Wrexham's industrial and social history, particularly during the 18th and 19th century, is a fascinating journey, and covered well through local attractions. Lead mining was prevalent here up until the First World War and you can find out more at the Bersham Heritage Centre, and take the Minera Country Park lead mining trails! Social unrest, brewery tours (Wrexham is famous for it's real ales!), oh and Wrexham happens to be the birthplace of Welsh football - Wrexham's history deserves considerable attention.
Wrexham Tourist Information Centre, Lambpit Street, Wrexham, Clwyd, Wales, LL11 1WN. Tel: 01978 292015.
The history of the industrial revolution, and industrial and social history in general is coming through well in tourism, particularly the history of mining in the UK. Wrexham is another Wales hotspot at the centre of the industrial revolution - it boomed during the 18th and 19th century, economically enriched (well, a small number benefited) by it's local lead and coal seams mined and used for iron making.
Several industrial heritage sites are open to the public in and around Wrexham, including taking in the Minera Lead mines, Nant Mill and the Bersham Ironworks and Bersham Heritage Centre - all part of the 9 mile Clywedog Trail. Download a map of the Clywedog Trail via the weblink right. The trail runs alongside the Clywedog River, taking in the industrial herigate sites of the Minera Lead Mines, Nant Mill and the Bersham Heritage Centre and Bersham Ironworks. Explore the relationship between domestic servants and their 'masters' too at Erddig Hall just 2 miles south of Wrexham.
Nant Mill Visitor Centre, Rhosberse Road, Coedpoeth, Wrexham, LL11 3BT. Tel: 01978 752772.
Bersham Heritage Centre, Bersham, Wrexham, LL14 4HT. Tel:01978 261 529.
Lead mining in the Minera area to the west of Wrexham has been traced to as far back as 1296. The lead mining boom period here though was the mid-1860s. Minera is actually Latin for ore or mine. Start your exploration of lead mining in the area at the visitor centre based at Meadow Shaft (see weblink right for map mining trail link). The lead is deep underground here, so mining it from it's deep seems has always been hazardous - the main hazard always being flooding as the lead seems are buried deep within limestone (with limestone you get underground rivers).
Steam engines (courtesy of John Wilkinson who actually nicked his steam engine model and had to pay up later) made for effective pumping out of the water and cost effective lead mining, hence the boom. Outside competition meant that by 1909 lead mining and zinc mining at Minera ceased. The visitor's centre within the Minera Country Park (the Bersham Heritage Centre) explores well the ups and downs of mining, life as a lead miner and goes further back exploring lead mining during the medieval period.
Well worth a visit, plus around the centre are numerous walking trails (the Offa's Dyke Trail isn't far away from the site). Take the A525 off the A483. Off the A525 take the B5426 Minera Hall Road following brown signs for Pyllau Plwm Lead Mines. The Meadow Shaft Engine House dating from 1900 with pumping engine is onsite.
Also in the area is the Bersham ironworks, internationally recognised from 1775, in conjunction with John Wilkinson again, for it's production of cannon and cylinders made from solid cast metal The cannons were used in the American War of Independence as well as the Napoleonic and Peninsular Wars and renowned for their accuracy. It closed in 1812, but today there's a fascinating visitor's centre on-site and it's history is open to all. See weblinks right for visitor information and opening times, as well as maps and location.
Another National Trust attraction in the Wrexham area, alongside Chirk Castle, is the genuinely interesting Erddig Hall (see weblink right for more details). If you're interested in the relationship between rich families and their servants, particularly during the Victorian/Edwardian period, then Erddig Hall is the place to head. All outbuildings such as the kitchen, bakehouse, stables, smithy, laundry house and joiner's shop are intact. Like a mini village, these functional buildings sit alongside and contrast with the lavish state rooms, all with original 18th and 19th century furniture (note the Chinese wallpaper). Outside there's a large walled garden to complete the scene.
Most Victorian machinery is still in working order here, and demonstrations are usually on show, plus you can ride in style in a horse-drawn carriage around the estate or on foot explore some of the 13 miles of footpaths in the surrounding parkland. Facilities are done well, albeit a little expensive, by the National Trust and include a licensed restaurant with kids menu, free parking, a National Trust shop and kids quiz trails are available.
What I guess we haven't quite got to in this current obsession with upstairs-downstairs, servant and master scenario is some of the darker elements contained in the relationship, particularly for women in domestic service. You know, the rapes, manipulations stemming from this power relationship, illegitimate children, poky living conditions for domestic servants, and long hours and low pay with the workhouse and prostitution potentially looming in the background.
But they'll be other stories too of sabotage, petty theft and small group or individual resistance by those in domestic service. For the moment we have the packaged tweeness of the relationship, rather than these darker stories implicit in the power relationship. Domestic service was also looked down upon within the working class of the Victorian and Edwardian period - particularly women working in domestic service. Erddig Hall is just 2 miles south of Wrexham, clearly signposted off the A525 Whitchurch Road or off the A483/A5152 Ostwestry/Chester Road. Erddig, Wrexham LL13 0YT. Tel: 01978 355314.