1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Denbighshire
DENBIGHSHIRE (Dinbych), a county of N. Wales, bounded N. by the Irish Sea, N.E. by Flint and Cheshire, S.E. by Flint and Shropshire, S. by Montgomery and Merioneth, and W. by Carnarvon. Area, 662 sq. m. On the N. coast, within the Denbighshire borders and between Old Colwyn and Llandulas, is a wedge of land included in Carnarvonshire, owing to a change in the course of the Conwy stream. (Thus, also, Llandudno is partly in the Bangor, and partly in the St Asaph, diocese.) The surface of Denbighshire is irregular, and physically diversified. In the N.W. are the bleak Hiraethog (“longing”) hills, sloping W. to the Conwy and E. to the Clwyd. In the N. are Colwyn and Abergele bays, on the S. the Yspytty (Lat. Hospitium) and Llangwm range, between Denbigh and Merioneth. From this watershed flow the Elwy, Aled, Clywedog, Merddwr and Alwen, tributaries of the Clwyd, Conwy and Dee (Dyfrdwy). Some of the valleys contrast agreeably with the bleak hills, e.g. those of the Clwyd and Elwy. The portion lying between Ruabon (Rhiwabon) hills and the Dee is agricultural and rich in minerals; the Berwyn to Offa’s Dyke (Wâl Offa) is wild and barren, except the Tanat valley, Llansilin and Ceiriog. One feeder of the Tanat forms the Pistyll Rhaiadr (waterspout fall), another rises in Llyncaws (cheese pool) under Moel Sych (dry bare-hill), the highest point in the county. Aled and Alwen are both lakes and streams.
Geology.—The geology of the county is full of interest, as it develops all the principal strata that intervenes between the Ordovician and the Triassic series. In the Ordovician district, which extends from the southern boundary to the Ceiriog, the Llandeilo formation of the eastern slopes of the Berwyn and the Bala beds of shelly sandstone are traversed east and west by bands of intrusive felspathic porphyry and ashes. The same formation occurs just within the county border at Cerrig-y-Druidion, Langum, Bettys-y-coed and in the Fairy Glen. Northwards from the Ceiriog to the limestone fringe at Llandrillo the Wenlock shale of the Silurian covers the entire mass of the Hiraethog and Clwydian hills, but verging on its western slopes into the Denbighshire grit, which may be traced southward in a continuous line from the mouth of the Conway as far as Llanddewi Ystrad Enni in Radnorshire, near Pentre-Voelas and Conway they are abundantly fossiliferous. On its eastern slope a narrow broken band of the Old Red, or what may be a conglomeratic basement bed of the Carboniferous Limestone series, crops up along the Vale of Clwyd and in Eglwyseg. Resting upon this the Carboniferous Limestone extends from Llanymynach, its extreme southern point, to the Cyrnybrain fault, and there forks into two divisions that terminate respectively in the Great Orme’s Head and in Talargoch, and are separated from each other by the denuded shales of the Moel Famma range. In the Vale of Clwyd the limestone underlies the New Red Sandstone, and in the eastern division it is itself overlaid by the Millstone Grit of Ruabon and Minera, and by a long reach of the Coal Measures which near Wrexham are 41 m. in breadth. Eastward of these a broad strip of the red marly beds succeeds, formerly considered to be Permian but now regarded as belonging to the Coal Measures, and yet again between this and the Dee the ground is occupied—as in the Vale of Clwyd—by the New Red rocks. As in the other northern counties of Wales, the whole of the lower ground is covered more or less thickly with glacial drift. On the western side of the Vale of Clwyd, at Cefn and Plâs Heaton, the caves, which are a common feature in such limestone districts, have yielded the remains of the rhinoceros, mammoth, hippopotamus and other extinct mammals.
Coal is mined from the Coal Measures, and from the limestone below, lead with silver and zinc ores have been obtained. Valuable fireclays and terra-cotta marls are also taken from the Coal Measures about Wrexham.
The uplands being uncongenial for corn, ponies, sheep and black cattle are reared, for fattening in the Midlands of England and sale in London. Oats and turnips, rather than wheat, barley and potatoes, occupy the tilled land. The county is fairly wooded. There are several important farmers’ clubs (the Denbighshire and Flintshire, the vale of Conway, the Cerrig y druidion, &c.). The London & North-Western railway (Holyhead line), with the Conway and Clwyd valleys branches, together with the lines connecting Denbigh with Ruabon (Rhiwabon), via Ruthin and Corwen, Wrexham with Connah’s Quay (Great Central) and Rhosllanerchrhugog with Glyn Ceiriog (for the Great Western and Great Central railways) have opened up the county. Down the valley of Llangollen also runs the Holyhead road from London, well built and passing through fine scenery. At Nantglyn paving flags are raised, at Rhiwfelen (near Llangollen) slabs and slates, and good slates are also obtained at Glyn Ceiriog. There is plenty of limestone, with china stone at Brymbo. Cefn Rhiwabon yields sandstone (for hones) and millstone grit. Chirk, Ruabon and Brymbo have coal mines. The great Minera is the principal lead mine. There is much brick and pottery clay. The Ceiriog valley has a dynamite factory. Llangollen and Llansantffraid (St Bridgit’s) have woollen manufactures.
The area of the ancient county is 423,499 acres, with a population in 1901 of 129,942. The area of the administrative county is 426,084 acres. The chief towns are: Wrexham, a mining centre and N. Wales military centre, with a fine church; Denbigh; Ruthin, where assizes are held (here are a grammar school, a warden and a 13th-century castle rebuilt); Llangollen and Llanrwst; and Holt, with an old ruined castle. The Denbigh district of parliamentary boroughs is formed of: Denbigh (pop. 6483), Holt (1059), Ruthin (2643), and Wrexham (14,966). The county has two parliamentary divisions. The urban districts are: Abergele and Pensarn (2083), Colwyn Bay and Colwyn (8689), Llangollen (3303), and Llanrwst (2645). Denbighshire is in the N. Wales circuit, assizes being held at Ruthin. Denbigh and Wrexham boroughs have separate commissions of the peace, but no separate quarter-session courts. The ancient county, which is in the diocese of St Asaph, contains seventy-five ecclesiastical parishes and districts and part of a parish.
The county was formed, by an act of Henry VIII., out of the lordships of Denbigh, Ruthin (Rhuthyn), Rhos and Rhyfoniog, which are roughly the Perfeddwlad (midland) between Conway and Clwyd, and the lordships of Bromfield, Yale (Iâl, open land) and Chirkland, the old possessions of Gruffydd ap Madoc, arglwydd (lord) of Dinas Brân. Cefn (Elwy Valley) limestone caves hold the prehistoric hippopotamus, elephant, rhinoceros, lion, hyena, bear, reindeer, &c.; Plâs Heaton cave, the glutton; Pont Newydd, felstone tools and a polished stone axe (like that of Rhosdigre); Carnedd Tyddyn Bleiddian, “platycnemic (skeleton) men of Denbighshire” (like those of Perthi Chwareu). Clawdd Coch has traces of the Romans; so also Penygaer and Penbarras. Roman roads ran from Deva (Chester) to Segontium (Carnarvon) and from Deva to Mons Heriri (Tomen y mur). To their period belong the inscribed Gwytherin and Pentrefoelas (near Bettws-y-coed) stones. The Valle Crucis “Eliseg’s pillar” tells of Brochmael and the Cairlegion (Chester) struggle against Æthelfrith’s invading Northumbrians, A.D. 613, while Offa’s dike goes back to the Mercian advance. Near and parallel to Offa’s is the shorter and mysterious Watt’s dike. Chirk is the only Denbighshire castle comparatively untouched by time and still occupied. Ruthin has cloisters; Wrexham, the Brynffynnon “nunnery”; and at both are collegiate churches. Llanrwst, Gresford and Derwen boast rood lofts and screens; Whitchurch and Llanrwst, portrait brasses and monuments; Derwen, a churchyard cross; Gresford and Llanrhaiadr (Dyffryn Clwyd), stained glass. Near Abergele, known for its sea baths, is the ogof (or cave), traditionally the refuge of Richard II. and the scene of his capture by Bolingbroke in 1399.
See J. Williams, Denbigh (1856), and T. F. Tout, Welsh Shires.