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Buckley's pits, pots and bricks

Buckley horse drawn tramway
Alex Hughes on the horse drawn tramway serving Belmont Brickworks, c1925

By Ken Lloyd Gruffydd, local historian
How the industries of Buckley shape the town we know today

Both coal mining and pottery making was practised in Buckley from the late 1200s when the area was described as the pasturage of the Manor of Ewloe.

It was the development of these two industries from the 17th Century onwards that attracted people to settle around The Common.

Belmont Brickworks, 1894
Belmont Brickworks, 1894. Once, 200 brickworks' chimneys stood in Buckley

Buckley's advantage as an industrial centre lay in the fact that due to the heavy faulting of its rock formation coal seams were thrown to the surface and were easily accessible.

This proved advantageous until early in the 19th Century when it became necessary to go to greater depths and consequently it became more expensive to extract coal.

Using the local clay, many family-run potteries developed in the area. The earthenware products they manufactured were taken on the backs of donkeys to either Chester market or exported via the river Dee, and this as early as the reign of Elizabeth I. The last pottery kiln was fired in 1946.

Buckley Railway at Brick Wharf, Connah's Quay, c1875
Buckley Railway at Brick Wharf, Connah's Quay, c1875

Cheap crockery and enamel dishes were responsible for killing off the local enterprises. The finer clays were used to make tobacco pipes.

There is ample testimony of brick manufacturing in the area from the 1640s but large scale production does not seem to have occurred until Jonathan Catherall took advantage of the New Dee Canal in around 1737.

By 1815 it is said that 14 such factories could be seen belching smoke on Buckley Mountain.

Workers at the Knowle Lane Coal Company, c1926
Workers at the Knowle Lane Coal Company, c1926

Coalmining reached its peak during the second half of the 19th Century, the principal entrepreneur being George Watkinson who owned several collieries.

The arrival of the Wrexham, Mold and Connah's Quay Railway in 1866 linked the town with the national network and business boomed.

Many outsiders from the English border counties and Staffordshire moved into the district at this time.

However, two World Wars and a depression in the first half of the 20th century saw their demise, the last firing taking place in 1946.

Familiies pick coal during a miners' strike, c1911-12
Familiies pick coal in Buckley during a miners' strike, c1911-12

Today, Buckley boasts numerous light industries and those who cannot find work locally commute to Deeside and Merseyside.

The Castle Cement works at Padeswood is the only large scale industry in a town that was born of the Industrial Revolution.

Nevertheless, Buckley, is a living and thriving community having a legion of clubs and societies.

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