This month I am indebted to Christopher Jones who, having read some of the articles on Cefn-y-bedd and Abermorddu which have appeared in the Hope4All Magazine, has provided me with a CD of photographs of parts of an old local map which used to adorn the wall of one of the classrooms in the old primary school in Abermorddu. It may be that local readers, who were pupils at the school, will remember such a map on the wall.
The map is a copy of the one which was surveyed by Captain R. W. Stewart of the Royal Engineers in 1871. In 1979, when the photographs were taken, Christopher was employed by the then Clwyd County Council Architects Department as a decorator and was required to remove everything from the classroom walls before painting the walls and ceilings. He spotted the map, and recognising it was of great local interest, he brought his camera to work and, with the help of a colleague, they took the board, to which the map was attached outside to be photographed. The blue tinge on the photographs is probably due to the film having deteriorated since 1979. Flecks on the pictures are probably small particles of dust which were on the map.
Whilst it may well be possible to obtain clearer images of the 1871 map from other sources, it interesting that two individuals felt that it was important to preserve part of our heritage in this way. It is also interesting that the staff of Abermorddu School also felt that it was important to give pupils a sense of place and a sense of belonging by displaying their heritage on the classroom wall.
I have chosen to include two of the maps from the CD in this article because they provide an opportunity to comment upon two local industries, one of the River Alyn and the other on the Cegidog, which are generally overlooked. They were nevertheless, important sources of local employment in bygone times.
Firstly we have a map which shows the position of Hope Paper Mills, which were located by a millrace from the River Alyn and are marked ‘disused’ on the 1871 map. For further information on these mills we must turn to A History of Hope and Caergwrle by Rhona Phoenix and Alison Matthews. Whilst this is the seminal work on the two villages it is also a very important source of information on the somewhat neglected communities of Abermorddu and Cefn-y-bedd.
Phoenix and Matthews explain that water was directed to the works along a narrow concrete channel forcing it to flow faster onto an internal waterwheel. At a later date, as was generally the case with early industry, it was made redundant by the introduction of the stream engine. The authors found the earliest reference to paper making ‘in Hope’ to be 1811, with Samuel Price named as the paper maker five years later. In 1842 a ‘new’ paper mill was being operated by R.C. and J.H. Rawlins until the late 1880s. Apparently the business produced small, hand, fine and unglazed papers as well as blue and brown paper for bags. They also noted that in 1843 a female paper glazier earned 2s. a week and a paper sorter 3s. In 1880 an agreement was made with Llay Hall Colliery for the paper mill to use their branch railway line to transport raw materials and finished products. Apparently the mill was sold in 1890 for
£1,050 and the contents and machinery were sold separately for low prices as the machinery was, by then, antiquated. The ‘disused’ site marked on the 1871 map is presumably the site of the former mill, which dated from at least 1811, with the ‘new’ post 1842 mill being the building slightly to the east and adjacent to the millrace.
The second industry which is of interest is that of the Wire Works shown along the banks of the River Cegidog. This too is marked as ‘disused’ in 1871. Once again we can turn to the invaluable book by Phoenix and Matthews for further information on the works. They note that it was built downstream from the Cefn-y-bedd corn mill on the River Cegidog and was known as the C.F.B. Wire Mill, producing winding ropes for the local collieries. It was therefore one of the industries which developed as part of the supply chain for an industry which was of such great importance to the area in former times. Apparently in 1782 the Overseers of the Poor Law paid 6s. to the mill, probably to support a pauper boy as an apprentice. Whilst Phoenix and Matthews state that the closure date of the mill is unknown it does appear on an old map of 1835, which can be viewed online, and is not marked as disused at that time.
Thanks again must go to Christopher Jones for the photographs which have provided a stimulus for this article. It may be that there are other readers who have something to contribute, especially with regard to the neglected stories of Abemorddu and Cefn-y-bedd. If so please do get in touch.
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.