(Revised from the previously published Jubilee Booklet)
The place-name Buckley first appears as Bokkeley in 1294 and it wasn’t until 1756 that the present spelling appeared on Thomas Kitchin's map of Flintshire having undergone various changes in the meantime. The likely meaning of the name was “clearing in a beech wood” (“boc” = beech tree; “ley” = wood, glade or clearing), though other contenders are “bucc” = buck, deer, and “bwlch y clai” = clay hole. The name is thought to describe the high ground in the Manor of Ewloe which we now call Buckley Mountain, the highest point being 518 feet above sea level.
The township of Bistre is first
mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086 as Biscopestreu (Tree of the Bishops).
In medieval times the area was part of three manors and lordships: Mold,
Hawarden, and Ewloe. In 1874, the new ecclesiastical parish
of Buckley comprised the townships of Ewloe Town, Ewloe Wood, Pentrobin and
Bannel, formerly in Hawarden Parish. Though Buckley referred to a larger area
which included parts of Argoed and Bistre. When a new civil
area was created in 1897, Buckley Urban District was made up of six townships: Argoed,
Bistre, Ewloe Town, Ewloe Wood, Pentrobin, and Bannel. Buckley
district has Wat’s Dyke, an eighth century earthwork, as its western boundary.
The rich Buckley dialect was
born of the influx of people in the 18th and 19th
centuries, creating a unique mix of accents, vocabulary and phrases.
Sadly today it is in steep decline.
Potteries, Brickworks and Collieries: these three industries powered the engine of the town’s prosperity and fashioned the Buckley landscape. These industries have been determined by a corridor of clay and coal which runs across the district from Ewloe in the north to Padeswood in the south. Coal and clay were extracted from the surface in medieval times.
POTTERIES. Nineteen of them have been recorded, the first in the mid 1400s, with the last being Lamb’s Pottery which closed down in 1945. The boulder clay was used in the potteries, which were producing pottery from the 13th or 14th centuries until the mid 20th century. The early potteries produced very fine ware, but in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the majority of the pottery produced was earthenware fashioned from the boulder clay.
The turbulent intervention of two world wars and changing tastes finally tolled the death knell for the potteries by the mid 20th century. In the 1970s and early 1980s, a dedicated group of archaeologists including James Bentley and Martin Harrison excavated and preserved the richness of the pottery and brickwork heritage throughout Buckley and valuable work was done to record and retain as much of the historic detail as possible before it disappeared under housing and other developments. In addition, very recent professional archaeological digs prior to developments have revealed and recorded details of sites which would otherwise have been lost to us.
COLLIERIES. The abundant source of good quality coal fuelled the kilns of the potteries and brickworks. According to the 1881 Census, 762 people worked in mining compared to 359 in brick making. At one time there were over thirty collieries of various depths, some of them run in combination with the brickworks. John Summers Steelworks owned the Buckley Colliery Company, which bought most of the collieries and used much of the coal for the furnaces at Shotton Steelworks. The Buckley Colliery Company closed before 1935.
BRICKWORKS. The canalisation of the River Dee in 1737 provided an immense opportunity for the expansion of the manufacturing of bricks and brick-related items at Buckley as it provided, along with the growth of the railways, a quick and efficient way of transporting heavy goods out of Buckley. The former wooden and metal narrow gauge tramways became main gauge railways with many of the burgeoning brickworks having their own sidings.
The twenty-five brickworks established between about 1760 and the mid 1860s dominated the town: some were short-lived affairs but others flourished. By the start of the 20th century, there were nineteen firms in business. By 1950, this had diminished to eleven. The names of the entrepreneurs who owned or managed these brickworks became the means of identifying some of them. e.g. Davison’s Bottom and Top, Parry’s, Catherall’s, Hancock’s: some others - Standard, Castle, Globe, Etna, Belmont, Drury, Brookhill. Between them they produced a great variety of high quality brick products which were exported all over the world.
The last brickworks in Buckley was at Lane End: it had been established in 1792 by John Rigby and William Hancock. In 1956 it became the property of the Castle Firebrick Company who also took over several of the other brickworks. Butterley took it over in 1971 and at its closure, announced in February 2003, it was owned by Hanson’s. It had been one of the biggest and earliest in the area, and the last one to close in Buckley. The last chimney in Buckley was demolished at Lane End Brickworks on the morning of Friday 26th November 2004. It marked the end of a 250-year era of robust and prosperous industry for the town.
The working of coal and clay is finished and gone too are the many chimneys which dominated the skyline. The labyrinth of tramways and railways, essential for the transport of goods to the river Dee, has been removed. The gradual demise of the brickworks left various clay holes, most of them huge and eventually filled with water. Some of these were landfilled with domestic rubbish (e.g. Belmont, Etna, Standard, and, latterly, Brookhill). Etna has now been transformed into part of a heritage park and trail. The Standard is at the time of writing being capped in preparation for its transformation from quarry to disused clay hole to landfill to parkland for public access. Lane End Brickworks site is destined to become a housing estate and nature reserve. The Brookhill site is still being filled. Many of the old industrial sites have been built on, mainly by housing developments. The Trap clay hole has been managed for many years by the Buckley Angling Association and is now a beautiful pool. Apart from their physical legacy, the former industries have left a rich, varied and fascinating history which is being explored to this day.
Education and religion transformed the lives of the young Buckley community in the nineteenth century. Schools and places of worship depended on one another. Jonathan Catherall built his chapel in 1811 and his two daughters established a school. In 1819-22, the rector of Hawarden erected a school next to the new church of St. Matthew’s. Likewise in 1842, the vicar of Mold did the same next to Bistre Emmanuel Church. In 1847 an Infants’ School was opened at Lane End. The Non-Conformists joined together in the 1840s to provide schools for boys and girls at Mill Lane and St. John’s. But it wasn’t until the Education Act of 1870 that non-sectarian schools were built and came under the control of School Boards. And the first Board Schools were built at Bistre in 1877 in Tabernacle Street.
The second phase of school building began after the Second World War. The nineteenth century primary schools, which had taught generations of boys and girls, were replaced. After the 1944 Education Act, the St. Matthew’s Schools were amalgamated and became the St. Matthew’s Voluntary Primary and Infants School. The Bistre Church School became the Bistre Voluntary Primary School. Later the schools were called County Primary Schools. Westlea Infants School was completed next to Buckley C.P. School in 1970. The two were amalgamated in September 1999 and called Westwood Community Primary School. Bistre Voluntary Primary School was replaced by Southdown County Primary School; its official opening was 13th May 1976. The St. Matthew’s School was replaced by Mountain Lane School whose official opening was in 1964. An extension was added in the late 1990s.
The whole of Buckley rejoiced when its first Secondary School was opened in 1954 and was named after the famous Congregational Minister, Dr. H. Elfed Lewis. It has more than lived up to the expectations of those who built it.
The churches and chapels had a rich cultural and artistic life of their own, with many concerts, pageants, operettas, plays, garden parties, outings, etc. being organised by various flourishing groups belonging to them. In addition there were and are many other societies, clubs and institutions covering a multitude of interests and contributing to Buckley’s rich social and cultural diversity, too numerous to mention here.
Notable amongst these is the Royal Buckley Town Band, established in 1822 and still thriving. It helps to provide our town with a musical heritage to be proud of as it continues to entertain, inspire and delight at all suitable major events in the town, such as the Jubilee and the recent 60th anniversary of the Second World War.
The 150th Buckley Jubilee took place in July 2006, a testament to the strength of tradition and community spirit still present in the town.
Buckley today has a busy
shopping centre surrounding The Cross: formerly the hub of the town’s commerce
was Lane End. The civic buildings in Mold Road date from the
end of the 19th Century and consist of the Town Hall, the Old Baths
and Library. The ground on which the civic buildings were
built was the gift of Robert Griffiths Bros., Chester Corn Merchants.
The Council Offices were opened in October 1901. The
Old Library was built through the generosity of Andrew Carnegie, the
philanthropist and, finished in April 1904, was officially opened on 7th
September that year. The Old Baths were opened in 1928, paid
for by a generous grant from the North Wales Miners’ Welfare fund at a time
when the pits were beginning to close in the town in the years of industrial
depression. These Baths were the first in the former Flintshire and served the
community well. The Old Baths and Library building has been
superseded by the new Library, Gallery and Heritage Centre, opened in January
1977, and the new swimming pool at the Buckley Leisure Centre on the Elfed
School campus, opened in July 2005. Also in 2005, a
skateboard park was provided. The Buckley Town Football Club,
Buckley Cricket Club and the Hawkesbury Bowling Club all have their own grounds.
The thriving Tivoli Night Club, built in 1925 as a theatre and cinema,
draws young people from around the locality and is fondly remembered by those
whose endearing young charms have long gone.
There is a fine collection of Buckley pottery in the Library’s Heritage Centre, which shows a variety of ware from early decorated “slipware” of the seventeenth century, to the famous brown earthenware of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the attempt of the twentieth century to produce novelty goods.
The Buckley Society publishes an annual magazine and a CDROM on all aspects of Buckley’s history (www.buckleysociety.org.uk).
The Buckley Society