Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Denbigh

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1697405Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition — DenbighDavid Richard Thomas


DENBIGH, a maritime county of North Wales, is about 40 miles in its extreme length from N.W to S.E. by 36 at its greatest and 8 at its least width, where it divided into two unequal portions. It embraces a super ficial area of 392,005 statute acres, or 612^ square miles. The population in 1871 amounted to 105,102 persons, 52,866 males and 52,236 females; in 1861 it numbered 100,778, and in 1851, 92,583. The county was formed 27 Hen. VIII., out of the lordships of Denbigh, Ruthiu, Rhos, and Rhyfoniog, corresponding roughly with the dis trict called Perfeddwlad (or the midland between the Conway and the Chvyd), and the lordships of Bromfield, Yale, and Chirkland, which at an earlier period had been comprised in the possessions of Gruffydd ap Madoc, the lord of Dinas Bran. It is bounded on the W. in its northern division by the River Conway, from one of its ancient mouths in Llandrillo Bay to its source in the Migneint mountains, in the southern by the Berwyn chain, andon its extreme E. by the line of the Dee, the Ceiriog, and a portion of Offa s Dyke. The intervening surface is very irregular, and its physical character highly diversified. The N.W. portion is occupied by the bleak, bare table-land of the Hiraethog hills, which slope on the west to the valley of the Conway and on the east to the Vale of Clwyd, by which they are divided from the Clvvydian range and the. hills of Yale. On the N. it stretches along the bays of Colwyn and Abergele, and on the S. it is separated from Merionethshire by the Yspytty and Llangwm range. From this watershed flow tributaries of the Clwyd, the Conway, and the Dee viz., the Elwy, the Aled, the Clywedog, the Merddwr, and the Alwen. The valleys along which some of these streams flow are, from their fertility and natural beauty, in striking contrast to their bleak surroundings. Among these may be specified the beautiful gorge of the Elwy and the broad fertile plaiu of the Vale of Clwyd. Of the other division, which extends from near Farndon Bridge in the N.E. to the Rhaiadr in Mochuant S.W., that portion which lies between the Rhuabon hills and the Dee is extremely rich in minerals as well as in agricultural produce; the other portion, from the Berwyn to Offa s Dyke, is comparatively wild and barren, save the pretty valley of the Tanat, the cup-like plain of Llansilin, and the lower reaches of the Ceiriog. One of the feeders of the Tanat rolls down a waterfall named Pistyll Rhaidr, which is 240 feet high ; and another rises in the little lake of "Llyncaws," which nestles beneath Moel Sych, 2716 feet, the highest point in the Berwyn range, and indeed in the county. There are also a few lakes in the Hiraethog district, the largest of which Aled and Alwen give rise to rivers of the same names.

Soil and Agriculture.—On the uplands the soil is too cold and poor, and the seasons too uncongenial, to admit of good com crops ; but a more profitable investment is made in the rearing of mountain ponies and of sheep and black cattle, which are sold in great numbers to be fattened in the Midland Counties of England, for the London market. Less than a third of the surface is under cultivation; and the agricultural acreage was thus dis tributed in the years 1873 and 1876 : Corn Crops. Green Crops. _... 1873 ............... 65,488 15,461 1876 ............... 61,416 14,334 . tinder rotation. 41 609 42,837 Of the corn crops, oats occupy much the largest amount of acreage, and of green crops, turnips. The live stock of the county in the same years was distributed thus: Cattle. 1873 58,122 1876 56,975 Sheep. 273,721 258,464 Pigs. 24,240 24,438 Horses. 11,395 11,789 In the valleys, and indeed far up the sunny slopes of the hills, the latest improvements in agriculture may be observed, and the reaping hook and the flail are fast disappearing before the reaping and the thrashing machines. This progress has been largely due to several Farmers Clubs, such as the Denbighshire and Flintshire, the Vale of Conway, and the Cerrigydrudion. But the railways have done still more. The Vale of Llanrwst, the Vale of Clwyd, and the Denbigh and Chester lines have- linked their respective districts to the great trunk line of the London and North Western ; whilst the Denbigh, Ruthin, and Corwen, the Corwen and Rhuabon, the Wrexham and Connah s Quay, and yet again the Rhos- llanerchrugog and the Glyn Ceiriog tramways, have done the same for the Great Western, thus opening all the main arteries of the county alike to external and internal com munication, and vastly developing its resources. Down the picturesque Vale of Llangollen also runs the great Holyhead Road in its day the principal means of com munication between London and Ireland, and for engineering skill, excellency of workmanship, and beauty of scenery probably still unsurpassed in the United King dom.

The geology of the county is full of interest, as it develops all the principal strata that intervene between the Lower Silurian and the Triassic series. In the Lower Silurian district, which extends from the southern boundary to the Ceiriog, the Llandeilo formation of the eastern lopes of the Berwyn and the Bala beds of shelly sandstone are traversed east and west by bands of intrusive felspathic porphyry and ashes ; northwards from the Ceiriog to the .imestone fringe at Llandrillo, the Wenlock shale of the Upper Silurian covers the entire mass of the Hiraethog and Iwydian hills, but verging on its western slopes into the Denbighshire grit, which may bo traced southward in a ontiuuous line from the mouth of the Conway as far a Llanddewi Ystrad Enni in Radnorshire. On its eastern slope a narrow broken band of the Old Red crops up along

he 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 orks into two divisions that terminate respectively in the ^freat Orme s Head and in Talargoch, and are separated rom each other by the denuded shales of the Moel Famma ange. In the Vale of Clwyd the limestone underlies the STew Red Sandstone, and in the eastern division it is itself verlaid by the millstone grit of Rhuabon and Minera, ind by a long reach of the coal measures which near Wrexham are 4^ miles in breadth. Eastward of these a road strip of the Permian succeeds, and yet again between his and the Dee the ground is occupied as in the Vale )f Clwyd by the New Red.

The mineral resources of the county under these condi- ions are naturally considerable. Paving flags are raised it Nantglyn ; slates and slabs for ornamental purposes, on i large scale, on Rhiwfelen, near Llangollen ; and slates at jrlyn Ceiriog. The limestone is used largely, and exported

xtensively for building, fluxing, and agricultural purposes ;

,nd at Brymbo there is a fine layer of China stone. The andstones of Cefn Rhuabon are wrought into grindstones, ,nd the grit is used for millstones. The coal measures at ?hirk, Rhuabon, and Brymbo are very productive, the num- >er of collieries in 1875 being 61, and the quantity raised innually estimated at 1,379,560 tons. In close contiguity to he coal seams, ironstone is found ; and the six furnaces in blast at Rhuubon and at Brymbo (where John Wilkinson was the first to introduce the industry) produced (together with one in Flintshire) in the same year 55,099 tons of pig iron, valued at 232,000. Lead ore is another and still more important item ; the most productive mine has been the Great Minera, which yields profits of about 30,000 a year. The seven mines in the county produced, in 1875, 2600 tons of lead ore, 1954 tons of lead, and 10,873 ounces of silver. One of the latest industries in troduced has been the manufacture of dynamite in the valley of the Ceiriog. At the village of Llansantffraid, and at Llangolleu, there are woollen factories.

The principal towns are Wrexham (population 8576), the centre of the mining district, noted for its beautiful church tower, and recently selected as the military centre for North Wales ; Denbigh, the nominal capital (4276), notable for its castle ruins and Howell s female orphan school ; Ruthin (3298), where the assizes are held, famous for its grammar school and its fine castle lately rebuilt ; Llangollen, with its beautiful scenery ; Llanrwst, with its church monuments and rood-loft, its bridge, and salmon fishing; and Holt, with its ancient ruined castle.

As regards the ownership of the land, the county (in 1873) was divided among 5708 separate proprietors, whose total rental was estimated at 450,421. Of the owners 3436. or 60 per cent., held less than 1 acre, about the same proportion as in the neighbouring county of Flint ; while the average of small proprietors in all England was 71 per cent. The average property amounted to 61 acres, while that of all England was 34, and the average value per acre was 1, 5s. 3d., as against 3, Os. 2d. for all England. The following proprietors held more than 5000 acres in the above year viz., Sir Watkin W. Wynn, 33,998 acres; J. L. Wynne, Coed Coch, 10,197; Lord Bagot, Pool Park, 9385 ; H. R. Hughes, Kimnel, 8561 ; C. W. Finch, Pentrefoelas, 8025 ; B. W. Wynne, Garthewin, 6435 ; C. S. Main waring, Galltfaenan, 6428 ; R. M. Biddulph, Chirk Castle, 5513; W. C. West, Ruthin Castle, 5457; and Sir Hugh Williams, Bodelwyddan, 5360. For civil purposes, the county is divided into 6 hundreds, 9 petty sessional divisions, 3 police districts, 5 highway districts, and 9 lieutenancy subdivisions ; and it furms a part of the North Wales circuit, with a winter assize. For parliamentary purposes the county is an un divided constituency, returning two representatives to Parlia ment, while the contributory boroughs of Denbigh, Ruthin, Wrexham, and Holt return one member. Ecclesiastically the county lies entirely within the diocese of St Asaph ; the number of parishes and ecclesiastical districts is 61, comprised under 6 deaneries within the archdeaconry of St Asaph. In educational matters, the Latin or second-grade schools comprise the endowed grammar schools of Holt, founded in 1661 ; Denbigh, in 1726 ; Wrexham, in 1603 ; Hhuabon, by Vicar Robinson, in 1703 ; and Llanrwst, by Sir John Wynne of Gwydir, in 1610. The Greek, or highest grade, is supplied by that of Ruthin, founded in 1574 by Dr Gabriel Goodman, dean of Westminster, a native of the town and the refounder of its Christ s Hospital. This school has been the nursery of many eminent Welshmen.

Antiquities.—Of prehistoric remains, the caves in the limestone escarpments of Cefn, that overhang the valley of the Elvvy, yield a noteworthy supply. They contain remains of the hippopotamus, elephant, rhinoceros, lion, hyena, bear, reindeer, &c. The glutton was found in the neighbouring cave of Plas Heaton, felstone implements in the adjoining Bout Newydd cave, and a polished stone-axe in a similar one at Rhosdigre, all in the same range. Near Cefn, too, was discovered in 1869, oa the opening of a carnedd in Tyddyn Bleiddya ; a chambered tomb containing skeletons, which, on compari son with a similar type found at Perthi Chwareu, gave rise to the title of the " Platycnemic Men of Denbigh shire." A writer in the Archwologia Cambrensis, 1855, p. 270, has given a summary of the antiquities of the county, most of which may be put down as British or at least Celtic. Traces of the Romans exist at Clawdd Coch (Mediolanum 1), Penygaer, Bwlch, Peubarras ; and their roads passed from Deva (Chester) to Segcntium (Carnarvon) and to Mons Heriri (Tomen-y-Mur) respec tively. To the Romano-British period belong the inscribed stones at Gwytherin and Pentrevoelas. The Pillar of " Eli- seg," near Valle Crucis, tells of Brochmael and the struggle against the invading Northumbrians under Ethelfrith, 613 A.D. ; whilst the Dyke of " Offa " hands down the memory of the Mercian advance. Adjoining this last, and running side by side with it, is the similar but shorter earthwork called " Watt s Dyke," of debateable origin and purpose.

Of the earliest castles the ruins of " Dinas Bran " still crown the conical hill that overhangs Llangollen. Denbigh, which has been compared to Stirling for site and beauty built in the time of Edward I. and destroyed in the civil wars overlooks the Vale of Clwyd ; Holt, on the banks of the Dee, probably the Caerlegion of Beda, shared the same fate. Ruthin, overthrown at the same time, has been twice rebuilt within this century. Chirk alone has weathered the storms of time and war, and is still occupied as a family residence.

Among the early ecclesiastical buildings and remains we may name the Cistercian abbey of Valle Crucis and the Carmelite chapel at Denbigh, both now in decay ; the cloisters at Ruthin, and the old house of Brynyffynnon, sometimes called the nunnery at Wrexham ; the collegiate churches of Wrexham and Ruthin ; the beautiful rood-lofts and screens of Llanrwst, Gresford, and Derwen ; the por trait brasses and monuments in the Gwydir Chapel, Llanrwst, and at Whitchurch, Denbigh ; the churchyard cross at Derweu ; and the stained glass at Gresford and Llanrhaiadr in Dyffryn Clwyd.

The principal gentlemen s seats of Tudor date comprise Gwydir (Lady Willoughby d Eresby), Brynkinallt (Lord A. E. Hill-Trevor), Trefalyn (B. T. Boscawen Griffith), Llwyn Ynn (Colonel Heygarth), Cadvvgan (in decay). Those of later erection include Llangedwyn and Wynnstay (Sir W. Williams Wynn, Bart.), Kinmel (H. R. Hughes), Pool Park (Lord Bagot), Havodunos (H. R. Sandbach), Voelas (Colonel Wynne Finch), Llanerch (Whitehall Do<l), Gwrych Castle (R. B. Hesketh), Plas Power (T. Fitzhngh), Llandy- silio Hall (C. F. Beyer), Acton Park (Sir E. H. Cunliffe, Bart.), Galltfaenan (T. Mainwnring),Eriviatt(J.J. Ffoulkes), Glanywern (P. S. Humberston), Gelligynan (J. Carstairs Jones).

Among the books bearing upon the history of the county are the following : the Archceologia Cambrensis, or Journal of the Cambrian Archaeological Association ; Pennant s Tours in Wales ; Lewis, Topographical Dictionary; Thomas, History of tlie Diocese of St Asaph ; Annals of Counties and County Families of Wales, by Dr. Nicholas ; Yorke s Royal Tribes of Wales ; Memoirs of the Gwydir Family, by Sir John Wynne ; Memoirs of the Goodmans, by R. Newcome ; Accounts of Denbigh and of Ruthin, by the same ; A ncient and Modern Denbigh, by John Williams ; Records of tJie Lord ship of Denbigh, by the same ; Handbook of the Vale of Clwyd, by Davies ; Wrcxliam and its Neighbourhood, by Jones. The village churches of the county have been well illustrated by Lloyd Williams and Underwood, architects, of Denbigh. (D. R. T.)