Froncysyllte 100 Years Ago
By Emrys Roberts
The recently published Census of Population for 1911 allows us to visualise in general terms the type of village which Fron was at that time; size of its population; occupations which were followed; ages of both adults and children; number of places of worship, shops and pubs etc. Dealing firstly with the population of the village (or more correctly the Township) we find that it was a sizeable community of some 912 people of which 111 were children under 4 years of age and a further 23 aged 4. Those of school age (ages 5 to 13 at that time) numbered a total of 197. The total number of children and young people who lived at Fron and whose ages were below 21 years was 440. From these figures we may deduce that nearly half the village population was made up of young people.
At the opposite end of the scale of ages as shown on the Census there was a total of 64 people aged 60 and over and a further 7 persons had celebrated their 80th birthdays. Considering that the council houses at Woodland Grove and also the Bourne Terrace area were not built at that time, we may well ask where all these 912 people lived. Part of the answer is to be found in the sizes of families in that era. A hundred years ago families generally tended to be larger than in present times. To illustrate this point, I quote the following family sizes taken from the Census Retums for Cysyllte. There were 13 families comprising the parents and 6 children and a further 8 families with 7 children. In addition there was 1 family with 8 children, 1 with 9 children and lastly 1 with 11 children.
Of the total population of Fron in 1911 the number who resided in the Cwmalis area was 100 with a further 140 living in the Ochr/Penygraig district. The remaining 672 lived in the main village of Fron where there were 8 blocks of terraced houses providing accommodation for 185 persons. These were Pleasant View (35 people), Mount Pleasant (29), Cross Street Terrace (26), Canal Terrace (23), Aqueduct Terrace (22), Swan Terrace (22),Bee Bank (16) and Belan View (12). To support a population of this size there was a need for an infrastructure of places of worship, school, shops, pubs etc. There was a total of 27 of these buildings in Fron at the time - Church, Church Institute, 4 Chapels and also 1 redundant chapel – (Bethogla at Penygraig), Temperance Hall, School, and Public Wash-house, Bakery, 13 shops including General Stores, Butchers, Shoemakers/cobblers, Barber, Draper and Outfitter.
I was previously unaware of a public wash house in the village - it was located somewhere on the canal side. Also the location of the original village post office comes to light. It was in a part of the property we know as Tower View which at that time comprised 2 cottages. The first village Post Office was probably no more than the front room of the cottage facing the A5 highway. Miss Eddy, in her account of village life in 1860, refers to it as selling stamps and little else.
The Bakery probably took over the old Parish Oven and was run by Mr. Green, a Master Baker. The school roll at that time was 260 this figure being made up by the 197 children aged 5 to 13 from Fron together with some 4 year olds and others who stayed beyond age 13. Also there would have been a few from outside the borders of Cysyllte such as Pontcysyllte, Fron Issa Blaenau and Wern Llwyd. The principal occupations- followed by the male inhabitants of Fron were Coalmining (145 men), Brick and Tile making (45 men), Quarrying (12 men), General Labourers (13 men). The remainder were employed in a variety of professional, technical, skilled and non-manual work. Lastly when we look at the languages spoken by the residents, we see that 75% claimed to be able to use both Welsh and English and 25% used English only.