I am indebted to a local resident for letting me have sight of the handwritten copy of the Minute Book of Hope Parish & District Rate Payers Association of 1924-32. It provides evidence of a vigorous local Ratepayers’ Association. The period ushered in some of the first utilities in the villages of Hope, Caergwrle and Abermorddu against the challenging background of looming recession.
The condition of local roads was raised repeatedly by local Ratepayers during the period recorded. Progress was achieved with a ‘New Road’ in Hope, a reference to the road re-alignment which involved the de-consecration of part of the churchyard of St Cynfarch’s. The Church Commissioners had opposed to this and the Ratepayers protested to the authorities in St Asaph and the Church Commissioners in Cardiff. The work, however, must have been completed by 1925 as one complaint received by the Ratepayers was that heavy vehicles were still using the ‘old Kiln Road’ rather than the New Road. The use of Kiln Lane as a short-cut is clearly a long-standing problem.
The need to widen Fagl Lane, formerly ‘Cemetery Road’, became a campaigning issue throughout the period. There were constant complaints about the ditch to the side of the road and concerns about the safety of children walking to school. Ratepayers were hopeful that progress would be made, however the minutes of November 1928 recorded that the project had been deferred until March 1929. Minutes of 1930 later recorded ‘astonishment that the road improvements for Cemetery Lane had not been included in budget estimates for the year.’ Following several accidents in 1932 a County Councillor was asked if there was any hope of having the road widened. His reply was that “there was a very little likelihood of any road improvement expense being undertaken during coming years owing to the withdrawal of government grants.” Although not stated it is apparent that the Great Depression was impacting upon British public finances. The Ratepayers showed little sympathy for the Council and sounded what has become a familiar chorus: they could have saved money by filling potholes properly the first time!
Caergwrle had led the way with electricity with Arthur Owen Griffiths setting up the Caergwrle Electric Light Company in 1909. However by the early 1920s Ratepayers were concerned that the proprietor was about to leave the neighbourhood and asked when the North Wales Power Company would reach the village. The initial assurance was for Christmas 1924. By 1925 the Ratepayers were still in the dark and were told that the delay was caused by the bursting of the dam at Dolgarrog. By 1928 it was apparent that electricity had arrived to some parts of the community however the issue rumbled on into the early 1930s. In November of 1929 the Ratepayers asked for the scheme to be extended to Caer Estyn and Sarn Lane. By January 1930 it was clear that it was still needed in Pigeon House Lane and Rhyddyn Hill and in December 1931 a meeting was held to consider the need for lamps, yet again, in Caer Estyn and along Mold Road, Hope. By the time the minute book end it is clear that piecemeal progress was being made.
The Ratepayers complained bitterly about the charges of Wrexham Water Company. They sent letters to Hawarden Rural District Council and a deputation to meet the secretary of the Company. Particular concerns were raised about the need for a connection for residents in Stryt Isa. The minutes also record that there was an ‘urgent need’ was a sewerage system in Caergwrle by 1928. The Ratepayers continued to press the case and received an assurance the following year that ‘the scheme was being pushed as rapidly as possible.’ At one stage a public meeting was requested in order to discuss the situation. By 1931 it was apparent that the main sewers of Caergwrle village had been put down but the work involved had led to the Sarn footpath being flooded and the roads being left in a terrible state. By November 1931 it was noted that ‘roads damaged by sewerage works in Caergwrle were being repaired.’ It seems that this was a major undertaking, the likes of which do not appear to have been seen since in Caergwrle. The period also saw the public convenience being established in Caergwrle in 1930 at a cost of £400, although perhaps not surprisingly, at first, it had no electric lighting!
The minutes provide an interesting snapshot of a period of change but also one of challenge with some themes which are being echoed into more modern times.
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.