- Welsh Name: Yr Wyddgrug
- Population: 10,123 [2019 estimate]
- Nearest Train Stations: Buckley [4,2 miles east] or Flint [6,5 miles north]
- Football Clubs: Mold Alexandra
Mold (Welsh: Yr Wyddgrug) is a traditional market town of about 10,100 inhabitants located in the southern part of Flintshire. Positioned on the southern bank of the River Alyn (Welsh: Afon Alun), a tributary river of the River Dee (Welsh: Afon Dyfrdwy), it is the administrative centre and county town of Flintshire, and was also the county town of Clwyd when the county existed between 1974 and 1996 before breaking apart into the modern counties of Flintshire, Denbighshire, Wrexham, and the eastern half of the Conwy County Borough.
The town has good infrastructural links with the A494 trunk road running through the town, linking it with Deeside and Chester, as well as Ruthin and central Wales. In addition, the A451 road runs through the town connecting the settlement with Wrexham in the south-east, and Denbigh to the west. It has also got regular bus services to these locations, as well as local towns like Flint, Holywell, and Buckley. Mold does not currently possess a train station, with its original station closed in 1962 as part of the Beeching Cuts, and a supermarket is now standing on its original location. The town’s nearest train stations are situated in either Buckley (situated on the Borderlands Line and to the east of Mold), or in Flint (situated on the North Wales Coast Line to the north of Mold).
People have been living in the area since prehistoric times, with examples of ancient Iron Age Celtic hill forts dotted around the locality, such as Moel-y-Gaer in the nearby village of Rhosesmor. Evidence of such antiquated settlement in the area was found in 1833 when quarrymen found the magnificent artifact named the “Mold Cape“. Estimated to be crafted between 1900 to 1600 BC (during the ‘Bronze Age’), it is a ceremonial cape made of a single piece of solid sheet gold and displays some of the finest prehistoric craftsmanship yet discovered. Considered one of the finest artifacts ever discovered within the British Isles, the gold cape is now on display in the British Museum in London (I personally believe it should be displayed in Wales permanently but that’s another argument…). In addition, it also provided the name to the town’s Wetherspoon’s pub, “The Gold Cape“.
Mold was the site of an early Dark Ages battle where a local militia force, baptized and led by the early Christian missionary bishop Germanus of Auxerre defeated an invading force of Scots/Irish and Picts in the ‘Alleluia Victory’ in 430 AD. The encounter was given that specific name as apparently the local army shouted “Alleluia! Alleluia!” before attacking the invaders in the middle of the night, causing the invading force to run away in terror. The battlefield is known as Maes Garmon (English: ‘the field of Germanus’) and provides its name to Flintshire’s only Welsh-medium high school, Ysgol Maes Garmon, which is based within Mold.
The unique name of the settlement originates either from the Norman-French ‘mont-hault’ (English: ‘high hill’) or from the Norman lord Robert de Montalt, who built the original motte and bailey castle in the town around 1140. Either way, the name of the settlement probably developed to Mohault, before mutating again to Moald (in 1284) and finally to Moald (in 1341). The Welsh name for the settlement comes from a different origin than the English name, as Yr Wyddgrug means ‘the tomb mound’ in English.
Throughout the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Mold Castle was continuously fought over by the Anglo-Norman rulers and the Princes of Gwynedd, who hoped to maintain their influence over the Perfeddwlad. So much so, Mold was considered a “royal stronghold” whilst in the possession of Gwynedd. Alas, the castle was finally captured by the invading English forces of Edward I, during his invasion of Gwynedd in 1276-77, and its importance declined with the death of the last lord of de Montalt in 1329. Today the castle no longer remains, however, the mounds of the motte and bailey are still in existence and have become a pleasant wooded area for people to walk around in with ‘Bailey Hill’ (located at the top of Mold High Street) having recently been given a huge upgrade in its paths and facilities to further encourage visitors.
After the Statute of Rhuddlan was imposed in 1284, trade started to increase within the town with merchants from Chester and Whitchurch coming into Mold to trade with the local producers. In addition, drovers brought their livestock down into the town for them to be sold to the English merchants (there is a pub named The Drovers Arms a short distance away from Mold Alex’s ground). Subsequently, Mold started to hold two annual fairs and a weekly market, which brought in substantial revenue for the town. The weekly market still exists today, with the high street being shut to traffic to allow market stalls to be erected in the road every Wednesday and Saturday.
Mold would see action during the Wars of the Roses, when Reinalt ab Grufydd ab Bleddyn, a successful Welsh Lancastrian captain was constantly engaged in feuds with Yorkist Chester. Things came to head in 1465 when a large number of armed men from Chester arrived at the Mold fair looking for trouble. Unsurprisingly a fight broke out which led to a pitched battle, with Reinalt eventually triumphing by capturing Robert Bryne (a former Mayor of Chester) and hanging him. In retaliation, up to 200 men-at-arms were sent from Chester to seize the Welsh captain. However, Reinalt used his extensive military experience to trap some of his would-be assailants inside his house and subsequently burn it down. He then attacked the remainder of the party, eventually forcing them back to Chester.
By the late fifteenth century, the lordships around Mold had passed to the powerful Stanley family, who were the Earls of Derby and Lords of Mann. It was also around this time when Mold’s most recognisable landmark was started to be constructed. St. Mary’s Church is a large Anglican parish church situated at the top of the town’s high street, next to the old motte and bailey castle (now known as Bailey Hill) on top of a hill. Originally built as a catholic church, the sandstone built, Grade I listed church is part of the Church of Wales Diocese of Saint Asaph and overlooks the whole town.
Construction started on the Grade I listed building in 1490, with several additions to the church being added throughout the centuries, with a major renovation being completed in the mid-nineteenth century, and further restorations in the twentieth century. Naturally, St. Mary’s Church has had historical connections with the Stanley family, with it being the local church for the lord. Appropriately, it displays the heraldic symbols for the family such as the ‘Eagle and Child’ which was adopted by the family in the fifteenth century (and curiously the name of the pub in Gwaenysgor), and the Three Legs of Mann, relating to the time when the Stanley family were also the Lords of (Isle of) Mann.
The seventeenth century saw Mold’s population and importance rise as the coal industry started to develop near the town, as well as Mold becoming the centre of administration for the historic county of Flintshire. This position would be emphasized and increased during the nineteenth century when the county hall and gaol were built within the town. It was during the Victorian period when Mold encountered its most famous event – the Mold Riot.
In the summer of 1869, the English manager of the local colliery angered the workers by first banning the use of Welsh at the colliery, and then imposing a pay cut on the workers. Naturally, some irate miners attacked the manager before frogmarching him to the town’s police station. Seven miners were arrested and stood trial for the assault, with all of them found guilty for their actions. The ringleaders, Ismael Jones and John Jones, were sentenced to a month’s hard labour by the court.
A large crowd had assembled within the town to hear the verdict, and accordingly, the Chief Constable of Flintshire arranged for police from all around the country, as well as soldiers from The 4th King’s Own Regiment (Lancashire), based temporarily in Chester, to coming into Mold to maintain order. As the tried men were being escorted to the train station, the crowd of about 1500 to 2000 people started getting agitated and began throwing missiles at the officers. At the orders of their commanding officer, the soldiers from the Regiment open fire into the crowd and killed four of them. A disgraceful act by today’s standards!
In the resulting trials following the riot, firstly the coroner declared that the death of the four victims was “justifiable homicide”, and effectively cleared the soldiers of any wrong-doing. To rub salt into the wounds of the local populace, several local men were then convicted and trialled for their involvement in the riot. The court declared that the men were guilty of “felonious wounding” by throwing the missiles, and were subsequently sentenced to ten years’ worth of penal servitude.
It was during this period of time that Mold’s most famous resident was living in the town. Daniel Owen was a writer who lived in the town between 1836 to 1895, and is considered to be the greatest Welsh-language novelist of the nineteenth century. Inspired by events occurring in his hometown, it encouraged him to write such respected novels like Rhys Lewis and Enoc Huws, which are widely regarded as some of the finest works in the Welsh language. Daniel Owen is still well-regarded, with Mold’s naming a shopping precinct, town square, and cultural centre after him, as well as erecting a statue of the writer in the town. In addition, there is an award named after him in the National Eisteddfod, which is awarded to the best-unpublished novel less than 50,000 words long.
Mold continues to be an important town in North East Wales and is the county town of the modern county of Flintshire. Flintshire county hall is situated on the outskirts of the town, as well as an important Crown court, which covers important cases from North East Wales. At roughly the same location as the county hall and court, the town also has its own theatre, Theatr Clwyd, which is an important hub for the arts in North Wales. The theatre continuously shows either touring plays (both classic and modern) or plays acted out by the local theatre company.
The town has been the host of three official National Eistedfoddau, having most recently hosted the cultural event in 2007. Also, it has prided itself on being the region’s capital for food, with a large number of restaurants and gastropubs dotted in and around the town. Mold is the venue to the annual Mold Food & Drink Festival (usually held in September), which brings in local producers of food, drink, and craft wares from North Wales, North-West England and beyond, and allows the local populace the chance to encounter and purchase produce from more specialised and smaller producers.