A Miller’s Tale
There has, for some time, been an old photograph of a mill amongst a number of local photographs which came into my possession. Whilst I have identified most of the others this one mystified me. It felt that I should know where it was but I didn’t. The Facebook page of Old Photos of Hope, Caergwrle, Abermorddu and Cefn-y-bedd soon solved the problem. I posted the photograph and asked for suggestions. Within a few minutes I had the answer: it was the old flour mill of Cefn-y-bedd. Social media is a double-edged sword but thanks to one of the benefits I also discovered the story of the mill.
I am indebted to Andy Davies and several other commentators who recognised the photograph immediately. Andy’s father had been ‘Lew the Mill’ who had worked there since leaving school. He joined the RAF in 1938 and then continued working there after the Second World War.
It is clear that the Mill had been a family business for successive generations. Andy’s Taid was Maelor who worked there and before him, Maelor’s father, Evan Davies worked the Mill. Following on from these leads I checked the Census for 1911 and found Evan Davies, described as the Miller of Cefn-y-bedd. He had been born in 1858 and was aged 53 at the time. His wife, Annie Moyan Davies, had been born in 1872 and was 39. A daughter, Lydia, was aged 23 with an occupation of ‘Dress work’. Then there was, indeed, Andy’s own Taid of Ed Maelor Davies, aged 18, ‘helping at mill’ and a younger brother, Evan Cardry, aged 16, whose occupation had a similar description. A further younger brother, Robert, was aged 7 at the time of the census.
By coincidence I was then contacted by Ian Swain who asked me if the Local History Archive at Hope Community Library would like a copy of the 1902 ‘History of Caergwrle Castle and Neighbourhood’ by H. D. Davies, an early Head of Abermorddu School. As soon as Ian brought it round I spotted it carried an advertisement for Evan Davies of Cefn-y-bedd Mill. Another piece of the jig-saw had come into play. I now knew that Evan was a dealer in flour, oatmeal, linseed, Indian corn, wheat, barley, oats, bean meal, split beans, oilcake, cotton cake, calf food, Allcock’s food, Thorley’s food and that he acted as agent for Hatfield’s Manures, Morris Evans’ Cattle Oils and Tipper & Sons Specialities from Birmingham. The census showed that Evan was born outside the area so we must assume that he was the first of the family line to operate the Mill. He had certainly built up a well-connected business by 1902. It was also notable from the advertisement that the business had diversified to a considerable degree. Flour and oatmeal would have been produced by the milling process itself but Evan was obviously a dealer in other specialist supplies brought in from elsewhere.
Evan’s advertisement promised that all orders would be executed by prompt dispatch. In 1902 this would have meant by horse and cart.
However, an anecdote passed down the Davies family, shows that things did change a generation when his son, Maelor, ran the Mill: the age of the motor car had arrived. In brief, the story is that there was a younger member of the family who seized the opportunity to drive Maelor’s brand new car whilst he was away.
Unfortunately he crashed it into a hedge and Maelor, upon his return, had to use the Mill’s wagon to tow it out of a field. The Mill relied on waterpower and was run by water from a millrace from the River Cegidog off the Ffrwd Road. However, the goods associated with the business were being transported by wagon. The area is referred to as ‘Little Liverpool’ by local people who have shared their childhood memories of going there to play or to get corn for the chickens. It was damaged by fire in the 1960s and was derelict until the 1980s. However it is now restored as a private home with two external waterwheels preserved.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.