- Welsh Name: Treffynnon
- Population: 8,900 [2011 Census]
- Nearest Train Station: Flint [5,0 miles south-east]
- Football Clubs: Holywell Town
Holywell (Welsh: Treffynnon) is Flintshire’s fifth biggest town in the county with a population of around 8,900 people, with the market town situated in the northwest of the border county, situated on hills near to the River Dee estuary. The town is located eleven miles east down the North Wales coast from the Denbighshire resort town of Prestatyn, nine and a half miles northwest of the county capital of Mold, and crucially just five miles northwest of Holywell’s nearest and traditional rival town of Flint. Holywell has great access to the main North Walian infrastructure artery of the A55 Expressway, with the dual carriageway just bypassing the southern outskirts of the town.
The name of Holywell originates from its famous holy well of Saint Winefride’s Well, which has been known since Roman times and has been a major site of Christian pilgrimage since the middle of the seventh century. It originates from Saint Winefride who, according to legend, was beheaded by a local prince who tried to force himself on her. It is said that where her detached head landed, a spring rose from the ground and is the location of the well today. The well is regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of Wales and is still a site of continuous pilgrimage due to the supposed healing powers of its waters over the centuries. Because of its healing waters, Holywell has the nickname of “The Lourdes of Wales” in reference to the French town which also has healing powers in its spring water. The well is also referenced in the town’s Welsh name Treffynnon, which is a compound of the words “tre” (English: “town“) and “ffynnon” (English: “well“), meaning “town of [the] well“.
Holywell became an important town in North Wales during the eighteenth century due to its cotton, lead, and copper mills harnessing the power of the steady flow of the Holywell Stream flowing from Halkyn Mountain, to power their industry – becoming one of the first locations in the world to use water power in the industrial revolution. The wealth generated by such industry lead to the development of the town and the construction of the Georgian-era buildings in the High Street, many of which still exist in the high street today. With so much wealth and industry occurring in the town, many workers flocked into the area to find jobs, and Holywell would become one of the biggest and wealthiest towns in North Wales.
Alas, the grandeur of the town has faded considerably since the closure of the various mills in the Greenfield Valley complex, as well as the further closure of the huge Courtaulds factory situated in Greenfield in the mid-1980s. Today the town has evolved into a commuter town for people working in the Deeside Enterprise Zone or Chester, like many other towns within Flintshire.
The town also does not have a train station with the closest stations being situated in either Flint or Prestatyn, both stations being on the North Wales Coast Line. Holywell used to have a train station that was linked to Holywell Junction, a station in Greenfield that was also on the North Wales Coast Line. Holywell Junction station was opened in 1848, with a branch line connecting the coastal railway to the town’s station being constructed in 1912. The branch line ran through today’s Greenfield Valley and was one of the steepest inclines in the country, having a 1 in 27 gradient. The line was unfortunately fully closed in 1957, with Holywell Junction also being closed as part of the Beeching Cuts in 1966. However, there are advanced plans afoot to reopen a train station in Greenfield which will help establish a stop in the large area between Flint and Prestatyn and encourage more people to use public transport within the locality. Despite the lack of a train station, there are extensive and regular bus links between the train stations, with Holywell being roughly in the middle of the Chester to Rhyl bus route, which allows visitors to reach the town easily.
Despite the town having suffered a downturn in recent times, the town’s council is trying hard to encourage tourism back into the area by organising events held in the high street throughout the year to encourage tourism into the town. One example of these events is the Well Inn Festival – a music festival usually held in late Summer (around early September) where a considerable number of singers and bands perform live at various locations throughout the town. In addition to events held in the High Street, the town is embracing and promoting its religious and industrial past, in conjunction with the nature and environment of the local area, such as within the Greenfield Valley complex, to hopefully further encourage visitors into the local area.
Listed below are the pubs that are located in Holywell’s High Street:
- The Red Lion
- The Boar’s Head
- The Market Cross [Wetherspoon’s]
- The Old Wine Vaults (also known as ‘The Cross’)
- The Feathers Inn
Here are a few other pubs within the locality that are outside of the centre of Holywell: