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Holywell, Flintshire

Historical Description

Holywell, a town, a parish, and the head of a poor-law union in Flintshire. The town stands on an eminence under the Halkin Mountain, 1½ mile SSW of a station of its own name on the Chester and Holyhead branch of the L. & N.W.R., about the same distance from the nearest part of the Dee estuary, and 5 miles NW by W of Flint. It has a head post office. It is known to the Welsh as Treffynnon, signifying " well-town," and it got both that name and its English one from a celebrated copious spring dedicated to St Winifred. It was till the middle of the 18th century a mere village, mainly dependent on visitors to its famous well; it begins above St Winifred's Well, descends along the stream issuing from the well, consists principally of one long street, and though rather straggling is comparatively well built and contains many excellent houses. Near the station are the ruins of Basingwerk Abbey, a Cistercian house founded by Ranulph, second Earl of Chester, in 1131. The south transept and a portion of the nave of the church still remain, as well as some parts of the refectory. St Winifred's Well is by legend assigned a miraculous origin in the 7th century, connected with a saintly virgin who became abbess of Gwytherin- monastery. It was throughout the Romish times a resort of pilgrims, among whom were William the Conqueror, Henry II., Edward I., and James II. It bursts from a rock into a polygonal basin of about 200 tuns of capacity, flows incessantly, is intensely cold, yet never freezes, is almost invariable in volume, yet undergoes considerable discolouration after wet weather, and sends forth its stream with force to work a number of mills and factories. The sides of the well are covered with a sweet-scented moss. A chapel stands over it built by the Countess of Richmond, the mother of Henry VII.; consists of nave, N aisle, and apsidal chancel, forms an exquisite specimen of Late Perpendicular architecture, and is now used as a Sunday school and lecture room. Groined arches on which the chapel rests rise from the sides of the well's basin, have a very rich and graceful character, and are adorned with figures and escutcheons of the Stanley family. The well's basin was long used as a bath in the faith of its possessing highly therapeutic virtues, and votive offerings, comprising sticks, crutches, and hand-barrows, are stuck among the decorations of the groined arches, placed there by persons who supposed themselves to have been cured of ailments by the bath. Public baths have been made here. The parish church stands on a low site near the well, was rebuilt in 1769, includes some parts of a previous church of Norman date, is a plain edifice with embattled tower. There are Congregational, Baptist, Calvinistic Methodist, Wesleyan, and Roman Catholic chapels. There is also a Roman Catholic convent and a monastery.

The town has two banks, a court-house, a market hall, a literary institute, and a workhouse, is a seat of petty sessions, and publishes two weekly newspapers. A weekly market is held on Friday. There is a manufactory of Welsh flannel. Establishments for smelting lead and copper, and for other kindred purposes exist, and extensive lead, copper, and zinc mines are in the neighbourhood. A tram railway for conveyance of mineral produce runs into the mines under the hill. The town with some rural outskirts all within the parish is a borough, and it unites with Flint and other boroughs in sending a member to Parliament.

The parish includes also the townships of Bagillt, Brynford, and Greenfield, and extends to the estuary of the Dee. Acreage, 7778 of land, 30 of water, 143 of tidal water, and 5805 of foreshore; population of the civil parish, 9471; of the ecclesiastical, 5634. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of St Asaph; gross value, £299 with residence. Patron, Jesus College, Oxford. The chapelries of Bagillt and Brynford are separate benefices.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Registration districtHolywell1837 - 1894

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Flintshire is available to browse.

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following newspapers online: