Years ago, when I was a sixth former at Grove Park Grammar School for Girls, Wrexham, I found an old book about the history of North Wales in the school library. I can’t remember the name of the book now but I seem to think that it was an account of a journey across the land. I noticed then, and this is the memory that has stayed with me for over thirty years, that Ffynnon-y-cwrw was mentioned and either was more important than Bwlchgwyn, or that Bwlchgwyn was not mentioned at all.
Does anyone know what happened to the books in the library when they closed the school?
Today, Ffynnon-y-cwrw (or Ffynnon-y-Ceirw) is the name of the farm at the bottom of Brymbo Road in Bwlchgwyn, just before the road sweeps round the corner and winds uphill to the equally old Brithdir Farm.
But, trawling through the old census returns, it is clear that Ffynnon-y-cwrw was originally the name of a sizeable area of land; various census returns have designated properties beyond the Brithdir to the east, up to Cefn Farm towards the north and right up to the finger post in Bwlchgwyn (at the top of Brymbo Road) to the west as Ffynnon-y-cwrw. It was never a clearly defined area and eventually the village of Bwlchgwyn grew and its name predominated.
More recently, my interest in Ffynnon-y-cwrw has been rekindled by meeting Gwenda Lewis. Gwenda was evacuated to Bwlchgwyn to stay with relatives during the war and has recently written about her memories of the village. In her book Gwenda mentions Ffynnon-y-cwrw as she visited the farm often although, as a child, she was never quite sure how the families were related.
This is by no means a complete or authoritative history nor is it intended to be, there may well be mistakes and omissions or wrong conclusions and I will be happy to hear from anyone who can add to the story. This first instalment just sets the background of life at Ffynnon-y-cwrw between 1851 and 1901 approx.
Thomas Parry was born near at Llanfor near Bala in Merionethshire in 1798. Later his family moved to the small settlement of Ffynnon-y-cwrw, to the West of Brymbo. At that time Ffynnon-y-cwrw was not just the name of the farm, but also the name of all the cottages and terraces between, roughly, that part of Brymbo Road where it meets Cefn Road and the Brithdir Farm, or even as far as Pentre Saeson Farm. Thomas Parry married a girl called Mary, who had been born in Minera.
By 1851 Thomas Parry, 53, and his wife Mary, 48, were farming 70 acres at Ffynnon-y-cwrw.Living with them at the farm were their seven children:
Thomas Parry (1798-) of Llanfor, Bala married Mary of Minera (1803). In 1851 the family is:
- Thomas Parry (1831-), son, single, 20, farmer’s son
- Mary Parry (1832-), daughter, single, 19, farmer’s daughter
- Nathan Parry (1835-), son, single, 16, farmer’s son
- James Parry (1837-), son, 14? Farmer’s son
- Margaret Parry (1839-), daughter, 12, farmer’s daughter
- Jane Parry (1840-), daughter, 8, farmer’s daughter m Griffith Williams of Mold at Wrexham Register Office on 8th June 1864
- Eliza Parry (1847-), daughter, 4, farmer’s daughter
The family seems to have been quite self-sufficient, financially, as they had no living-in servants or labourers in 1851 but there were at least three sons who would have been old enough to work the farm with their father whilst Margaret, who was 12, would probably have been a great help to her mother both as a mother’s help and with all the domestic chores of the farmhouse.
Very little is known about the family in 1861 as the census pages are missing from both of the main on-line sources, but it is known that Jane Parry married Griffith Williams in 1864 and that Nathan Parry married Cornelia Jones in 1865 – an easy wedding to find because of the unusual names of both bride and groom, but I haven’t searched the BMD records for most of the children.
Six years after their marriage, Nathan and Cornelia Parry are farming the land at Ffynnon-y-cwrw; the 1871 census shows them as having just two young children: John J Parry aged 4 and Thomas Parry aged 2.; the census also suggests that the farm is much smaller now, only 40 acres. Could this have been because Thomas split the land between himself and Nathan and, perhaps one other? Certainly Thomas and his wife, Mary, are still in Bwlchgwyn, Thomas is now 73 years old and farming approximately 10 acres and , despite the circuitous route taken by the enumerator and the fact that many cottages extant in 1871 have since disappeared, it seems that Thomas and Mary were living much closer to the top of Brymbo Road, perhaps between Cefn Road and Graig Wen.
I have only looked into the whereabouts of four of Thomas and Mary’s seven children. Jane Parry married Griffith Williams and Nathan Parry is farming
Ffynnon-y-cwrw with his wife Cornelia. The other two children that I found easily were James and Eliza Parry.
In 1871 James Parry is a shopkeeper and Eliza Parry, his sister and nearly ten years younger, was his housekeeper. The shop was sufficiently substantial for James Parry to employ an apprentice shopman, George Harrison. Again, from the 1871 census, it is not easy to say where James’ shop was located, but it seems to have been on Brymbo Road somewhere; I’m not sure that it is at the crossroads at this time, but might have been in one of the other buildings at the top of the road.
Certainly in 1881 James Parry is still in business; the location is described as Ffynnon-y-cwrw, but his house and shop are quite a distance from the farm and seem to be higher up Brymbo Road again. He is now 42 years old and has a wife about ten years younger than him, Elizabeth Mary Parry who was born in Duddleston. They have two sons, Thomas Parry who is 3 and John Samuel Parry who is 2 years old. I notice that the first child was born in Bersham whilst the second child was born in Brymbo (parish – meaning Bwlchgwyn probably). I don’t know whether this is because the family moved for a while or because Elizabeth was staying at a relative’s house at the time of her confinement.
And what was happening at Ffynnon-y-cwrw in 1881? Nathan and Cornelia Parry were still farming 40 acres of land there, with just two sons at home, John Parry age 14 and William Parry age 9. Eliza, meanwhile, married Edward Hughes in 1873 and they appear to have settled in one of the smaller farms at Ffynnon-y-cwrw, again much nearer to the village of Bwlchgwyn than to the farm at Ffynnon-y-cwrw. Their farm only had 2 acres of land and so their main source of income was Edward’s employment as a coal miner.
Eliza and Edward Hughes had three children that I know of: Thomas Hughes, Jack Edward Hughes and James Allington Hughes. Eliza’s father had died by 1881 and her widowed mother was living with them – Mary Parry was 78 years old in 1881 and she had her own income as an annuitant.(Picture © Gwenda Lewis 2005)
1891, however, saw some significant changes. Nathan and Cornelia Parry have left the farm at Ffynnon-y-cwrw to farm at Brymbo Hall Farm, the other side of Pentre Saeson. Their 24 year old son, John James Parry is living with them and working on the farm. Elizaand her husband Edward Hughes have moved into Ffynnon-y-cwrw farm with their three children Thomas, John Edward and James Allington Hughes. This farm must have been profitable as I can only assume that Nathan acquired sufficient capital to be able to move on and leave the original farm for his sister and her husband to run. There could, of course, be a different story all together and I hope to do some research in the future.
James Parry, however, is still set up as a grocer. He and his wife Elizabeth are now living and trading at the Beehive Bwlchgwyn. For the time being I think that this is either the corner shop which was later the Co-op or an earlier building in the same or an adjacent location, this being the impression given by the census returns. Only the younger son, John Samuel Parry, is living with them. John is 12 years old in 1891. I have not looked into the family’s history any further at the moment.
Finally the 1901 census. Nathan and Cornelia Parry are still farming at Brymbo Hall Farm; all their children appear to have left home but they have four servants (domestic and agricultural) to help them. Eliza and Edward Hughes are still at Ffynnon-y-cwrw and two of their sons are at home and working on the farm: Thomas age 26 and John Edward age 23.
This is not the end of the story, the page is “to be continued”
(c) Hilary (Belton) Hartigan 2008
Please contact me if you are researching Ffynnon y Cwrw, I would love to hear from you and, possibly, I might be able to add more to the story.
Please remember that the information on this website is only accurate to the best of my knowledge and belief. If any of the information is relevant to your own research, please double-check the sources.