Chirk and the Ceiriog Valley in Wrexham North Wales
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Cambrian Traveller's Guide - Chirk 3rd Edition 1840

CHIRK, or EGLWYS-Y-WAUN, is a very neat and clean village, situated upon the brow of a hill, among coal and lime-works, on the S. E. confines of Denbighshire, having 1598 inhabitants. It lies at the base of the Berwyn-range, and contains some highly respectable houses with a good Inn.

In the churchyard are seven aged yews, and in the church several marble monuments to the Myddletons of Chirk Castle; the best is a bust of Sir Thomas Myddleton and his lady. He was a distinguished parliamentary commander during the civil wars. A square tower contains a ring of bells: this structure has of late been improved by subscription, and enlarged to the extent of 173 sittings. Chirk Castle, the residence of Mrs. Myddleton Biddulph, distant 1½ m. from the village in the line of Clawdd Offa, or Offa's Dyke, upon the summit of a lofty hill. The extent of this foss was from the Severn below Chepstow to the mouth of the Dee, which parts the counties of Flint and Cheshire. By a law of Egbert, A.D. 835, the penalty of death was attached to every Welshman who should pass this rampart; and by another law of Harold Harefoot, if a Welshman should come into England without leave, and be taken on that side of Offa's Dyke, his right hand was to be cut off by the king's officer. The Welsh, on the other hand, claimed all as lawful prizes which they took from the English, and it is said frequently passed the line in the night to drive the cattle over the boundary. The present venerable structure was built upon the site of an ancient fortress called Castell Crogen. It, however, is not of recent date, having been erected in the time of Edward I., by Roger Mortimer, to whom the king had granted the united lordship of Chirk and Nanheudwy. It became the property of Lord St. John of Blitso, whose son sold it, in 1595, to Sir Thomas Myddleton, Knt., afterwards mayor of London. It is proudly situated on an eminence backed by the Berwyn range. Like that of Powys near WelshpooI, the style of building partakes both of the castle and mansion; the form is quadrangular, having the angles strengthened with four massive towers, each surmounted by a small turret. The front was once preceded by a pair of iron gates of exquisite workmanship, designed and executed by a common blacksmith, now placed at the entrance into the park from Llangollen. A fifth tower gives admission to a court 160 feet long and 100 broad. Round this are ranged the different apartments, and the E. side is ornamented by a handsome colonnaded piazza, or low embattled corridor. The principal of these are a saloon, drawing-room, &c. A picture gallery, 100 feet long and 22 wide, contains a large collection of paintings, principally portraits, many of which are well executed, by celebrated masters. Among the rest is a picture of Pistyl-Rhaiadyr, represented as falling into the sea! It appears that the artist employed to take this view was a foreigner, to whom it was hinted, when he had nearly finished his piece, that the addition of a few sheep would add to the effect. The artist replied, " You want some sheeps in it ? O ! O ! ver veIl! I vill put you some sheeps in it." He then introduced the sea, and, ridiculously enough, several sheeps ( ships ). There are portraits of the military character of Sir Thomas Myddleton, the great Duke of Ormond, Sir Orlando Bridgeman, the ill-famed Countess of Warwick, afterwards wife of Joseph Addison, &c. &c. This part of the structure has been much altered and greatly embellished by Mrs. Myddleton Biddulph.

The Park is extensive, reaching to the foot of the Berwyn mountains; and covered in places with lofty forest trees, disposed with great taste. The pleasure-grounds are well laid out, and the different plantations tastefully arranged. But the view from the elevation near the house is incomparable. Seventeen counties, as a natural map, spread their varied beauties before the eye of the spectator. Towards England, the plain and town of Shrewsbury, its towers and spires, the Clee Hills, extending towards the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire; the solitary Wrekin ; the high land bounding the Vale Royal of Chester: towards Wales, Llangollen Vale, Castell Dinas Bran, the boisterous Dee; the range of mountains dividing the counties of Merioneth and Montgomery, the Clwyddian Hills, and the Snowdonian chain. A new road embracing much attractive scenery in the vale of Ceiriog, is formed as a substitute for that which led from the villages, avoiding a steep hill. According to a paper communicated to the Antiquarian Society, by J. Myddleton, Esq., the castle was begun in 1011, and finished in 1013; the repairs of one of the wings, in Cromwell's time, cost nearly 28,000l. The length of the front is 250 feet. However, when Sir Thomas Myddleton, in the civil wars, revolted from the parliament, this castle was besieged, and one side, with three of its towers, was destroyed; but were rebuilt in one year, at the enormous expense of 80,000l. Adam's tower is 80 feet high, containing a dungeon as deep as the walls of the castle are high. A National school is established by Mrs. Biddulph, to whom the village is chiefly indebted for the great improvement it has undergone since her possession of this splendid domain. The son of this lady, Robert Myddleton Biddulph, paternally descended from the Biddulphs of Ledbury in Herefordshire, lately represented the county in parliament. The Ellesmere Canal, in its line near Chirk, passes across a deep narrow valley: here the number of double locks, and a circuitous route would have proved tedious and expensive; the engineer, therefore, had recourse to an aqueduct consisting of ten arches resting upon pyramidal piers of stone. This canal is carried over the river and vale of Ceiriog, an extent of 230 yards, and about the centre 65 ft. in height. But the projector had not proceeded in an horizontal direction far, before he had to encounter, from similar causes, tenfold more formidable difficulties: a still deeper ravine was presented, through which the Dee passes with considerable force. Mr. Thomas Telford, the engineer, like the celebrated Brindley, erased from his nomenclature the term " impossibility," and recourse was had to another aqueduct upon a more enlarged scale. See Pont-y-Cyssylltau, under the article LLANGOLLEN. Upon the Ceiriog are several paper-mills; coals are abundant, and there are quarries of excellent stone. One mile N. E. of Chirk is Bryn-Kinallt, a seat of Lord Dungannon, representative of the ancient Welsh family of the Trevors. The mansion is elegant, and, some years since, was enlarged and new fronted.

Two miles from Chirk, on the road TO RUABON, is a pleasing view down a woody vale, in the bottom of which runs the river Dee; but a little farther at New Bridge, this is exceeded by another view more interesting. " Out of the road," says Mr. Bingley, (who visited this neighbourhood in September 1798) "about 100 yards above the bridge, such a scene was presented to me, that had I possessed the pencil of a Claude, I could have painted one of the most exquisite landscapes the eye ever beheld. The river here darted along a rugged bed, and rocky banks clad with wood, where every varied tint that autumn could afford added to their effect, cast a darkening shade upon the stream. With the green oak, all the different hues of the ash, the elm, and the hazel, were intermingled. Above the bridge arose a few cottages surrounded with foliage. The evening was calm, and the smoke, tinged by the setting sun descended upon the vale, while the distant mountains were brightened by his beams into a fine purple. I contemplated these beauties till the declining sun had sunk beneath the horizon, and twilight had begun to steal over the landscape, blending into one, every different shade of reflection."

On the way to LLANGOLLEN, Mr. Pennant ascended the front of Cefn Uchaf. The distant view from this lofty hill is boundless. One side impends over a most beautiful valley, watered by the Dee, diversified with groves, and bounded towards the end by barren and naked rocks, tier above tier. Fumaria claviculata, is abundant in hedges by the road-side near Llangollen. The whole of the road has been improved by the Parliamentary Commissioners.

The Berwyn range of mountains rises near Chirk Castle, and takes a parallel course with the Snowdonian range, towards the s. w., proceeds to the lofty summits of Cadair-Ferwyn, Trum-y-Sarn, Aran Fowddwy, and Cader Idris; it then makes a rapid descent of 2850 feet, within the space of 12 m., and plunges into Cardigan bay at Sarn-y-Bwlch.

To OSWESTRY, cross the river Ceiriog, and Ellesmere canal to the New Inn, 1m. (On the I. are Morton-hall and Pentre Kenrick, Gob-Owen,  3 m. ; to OSWESTRY, 2¾m. Mentha viridis grows by the side of rills in the vale of Ceiriog.



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