An introduction to a typical North East Wales Industrial Village

There is no other village or place in Wales named Coedpoeth therefore it has at least one claim to uniqueness.

A literal translation of the name into English means ‘Hotwood’ but the name is not descriptive of the climate for the Pentre [Village] is on a hill some 750 feet above sea level. It is also exposed to the elements from all points of the compass.

The name is derived from the fact that the area, once covered in beech and oak groves, was the centre for the production of charcoal which is wood burning hence the Welsh name for hot-wood, or ‘Burntwood ‘ a name quite common in England.

The charcoal was not only used for household purposes but was probably required in large quantities for smelting lead, for firing lime kilns, for the iron foundries, in the ironworks and indeed later in the manufacture of steel. Over a period of time the heavily wooded area was devastated but gradually commenced to return to new growth when coke became the new industrial means of firing kilns, furnaces and other manufacturing processes sometime in the early 18th century.

It is not known how old the name Coedpoeth is but Wrexham historian A N Palmer wrote in his History of Wrexham:

“The greater portion of the upper part of the township of Bersham is called Coedpoeth, and so for centuries has been called. Now this means Hot-Wood, and Coedpoeth is described in 1412 as a waste and in 1620 as a common.”

Coedpoeth is on an escarpment in the foothills of the Welsh mountains and is virtually due west of Wrexham about four miles from the town centre. It is also on the Welsh side of Offa’s Dyke which runs along the Eastern boundary of the village. To the West are the bastions of the Welsh mountains with their rugged hills, fertile valleys and work worn quarries of past industrial glories. To the East, beyond the dyke, the English plains of arable, fertile and level landscape.

There are two valleys one to the North and one to the South. Two rivers, the Gwenfro and the Clywedog nestling and rambling along their respective vales.

The village has four main unofficial districts, so-named by local usage rather than officialdom. The Smelt an area where lead smelting occurred. The Nant which means a brook and is often descriptive of a small valley. The Talwrn referring to a once open area, and not least The Adwy. This last abbreviated from the Welsh Adwy’r Clawdd or gateway or gap, in the dyke. [Offa’s Dyke was constructed during 800 AD, or thereabouts, to keep the Wild Welsh at bay ] It is natural to assume that the Welsh name for the gap has been used locally for 1200 years and no doubt the imagination can surmise on how many cattle were hustled and rustled through the gap. East to West of course !

It is difficult to isolate Coedpoeth’s history from that of the immediate adjacent communities of Minera, Bwlchgwyn, Gwynfryn [originally Pentre Bais], Wern, New Brighton, Southsea, Bersham and indeed Brymbo. They were all inextricably linked work-wise, family-wise, religious-wise, social-wise and commercially. Coedpoeth became the largest of the villages housing a large labour force employed in the surrounding industrial activities and, was also the nearest commercial centre.

Coedpoeth as we know it today is comparatively of recent development mainly during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries although the Nant being the oldest area was obviously well developed centuries earlier, there having been evidence of industrial or craft like activities along both banks of the River Clywedog. It is recorded that there was a form of transport trail along the valley, possibly as far as Bersham.

The peculiarities of the Wrexham district are that there were no less than six different rock formations within a four miles radius with various faults and false beddings etc. This provided access to many minerals of economic value during the various periods of industrial history. The Romans came, camped, explored, prospected, obtained lead, lime and went. Is the fact that they left behind a red stone carved outline of a boar, the emblem of the 20th Legion, sufficient proof?

In a Wrexham handbook of 1858 it is recorded that numerous minerals were being mined in the area including lead ore, zinc, copper, slate, coal, cannel, ironstone, fireclay, limestone, freestone, iron pyrates, sand, gravels and shales. An abundance of jewels of the under-ground that had brought the entrepreneurs, partnerships and London registered companies flocking to North East Wales.

North East Wales was in the forefront of the Industrial Revolution and whilst local minerals had been extracted for hundreds if not thousands of years but never on the scale demanded by industry during the 18th 19th and early 20th centuries. Another notable change was that many rural areas became virtually semi-urban. The smallholder farmer became a miner, a collier or a quarryman and a part-time farmer almost over night.

The Tithe Map of 1842/3 is probably the oldest of any consequence and you can follow the development of the village by comparison with the later 1872 and 1910 Ordnance Survey maps thus examining the mid 1800’s and early 1900’s.

Coedpoeth was regarded as a village within the Bersham Township of the Wrexham Parish prior to 1888 when an Act of Parliament set Coedpoeth as the central village within the newly formed Bersham Parish Council [evidenced by the stone plaque built into the Parish Hall] .The Parish included Southsea, Bersham, Pentre Vron and Coedpoeth before the more recent boundary changes and formation of Community Councils. Incidentally Tithes involved providing a tenth of annual produce or income to support the local priesthood. Later converted to a rent charge and abolished in1936.

Examination of the Tithe Map shows numerous small open fields and small farms or croft type smallholdings scattered on both sides of the then turnpike, now called the A525 and locally as High Street and Heol Maelor. No shops, no houses, no schools but the occasional building and larger farm together with a huddle of properties in the Adwy at the junction with New Road. The Tithe map did show Pentwyn, Llidiart Fany and Tyn y Coed farms also Lloft Wen and Talwrn Colliery.

The growth of Lead Mining and Lime Quarrying in Minera and Coal and Ironstone production on the Coedpoeth side of the Clywedog saw the influx of workers and their families to the area requiring a sudden growth in building work, houses, shops, a school, chapels and of course public houses. By 1872 the maps show a small town rising like a phoenix from the residue of charcoal burning. Coedpoeth was keeping pace with the Klondike, California and in some instances with the Australian Outback with corrugated iron Churches and temporary buildings. High Street had arrived.

By 1910 Coedpoeth was virtually as we recognise it today and included St. Tudfils Church, the Bersham Parish Hall, the Carnegie Free Library, three Schools, 16 Chapels and naturally a similar number of public houses. There were about 70 shops and business premises together with nail-makers, watchmakers, drapers, printing works, chemists, doctors and all the expertise, knowledge and individuals required to administer a community with a population of 5000 the equivalent in size to a small town.
Coedpoeth is one of a group of similar industrial villages to the West of Wrexham in an area not dissimilar to the South Wales valleys but of course on a much, much smaller scale.

The industrialists prospered, the profits multiplied, the wealth of the hills and fields was transported to distant landscapes and cities whilst the local populations exploded and villages expanded or grew anew. Alas the second half of the 20th century saw a rapid decline in the local heavy industries. The villages have become dormitories for the highly mobile inhabitants who no longer work together, socialise together or pray and play together.

Sufficient about my home village for the time being. There are details to relate about the coal mines, the wells, the lime-works, the stone quarries, the lead mines, the choirs, the schools, the farms, religion and the chapels, the preachers, the teachers and the musicians, the shops, the cinema and on and on. Tragic stories of a newsvendor, a trapped miner, a house fire and a serious comedy of a fairground riot on a par to the OK Corral when Winchesters provided protection from the circling natives. Famous people, local newspaper, the Cenotaph and Memorial Park. Football teams, quoits, the Silver Band [no not brass].

Meet once a month on the third Thursday except August and December in Plas Pentwyn Centre Coedpoeth at 7pm. No restrictions. There is a subscription fee for full membership and a small charge for occasional visitors.

There is an annual programme of local and visiting speakers. There are two social evenings annually but every meeting culminates with tea or coffee, biscuits, gossip and social discourse.

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