Historical description of Denbighshire, Wales

Map of Denbighshire

Denbighshire, a maritime county of North Wales, bounded on the N by the Irish Sea, on the NE by Flintshire, on the E by Cheshire, on the SE by Flintshire and Salop, on the S and SW by the counties of Montgomery and Merioneth, on the W by Carnarvonshire. Its boundary with the lower part of Flintshire is traced by the river Clwyd, with Cheshire and the detached part of Flintshire by the Dee, with Montgomeryshire by the Tanat, with most of Carnarvonshire by the Conway. Its outline northward is somewhat quadrangular, but southward and south-eastward very irregular. Its length from north-west to south-east is 42 miles, its breadth varies from 26 1/2 to 6 1/2 miles, its coast line is 9 miles, its circuit is about 163 miles, and its area is 423,477 acres. An upland tract from 5 to 15 miles broad, prevailingly heathy, partly a tableau, partly with summits from 1234 to 2127 feet high, extends along nearly all the west; a portion of the Berwyn Mountains, with summits 2108 and 2563 feet high, is in the south, and other heights are in the east; but the grand vales of the Clwyd, the Dee, and the Conway form much of the surface, and smaller vales, fertile and beautiful, intersect the uplands. The chief streams, besides those on the boundaries, are the Aled, the Alyn, the Alwen, the Elwy, the Clettwr, the Clywydog, the Ceiriog, and the Rhaidr. The chief lakes are the Aled and the Alwen. Mineral springs are at Llandegia and Llan St Siar. Lower Silurian rocks form a small tract in the west above Llanrwst, upper Silurian rocks form the main bulk of the uplands, lower carboniferous rocks, chiefly limestone and shale, form a narrow belt along the west side of the vale of the Clwyd, and two other small tracts to the south-east; rocks of millstone grit occur in the vicinity of these last tracts, rocks of the coal measures form a considerable tract around Wrexham and Ruabon, rocks of the-Permian class, chiefly conglomerate sandstone and red marl, form a belt east of the coal measures, and rocks of the Trias class, chiefly new red sandstone, form a tract to the eastern boundary around Holt, and another tract along the Clwyd from above Denbigh to the sea. Iron ore occurs in the Ruabon and Berwyn hills, and at Brymbo; slate, limestone, and freestone are quarried at various places, and coal is worked in the Wrexham and Chirk coalfield.

The soils are various, almost to the extremes of good and bad. About one-half of the area is arable, while much of the other half is hill-pasture. Husbandry, in its several departments, has been much improved, and is in a middle-rate condition. Wheat is grown on the rich low grounds, and oats, barley, and rye on the hills. Cheese and butter of good quality are sent to market. Sheep and goats, in vast numbers, are reared on the heaths and mountains.

According to the census returns issued in. 1893, the chief occupations of the people of the county were:—Professional, 2230 males and 1063 females; domestic, 339 males and 7979 females; commercial, 2750 males and 42 females; agricultural, 9685 males and 601females; fishing, 14 males, 3 females; industrial, 22,792 males and 3355 females; and "unoccupied," including retired business men, pensioners, those living on their own means, and others not specified, 7048 males and 31,853 females; or a total in the county of 44,858 males and 44,896 females. The number of men employed in the leading industries was as follows:—Coal miners, 6981; agricultural labourers, 4443; general labourers, 3062; and farmers, 2742. The chief occupations of women were, domestic service, with a total of 6976 ; and those of millinery and dressmaking, 1601. There were also in the county 78 blind persons, 39 deaf, 64 deaf and dumb, and 683 mentally deranged. There were 37,195 persons able to speak only the Welsh language, and 35,030 who could speak both Welsh and English.

The chief mineral products of Denbighshire are coal, of which the annual output exceeds 2,000,000 tons: pig iron, of which about 45,000 tons are manufactured yearly; zinc, of which about 3000 tons are produced; and lead, of which the output is about 1000 tons; besides roofing slates and fireclay. Woollen fabrics are manufactured in the vale of the Dee, and stockings about Llanrwst. The Chester and Holyhead branch of the L. & N.W.R. goes along the coast; the Vale of Clwyd branch goes thence to Denbigh and Ruthin, and across the boundary to Corwen; the Bettws-y-coed and Festiniog branch goes up the vale of the Conway; the Chester and Shrewsbury branch of the G.W.R. goes across the south-eastern wing of the county, past Wrexham to Chirk; the Wrexham, Mold, and Connah's quay railway runs to the estuary of the Dee from Wrexham, with a branch to Brymbo. A branch canal of 16 miles, from Llantisilio, goes along the Dee to Trevar, then over that river and the Ceiriog to the Ellesmere Canal at Hordley. The highways extend to about 1100 miles.

The county contains 88 entire civil parishes and parts of 6 others, and 69 entire ecclesiastical parishes or districts and parts of 15 others. There are five market-towns—Denbigh, Ruthin, Wrexham, Llanrwst, and Llangollen. For parliamentary purposes, Denbighshire is divided into two divisions. It also includes the Denbigh district of boroughs, consisting of the contributory boroughs of Denbigh, Holt, Ruthin, and Wrexham. It has one court of quarter sessions, and is divided into nine petty sessional divisions. It contains three municipal boroughs—viz., Denbigh, Ruthin, and Wrexham. It is entirely in the diocese of St Asaph. The chief seats are Brynkinalt, Pool Park, Wynnstay, Acton, Kinmel, Ruthin Castle, Llanerch, Dyffryn-Aled, Capel-Veolas, Llanrhiadr, Llandisilio, Gwersylt, Bathafern, Chirk Castle, Gresford, Erddig, Llanbedr, Glanywern, and Gallt-Faenon. The county is governed by a lord-lieutenant and a county council consisting of 48 councillors and 16 aldermen. It is in the northwestern military district and in the North Wales circuit. The assizes are held at Ruthin. Population in 1801, 60,299; in 1821, 76,428; in 1841, 88,478; in 1861, 100,778; in 1891, 117,872.

The territory now forming Denbighshire was anciently occupied by the Ordovices; formed part of the Roman Venedotia, included in the province of Britannia Secunda; was divided afterwards between Gwynedd and Powysland; was overrun by Egbert and other Mercian kings; was settled by the North Britons under Hobart, and then called Ystrad-Clwyd or Englefield; came under the power of the Normans in the time of Henry II.; and was constituted a county by Henry VIII. Ancient British standing stones, barrows, and pillars occur at Cerig-y-Druidion, Llanarmon, LIansallan, Capel-Veolas, and Eliseg; British castles at Dinas-Bran, Sychaint, Gresford, Garthen-Coppa-yr-Wylfa, and Tommon-y-Rhodwydd. Roman stations and camps are not found. Offa's dyke and Watt's dyke go across the south-eastern wing of the county, from the vicinity of Chirk to the vicinity of Caergwrle. Norman castles occur at Denbigh and Ruthin, and fine old ecclesiastical remains at Llan-Egwest, Wrexham, and Llanrbaiadr.

The following are the parliamentary divisions of Denbighshire as constituted by the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1854—

The Eastern Division (population 47,317), including the following:—Bromfield—Abenbury Fawr, Acton, Allington, Bersham, Bieston, Borras Hovah, Borras Riffre, Broughton, Brymbo, Barton, Dutton Cacca, Dutton Diffeth, Dutton-y-Bran, Erbistock (part of), Erlas, Erthig, Esclusham (Above), Esclusham (Below), Eyton, Gourton, Gresford, Gwersyllt, Holt, Llay, Marchwiel, Minera, Pickhill, Ridley, Royton, Sesswick, Stansty, Sutton, Wrexham Abbot, Wrexham Regis; Llangollen (part of)—Chirk; Ruabon—Ruabon; Wrexham —municipal borough.

The Western Division (population 46,339) including the following :—Isaled—Aberwheeler, Denbigh, Henllan, Llandyrnog, Llanefydd, Llangwyfan, Llanrhaiadr-yn-Cinmerch, Llan-sannan, Nanerch (part of—Penbedw), Nantglyn, St Asaph (part of), Wigfair and Meriadog; Isdulas—Abergele, Bettws-yn-Rhos, Llanddulas, Llanelian, Llanfairtalhaiarn, St George; Llangollen or Lower Chirk (except the parish of Chirk)— Bryn-eglwys, Glyn Traian, Llangollen, Llansaintffraid Glyn Ceiriog, Llantysilio; Ruabon—Ruabon; Ruthin—Clocaenog, Derwen, Efenechtyd, Gyffylliog, Llanannon-ya-Yale, Llanbedr, Llandegia, Llanelidan, Llanfair Dyfiryn Clwyd, Llan-ferras, Llanfwrog, Llanganafal, Llanrhydd, Llanychan, Llan-ynys, Ruthin; Upper Chirk or Llansilin—Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog, Llanarmon-mynydd-mawr, Llangadwaladr, Llanged-wyn,Llanrhaiadr-yn-mochnant, Llansilin; Uwchaled—Bettws Gwerfil-yr-goch (part), Cerrig-y-Drnidion, Gwemihowel, Llanfihangel-Glyn-Myfr (part), Llangwm, Pentrevoelas, Tir Evan, Tre Brys; Uwchddulas—Eglwysfach, Gwytherin, Llanddoget, Lhmdrillo-yri-Rhos, Llangemiw, Llanrwst, Llan-saintffraid-Glan-Conway; Denbigh—municipal borough.

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