The Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales have produced proposals for a redrawing of the boundaries of County Council wards across Flintshire. Under these proposals Hope would be merged with Higher Kinnerton in a two-member ward and Caergwrle would be merged with half of a partitioned Llanfynydd ward to make a new single-member ward. The full proposals for Flintshire can be seen at: https://ldbc.gov.wales/ If accepted the changes would be introduced in time for the next local elections scheduled for 2022.
To be fair to the Commission they are trying to strengthen the democratic process. Although this will involve a small reduction in the number of County Councillors, the main driving factor, for once, is not aimed at saving money. Nor is there anything particularly sinister in the exercise. It is about creating wards which are balanced in terms of the number of electors. The Commission has hit on a magic number of 1,836 electors to each Councillor in the interest of equal representation. The aspiration for constituencies of equal size was one of the original demands of the Chartist Movement of the 1830s and 1840s. Although the 1832 Act swept away some of the inequalities created by ‘Rotten’ or ‘Pocket’ Boroughs, with small numbers of electors, Boundary Commissions perform a useful job in ensuring that electors have as equal access as possible to those who represent them.
However, where do we stand with regard to ancient historical links and community cohesion? Both Labour and Conservative Party members urged the Commission to seize the opportunity to safeguard the historic unity of Hope and Caergwrle: the saying ‘To Live in Hope and Die in Caergwrle’ goes back a long way. The electoral deficiency of Caergwrle ward (currently 1,198) could be largely overcome by merging it with Hope (2,055) as a two-member constituency. However, a problem exists because Higher Kinnerton (1,308) has an electoral deficiency and, being adjacent to the border with England, offers the Commission limited options for manoeuvre.
Officers of Flintshire County Council did offer an alternative suggestion, which involved the transfer of a relatively small number of electors from Broughton South and Penyffordd wards to Higher Kinnerton. The Commission has argued that these small changes are not within the scope of its review and would involve a ‘community review under Section 31 of the Act, led by the Council.’ There is, it seems, at least some alternative which would avoid destroying the historic unity of Hope and Caergwrle and the social cohesion that has developed over centuries.
It should be noted that Hope Parish Church, which has been at the centre of the community, has played no small part in the building of that social cohesion. With its fragments of early medieval crosses and its circular church yard, the Church has long been at the centre of a community which contained both Hope and Caergwrle. Members of both villages will have joined together to commemorate the feasts and festivals of the past. There are others, better qualified than myself, who may wish to testify to the value of the pastoral role of the Church and the importance of the community spirit which it has engendered.
From an historical point of view we see that the Domesday Book of 1086 has separate entries for Hope and Kinnerton. There is no entry for Caergwrle, as such. If any settlement existed there at the time it will automatically have been considered as part of Hope.
When King Edward I granted Prince Dafydd ap Gruffudd the ‘Lordship of Hope’ in 1277 he also gave him the sum of 100 marks to build ‘Castrum Kaierguil’ within that Lordship. Following the execution of Dafydd in 1283 the King gave both the Castle and “all the land of Hope, which Dafydd son of Griffin, the King’s enemy and rebel formerly held” to his consort, Queen Eleanor of Castille. In all subsequent bequests, involving the ‘Lordship of Hope’ the entity always involved the communities of both Hope and Caergwrle. Indeed, the seminal work of A History of Hope and Caergwrle, by Phoenix and Matthews, notes that in 1351 “the burgesses for their town [Hope} petitioned the Black Prince that they might provide suitable boundaries for the town and paid for the borough of Hope to include the original township of Caergwrle and the newly acquired township of Estyn.” (p. 36)
Numerous events challenged social cohesion both nationally and locallyover the centuries: the circumstances associated with the rising of Owain Glyn Dwr, the Wars of the Roses, the Reformation, the Civil War, the divisions created by agricultural and industrial change. However a fair amount of bonding still took place between the local communities which lay either side of the River Alyn.
Phoenix and Matthews expressed an element of surprise at the degree of togetherness shown within the local community:
“During a lengthy period of three centuries from 1484 to 1790 the inhabitants of Hope appeared to have achieved a social cohesion which went beyond what could have been expected. Welshmen and Englishmen, farmers and tradesmen formed part of a single community, cemented by inter-marriage.” (P. 42).
If anything the shattering experience of the First World War brought all the communities of Hope, Caergwrle and Abermorddu more closely together. The inscriptions on all too many family graves in Hope Cemetery show a collective cry of agony at the loss inflicted upon the community. It was the Heritage and Conservation Society of Hope and Caergwrle which secured HLF funding for a project which remembered the Fallen in Hope Parish Remembers in 2014 and it was local people, from both sides of the Alyn, who rose to the occasion to commemorate the centenary of the end of the War. The magnificent cascade of poppies from the Church tower was community spirit at its best. All of this valuable work is now being used to secure the centrally-located Willow Playing Field as a Centenary Field in memory of those who lost their lives. The communities of Hope, Caergwrle and Abermorddu work well together.
The sacrifices and suffering of local people during the Second World War have also served to bind the community together and there are those alive today who remember the degree of solidarity and support which people had towards each other during a period of adversity.
The histories of Hope and Caergwrle are inextricably intertwined. It can now be revealed that funding has been secured for a project to spotlight key features of the villages, including the Church, Castle, Packhorse Bridge, Plas Teg and the River Alyn on the Explore North East Wales App which will enable visitors to undertake a digital trail of the area. Friends of Hope Community Library will be pleased to learn that it is also the intention to include the Library as a feature on the digital trail and rightly so: since its inception three years ago the Library itself has done a tremendous amount to foster social cohesion within the local community.
Social cohesion between the residents of Hope, Caergwrle and Abermorddu has continued to develop over the generations. It has been encouraged by factors such as the revival of the Hope, Caergwrle and Abermorddu Carnival which stressed that there are “Three Villages but One Community.” Hope Community Council includes the wards of both Hope and Caergwrle and the revival of the Hanging Basket Competition and introduction of a Scarecrow Competition have further engendered community spirit. Local initiatives have added further to community life: Thursday’s ‘Pop-in’ at Hope Church Hall, the St Cynfarch’s Craft and Produce Show, Dressing Dolls for those with Dementia, Hope4All Magazine, the Heartbeat Newsletter…the list goes on. Recently volunteers, from both side of the River Alyn, fought off the challenge presented by extreme weather and cleared the blocked arches of the Packhorse Bridge from fallen trees. Social cohesion is extremely important. It enables us to look after each other and also to work together when we face challenges. Perhaps the proposals of the Boundary Commission are one such challenge.
The Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales are inviting comments on their proposals between 5th September and 27th November 2019. To take part in the consultation go to https://ldbc-consult.net/boundaries or write to: Local Democracy and Boundary Commission, Hastings House, Cardiff CF24 0BL.
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.