Thanks go to Mr Peter Williams who has provided a painting of a group of houses in Cefn-y-Bedd which were known as ‘Little Liverpool’. The painting was originally done by a Mrs Jessie White who used to attend the Bethlehem Sisterhood, Chapel of Cefn y Bedd with Peter’s mother. Peter has strong links with the area as his father was the Minister at the Chapel. The photograph of the painting is a welcome local gem.
The photograph emerged as one of several responses to a modern-day photograph which I placed on the Old Photos of Hope, Caergwrle, Abermorddu and Cefn-y-bedd Facebook page following a visit to the area with the Caergwrle Walking Group, led by David Cunnah.
I first came across the row of white derelict buildings, some time ago when I was looking at the Cefn-y-bedd mill along the Ffrewd Road. There was a fine mist over the River Cegidog and, as it arose, these somewhat eerie buildings came into view. I was, at the time, not familiar with any stories connected with Little Liverpool and am now indebted to those who have engaged with the discussion and are helping to preserve some of these old memories. There are times when social media does have its positive side.
Peter’s own family lived in the cottages during the 1920s, 30s and 40s. His Taid worked in the pit at Llay Hall so, not surprisingly, there was a connection between the buildings and the colliery.
However, Gina Honeysett was quick off the mark in tracking down Tithe records which showed that the owner of the land was Henry Haydon, whose father, John, was associated with the Wire Mill founded in 1780. Gina deserves credit also for digging deeper into the Census material to find out who lived there in 1851:
Thomas Roberts and family, saddler born in Hope, David Williams and family, Colliery labourer, Ann Evans and family, paper mill workers and a shoemaker with births registered in Chester, Bolton and Hope.
By 1861 there had been some changes but the occupations of mill workers and colliers remains the same.
Whilst the original date of the buildings is uncertain it seems likely that the first residents did move from Liverpool in search of work in what was a developing industrial area. Their typically Liverpudlian accents will have given rise to the nickname of ‘Little Liverpool’. It was known as ‘Little Liverpool’ by 1872 as it appears on the map of that date.
In later years commentators remembered people coming from Liverpool to stay in the cottages for holidays. Jenny Hurst’s uncle used to tend the gardens years ago and it is said that they always looked extremely well presented.
It was remembered for people coming on holidays to fish there. Sadly records of H. D. Davies, the former Head Teacher of Abermorddu Primary School noted that two schoolgirls
drowned there in June of 1894. No names were given so they may have been on holiday with their families.
They were, apparently, still being lived in until late into the twentieth century. Jesse White’s painting is dated 1974 and the houses look perfectly habitable. Indeed the whole scene looks quite idyllic and one can see why it was chosen as the subject matter of a painting. The cottages are a brilliant white and clearly well cared for. There are very few trees and invasive vegetation and Cefn y Bedd’s iconic railway viaduct makes an impressive backdrop. The painting also shows the river in one of its wilder moods and one can easily see how this could be a dangerous place for children.
It is to be hoped that these few notes may trigger further memories from residents so that gaps in the sketchy history of the area can be filled.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of either Flintshire County Council or Hope Community 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.