The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

In 1868, the parish of Holywell contained the following places:

"HOLYWELL, (or Trefynnon), a parish, market town, municipal and parliamentary borough, in the hundred of Coleshill, county Flint, 10 miles S. of St. Asaph, and 67¾ from Holyhead by the Chester and Holyhead section of the London and North-Western railway, which has a station about 1½ mile from the town. The parish contains the townships and hamlets of Bagillt-fawr, Bagilltfechan, Brynford, Calcot, Coleshill-fawr, Coleshillfechan, Greenfield, where is the railway station, and Welstone. The town is situated on a hill by the southern shore of the estuary of the Dee. It was until the middle of the last century an inconsiderable town, chiefly dependent on visitors to the well of St. Wenefrede, from which it derives both its English and Welsh names; but, from its position in the centre of an immensely valuable mineral district, and from the manufactures carried on in the neighbourhood, it has become one of the most important and flourishing towns in North Wales. It is a straggling, though rather well-built place, containing numerous establishments for smelting lead and copper, desilverising lead, making shot, &c. The first copper-mill was started by a company from Warrington in 1766, soon after which the Holywell Level mining concern was commenced, and speedily produced large quantities of lead and silver ore. In the vicinity are extensive collieries and lead mines, large quarries of Aberdaw limestone, also calamine and blackjack, and a Roman cement manufactory. Under the Reform Act it is a parliamentary borough, being contributory to Flint in returning one member to parliament. Its population in 1851 was 11,302, which had declined in 1861 to 10,301. Its trade is still very active, though not equal to what it was some few years since. It is lighted with gas and paved, and has a copious water supply from St. Wenefrede's spring, which discharges at the rate of 21 tons a minute, and rushes down in an impetuous torrent to the river, turning in its course of 1½ mile, copper, cotton, corn, and paper mills. The waters of this spring have been long famed for their healing qualities, having been visited by William the Conqueror, Henry VI., Edward I., James II., and in recent times by the King of the Belgians. Its peculiarities are that it never freezes, although intensely cold, and scarcely ever varies in the supply of water, the only difference after wet weather being a considerable discoloration. The sweet-scented moss, or Jungermannia asplenioides, still flourishes on the banks, but the minute plant called by Linnaeus Byssus iolithus, which used in ancient times to grow upon the stones, giving them a red tint, attributed by the superstitious tithe blood of St. Winifred, which gave to the well several miraculous properties, is no longer found, the constant bathing having disturbed the natural character of the basin. The chapel over the well is of the later perpendicular style of architecture, and was erected by Margaret, Countess of Richmond, and mother of Henry VII. The building contains two baths, which are for public use at certain times and under certain regulations. In the groin work of the roof are suspended numerous sticks, crutches, and hand-barrows, as the votive offerings of those who have been cured. The chapel above is now used as a Sunday-school, for divine service on Wednesday evenings, and for occasional meetings. A tram rail runs into the mines under the hill on which the town stands. Holywell is the head of a Poor-law Union comprising 14 parishes, and of superintendent registry and County Court districts. The living is a vicarage* in the diocese of St. Asaph, value £250, in the patronage of Jesus College, Oxford. The church, dedicated to St. Wenefrede, is' an ancient structure, with a tower rising directly above the chapel of the well, and is situated below the rest of the town. It was partly rebuilt in 1769, and contains a headless effigy of a priest in his sacerdotal robes, with a chalice in his hand. Besides the parish church there are two district churches, one at Bagillt, consecrated in 1839, the other at Brynford, consecrated in 1853, and a room licensed for Divine service at Greenfield. There are places of worship belonging to the Independents, Baptists, Wesleyans, Wesleyan Reformers, Welsh Methodists, and Roman Catholics, besides Dissenting places of worship at Greenfield, Bagillt, and other places within the parish. There are three National schools, also British and Roman Catholic schools. In the vicinity of the town are the ruins of Basingwerk Abbey, contrasting strangely with the modern factories, tram roads, and chimneys by which they are surrounded; also traces of the old British fortification of Dinas Basing, or "fort in the bottom," and of Wat's Dyke, which had its northern termination at the seacoast in this neighbourhood. Market day is on Friday. Fairs, or wakes, are held on the 22nd June and 3rd November.

"BAGILLT FAWR, a township in the parish of Holywell, hundred of Coleshill, in the county of Flint, North Wales, 2 miles to the S.E. of Holywell, its post town. It is a station on the Chester and Holyhead railway. It lies on the south-western shore of the river Dee, at the foot of the Halkyn mountains, and near the ancient embankment called Wat's Dyke. Bagillt Bach and Bagillt Fechan are hamlets of this township. It is a port subordinate to the port of Chester, and has regular communication by steam with Liverpool. The district is very rich in mineral treasures. There are extensive collieries, lead works, and manufactories, with establishments for separating silver from the lead. The living is a perpetual curacy attached to the vicarage of Holywell, in the diocese of St. Asaph, value £175, in the gift of the Vicar of Holywell. There are chapels belonging to the Independents, Wesleyans, Calvinistic Methodists, and other Dissenters. The principal residence is Bagillt Hall, formerly the seat of the Griffiths."

"BRYNFORD, a township in the parish of Holywell, hundred of Coleshill, in the county of Flint, North Wales. It is on the S. bank of the Dee, close to the Chester and Holyhead railway."

"CALCOT, a township in the parish of Holywell, hundred of Coleshill, in the county of Flint, North Wales, 2 miles to the S.W. of Holywell. It is near the river Dee and the Chester and Holyhead railway."

"COLESHILL FAWR, a township in the parish of Holywell, in the county of Flint, near Holywell."

"GREENFIELD, a township in the parish of Holywell, county Flint, North Wales, near Holywell. The people axe mostly employed in the copper mines."

"WELSTONE, a township in the parish of Holywell, county Flint, 2 miles from Holy well, and 10 E. of St. Asaph."

[Transcribed from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland 1868]
by Colin Hinson ©2018