St Mary's Church in Bagillt
Bagillt shown within Flintshire
|Population||4,165 (2011 Census)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
Bagillt (//; Welsh pronunciation: [ ˈbaɡɪɬt]) is a small town, overlooking the Dee Estuary, near Holywell in Flintshire, Wales. At the 2001 Census the population was recorded as 3,918, increasing to 4,165 at the 2011 census.
Bagillt was originally part of the Kingdom of Gwynedd in the early medieval period. In the 1st century, Owain Gwynedd and his forces retreated to Bryn Dychwelwch, the "Hill of Retreat", above the village town while being pursued by superior numbers of Henry II. Castell Hen Blas, a motte and bailey castle, lies within the boundaries of Bagillt. It was the birthplace of Dafydd ap Llywelyn, Prince of Wales, probably around Easter 1212. The castle ruins were partially excavated in the mid-1950s. Dafydd's birth was commemorated by the unveiling of a plaque on the wall of the Upper Shippe Inn in the centre of the village on 25 July 2010, 770 years since the issuing of his earliest surviving charter as prince.
Mostyn Hall, the seat of one of the oldest Welsh families, lies close to Bagillt. Parts of the building date from the time of Henry VI in the 15th century. The future Henry VII is said to have been concealed in the hall during the reign of Richard III by the lord of Mostyn, Richard ap Howel. The Hall now houses antiquities and manuscripts pertaining to old British history and Welsh that were brought from Gloddaeth Hall, Llanrhos.
The Gadlys Lead Smelting Works was established by Edward Wright and his associates - generally Quakers - in 1704. Organised as the London Lead Company, they kept the workshop open until 1799. John Freame, one of the founders of Barclays Bank, was involved in this initiative.
By the late 18th century, Bagillt had become a centre of raw-mineral extraction and manufacture in North-East Wales. Hundreds of men laboured in 11 collieries that surrounded the village. There was also an alkali and kindred factory and works that produced and refined zinc, lead and iron.
Bagillt already had several quays on the banks of the River Dee where fishing boats had moored for centuries. But by the early 19th century, these has grown into docks where cargo destined for the factories and foundries of England were loaded.
In 1846 navvies laying track for the North Wales Coast Line reached Bagillt. The Chester and Holyhead Railway officially opened on 1 May 1848. The local mines and works that had used these wharves now switched to haulage by steam train. Bagillt railway station had extensive sidings and goods yard. It closed in 1966.
In 1879 a working men's club and cocoa house was built on the High Street in the Pentre area by public subscription. The building was named the Foresters Hall, an impressive three-storey red brick building of note which is supported by the Bagillt Heritage Society. The purpose of the building was to promote temperance and was originally associated with the Foresters Friendly Society. It was the first cocoa house built in Wales.
But the industrial age created problems, in 1848, the same year the railway opened, a book was published in London entitled Reports of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the state of Education in Wales. It detailed the poverty and hard living of many people in Bagillt and the Flintshire coalfields in the 19th century:
In some of the collieries the men are paid every other Saturday, and do not return to their work till the following Tuesday or Wednesday. In Bagillt and in the adjoining town of Flint the old Welsh custom of keeping a merry night (noswaithlawen) is still prevalent, and, being generally reserved for a Saturday, is protracted to the following Sunday, during which drinking never ceases. The custom is represented by the clergy and others as involving the most pernicious consequences.
I saw two men stripped and fighting in the main street of Bagillt, with a ring of men, women and children around them. There is no policeman in the township. The women are represented as being for the most part ignorant of housewifery and domestic economy. The girls are very early sent to service, but marry as early as 18, and have large families.
Women are not employed in or about the mines, but spend most of their time in cockling, or gathering cockles on the beach. They have low ideas of domestic comfort, living in small cottages dirty and ill-ventilated, and at night are crowded together in the same room, and sometimes in the same bed, without regard to age or sex.
Bagillt remained a hard-working boom town for more than a century. For instance on 31 May 1873, even a local newspaper, the Wrexham Advertiser, reported that so many new coal workings had opened near Bagillt it was becoming difficult finding enough miners to work in them:
No less than four new collieries have been recently started near Mold, and it is becoming a serious question how to get labour to work them, all the men available in the district being already engaged. The colliery nearest the town on the north side is named Hard Struggle from the difficulty experienced in obtaining water to get up steam. Another to the east side is named Slap Bang from the fact that coal has been found near the surface. To the south the Linger and Die company are doing their best to reduce the price of coal and to enhance that of labour. While to the south east the Strip and at it company are showing the world how to make the most of it. We hear of numberless other ventures, but these are the principal.
In July 1897 work commenced at Boot End, Bagillt, on the huge Milwr Tunnel which would drain water from the mines working the lead lodes under Pentre Halkyn. Digging started at a point 9 feet (2.7 m) below high-water mark on the Dee foreshore. The tunnel was driven southwest at a gradient of 1:1000. It was brick lined where it passed through coal measures and shale but unlined after the first 1.5 miles where it passed through chert and limestone. In 1908 the tunnel was draining more than 1.7 million gallons of water per day through the drainage channel and into the river at Bagillt.
Bagillt was also the site of the Hawarden Iron Works, situated near the Dee Bank Quay. Famous for production of a number of waterwheels including the Snaefell wheel originally located near Laxey, on the Isle of Man.
But by the 1930s the Great Depression had brought hardship and misery to the area as many of the manufacturing works and collieries were closed. Large numbers of people were now out of work and in severe financial hardship. The days of industrial might had ended in Bagillt. The area was now falling into long-term decline. Prior to the Second World War many people left in search of work, some moved to cities like Cardiff, Manchester and Liverpool while others went overseas to Canada and America.
Today Bagillt and Greenfield remain areas where unemployment, social deprivation and child poverty are key issues. A report in 2004/05 called Flintshire Childcare Sufficiency Assessment concluded that child care was needed to help parents.
The Parent Childcare Survey found that 17% of women not in work (6% of all women with children) said that they did not work because they couldn’t find suitable childcare. This figure represents approximately 660 families across Flintshire. If childcare were accessible to these women, the local economy would benefit by around £11.5m per year through earnings alone.
In more recent times, Bagillt formally twinned with Laxey, Isle of Man, in 2013, following a visit to Laxey by members of Bagillt Heritage Society to see the recently restored Snaefell Wheel (now renamed the Lady Evelyn) by the Laxey and Lonan heritage trust. The wheel was originally built in Bagillt.
Bagillt railway station
Community facilities include a Community ran Library, reopened in 2014 following closure by Flintshire County Council in 2011 http://www.bagillt-library.co.uk , a few local shops, pubs and parkland. The All Wales Coastal Path passes through Bagillt on the side of the River Dee and the Bagillt Heritage Society have signposted a Heritage and Industrial Trail http://heritagetrail.bagillt.org.uk/ from the Wales Coast Path to various sites around the village. The Bagillt Heritage Society also acquired the old sewage works near the site of Bagillt Railway Station (disused) for a future Community Gardens Project.
- 2001 Census: Bagillt, Office for National Statistics, retrieved 30 June 2008
- "Town population 2011". Retrieved 24 May 2015.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bagillt". Encyclopædia Britannica 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- John Freame (1665-1745) accessed 18 February 2013
- Reports of the commissioners of inquiry into the state of education in Wales, appointed by the Committee of Council on Education, in pursuance of proceedings in the House of Commons on the motion of Mr. Williams, of March 10, 1846, pp. 532
- 'Hard Struggle' - pit names, BBC Wales, retrieved 29 January 2009
- Ebbs, C. "Halkyn District United Mines". Flintshire Lead Mining.
- St Mary's Church in Bagillt Archived April 25, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
- Flintshire Childcare Sufficiency Assessment 2004/05, retrieved 29 January 2009
- Crime Figures: Bagillt East, North Wales Police, retrieved 29 January 2009
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