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Dyserth - Landowners

Nearly all the following is extracted from
“Dyserth. An Historic Village”
By Ronald & Lucy Davies
with the kind permission of their family


By the 13th century Dyserth was a township in the commote of Prestatyn. At this time the majority of the population outside the boroughs were Welsh, living in small groups of households in a 'township', which were subdivisions of a commote, not towns in the modern sense. The people lived by farming. They grazed their animals on open pasture or moorland, though there was a certain amount of arable land which was divided into strips for cultivation.

The population was divided into 'free-tenants' and 'villeins'. The villeins were tied to the land and could not leave it without permission, and they owed certain duties to their lords. The free-tenants tended to follow the old Welsh tribal tradition, many of them claiming descent from old Welsh princes.

In the 14th century some of these free-tenants were very wealthy and owned great tracts of territory, one of them containing over 24 townships from Wepre to Llewerllyd. These wealthy families became the dominant landowners in the area. This would have been roughly the pattern of life in Dyserth.

By the 16th century, after the Act of Union with England in 1536 but not necessarily because of it, and other contributory factors, there had developed a class of lesser gentry. After the dissolution of the monasteries in the late 1530's and early 1540's a great deal of monastic land suddenly came on the market and there were many opportunities for enlarging estates.

During Elizabeth Ist's reign (1558-1603) some of the land had already been enclosed into fields forming small farms, but much of it still remained open common and wasteland.

In 1794 an Act was passed "for embanking and otherwise fencing from the sea, the Lands at the Sea Coasts in the parish of Abergele in the County of Denbighshire, and Rhydlan Marsh in the several parishes of Abergele aforesaid and of St. Asaph and Rhydlan and of Franchise Rhydlan in the County of Flint and sundry other Marshes, Commons and Waste Lands in the said parish of Rhydlan and in the several parishes of Dyserth and Meliden in the said County of Flint, and to cut and make in or through the same or some part therof, one or more aqueducts or other Watercourses or Drains, and to enclose, divide or sell competent parts of the said Marshes, Commons and Waste Lands to defray the expenses of the said Works and to raise a fund for the future Repair and Preservation thereof." The area involved was "along the banks of the Clwyd up to the confluence with the Elwy and thence up each as far as the tide shall reach, or further if necessary, to be embanked, capped or otherwise fenced."

The Act also empowered them to cut the general Aqueduct or drain "to begin at or near the Spring called Ffynon-Ol(?) above Lodge Goch in the parish of Abergele and to run through the said parish Eastward and across the Common Marshes aforesaid and the River Clwyd Voryd or Port River of Rhydlan, and also one general aqueduct or Drain to begin at or near a house called Yffern (M?) in the parish of Meliden aforesaid and through the parishes of Diserth and Rhydlan and the River Clwyd Voryd".

By the 19th century the system of landowners was firmly established. A document in the Hawarden Record Office states:-
William Williams of Mold in the County of Flint, Landsurveyor, do hereby agree to undertake to execute the business of the Commissioner and Surveyor of dividing and allotting the Commons and Wastelands in the Parish of Dyserth in the said County agreeable to the intended Act of Parliament for that purpose at the sum of Two Hundred and Fifty Pounds. Witness my hand the 9th day of January, 1815"

The Tithe map of 1839 for the parish of Dyserth shows the ownership of land distributed as follows:

Land Ownership is not necessarily as important to the locality as might appear. If the landowner is resident he probably takes an interest; if not, a leaseholder may be of more local importance, as was Paul Panton owing to his very active involvement in the Talargoch Mine. Similarly Harrison and Williamson above probably acquired their estates owing to their local mining interests. The Bishop, having only a temporary appointment, had no personal permanent interest in the estates whether in Dyserth or elsewhere.

THE HUGHES FAMILY derived from Cynwrig ap Bleddyn ap Madog who in 1407 owned most of Llewerllyd and much of Trecastell. In the 17th century they were the most important family in Dyserth, as their arched tombs in the churchyard suggest. Their chief residence was Dyserth Hall, In 1681 John Hughes leased land in Llewerllyd and Trecastell to Col. Roger Whitley, who was keenly interested in mining, and the land passed with his granddaughter in 1705 to the Earl of Plymouth.

THE WINDSOR AND WINDSOR-CLIVE FAMILY derived from a 12th century castellan of Windsor. It was important during the middle ages. Its head became a baron, Lord Windsor, and in 1686 Earl of Plymouth. The second earl married the Whitley heiress and so became the principal landowner concerned with the Talargoch Mine. But the family never resided in the area as it had more lands elsewhere. So they leased the mine-workings to Paul Panton, and later others. The earldom became extinct in 1833 but the sister of the 6th earl, who had married Robert Clive, became 'Lady Windsor'. Hence the 'Lady Windsor Tavern' and the'Clive Engine House'. Her grandson, the 13th Baron, was created Earl of Plymouth in 1905. Dyserth Hall was usually occupied by the mine-captains and later by the Roberts family who ultimately bought it from the Plymouth estate.

THE MOSTYN FAMILY is of very distinguished Welsh lineage and interests. In the 14th century its head was Adda ap Iorwerth Dda of Pengwern Llangollen who married the sister of Owain Glyndwr. His son, Ieuan, married a cousin of Owen Tudor, and their son married the heiress of Mostyn to which they moved. Their son, Howel ap Ieuan Fychan, married the heiress of Gloddaeth (near Llandudno) and actively helped the Tudor brothers to avoid danger from the Yorkist kings. Richard ap Howel was conspicuous at Henry Tudor's victory over Richard III in 1485, but refused a place at court and returned home to his chief interests and in 1523 sponsored the Eisteddfod. The family produced many branches and marriage alliances, but two of Richard's sons, Thomas Mostyn of Mostyn and Piers Mostyn of Talacre, established separate estates and traditions, the elder becoming High Sheriff in both Flintshire and Caernarvonshire (and acquiring the Bodysgallen estate to add to Gloddaeth and so be able later to establish Llandudno), the younger getting the lands of Basingwerk Abbey, but remaining Roman Catholic. Rhyd was acquired by a younger brother of the Mostyn of Mostyn, later inherited by the senior branch, and again granted to a junior. In 1831 the Mostyn Estate passed to a nephew, Sir Edward Price Lloyd of Pengwern Rhuddlan. This line acquired a peerage, (Lord Mostyn) and the surname Lloyd-Mostyn.

THE BODRHYDDAN ESTATE: (Family names, Conway, Shipley-Conway, Rowley-Conwy.)

The descent of this family is claimed from Sir William Conias, High Constable of England under William I, who was granted land in Yorkshire. William ordered the Coniers of that time to go to Rhuddlan to help in the building of the Castle. The name is believed to have been originally Norman French, Coniers, and subsequently variously spelt as Conias, Konias, Conwey, Coneweye, Conwaye, Conway, until the present Conwy, Sir Hugh Conwy: in the mid 14th century, adopted the surname - almost certainly at Bodrhyddan. Sir Henry Conwy; became by marriage Lord of the Manor of Prestatyn. In 1390 he was Castellan of Rhuddlan under Richard II. In 1399 he submitted to pressure and supported Henry IV and was made castellan for life.

The family was very local in its interests, especially within the Borough of Rhuddlan, but also in any land around, e.g. Perthkinsey. But by 1839 the only land they held in Dyserth was in Llewerllyd; the principal growth of the estate was towards Cwm and Rhuddlan, The first marriage into a Welsh family occurred around 1430 to Marsh, a descendent from Owain Gwynedd. In 1485 the contemporary Conwy collected soldiers from Rhuddlan and Dyserth to join Henry Tudor at Bosworth in his battle for the throne. Successive John Conwys married into Catholic families, but did not completely lose their favours, for instance they became High Sheriffs and were granted a Knighthood. They appear to have suffered little during Commonwealth; - Henry Conwy became High Sheriff in 1655, i.e. under Cromwell. In 1660, they were granted a Baronetcy at the Restoration.

In 1721 this baronetcy died out because Sir John Conwy, the then baronet, had no sons but only daughters to inherit from him. The variations of the family name occurred through the following marriages:- Penelope Conwy, daughter of Sir John, married Col. James Russell Stapleton, whose family owned sugar plantations on the island of Nevis in the West Indies. Their daughter, Penelope Stapleton married Ellis Yonge of Bryn Iorcyn, an old house near Wrexham. Ellis Yonge was a wealthy man of distinguished Welsh ancestry. Their daughter, Penelope Yonge married William Davies Shipley, Dean of St.Asaph, the great, great, great Grandfather of the present Lord Langford, who died in 1826. Capt William Shipley-Conwy (1807-69) was succeeded by his sister Charlotte Shipley-Conwy who married Capt. Hon. Richard T Rowley, 2nd son of Lord Langford, Earl of Bective. In 1853 the eldest son of this Lord Langford died, and the title reverted to the male descendents of the second son,* The present Lord Langford tells me 'The reason for double-barrelled names during this period is interesting; prior to the Married Women's Property Act, which was passed only about one hundred and twenty-five years ago, while spinsters and widows could own property, married women owned nothing apart from their wedding-rings. On marriage, a woman's property passed entirely to her husband and in order to maintain in some slight measure a family connection with the property it is not unnatural that in many cases the heiress, doubtless timidly, asked her husband whether her maiden name might not be added to his.'

From William Shipley-Conwy onwards a great deal of interest was taken in the district by successive squires, after their time in the Services. Their rural estate suffered like others particularly in the late 19th century. The repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 led to cheap American imports which had a devastating effect on farming and things only recovered from 1914. Unfortunately, turmoil has returned to the farming industry in the 1990's.

THE PANTON FAMILY owned land at Bagillt, and the Paul Panton who died in 1752 was a school friend of the Dyserth agent of the Quaker Company which ran the lead workings there from 1700, became interested himself. His son & grandson developed the work with even more enthusiasm. Paul Panton, senior (1729-97) was educated at Westminster and Oxford, became a barrister and married the heiress of Plas Gwyn (Anglesey). He had great literary and antiquarian interests in Wales, and was once High Sheriff of Flintshire, but was "mine-mad" and became the driving force at Talargoch and had other mining interests. His son, Paul Panton, junior (1758-1822), educated at Chester and Edinburgh University, practised as a barrister on the North Wales circuit, and lived at Plas Gwyn. His Flintshire interests were taken over by :

THOMAS HARRISON AND WILLIAM WILLIAMSON, which leads one to wonder whether Panton senior was ready to participate in the great drainage under the Act of 1794. This might have made Pydew and Plas Newydd more attractive investments than before. The Williams Estate disposed of Graig but retained Tynyffynon at least until recent years (1990) and is, with Bodrhyddan and the Dyserth Community, a member of the Tripartite Committee of landowners which administers the area round the waterfall.

This, I believe is still the situation at the present time (1999). Dyserth is surrounded by farms, leased from the same landowners as before. The land is both arable and pasture land, with some upland grazing. - Lucy Davies

*ref. "The Pedigrees of Anglesey and Denbighshire Families" published 1910.