Whitford - From 'A Topographical Dictionary of Wales' (1849)
WHITFORD, a parish, in the union of Holywell, Holywell division of the hundred of Coleshill, county of Flint, North Wales, 3 miles (N. W. by W.) from Holywell; containing 4034 inhabitants. This parish rises for the most part gradually into hills of considerable elevation, from the shore of the wide estuary of the Dee, by which it is bounded on the east and north-east; it comprises an extent of 6859 acres, and contains a lake called Helig, of about fifty acres. The soil of the lower parts is stiff and clayey; that of the upper, thin, light, and dry, resting on limestone, with occasional beds of gravel. A tract of waste land, consisting of 3500 acres, lying in the parishes of Whitford, Ysceiviog, and Nannerch, was allotted and inclosed some years ago, pursuant to two acts of parliament obtained for that purpose. The village is of small size, but contains several neat houses; it is pleasantly situated at no great distance from the Chester and Holyhead road, and near the head of a small valley, which, deepening in its course, stretches towards the sea, having its sides beautifully fringed with woods. The surface of the parish is ornamented with several gentlemen's seats.
Mostyn Hall is the property and residence of the Hon. Edward M. Lloyd Mostyn, to whom it was bequeathed by the late Sir Thomas Mostyn, Bart., whose name he assumed. It has descended from their ancestor, Ievan Vychan (a descendant of Tudor Trevor, Earl of Hereford), who obtained it by marriage, in the reign of Richard I., with Angharad, heiress of Howel ab Tudor ab Ithel Vychan, of Mostyn, who derived his descent from Edwyn, lord of Tegengle, or Englefied. The mansion is situated in a beautifully undulated park, clothed in some parts with fine oaks and magnificent beeches, and was formerly approached by a venerable avenue. It is an irregular edifice, erected at successive periods: the oldest portion was built probably so early as the reign of Henry VI.; a large part of the house was erected in 1631, and the present proprietor has made very considerable alterations and additions, in the Elizabethan style, under the superintendence of A. Poynter, Esq., architect, of London. The apartments contain many good paintings and portraits, the latter chiefly of members of the family, and are likewise adorned with antique busts. In the library, together with a valuable collection of books and manuscripts (the latter mostly on vellum, and many of them richly illuminated), are numerous elegant Roman antiques, and other rare relics of former ages, among which are, a cake of copper found at Caerhên, in Carnarvonshire; the silver harp which Queen Elizabeth gave to Thomas Mostyn, in 1568, to bestow upon the most skilful bard at the Eisteddvod held at Caerwys, in the above year; and a golden torques, dug up near Harlech Castle, in 1692. The Mostyn testimonial, presented to the Hon. Mr. Mostyn by his numerous friends and admirers in 1843, is a massy silver candelabrum, four feet four inches in height, weighing upwards of 1750 ounces; it is of the purest silver, and is accompanied with an exquisitely wrought silver frame, on which are engraven the names of the subscribers. In this mansion, Henry Earl of Richmond was concealed, whilst planning the overthrow of the house of York; and the place of his retreat having been discovered by Richard III., a party of armed men was despatched to apprehend him; but Richmond contrived to escape through a hole in the back part of the building, which is still called "the King's." He was subsequently joined at the battle of Bosworth Field by Richard ab Howel, then lord of Mostyn, to whom, after the victory, he presented, in token of gratitude for his preservation, the belt and sword he wore on that day, which were long kept here. In the parliamentary war, the house was garrisoned by Sir Roger Mostyn, who also repaired the castle of Flint, and raised an army of 1500 men at his own charge, in support of the cause of his royal master.
Downing, in the hamlet of Edenowain, was the birthplace and residence of the distinguished antiquary and naturalist, Thomas Pennant, whose descendant has conveyed it by marriage to Lord Fielding. It is a good mansion in the form of the Roman letter H, with the wings terminating in gables, and is seated on the slope of a narrow valley, well sheltered by the finely-wooded grounds which surround it: the name is a corruption of that of the township. The present house was built in 1627, and, together with the grounds, received great improvement from the late owner, of literary celebrity, who conducted the extensive walks, with the greatest taste and judgment, through the deep and darkly-wooded dingles, to the more elevated points, commanding noble views of the estuaries of the Dee and the Mersey, and of the distant hills of Westmorland and Cumberland: these varied walks exceed three miles in length. The library, a room forty feet in length, built in the year 1814, contains a large collection of books and papers, among which are great numbers of valuable manuscripts, drawings, &c.; and in the different rooms are numerous pictures, consisting chiefly of subjects in natural history, and of family portraits: there is likewise a cabinet of fossils and minerals. In the grounds are several oaks of great age and girth, of which the most remarkable is called "the Fairy Oak;" also a deserted water-mill, skilfully altered by the late proprietor, so as to exhibit the appearance of a monastic ruin. Bychton, an old house built in 1572, in an adjacent township of the same name, was the original seat of the Pennant family, which had been settled here ever since the tenth century, and a younger branch of which removed to Downing early in the seventeenth, on his marriage with the heiress of that house, whose descendant bequeathed it to David, father of Thomas Pennant. Downing Ucha is a respectable mansion; and Mertyn is also situated in the parish.
The minerals found in the parish consist of valuable beds of coal, limestone, and petrosilex, or chertz, and of rich and extensive veins of lead-ore and calamine: some copper-ore, and, not uncommonly, black jack, or sulphate of zinc, have also been found. The parish comprises a large portion of the coal-tract of North Wales, and the richness of the strata in this part will be best shown by a notice of those through which a pit has been sunk at Bychton, to a depth of 614 feet: the total number of strata here composing the measures is twenty-seven, and the following are of coal, viz.—the fourth, which is of the peculiarly inflammable species called "cannel," found also at Mostyn; it is three feet thick, and rests on a bed of common coal, six feet thick, making a total of nine feet: the sixth, which is two feet three inches thick; the eighth, fifteen feet; the tenth, nine feet; the twelfth, cannel coal, fourteen inches; the fourteenth, common coal, one foot; the sixteenth, six feet; the nineteenth, seven feet; the twenty-first, three feet; the twenty-second, three feet nine inches; and the twenty-fifth and twentyseventh, each also of the same thickness: making in all sixty-four feet eight inches of coal, and being equal to about one foot of coal in every nine feet depth. The thickest seam in the parish is found at Mostyn, and is sixteen feet thick; the dip of the strata varies from one yard in four to two in three.
The coal-mines of Mostyn and Bychton have been worked for a very great length of time, having been discovered in the reign of Edward I., by whom they were granted to the abbot and convent of Basingwerk. Throughout the seventeenth century, Dublin and the eastern coast of Ireland were supplied from the Mostyn colliery; but from the year 1710, the accumulation of sand upon this coast was so great as to prevent vessels of even sixty tons' burthen from coming within two miles of the shore, until the formation of a channel and basin by the late Sir Thomas Mostyn; in addition to which, the increased operation of the mines at Whitehaven and Workington, in Cumberland, tended to withdraw the export trade from this place. The Mostyn collieries only are now wrought; they are in a very flourishing state, and produce about 300 tons daily, the coal being chiefly sent coastwise to the more distant parts of North Wales. Here are nine separate beds of coal, varying in thickness from three-quarters of a yard to upwards of five yards, the latter being 210 yards below the sea, and worked for nearly a mile under it: a large steam-engine has been erected upon the sands, which raises the water from the mines. Five hundred persons are constantly employed. In the year 1847 the coal-mines of Mostyn, which had previously been worked by other parties, fell into the hands of the Hon. Mr. Mostyn, the proprietor, who is at present opening up the mines still more extensively, by sinking two additional pits, and erecting machinery capable of raising a much larger quantity of coal than has ever been got before. The Chester and Holyhead railway passes close to the works; and the facilities thus afforded for conveying coal to all parts of the country, as well as the advantages which Mostyn possesses of shipping coal to Ireland and other distant markets, leave no doubt that the proprietor will eventually be amply reimbursed for his outlay. The district, also, will be greatly benefited by the additional means of employment which this extension of the works will give.
Mines of lead and calamine have been wrought in the hilly part of the parish, from time immemorial, until of late years, when the latter were discontinued, owing to the low price which the article bore in the market. The Llanerch-y-Môr reverberating furnaces, for smelting and refining lead-ore, erected in 1750, on the site of some very ancient lead-works, smelt sixty tons of ore per week, exclusively for the Manchester market, and afford employment to fifty persons. Some time ago, copper-ore was obtained to a limited extent; but though diligent search has been made, none has since been found. Beds of sandstone and freestone exist in the lower parts of the parish, and in the higher are strata of limestone and petrosilex, a great quantity of the last of which has been conveyed of late into Staffordshire, where it is made into a coarse stone ware, or formed into stones for grinding and pulverizing burnt flints.
The cliffs in the hamlet of Mostyn present a singular appearance, being vitrified throughout their whole extent, as if emitted in a melted state from a volcano. This phenomenon is ascribed to the conflagration of some pyritical matter, which has destroyed the appearance of the regular strata of shale and sandstone, and converted the substance into an unbroken semivitrified mass, partially porous, but of the hardness of flint, and in some places of a beautiful vermilion colour, but in most of a mottled red and blue. The transformation is not confined to the face of the cliff, but extends generally through the rock, though diminishing gradually toward the interior, which at some distance from the side appears only discoloured. In forming a new line of road, a perpendicular face of rock has been laid bare to a considerable extent, and seems more compact than near the surface. The same cause extended its operations under the sea, entirely consuming the coal throughout its progress; and the miners have been employed in penetrating through this indurated substance, at the depth of forty-eight feet beneath the bed of the Dee. The rock is procured in large masses, to form breakwaters, and to repair the roads, for which it is peculiarly adapted by its extreme durability.
The mineral productions of the district are shipped at Mostyn-Quay, where a pier and suitable warehouses, wharfs, and basins, have been some time constructed; and a steam-packet for the conveyance of passengers and goods sails to Liverpool regularly, by which, and the frequent trading-vessels, an uninterrupted intercourse is maintained with that port. Mostyn-Quay has of late years become a place of considerable importance; the Chester and Holyhead railway has a station here, twenty miles distant from the Chester terminus, and a new inn has just been completed in lieu of the former Mostyn Arms.
The living is a discharged vicarage, endowed with one-fourth part of the corn-tithes, and onefourth of the small tithes throughout the parish, rated in the king's books at £9. 11. 5½., and in the patronage of the Bishop of St. Asaph; present net income, £359, with a good residence, and about six acres of glebe-land. The bishop also presents to the sinecure rectory, which is rated at £28. 17. 6., and is of the net annual value of £739, with a house called the Parsonage, and some land. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, and situated in the hamlet of Trê Lan, was lately rebuilt. In the interior is a small elegant monument, by Westmacott, to the memory of the distinguished antiquary, Thomas Pennant, who died at Downing, on December 16th, 1798, aged seventy-three, and was interred here: it consists of an upright pillar of white marble, bearing on its front a medallion profile of the deceased, and surmounted by a Grecian vase; at the base kneels the Genius of Cambria, lamenting the loss of her able and ingenious tourist. This monument was removed from the old edifice, which contained an aisle built by one Bleddyn Drow, of the house of Mostyn. At Mostyn-Quay is the incumbency of Christ-church, in the Bishop's gift; income, £150. The church was built in 1845, by the munificence of the families of Mostyn of Mostyn, and Pennant of Downing; and occupies a delightful situation, on a rural eminence above the estuary of the Dee. It consists of a nave and chancel, of admirable proportions, and will accommodate about 500 persons. The design was furnished by Mr. Poynter, architect, already mentioned. There are places of worship in the parish for congregations of Calvinistic Methodists, Wesleyan Methodists, Independents, and Baptists.
A school was built in the village in 1711, by Mr. Pierce Jones, who endowed it with £45, and bestowed it on the inhabitants, directing them to appoint a master, to teach gratuitously twelve children to read. To this number fifteen were added in 1745, by Mrs. Mary Bradshaw, who gave for their instruction £140, whereof £100 were lost on the Halkin turnpike-trust; the residue of the amount is in the Mostyn family, and produces an annual interest of £2. 1. Mr. John Davies also, by will, dated October 10th, 1802, left £300 for the education of nine boys. Mary ap Rogers bequeathed £10, the interest to be applied to the use of the school: Mrs. Catherine Jones, and Mrs. Sidney Edwards, gave £20, the interest for teaching two children; and Jane Ball, in 1763, £10, the interest for one. The present income from charities is £16. 11. per annum, which is paid to the master of the school, who, in consideration of the endowment, teaches a number of children gratuitously. There are also some scholars who pay a quarterage, and twelve scholars who are taught at reduced terms in consideration of a subscription paid by the Hon. Mr. Mostyn. In the same village of Whitford is a National school for girls, built and supported by Viscount Fielding, in lieu of a school established by the late Lady Emma Pennant. That lady also established schools at Pantasa and Limebank, which are now supported by Viscountess Fielding; and at Mostyn is a school in connexion with Christ-church, supported partly by the viscount, and partly by the Hon. Mr. Mostyn. There is a British school at the same place, and the parish contains nine Sunday schools.
Poor persons of the parish annually receive clothing to the amount of £35, arising from part of the interest of legacies of £100, £600, and £300, bequeathed respectively by Mrs. Sarah Pennant, David Pennant, Jun., Esq., and Louis Gold, the faithful servant of Thomas Pennant. Some of the aged poor are also clothed out of the rental of lands, amounting to £45 per annum, in the parish of St. Asaph, purchased under the will of Mr. William Pennant, at the beginning of the seventeenth century; and children and others are supplied with stockings, blankets, &c. Twelve persons annually receive certain articles of clothing to the amount of £12, from the rental of a farm called Pant, in the parish: the gift is supposed to be derived from bequests by Hugh and Thomas Edwards in 1624 and 1719. Margaret Vaughan bequeathed a rent-charge of £4, in 1707, for apprenticing a child, and another of £1. 10. for annual distribution on the 4th of December among sixty poor people; and a similar class receive £20 worth of flannel on St. Thomas's day from the agent of Mr. Mostyn, said to arise from a grant of £250 by Peter Griffith, of London. The parish is also entitled to receive £2 per annum, for the benefit of one child, from the Rev. George Smith's charity at Northop, in the county.
There are various relics of antiquity in the parish, the most interesting of which is Maen Achwynvan, or "the stone of Saint Gwyvan," an elegant cross, situated on the plain near the hill of Garreg, adjoining Pen-yr-Allt. It is composed of an entire stone, twelve feet high from the ground, two feet four inches in breadth at the bottom, and ten inches in thickness, with a circular top, containing on each side the figure of a Greek cross, in alto-relievo. About the middle of the pillar, on the east side, is a St. Andrew's cross, beneath which is carved the rude naked figure of a man, holding in his right hand a staff, or spear; and near that, on the next side, is the representation of some animal. The other parts of the pillar, on every side, are chequered with fretwork, or adorned with various wreathings, or knots, and running foliage, in high relief, and of exquisite workmanship. The base is fixed in a pedestal buried beneath the surface of the ground. At what time or for what purpose this monument was erected, is a matter of uncertainty. Mr. Pennant considers it to have been a sacred pillar, before which penances were concluded by weeping and such like signs of contrition, and instances the weeping-cross near Stafford; whilst Bishop Gibson, in his annotations on Camden, mentions a supposition, that it had been set up as a memorial of some great battle fought on the spot, and notices the existence of numerous large tumuli in the parish, some of which, on being opened, were found to contain funeral urns of baked clay, celts, and arrow-heads made of flint.
On the summit of Garreg, the loftiest eminence in the parish, are the remains of a circular tower, hitherto considered to have been a Roman pharos, or lighthouse, erected to guide mariners along the estuary of the Dee. It is built of rude limestone, imbedded in hard mortar, and is twelve feet six inches in diameter within the walls, which are four feet four inches in thickness, and of considerable height. To the basement story are two entrances, exactly opposite each other, and over each is a square funnel, resembling a chimney, which opens on the outside, about half-way up the building: above this story appear to have been two floors. A few feet from the ground are three circular openings through the wall. A staircase within led to an upper story, in the walls of which were eight small square holes, cased with freestone, and separated by wooden panels: within these partitions were placed the lights. The building was surrounded by an intrenchment, and approached by a raised road, which may still be traced. The summit of this hill commands a varied and extensive prospect, including Snowdon, the promontory of Llandudno, part of the Isle of Anglesey, and the bay of Llandulas, with the estuaries of the Dee and the Mersey, and occasionally, the fells of Cumberland and Westmorland, and the Isle of Man.
Clawdd Offa, or Offa's Dyke, intersects the western part of the parish, but in some portions can be traced only with considerable difficulty. It enters from the parish of Caerwys, and passes on the west of Llyn Helyg, and through the plantations of Peny-Gelli, where it is quite perfect, and ten feet high. The Dyke then crosses the fields to Green Lane, where it is connected with a very large carnedd, and thence, proceeding to Newmarket gate, continues on the right of the turnpike-road to Trê Abbot, where it crosses the road, and is found nearly perfect on the left, there forming the boundary between Whitford and Llanasaph, and afterwards between the latter parish and Newmarket. It then re-crosses the road to Marian, and, passing on the east of Newmarket, separates the parishes of Llanasaph and Gwaenyscor, and terminates on the shore near Talacre, in Llanasaph parish. Previous writers have fixed its termination at Tryddin, in the parish of Mold, in the southern part of the county. Near Orsedd, in the hamlet of Edenowain, stood Castell Tŷ Maen, a seat of Ednowain Bendew, or "Owen the strongheaded," lord of Tegengle in the eleventh century, and one of the fifteen tribes of North Wales; there are no remains of this extensive pile, except the lofty mound on which it stood, now covered with a thriving plantation. The hamlet of Trê Abbot owes its name to its having been the summer residence of the abbots of Basingwerk, to the society of which place Edward I. made considerable grants of lands and mines in this parish, including the woody tract called Gelli, which has for ages been stripped of its sylvan features, the monks having received permission from that monarch to cut down the wood. The name Gelli is now confined to a farmhouse, formed out of a chapel belonging to the abbots. Trê Abbot subsequently became the property of the family of Davies, one of the members of which, named Miles Davies, distinguished himself as the author of "Athenæ Britannicæ," &c., and as a poet of some note. According to a manuscript account of the civil war in North Wales, preserved in the Wynnstay library, in the year 1643 "ther landed 2000 Welsh and English from Ireland at Moston (Mostyn), at whose coming the Parlmt. fledd away, after they had for a fortnight possessed themselves of Mailor and a greate part of Flintshire, without any resistance at all."