Industrial Age (1760 to 1914)
The Ladies of Llangollen and Plas Newydd (1778)
Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby moved into the small stone cottage of Pen y Maes in 1780, having run away from their families in Ireland two years previously. Re-naming it Plas Newydd (New Hall) they made extensive improvements to the house and created new gardens. The ‘Ladies of Llangollen’ finally purchased the house in 1819 and went on to live there until their deaths in 1829 and 1831. Over the years they became known for their eccentricity, preferring always to dress in dark riding habits, and played host to many famous people, including the Duke of Wellington, Sir Walter Scott and William Wordsworth.
Corn Mill (1786)
Llangollen Mill was a corn mill originally built by the Cistercian monks of Valle Crucis and is mentioned in a 13th century document dealing with a fishing dispute between the freemen of Llangollen and the Abbot of Valle Crucis. The mill was re-built in 1786 mainly of local stone. At the end of the 18th century John Jones was the miller, marrying in 1795 Mary Bowen of Dinbren.
John Jones died in 1812, but in 1830 a Thomas Jones is shown as miller in Llangollen – whether he was a descendent is unknown. In the 1840s Edward Owens occupied the mill, followed by Samuel Parry in the 1850s and early 60s. The family firm of William Jones and Son took over the mill in 1864 and the mill was used solely for grinding corn until 1895, when changing times and conditions necessitated the decision to become a provender mill.
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct (1805)
Completed in 1805, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct took 10 years to build and cost £47,000. It is127 feet high/1007 feet long – the longest and highest in Britain. It was and still is a truly brilliant piece of civil engineering. The idea of an iron trough, making the aqueduct lighter and allowing it to cross the River Dee at a high level, was a true innovation in its day. William Jessop, probably the most experienced canal engineer of his age, was appointed Principal Engineer for the Ellesmere Canal Co. in 1791. Thomas Telford was appointed as the General Agent in 1793, reporting to Jessop, with "His engagement to extend to all architecture and engineering business to the drawing, forming and directing the making of bridges, aqueducts, tunnels, locks, buildings, reservoirs, wharfs and other works" (Minutes of the Ellesmere Canal Co., 23rd September 1793).
Cloth Mills (1805) - Dee Mill
Cotton came to Llangollen in 1805 when Lower Dee Mill was built, but only lasted 30 years as slumps in the trade caused successive closures.
The prospering wool trade with it’s mechanical looms took over and the Mill was bought by Hughes and Roberts in 1835. They expanded into the Upper Mill in 1855. Both remained in production until 1921 giving Llangollen a 130 year connection with the trade. The site was later occupied by Cuthberts seed merchants.
Llangollen Canal (1808)
The top section of the Llangollen Canal, between the aqueduct and the Horseshoe Falls was not completed until three years after the aqueduct was opened. Telford completed this part of the Llangollen Canal in 1808 and at that time it would have been very busy with goods such as salt and coal coming into the town and slate going out. The Horseshoe Falls at the head of the canal were constructed to provide a minimum head of water for the canal. In 1947 a valve house was built to control and measure the 6 million gallons of water that flow into the canal each day. For over 100 years people have enjoyed the calm relaxation of a boat trip on the Llangollen Canal. The horse drawn tourist boats were originated by the heavily bearded Captain Jones who ran trips from Llangollen Wharf to the Horseshoe Falls several times a day.
Chain Bridge (1814)
The first Chain Bridge was constructed in 1814 by Exuperius Pickering, owner of local coal mines and lime kilns, in order to take his coal across the river for delivery to Corwen and Bala. The original Chain Bridge Inn was most likely built around the same time. In the 1870s the Inn was rebuilt and enlarged in the black and white style that can be seen today. Not long afterwards the bridge was also rebuilt, following damage by
heavy flooding. Further heavy flooding in 1928 piled up trees against the bridge and the whole structure was washed away. In 1929 Henry Robertson built the suspension bridge that still remains.
Roads - A5 1815
Prior to the A5 construction, the main highway through Llangollen from the south was via Church Street, Chapel Street and Hall Street and then on through Berwyn en route to Ireland. Continuing down Bridge Street instead of turning up Chapel Street would lead to Llangollen Mill and over the Bridge to Llantysilio.
Many of the oldest properties in Llangollen are thus found on these streets. Telford’s A5, built in 1815 as the main road from London to Holyhead, substantially reduced travelling times and opened the way for tourism and commerce.
Breweries (after 1835)
Before the coming of major industry beer was brewed on a small scale in public houses and shops. Piggotts Trade Directory of 1835 lists 6 brewers and 15 public houses in Llangollen (not necessarily all were included). In the history of the town, however, there have been four main breweries – the Crown Brewery, the Talbot Brewery, Bakers Sun Brewery and Tanquerays Llangollen brewery. In 1904 an act of Parliament was introduced aimed at weeding out all of those drinking establishments that were unfit for purpose. In 1908 this act was responsible for the closure of 5 public houses in Llangollen – the Golden Lion on Bridge Street, the White Lion on White Lion Square, the Woolpack on Bridge Street.
Princess Victoria’s Visit (1832)
In 1832 a young Princess Victoria visited Llangollen. In that year several weeks were spent by the Princess and her mother in North Wales and her brief stay gave a new name to the Royal Hotel (formerly the King’s Head Hotel) where the horses for the royal carriage were changed.
Limestone Quarries (1854)
Recollections of Bill Saunders
He (My grandfather) started the quarry in 1854 and had a lease from Chirk Castle at £75 a year rent, merging into a royalty of 1d per ton – and there were 3 sorts of limestone. At the height of it there were about 80 men employed – when it was at its very best – and there were 3 different beds of limestone.
My father took over in 1896. In 1902 he completely changed over to silica and he dispersed of the lease of the limestone quarries and started silica. That was being carried by horses and carts down the yard and delivered to Roberts and McGuiness brickworks who were then known as Estonia Brickworks. He supplied them for several years. It was supplied to Dudley after that, to a firm called Gibbons of Dudley, who continued to take silica from our quarry until 1929. They are still in existence.
1858 saw the start of the plans for a major extension to the town. Land to the south of the Bridge was split into lots, to be sold for the development of commercial premises on either side of a new street (to become Castle Street) that would run between the Bridge and Berwyn Street. A new market was also proposed behind the shops on the west side of the new street. The earliest known photograph of Llangollen, by Percy Clarke in 1859, shows some of the building work along the new street underway. However, this was not to be the end of the Victorian thirst for expansion. In 1862 a further 104 plots of land were put up for sale, the majority on the west side of the town around a grid of new roads adjacent to the new Smithfield Market. Most of these plots would be for residential use.
The first passenger train arrived at Llangollen in 1862 but at that time the station was further down the road towards Wrexham (Mill Street). Before this, the nearest station was Whitehurst Halt near Froncysyllte (locally known as Y Stesion Ty Coch). At that time the major hotels ran a ‘taxi’ service from the station to Llangollen and it was to this station that George Borrow, the author of ‘Wild Wales’ arrived in 1854. There was much argument over the route of the new railway with numerous public meetings during the 1850s. The chief engineer of the Llangollen railway was Henry Robertson, a highly influential local man who also owned a nearby ironworks and no doubt had much to gain. The work took much longer than expected, despite the employment of huge numbers of labourers, who even worked on Sundays, much to the disgust of many people. To be fair they were also effected by a very bad winter of 1860/61 which for a time brought all work to a halt. The first goods train arrived in December 1861 and the first passengers on 2nd June 1862.
There has been a house on the site of Plas yn Vivod since at least the early 18th century and maybe before. Some re-building was done in the early 1800s by the Ellerton family but the current building mainly dates from the 1850s or early 1860s, with considerable enlargement and remodelling in 1871 by W.J. Green for William Wagstaff.
Further additions and alterations were made in 1906-10 by R.T. Beckett for the Best family, who were descendants of the Wagstaffs. The Best family continue to occupy Plas yn Vivod today.
For many years Plas yn Vivod was home to the Vale of Llangollen sheepdog trials (see photo), now moved to a new venue at Llandyn.
Originally a small cottage called Braich y Gwynt, in 1865 Bryntysilio was bought by Sir Theodore and Lady Martin. The house was greatly enlarged, the work being completed in 1870. In 1889, Queen Victoria, a good friend of the Martins, took tea at Bryntysilio when she visited Llangollen.
Occupied by the military in the Second World War the house was afterwards restored, but much reduced in size by Mr Sydney Aston before being later sold to Walsall Education Authority as an outdoor education centre.
Queen Victoria's Visit (1889)
1889 saw the second visit by Victoria to the town. Accompanied by the Prince and Princess Henry of Battenburg, as well as Princess Alice of Hesse, she was staying at Pale Hall, Llanderfel, owned by Mr Henry Beyer Robertson. On the journey up by train she passed through Llangollen Station, where a large number of people had assembled on the Bridge to catch a glimpse of the Queen as the train passed through at around seven in the morning. On the return journey the Queen stopped in Llangollen and took tea with her friends Theodore Martin and Helena Faucit, the actress. To celebrate her brief visit to the town a commemorative coin was produced with an image of the Queen on one side and Llangollen Bridge on the other.
Sited on the location of a former woollen mill, the buildings behind Church St were used by the Llangollen Tanning Company, established around 1900. The black and white house was the office for the tannery until it closed in 1990. Many were not sorry to see it go as the process generated a smell that was not pleasant.
|Corn Mills||Aqueduct||Cloth Mills||Canal||Chain Bridge||Roads||Breweries||Victoria