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Maesgwyn Road

The place-name ‘Maes Gwyn’ meaning ‘White Field’ in English is often said to have derived from the medieval practice of soaking woven fabric in a lye solution made from wood ashes, and then seeping in sour milk and rinsing in water, before spreading the fabric in a field or meadow to dry and bleach in the sun. The white ashes were then discarded in the fields to serve as a fertiliser.

The earliest written evidence of a white field in the immediate vicinity of the town of Wrexham was recorded in a 1604 deed to transfer the ownership of a number of parcels of land from William Robinson of Montgomery and John Robert ap Edward ap Bersham to Sir William Meredith of Plas Coch and John Edwards of Stansty.

A railway engineer and entrepreneur by the name of Benjamin Piercy bought most of the land on the eastern side of Rhyd Broughton, which came to be known as the Maesgwyn Estate in the 1860’s. At the same time, Edward Tench, a former land-lord of the Turf Tavern, built a substantial new home opposite to The Racecourse, which he called Maesgwyn, the house would later be demolished and replaced with another building, which is now known as Maesgwyn Hall.

In 1871, the area known as Maesgwyn was described as consisting of 4 fields that spanned a total of 26 acres. Benjamin Piercy died in 1888 and his estate was gradually broken up and sold as individual lots. Some of these lots were bought by Liverpool auctioneers ‘Lucas&Co’ which established a horse repository with a show ground and an auctioneer’s pavilion that were accessed by means of a new road that they installed in 1893, which they called ‘Lucas Road’.

The road followed the route of a nearby ancient pathway, which ran in a southerly direction from Mold Road through a field called Maesgwyn on the western side of Wat’s Dyke, although the pathway had previously been closed off.

The ancient pathway was located in the former ditch on the western side of Wat’s Dyke, which had filled with silt over the centuries to form a hollow way that connected Rhosddu through Crispin Lane and across Mold Road to Maesgwyn and Dolydd.

However, the horse repository could not compete with a much larger horse market that had been built at Eagles Meadow in 1891, and so the business was abandoned and the land on the eastern side of Lucas Road remained vacant for a number of years, while the road, itself was adopted by the town council and renamed as Maesgwyn Road, when it was extended to The Union Workhouse in 1896.

All of the residential properties on Lucas Road/Maesgwyn Road in the 19th Century were built on the western side of the road, as well as a new dancehall ‘The Pavilion’ which was completed in 1895. The eastern side, by contrast, remained undeveloped until a site beyond the boundary at the southern end of the old show ground was selected for the construction of a new central rescue station for the North Wales Coal Owners’ Association with construction commencing in early 1913.

The station was opened on Saturday 25th October 1913, with a journalist from the central news agency attending the official opening, before sending a telegram to a number of newspapers, which then reported; –
A central rescue station for the collieries throughout North Wales was opened at Wrexham today. It is fully equipped with the latest fire-extinguishing and lifesaving apparatus, and a motor-car will always be in readiness to rush to the scene of a colliery accident when assistance is needed.
The station has been erected by the Coal-owners Association.
The stations rooms were intended to acclimatise the men, before entering a gallery, which had been specifically designed to replicate the passages in a coal mine. Here, the men would move rocks and coal that had been deliberately heaped to simulate a collapsed mine, which they would then re-seal with bricks and sand bags, while shoring the roof with heavy pit-props, in exercises that were intended to imitate the conditions that the brigades would experience at an accident in a coalmine.

There was also a brick-built gas chamber at the station, similar to a kiln, with braziers that were filled with combustible materials that created intense heat and sulphurous fumes, which tested the endurance of the men in their breathing apparatus, in controlled simulations of the atmosphere that they would experience in a colliery fire.

The brigades were also taught to read maps and were instructed in basic first aid, although most of their training was focused on fire-fighting exercises, while wearing their breathing apparatus, which was cleaned and tested after every session.

A number of brigades were described as ‘efficiently trained’ within weeks of the station being opened, while a deputation from the coal owner’s association attended a demonstration of brigades in training at the station on the 5th March 1914, with the Liverpool Daily Post later reporting ‘There was a representative gathering of North Wales colliery owners and officials at Wrexham yesterday to witness a demonstration at the new mines rescue station, which has just been erected.

The station has been provided by the colliery owners of the North Wales coalfield at a cost of £5,000. Nearly 200 practical colliers have been or will be trained for the work, and it was stated that a finer body of men physically could not be found anywhere.

Superintendent Herbert and the brigades from Maesgwyn Road are known to have attended to the Vauxhall Colliery fires near Ruabon in 1923, the Llay Main Colliery Explosion of 1924 and the Gresford Disaster of 1934, when an explosion and underground fire killed 266 men, including 3 members of the Llay Rescue Brigade who were trained at Maesgwyn Road.

With the decline of coal mining, the Rescue Centre became redundant and closed in the 1980s and was handed to the fire service before it passed into the ownership of Neville Dickens, a former chairman of Wrexham Football Club. His intention was to redevelop the site for housing.

However, the people of Wrexham recognised the value of our history, something Lawrence Isted, the head of community and wellbeing and development for Wrexham Council seemed to disagree with, said: “Whilst it is noted that the building was listed for its special historic interest as a mines rescue training centre and headquarters, the council cannot insist that the building be used for a specific purpose. The applicants have proposed a use which is acceptable in local and national planning policy terms and there is no requirement to justify a need for student accommodation. Subject to the implementation of this use without causing damage to the special features of the building, I consider the proposed use is acceptable.

Similar to the almost-destruction of the Racecourse, the Council once again seemed to have turned their back on our history and community. However, in his haste to make money, Dickens decided to clear the site before the correct permissions were in place, but was prevented from doing lasting damage when the public pointed this out to the Council, and development was halted in August 2010 when police were called after two workmen with a digger partially demolished that part of the site containing the historic training gallery. In fact, Dickens was taken to court over this unauthorised demolition work of the listed building on Maesgwyn Road and was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £1,700 costs.

In 2014, the site was purchased by its current owner, who rescued it for the community. Wrexham Warehouse Project is a resource for young people and adults facing economic and social disadvantage in the Wrexham area. The charity plans to restore the site in a phased approach. The first phase focused on adapting the entrance hall and drill hall to create a community space, café, an exhibition of the area’s coal mining history, and new toilets.

The second phase will focus on restoring the Superintendent’s House to provide accommodation for four adults with learning difficulties and a live-in supervisor. The final phase will fully restore the drill hall – once complete, the amount of space will triple in size, enabling the charity to expand its range and volume of activities, and to accommodate more users.

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