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Holywell Common and Halkyn Mountain Historic Landscape

Historic Landscape Characterisation

Holywell Common and Halkyn Mountain

Settlement Landscapes

A possible early Neolithic timber long-house on the summit of Moel y Gaer, Rhosesmor, dated to the 3rd millennium BC, may represent the earliest human settlement in the area. Little is known about later prehistoric or Roman settlement in the area, apart from the later prehistoric hillfort at Moel y Gaer, Rhosesmor, considered below in the section on defended landscapes. Other possible settlement sites of early date include an earthwork enclosure on Holywell golf course, to the east of Calcoed, and several possible round hut sites on Bryn-Sannan, to the east of Brynford. A number of early settlements or habitations are recorded in the area in the Domesday Book of 1086, including those at Brynford (Brunford/Brunfor) and Halkyn (Helchene/Alchene), the latter with a church, though there are no known surface traces of settlements at this period.

The modern settlement pattern has clearly been heavily influenced by the mining and quarrying industries. 18th to early 19th-century maps of the present-day settlements at Gorsedd, Brynford, Pentre Halkyn and Rhes-y-cae show only scattered houses and a number of small encroachments on the edge of the common, represented by 18th and early 19th-century stone-built miners' cottages and small farmhouses largely around the margins of the common. The place-name Rhes-y-cae or 'row in a field' refers to a row of houses, a map of the first half of the 18th century showing only the present inn, on the road from Northop to Denbigh.

Conflicts inevitably arose between the established farmers and landowners and those setting up new houses and enclosures on the mountain, and there were concerted campaigns in the 1780s to break down the fences of illegal enclosures by the legitimate commoners and the agents of the Grosvenor estate.

A considerable increase in population took place during the later 17th and later18th centuries following the rapid expansion of the mining industry, a substantial proportion of the incomers being Derbyshire miners and their families, and it is to this date that most of the nucleated settlements in the area belong.

The village of Halkyn is practically the only old and established nucleated settlement in the area. Originally centred on its medieval church, it was radically remodelled in the 1820s by the Grosvenor family, by relaligning the road, moving the church, and placing their new residence, Halkyn Castle, in the area formerly occupied by the heart of the old village. Schools were built in the area at Halkyn in 1849, Brynford in 1852-54, Carmel in 1862 (where the building is now used as a village hall), and at Rhes-y-cae in 1889.

An earlier horizon of timber-framed buildings is represented at The Grange and the Old Farmhouse nearby, the earlier house at The Grange, belonging to Basingwerk Abbey before the dissolution, being a late 15th or 16th-century timber-framed hall with later stone additions, now used as outbuildings. Of the larger houses in the area, Henblas is a stone-built building dated to 1651, and Halkyn Hall is an early brick-built house, dated to 1674, with some earlier elements.

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