and Tryddin Church-schools are stated under the head of those places. Some schools unconnected with the Established Church are also supported in the parish; and there are six Sunday schools, belonging to the several churches, and containing about 1100 males and females, for the most part taught by gratuitous teachers: one of the Sunday schools is supported by the vicar, who has given by deed £6 a year for ever. Other Sunday schools are conducted by the dissenters.
An estate situated in Pentrobin, or Pentre-Hobyn, in the lordship of Eulo, county of Flint, comprising twenty-one acres and a half, let at £17. 17. per annum, was purchased, in 1726, for £146. 10., principally a bequest by Thomas Williams; and the produce is distributed in clothing among poor persons on the 1st of January. Several parcels of land in the parish of Caerwys, containing in the whole twenty-five acres and three quarters, producing a rent of £22 per annum, were devised by Griffith Jones, in 1729, for a weekly distribution of bread, which is accordingly carried into effect to the extent of 5s. weekly, the residue being carried to a fund for the distribution of clothing at Christmas. Another estate, termed Ty'n-y-Bryn, in the township of Arddynwent, containing about four acres and a half (a part being an allotment under the Mold inclosure act, in 1792), now paying a rent of £6. 10., was purchased in 1753, with £150, the amount of charitable bequests then in the hands of the vicar. Jane Williams, in 1671, left a rent-charge of £2 on land called Tynryn, in the parish of Llanverras. The Rev. Dr. Wynne, of Tower, in 1776, bequeathed £50, which were invested in the Broughton and Mold turnpike trust. Thomas Wynne, in 1721, gave a rent-charge of £1. Robert Williams devised a similar sum in 1729, to be expended in buying fifteen hats, to be given to as many poor persons on Christmas eve; and in 1755, John Evans bequeathed £60, the interest to be appropriated in purchasing shoes for the poor. Independently of these, were numerous other bequests, by several persons, of sums varying from £70 to £3, which went to purchase the PentreHobyn and Ty'n-y-Bryn estates; and the whole annual income of the charities now amounts to £62. 17., chiefly distributed in flannel, shoes, and other clothing among the poor. An entry on the benefactiontable states, "1789, Mrs. Louisé Bertrand left by will to the vicar and churchwardens the remainder of £500 navy stock (sold for £590), after defraying her funeral expenses;" but the will not being more specific, the minister and wardens of the period divided the amount as a legacy between them.
Of the ancient castle not a vestige at present can be discerned, and its very site is completely covered with thriving plantations. The three fosses by which it was defended are still traceable, and from these it appears to have consisted of the upper and lower ballium, and an elevated donjon, or keep, each of which was separated from the others by a deep fosse. The Bailey Hill, on which it stood, though naturally difficult of ascent, was rendered still more arduous by the erection of strong ramparts and the formation of a deep moat. Some skeletons and old relics have been found on the hill. From its summit a fine view of the surrounding vale is obtained, and in the distance the bare summit of Moel Vammau, towering amidst the Clwydian range of mountains, is seen to great advantage. Offa's Dyke enters the parish from Denbighshire, pursuing its course along a small valley on the south side of Bryn Yorkyn mountain, to Coed Talwrn, and Cae Twn, a farm near Tryddin chapel; thence it comes down through Hartsheath Park, and proceeds through the townships of Bistre and Argoed into the parish of Northop. Numerous tumuli are found in the parish, affording evidence of the obstinacy with which the possession of the Vale of Alyn was contested by the various hostile parties who overran this part of the country in the earlier periods of its history. Several of these have been opened, and found to differ materially in their construction and contents; thus proving that they were raised at different periods and by different races of people: one near the town contained a gold corselet, supposed to be unique, and which was purchased for £90 by the trustees of the British Museum.
The environs of the town, as already observed, are enlivened by numerous ancient mansions and handsome seats, the residence of some of the principal families of the neighbourhood; and with the remains of others which are now occupied by farmers. The ancient house of Gwysaney, formerly the residence of the family of Davies, of Llanerch, and already noticed as having been garrisoned for the king during the parliamentary war, is in the parish. Tower, or Bryn-Coed, at one time the seat of Dr. William Wynne, is a venerable yet desolate-looking mansion, partly of ancient, partly of modern date; consisting of a tall machicolated and embattled tower of early erection, and a residence adjoining of the time of Queen Anne. The tower appears to have been designed as a place of fortified habitation, and during the war between the houses of York and Lancaster, belonged to Reinalt ab Grufydd ab Bleddyn, one of the captains that defended Harlech Castle for Henry VI., and who was constantly engaged in feuds with the people of Chester. In 1465 a considerable number of the latter came to Mold fair, and a fray arising between the hostile parties, great slaughter ensued on both sides; but Reinalt, who obtained the victory, took Robert Bryne, ex-mayor of Chester, prisoner, and conveyed him to his mansion, where he slew him. To avenge this affront, a party of 200 men was dispatched from Chester to seize Reinalt, who, says Pennant, retiring from his house into the adjoining woods, permitted a few of them to enter the building, when, rushing from his concealment, he blocked up the door, and, setting fire to the house, destroyed them in the flames; he then attacked the remainder, whom he pursued, and such as escaped the sword were drowned in attempting to regain their home. This is the traditional account of the burning of the place as given by Pennant; but it is more probable that the citizens set the house on fire, after carousing in it; that the owner then fell upon them, slaughtered many, and drove the rest towards Chester, wreaking vengeance on them all the way. An old anecdote given in the Archĉologia Cambrensis for January 1846 tends to show that the citizens, and not its owner, burned the house; nor is it likely that Reinalt would destroy his own dwelling, when it would have been as easy to compass his revenge in another manner. Lees Wood is a large handsome mansion, situated on a fine slope, and surrounded with woods and pleasure-grounds tastefully laid out; the entrance is through a magnificent gateway. Pentre-Hobyn, a fine old family mansion, built in the year 1540, and which was formerly the property of Trevor Lloyd, Esq., retains much of its ancient character. Hartsheath is situated on a long eminence in the Vale of Alyn, of which it commands a view: the grounds, which are thickly wooded, combine a pleasing variety of scenery; and the views embrace many objects of romantic character, among which is the isolated rock of Caergwrle, abruptly rising from the vale, and crowned with the ruins of its ancient castle. Nerquis Hall, a good family residence, built in 1638 by John Wynne, Esq., is pleasantly situated; the grounds comprehend some varied scenery, in which the spire of Nerquis chapel, at no great distance, forms an interesting feature. Rhual, an ancient family house noticed by Leland, now occupied by a descendant of the founder, was erected in 1634, by Evan Edwards, Esq.; it is substantially built, and contains some good paintings, among which is a portrait of the founder by Vandyke. Plâs Têg, in Hope parish, once the property of the Trevors, is a stately mansion, said to have been built in 1610, from a design by Inigo Jones. It consists of a centre flanked at the angles by square towers, the whole five stories high. The hall is forty-three feet long and twentythree feet wide, and above it is a dining-room of the same dimensions, to which the ascent is by a spacious and noble staircase; in each of the towers is an apartment twenty-two feet long and nineteen feet wide, and the entire building has an air of great regularity, and an appearance of simple grandeur. In the mines in the parish are found impressions of fern and other vegetable plants in great perfection, a variety of marine shells of pearly freshness, and fossil remains of various kinds. Wilson, the celebrated landscape painter, who lived in the adjoining parish of Llanverras, was interred in the churchyard of this place, near the north door of the church.