Cathedral to Boundry Wall of “Bryn”

Upper Denbigh Road, Chester Street and Old Bont Dafydd.

At the cross roads walk along Upper Denbigh Road, with the Cathedral on your right, passing the VP School on your left (formerly the National School) built in 1863. Opposite, in the Cathedral car park, once stood the girls’ part of the National school. Next you will come to the Dean’s Library, which until the early part of the 21st century, housed a treasury of old and ancient books (since deposited in the NLW).

Walk past Ysgol Glan Clwyd (the old Grammar School) as far as the former HM Stanley Hospital building (the old workhouse) where Henry Moreton Stanley spent a few months of his early life. Return to the centre of the town, admiring the houses on the left; “Angorfa Court” still retains its coach house. {Turnleftbetween thecar park and Cathedral and find “HenEsgobty”- the original Bishop’s palace.}

Back at the cross roads, turn right down Chester Street, noting the shops on either side. Chester Street doesn’t appear on John Speed’s map, as it only became a road when the “New” Bont Dafydd over the Clwyd was constructed, and was known as “Holywell Road”. The City Barber’s for many years had been the Post Office; the present one is now housed in Chester Street Stores. “The Lunch Box” was variously a draper’s, launderette and gift shop. Daniel Owen butcher, has served the community for many years. The (Old) Clwydian Vaults and the (Old) Railway Inn (look up at the features in the guttering) would have been bustling with railway travellers.

Across the road St Winefride’s Catholic Church replaced another from 1854, to which was attached a school. Next door stood Williams’ butcher’s shop. Two red brick buildings were the later police station and police house. On the other side of the road “The Old Presbytery”, until fairly recently, housed the Catholic Parish Priest. No 19 Chester Street housed the Post Office during the 1850’s until the 1890’s in the corner of its draper’s shop. “Hilltop” was built in the late 1850’s as thegaol and Police Station, with the “judge’s withdrawing room” for the neighbouring Courthouse.

During the 1950’s, an elephant that escaped from a travelling circus, was captured and kept overnight in one of the cells! The Court House first appears on the map of 1854 (built in 1853). Magistrates would meet monthly and it served as a County Court with judges meeting bi-monthly. {Note its coat of arms and look for the benchmark}. Since that function ceased it was used as auction rooms, a sewing factory, a milliner’s shop and for many years a Youth Club. It is at present used for “keep fit” & a hairdresser. Just beyond are “Brownlow Villas”, built in the 1860’s.

The Census Returns show professional people such as a solicitor and a professor of music amongst others. Make your way across the road. You are looking at the old Station Yard. The railway from Chester to Holyhead was constructed in 1848, and the Vale of Clwyd line connected St Asaph in 1858. The Station Yard is at present occupied by RN Williams and a Stained Glass workshop in the old station building. The overgrown remains of the platform can be seen through the railings behind the station building. Originally this busy yard had a warehouse constructed for goods trains; there were special livestock pens to accommodate animals bought at the St Asaph Smithfield; and a number of coal wharfs for the many coal merchants of the city.

Passengers had the facility of two footbridges crossing the line. Before the line was closed in the 1960’s, over forty trains a day used to run, just think how convenient a railway would be today! Walk down the hill past the remains of the railway bridge. On the right you will pass “Bryn”, a large mansion with a summer house. On the left is “Richmond Hall”, formerly Bronwylfa Hall. This house has had an interesting and chequered history. Bron-y-Wylfa – “the watch hill”, gave its name to Bronwylfa Hall, home to the notary of St Asaph, Peter Roberts, author of “Cwtta Cyfarwydd” (Chronicles of St Asaph).

These writings extract unusual and extraordinary happenings in the Parish from 1607-1645. The house appears to have been rebuilt in 1660, and enlarged in 1816. At this latter date, Colonel Sir Thomas Henry Browne collected a number of trophies from the Napoleonic Wars, including Napoleon’s travelling maps and a French field-marshal’s baton. Mrs Felicia Hemans, the poet, resided at Bronwylfa for a few years. During the 1930’s the house was destroyed by fire and rebuilt. Recently the house fell under a shadow, being owned by a notorious drugs baron. After his imprisonment, the new owners discovered the tenants had installed a cannabis factory, being tended by Vietnamese illegal immigrants.

Continue walking down to the River Clwyd. Pause on the right hand side of the bridge and look across the fields. The field immediately in front by the river, on the tithe map, is called “Cae Felin”.Where was the old mill? Cross over the road and walk across the bridge, looking out for dippers. This bridge is the “New Bont Dafydd”. Continue following the bridal path that crosses over the A55. On top of the bridge, looking westwards, to your left in amongst the trees is Bronwylfa (Richmond) Hall, and looking out across to the right, notice how the River Clwyd meanders. These fields flood regularly.

Walk down the other side of the bridal/foot bridge, bearing left and looking upwards to your right to Rhyllon, another house where Felicia Hemans lived. Follow the path and turn left when you reach a gate (open), and find Old Bont Dafydd on your left. Cross the stile and read the information boards about Felicia Hemans and Old Bont Dafydd. When the A55 was built, the River Clwyd was diverted; clues being the “abandoned” bridge and water rushes in the field. Examine the bridge and its varied cobble stones and imagine the stage coach crossing and making its way up the now vanished road (Bryn Gerard) by the line of poplar trees, heading for the White Lion Inn. Now, go back to the lane and turn left to walk along the lane by the side of the stream until you find “Felin Wynt”.

Today, there is no apparent sign of a windmill. In the distance can be seen Cyrchynan, a house named after the township, featuring in various 16th & 17th century documents, but now looks like any other ordinary house. Retrace your steps back to St Asaph. {Look for a plaque with the initials “JLW” in the boundary wall of “Bryn” that runs along the left hand side of Chester Street, as you are returning to the city}.