The History of Treflach won’t be found in books but uncovered occasionally in articles, diaries and oral histories that record a rich tapestry of life and events. I put these together in this compilation for the first time. The video is of the ancient Treflach to Whitehaven road which had a temporary stop order put on it in 1988. Its aim is to illustrates the past; together with the words that follow, I hope, bringing to life the landscape as we walk through it.
Porth-y-waen sits on the old river bed of the Tanat, a natural gateway into Wales (Porth=gate). So much so that the toll house at Llansanffraid was the most lucrative in the area and to evade the Blodwel toll house the more difficult Whitehaven road was often used. The 1841 Tithe map of Treflach shows Whitehaven as a mass of crofts. In 1839 Porth-y-waen school catered for up to 100 children. Treflach was encompassed by the Industrial Revolution and its lanes and footpaths would have had a massive footfall, but as industry disappeared so Treflach reversed back to an agrarian landscape. This period describes Treflach township at its zenith.
I will now timeline the area from 10,000 BC.
12,000 years ago where Treflach is now positioned used to be the shore line of Lake Lapworth. Thick forests followed as the lake drained out at Coalbrookdale (cutting the Ironbridge Gorge) covering the local glacial moraine (a mass of rocks and sediment carried down and deposited by a glacier, typically as ridges at its edges or extremity) and erratics (a rock or boulder that differs from the surrounding rock and is believed to have been brought from a distance by glacial action) that make up today’s topography.
Early civilisation began to clear the woodland picking up the stones to create walls and boundaries. Although there is physical evidence at Top Forest of an early settlement - the first farming community was centred around Treflach Farm pool. Legend handed down from generation to generation said that the early township disappeared into a sinkhole one night when a feast was being had - now a circular pool at Treflach Farm.
The first actual historical reference (1400) to the area is of David and Guinevere Holbache who lived on Sweeney Mountain (Treflach Hall is within arrow shot). David Holbache founded Oswestry School in 1407.
During the Civil War a Colonel Roger Evans of Treflach Hall (one of Oliver Cromwell’s chiefs of staff) ran the whole area during the Commonwealth between 1649-1660.
It is from this period the great Cedar of Treflach dates when Colonel Evans travelled to London on business. The planting of Cedar of Lebenon trees was very popular with the ruling elite of the 17th century.
At the time the Vicar of St Oswald Church was also the Head Master of Oswestry School as they were next to next, so deeds and papers went amiss – land had been bequeathed to the school by David Holbache for tithes to be paid for school up keep.
In 1704, Richard Evans (the son of Colonel Roger Evans) lost the estate in a gambling brawl with the Hunts of Borreaton (Agnes Hunt of the world famous Orthopaedic at Gobowen was a descendent). Coincidentally Oliver Cromwell’s son was also called Richard - or Queen Dick by those who believed he lacked his father’s charisma!
At this time Treflach was centred around The Gibralta Inn. A field adjacent the Inn is called ‘The Common’ today, a name from a time before enclosure when strip farming existed. In 1704, during the War of the Spanish Succession the battle of Gibralta was a victory for ally forces with many streets and pubs named after it in celebration.
The date stone on Treflach Hall is 1704 but that was when it and the estate was remodelled. Before this date the Hall stood on the site of Treflach Farm pool – its foundations can still be seen on the west side. The story goes it burnt down in the 16th Century and was rebuilt in stone on its current site.
In 1792 Woodhill was built – it became the primary residence of the area – the grand families of the Jones Venables and the Dumville-Lees left a legacy that can still be appreciated today. The straight new road to Oswestry was constructed following the boundaries of the newly enclosed fields, unlike the old road through Gron-wen that bends torturously. In St. Catherine’s Chapel in St Oswald’s Church in Oswestry – there is a stained glass window in memory of local hero Edward Frederick Venables, best viewed on a spring morning when the sun puts on a light show.
Religion, if practiced at all, was in the open air. A Methodist Chapel at Gron-Wen and at Treflach took preaching indoors. The coffee rooms at the end of Gibralta Lane was opened by the Dumville-Lees family as an alternative to drinking alcohol. Civil unrest was always brewing as the population moved to where new Industry was setting up.
The Royal British Legion records a local battle at Treflach when the fallen where buried in a local wood and marked by a large stone. With Offas Dyke straddling the area there were many skirmishes with the Welsh.
A local joke is that they invented the zip around here as so little archaeological treasure has been found apart from lead gun shot from the Civil War. However a coin from 1735 and a lesser valued token coin from 1789 inscribed with Liverpool-Congleton-Macclesfield has been found in recent years at the base of a large tree at Treflach Hall. The later places its owner, Charles Roe (and no doubt the workman who must have been climbing the tree) as staying locally. He came to visit Llwyn-y-maen Colliery in 1789 to purchase rare calamine brought up with the coal that was needed in the copper industry.
The Dumville-Lees family were great benefactors to the area and very well respected by all but due to double death duties the family sold up in c1929. Treflach Farm went for £3000, Treflach Hall for £2000 and the mansion house of Woodhill for £1000 as it had been stripped of all but 97 acres of land. All the other local farms of the estate had been sold also. Brook House (now a retirement home) was built for the Dumville-Lees daughters and another house was built in Dummy’s Wood (now part of Treflach Farm) for two faithful servants (a brother and sister) who were deaf and dumb.
Some say that is how the wood got its name but looking at old maps shows close by at Whitehaven there was a property called Pendle Hall – anyone who knows about Pendle Hill in 1613 near Lancaster may hear the penny drop as to folklore passed down by generations tells of strange goings on.
In the 1920’s Alfred Watkins rediscovered ley lines. Before Christianity pagans placed their important sites like churches on them so as new religions came they supplanted them on top of their foundations. Today it is said all old churches sit where ley lines intersect.
If you go onto Old Oswestry and walk anti-clockwise keeping your eye on the position of Oswestry Castle - St Oswalds on the skyline on a clear day you will see an umbrella like tree. Keep going until all are in line and the tree on the skyline is the Treflach Cedar of Lebanon – here ley lines intersect and under your feet was the last major archaeological dig that found evidence of how the ancients lived.
There are more old ancient yews here than many church yards and there used to be five others in a circle denoting a place of safety. Modern day Druids believe that when a ley line is severed (in the case at Whitehaven when quarrying has created a huge hole in the ground) it creates bad energy. Today Whitehaven is just a name however it used to be the heartbeat of Treflach township – today it is withered as a witch!