Our thanks this month goes to Violet Bell for permission to reproduce her excellent photograph of the houses along Stone Row in Abermorddu. John Trematick, the late local historian, associated these houses with the local mining industry and, given the importance of the coal industry as a source of local employment, he was probably correct.
The row of houses have been referred to locally as ‘Hayes Row’ and they were probably built by Edwin Hayes who had a building business further down the road by Cefn-y-bedd station. The Wrexham Advertiser of 1st May, 1875 included an announcement of the auction of the whole stock-in-trade and household items of Edwin Hayes on 4th May 1875. Clearly the business was being wound up by then so the houses of Stone Row will pre-date that event.
Unlike the Stone Cottages of Cefn-y-bedd, the houses of Abermorddu’s Stone Row do not appear to be identified by either that name or the name of Hay’s Row in census material and it is difficult to actually identify household occupants and their occupations.
Coal mining was of considerable importance as a means of local employment in bygone times but there is now little physical evidence that this was the case. Our mining heritage is fast disappearing. As Llay Main Colliery operated from 1923 until as late as 1966 there are still a number of local people who worked there. Attempts were made to sink a shaft at Llay Hall as early as 1845 but water ingress made it difficult to do this with any success until 1877. By 1896 this colliery was employing 276 miners and 84 surface workers, but the problem of water ingress, it was finally forced closure to take place in 1947. The first shafts associated with the Gresford Colliery were sunk in 1908 and mining went on there until closure in 1973 on economic grounds. Gresford was, of course, the pit associated with the terrible disaster of 1934 when one of the worst underground explosions in British history claimed the lives of 266 men. The grave of local man Evan Hugh Jones, who died as a result of this tragedy, can be seen in Hope Old Cemetery. As with Llay Main Colliery, there are several residents alive today who have an association with the colliery at Gresford.
However, our mining heritage is more extensive than this: the North Wales Coalfield was a productive vein and was the leading sector of the industrial revolution in the area. A list of collieries operating in 1881 includes ones at Ffrwyd, Gwersyllt, and the Wrexham and Acton one at Rhosddu. Also on the list is one at ‘Hope’, which is also sometimes referred to as Gwern Alyn Colliery. This colliery was located within very close walking distance of the Stone Row cottages.
The exact date of the establishment of a colliery at Hope is unknown. In researching information for his book on ‘The Miners of Llay Mine’ Vic Tyler-Jones actually found evidence of mining at Hope actually going back as early as 1353 when lead and coal mines were rented out for £3 a year.
Another source has produced some details of accidents in Hope Colliery between the years of 1775 and 1776, and although these details are rather vague, we do know that several people
were killed or injured as a result of burning, sulphurous inhalation and blasting accidents. There were no accident books in the early years and one really does wonder about the untold agonies and horrors that miners experienced, especially in an era when child labour was the norm. We are reminded of the grave of 10-year old Owen Jones that can be seen in Pontblyddyn Churchyard. He died as a result of a Leeswood mining accident.
Hope Colliery receives a mention in some of the booklets by John Trematick which are held in the Local Heritage Archive in Hope Community Library. In particular, John mentions a time when another, now deceased local resident, Denis Martin, took him to the derelict winding engine house of Hope Colliery. Hope Colliery closed in 1881 but Denis had worked in the engine house building making fireplaces for Alyn Fireplaces. John noted that the building had a plaque with ‘Lilleshall 1876’ on it. This he said was misleading because Lilleshall bought the business in 1876 but the engine winding house was actually constructed earlier. Denis also showed John were the old mine shaft was. It was fenced off and filled with rubble from the spoil bank. The two men also saw the base of the huge brick pillars which supported the bridge which carried coal wagons from Llay Main colliery to the sidings at Caergwrle. Denis recalled how busy it was with the coming and going of of colliery wagons along the line in his early years. There will be other residents in the locality who have similar memories. Attempts were made by local people to establish a right of way along what was called the Gwern Alyn Footpath where land has been fenced off by private landowners. Unfortunately the claims were dismissed after a public enquiry was held in Caergwrle Presbyterian Schoolroom. It is a pity we have lost a possible footpath that would have enabled us to see part of our industrial and transport heritage.
Thankfully the old winding engine house still stands today tucked away behind On the Tiles in Cefn-y-bedd. It is no longer a derelict building and has been preserved as a family home. Together with the important memories of John Trematick and Denis Martin it is one of the few remaining pieces of evidence of Hope Colliery.
There is a catalogue of items lodged in the Local Heritage Archive which may be seen at Hope Community Library. It is then possible to ask the Librarian or volunteers to see individual files or booklets such as those by John Trematick.
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.