History and Heritage
When Thomas Telford finished his Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in 1805, it was the tallest navigable canal boat crossing in the world.
It still is. And it’s still taking passengers on the ride of their lives. But now it’s on the world map.
Because in 2009, UNESCO made this masterpiece of civil engineering a World Heritage Site – along with 11 miles of canal, including Chirk Aqueduct and parts of neighbouring Denbighshire and Shropshire.
The thing is, we don’t want to tell you the whole story straight-away. We want to keep something back. Keep you interested.
So we’ll explain everything later, on our World Heritage Site page.
National Trust Properties
Next time you’re clipping your privet, spare a thought for the head gardener at Chirk Castle.
The yew hedges are so enormous it takes a team of three men about eight weeks to give them a short back and sides. All wielding electric trimmers. And generating three tonnes of clippings.
Imagine getting that lot in your green wheelie bin. It’s all worth it, mind. The gardens were once voted the best in the National Trust.
The castle itself is a Marcher fortress dating from 1310. But this is no ruin. In fact, it’s been lived in for the last 700 years. The grand 18th century state apartments are crammed with elaborate plasterwork, Adam-style furniture, tapestries and portraits.
And the tea room does a terrific home-made bara brith (a type of fruit-bread).
Our other National Trust property (we don’t like to brag, but yes – we have two) is Erddig.
If you were hooked on the recent TV series Downton Abbey, you’ll know what we mean when we say Erddig is an ‘upstairs-downstairs’ kind of place. Because this stately home has as much to say about the lives of its servants as its owners.
Chirk Castle 01691 777701
Erddig 01978 355314
Wrexham County Borough Museum
Now indulge us. Imagine you’re back in school (unless you are still in school). You’re told to write an essay on the history of Wrexham from start to present.
Now you could reach for the lap-top and have a chat with Mr Google (or any other reliable search engine). But you’d have a lot more fun heading down to the county borough museum.
The building enjoyed something of a makeover in 2010, with an impressive new glass extension creating a lovely café area, reception and shop.
There’s also lots of new interactive gadgets and gizmos that bring the exhibitions to life, telling Wrexham’s story through modern technology.
Of course, it’s hard to tell what the building’s most famous inhabitant makes of all the changes. He’s a quiet sort of guy. But then he is 3,500 years old.
Unearthed by workmen digging a trench in Brymbo in 1958, ‘Brymbo Man’ was nothing more than a celebrity skeleton for a while. Then we asked Dr Caroline Wilkinson of BBC’s Meet the Ancestors to reconstruct his face. She’s a very clever lady.
As for that essay? Top marks guaranteed.
Bersham Ironworks and Heritage Centre
When Bersham Ironworks was at its peak in the 18th century, its owner was known as John ‘Iron Mad’ Wilkinson.
Now we admit he may have been a little eccentric. And he certainly had a short fuse (he fell out with James Watt, whose steam engines were powering the Industrial Revolution with the help of cylinders made in Bersham).
But he was also a genius. He developed a revolutionary process which allowed him to bore cannon with great accuracy out of solid cast metal.
Typically, he supplied weapons to both sides in the American War of Independence. And Bersham cannons were fired in many of Britain’s campaigns in the Napoleonic and Peninsular Wars.
Today, the visitor centre at Bersham Ironworks offers curious minds the chance to learn about one of Wrexham’s most innovative – and eccentric – sons. Check it out.
- 07/07/2016: 10.30am - 12 noon
- 04/08/2016: 2pm – 3.30pm
- 01/09/2016: 10.30am – 12 noon
- Also 31/07/2016
Bersham Ironworks Guided Tours
Meet at Bersham Heritage Centre Car Park. Call 01978 297460 for tour and time updates. Pre-booking not required.
Coal and Steel
Like much of Wales, Wrexham spent most of the last century mining coal. Feeding the furnace of Britain’s industrial juggernaut.
Wrexham will always remember its mining roots with pride, but there was a cost.
September 22, 1934. A huge explosion deep underground at Gresford Colliery. 266 killed. Husbands, fathers, sons, brothers. Wrexham has never forgotten them.
Steel was another pillar of the town’s economy. At its height in the 1960s and early 70s, Brymbo Steelworks would light up the skyline with molten metal.
With over 2,000 workers toiling night and day and some of the most modern techniques in steel manufacture, it was like a vision from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis planted onto a Welsh hillside.
The site closed in 1990, but walk down Lord Street in Wrexham town centre and you’ll see a sculpted archway formed from the figures of a miner and steelworker.
Wrexham has always believed in the future. But we’re proud of our past too.
The steeple of St Giles Church in Wrexham. One hundred and thirty five feet high and one of the Seven Wonders of Wales.
If you’re feeling energetic, book a tower tour for stunning views across the whole of Wrexham and beyond. And when you’re done? Visit some of our other churches.
As well as being places of prayer and contemplation, these architectural treasures bring the sometimes turbulent history of our towns and villages vividly to life.
Take St Mary’s Church in Ruabon. Inside, you’ll find a 15th century wall painting and a 16th century font.
Outside, you’ll find an ornate Lych Gate partly carved in local Wynnstay Oak and dedicated as a Parish War Memorial in 1920 (when Britain was still coming to terms with the huge loss of life inflicted by the First World War).
At St Chad’s Church in Holt you can see the bullet holes left by a skirmish between Roundheads and Cavaliers during the English Civil War.
And in St Mary’s Cathedral, Wrexham, there is a chapel dedicated to the martyr Richard Gwynne. Hung, drawn and quartered in 1584 – and sainted in 1972.
Fifteen of our churches have come together to form the Open Church Network. All with their own compelling stories to tell. And all committed to welcoming visitors.
St Giles Church, 01978 355808
Wrexham Tourist Information Centre, 01978 292015
Open Church Network