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Footprints - Hammer and Tongs

Wrexham’s traditional industries – brewing, the tanneries and the wool trade – were all linked to farming.  In the late 18th century the town’s first commercial brewery opened and John Peers founded a sheepskin factory, later known as the Cambrian Leather works.

Sole and ffree liberty to dig and sinke for, get and take up Coales upon a certain Common known by the name of Coedpoeth.

Agreement between Sir Thomas Grosvenor and Roger Mostyn of Brymbo, 29th September 1683

To the west of Wrexham, the burgesses of Holt were mining coal from the 15th century.  During the 17th century the Grosvenors and Myddeltons moved into minerals – iron and lead.

John Wilkinson token. - © Wrexham Heritage Services

Ye workers of Bersham and Brymbo, draw near,
Sit down, take your pipes and my song you shall hear.
Fill up and without any further parade,
John Wilkinson, boys, that supporter of trade!

Local rhyme

John Wilkinson was the pioneer of the Industrial Revolution in Denbighshire.  Based at the Bersham Ironworks, he perfected in the 1770s the manufacture of accurate cannon and cylinders using his patented boring machines.  A series of wars, alongside Boulton and Watt’s need for cylinders for their steam engines, made Wilkinson a very wealthy man.

A scandal about possible arms sales to France did not halt Wilkinson’s dominance of local industry.  He was a prime mover behind plans for a canal linking Ruabon, Bersham and his new ironworks at Brymbo to the rivers Dee, Mersey and Severn.  The canal was never completed, but the aqueduct at Pontcysyllte (1805) remains as a monument to the ambitions of the industrialists of Wilkinson’s time.

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct - © Wrexham Heritage Services