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Bagillt, St Mary's Church.jpg
St Mary's Church, Bagillt
Grid reference: SJ221752
Location: 53°16’5"N, 3°10’5"W
Population: 3,918  (2001)
Post town: Bagillt
Postcode: CH6
Dialling code: 01352
Local Government
Council: Flintshire

Bagillt is a small town in Flintshire, overlooking the Dee Estuary near Holywell. At the 2001 the population was recorded as 3,918. Bagillt is best described as a poor, pos-industrial town. In former days it partook of the industrial boom of the Dee Estuary towns, though it never prospered, but the decline of industry has left it bereft.

Today Bagillt and Greenfield remain areas where unemployment, social deprivation and child poverty are key issues. North Wales Police ecorded that the overall crime rate in Bagillt East rose 200% from 2007 to 2008.

Community facilities include a few local shops, pubs and parkland.


Mostyn Hall, the seat of the Mostyn baronets, lies close to Bagillt. Parts of the building date from the time of Henry VI. During the 15th century, the Earl of Richmond, the future King Henry VII, is said to have been concealed here in the reign of Richard III, by the lord of Mostyn, Richard ap Howel. The Hall now houses antiquities and manuscripts pertaining to British history and Welsh language texts that were brought from Gloddaeth Hall in Llanrhos.

Above Bagillt is Bryn Dychwelwch, "Hill of Retreat", so called from the retreat effected by Owain Gwynedd, when pursued by Henry II, with superior numbers. Castell Hen Blas also lies within the boundaries of Bagillt, a motte and bailey castle that was the birthplace of Dafydd ap Llywelyn, Prince of Wales, probably around Easter 1212. The castle ruins were partially excavated in the mid-1950s. Dafydd's birth was commemorated by the unveiling of a plaque on the wall of the Upper Shippe inn in the centre of the village on 25 July 2010, 770 years since the issuing of his earliest surviving charter as prince.

Industrial Revolution

The Gadlys Lead Smelting Works was established by Edward Wright and his associates - generally Quakers - in 1704. Organised as the London Lead Company, they kept the workshop open until 1799. John Freame, one of the founders of Barclays Bank, was involved in this initiative.[1]

By the late 18th century, Bagillt had become a centre of raw-mineral extraction and manufacture. Hundreds of men laboured in 11 collieries that surrounded the village. There was also an alkali and kindred factory and works that produced and refined zinc, lead and iron.

Bagillt already had several quays on the banks of the River Dee where fishing boats had moored for centuries and by the early 19th century, these has grown into docks where cargo destined for the factories and foundries of the Midlands and Lancashire were loaded.

In 1846 navvies laying track for the new railway reached Bagillt. The Chester and Holyhead Railway officially opened on 1 May 1848. The local mines and works that had used these wharves now switched to haulage by steam train. Bagillt railway station had extensive sidings and freight yard. It closed in 1966.

In 1879 a Workingman's Club and Cocoa House was built on the High Street in the Pentre area by public subscription. The building was named the Foresters Hall, an impressive three-storey red brick building of note which is supported by the Bagillt Heritage Society. The purpose of the building was to promote temperance and was originally associated with the Foresters Friendly Society.

The industrial age created problems too and in 1848, the same year the railway opened, a book was published in London entitled Reports of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the state of Education in Wales. It detailed the poverty and hard living of many people in Bagillt and the Flintshire coalfields in at the time:

"In some of the collieries the men are paid every other Saturday, and do not return to their work till the following Tuesday or Wednesday. In Bagillt and in the adjoining town of Flint the old Welsh custom of keeping a merry night (noswaithlawen) is still prevalent, and, being generally reserved for a Saturday, is protracted to the following Sunday, during which drinking never ceases. The custom is represented by the clergy and others as involving the most pernicious consequences.

I saw two men stripped and fighting in the main street of Bagillt, with a ring of men, women, and children around them. There is no policeman in the township. The women are represented as being for the most part ignorant of housewifery and domestic economy. The girls are very early sent to service, but marry as early as 18, and have large families.

Women are not employed in or about the mines, but spend most of their time in cockling, or gathering cockles on the beach. They have low ideas of domestic comfort, living in small cottages dirty and ill-ventilated, and at night are crowded together in the same room, and sometimes in the same bed, without regard to age or sex." [2]

Bagillt remained a hard-working boom town for more than a century. For instance on 31 May 1873, even a local newspaper, the Wrexham Advertiser, reported that so many new coal workings had opened near Bagillt it was becoming difficult finding enough miners to work in them:

"No less than four new collieries have been recently started near Mold, and it is becoming a serious question how to get labour to work them, all the men available in the district being already engaged. The colliery nearest the town on the north side is named Hard Struggle from the difficulty experienced in obtaining water to get up steam. Another to the east side is named Slap Bang from the fact that coal has been found near the surface. To the south the Linger and Die company are doing their best to reduce the price of coal and to enhance that of labour. While to the south east the Strip and at it company are showing the world how to make the most of it. We hear of numberless other ventures, but these are the principal."[3]

In July 1897 work commenced at Boot End, Bagillt, on the huge Milwr Tunnel which would drain water from the mines working the lead lodes under Pentre Halkyn. Digging started at a point 9 feet below high-water mark on the Dee foreshore.[4] The tunnel was driven southwest at a gradient of 1:1000. It was brick lined where it passed through coal measures and shale but unlined after the first 1.5 miles where it passed through chert and limestone. In 1908 the tunnel was draining more than 1.7 million gallons of water per day through the drainage channel and into the river at Bagillt.[4]

But by the 1930s the Great Depression had brought hardship and misery to the area as many of the manufacturing works and collieries were closed. Large numbers of people were now out of work and in severe financial hardship. The days of industrial might had ended in Bagillt. The area was now falling into long-term decline. Prior to Second World War many people left in search of work, some moved to cities like Cardiff, Manchester and Liverpool while others went overseas to Canada and the United States of America.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Bagillt)


  1. John Freame (1665-1745) accessed 18 February 2013
  2. 532 Reports of the commissioners of inquiry into the state of education in Wales, appointed by the Committee of Council on Education, in pursuance of proceedings in the House of Commons on the motion of Mr. Williams, of March 10, 1846}}
  3. 'Hard Struggle' - pit names BBC Wales
  4. 4.0 4.1 Ebbs, C.. "Halkyn District United Mines". Flintshire Lead Mining.