Clywedog Valley Rich Heritage
We have heard the Clywedog Valley referred to on a couple of occasions as the “Silicon Valley” of the 18th century! It probably received this name as it was a huge industrial hub back in the 17th and 18th centuries. British ironmaking began there in 1670. Smelting iron ore with coke began in 1721 and the well-known “Iron Mad” John Wilkinson arrived in 1761.
Mining dominated around Minera as the underlying limestone is rich in metal ores, especially lead and zinc. Between 1819 and 1914, over 30 different companies prospected for lead in the area, digging 50 shafts and extracting lead ore worth over £4 million!
The Romans were probably the first to mine the lead – the name “Minera” comes from the Latin word for ore. By the 14th century, lead was such an important commodity that the miners received special privileges such as exemptions from taxes!
Nant Mill and Other Landmarks
There has been a mill by the river at Nant for hundreds of years. The original mill was probably for fulling (or cleansing) woven woollen cloth, but, by the late 18th century, Nant Mill was a corn mill.
The flat field between the mill and the river may have been a “tenters field”. Here they stretched and hung the cloth out to dry. This is where the phrase “to be on tenterhooks” comes from.
Just before Bersham, there is an elaborate Victorian chapel built by the owner of Plas Power Estate, Thomas Lloyd Fitzhugh.
Iron at Bersham
The ironworks had an ideal location as all the raw materials were close at hand. There was an iron ore mine nearby Llwyneinion and Ponciau. Limestone for use as a catalyst in the smelting process came from Minera.
John Wilkinson took over the lease of the Bersham Ironworks in 1763 from his father, Isaac, who had been unable to run Bersham profitably.
John, an innovative engineer and far-sighted businessman, was determined not to repeat his father’s failure. He wanted to have control of everything that affected the iron production so he bought coalmines, opened limestone quarries and developed ways to transport the iron. The Wilkinson’s even diverted the River Clywedog to ensure that the ironworks had enough power.
Erddig house was built for Joshua Edisbury in 1683 when he became High Sheriff of Denbighshire. The Yorke family were the last owners of the house, leaving it to the National Trust in 1973.
Wealth from coal had supported the estate since the 18th century, but, ironically, coal almost destroyed it in the 20th century. The National Coal Board drove shafts from Bersham colliery directly under the house in the late 1940s, causing subsidence that seriously damaged the house.
The National Trust started the restoration of the house in 1973, partly funded by compensation from the Coal Board.
Philip Yorke I (1743-1804) was the first owner to be born on the estate and he did more to shape the special character of Erddig than any other. He had 13 children! His first wife died in childbirth aged 30 having given birth to 7 children in 8½ years, but he remarried two years later and had another six!
We hope you enjoyed “Clywedog Valley Rich Heritage”. Additionally, you can click here for more stories about Wrexham’s rich and varied history.
The stunning photos are by Grace Wood Photography.