The beautiful village of Hope sits on the eastern side of the River Alyn, barely a stone’s throw from Caergwrle with which it has found itself entwined from the very earliest days of their history. Hope’s pre-history is undeniably also Caergwrle’s, and so it would be fair to say that the astonishing Caergwrle Bowl, the numerous Bronze Age lumps and bumps and the hillfort of Caer Estyn are as much a part of Hope’s past as Caergwrle’s history.
So, where do the villages of Hope and Caergwrle begin to gain an individuality? This is hard to determine, and possibly also somewhat controversial. The issue rather depends on when these two settlements became, well settlements. With the departure of the Romans from North East Wales at the beginning of the 5th century, the area of Hope became the core, it seems of the commote of Yr Hob within the kingdom of Powys (and Powys Fadog after 1160), and yet the name is probably Saxon in origin, rendering down to, ‘plot of enclosed land’, which is interesting in itself. When the area became known as, ‘Yr Hob’, is unknown, but given its Saxon providence, this would seem to be contemporary with the building of Wat’s Dyke, the likely 9th century earthwork which runs along the eastern spine of the village.
This is further complicated by the suggestion that Caergwrle as a village was of Saxon origin, known as Corley at its birth. And yet, at Hope we have a church (which we don’t have at Caergwrle) associated with pre-Norman, pre-Saxon native Welsh saints - Cynfarch and Cyngar, and a raised and curvilinear churchyard suggesting a llan, a centre of native worship. Did a settlement develop at Hope alongside the llan? Well, throw into this curious and confusing mix the discovery of three early medieval stone monuments at the church, which have been tenuously dated to between the 9th and 11th centuries, and which are Celtic is appearance. This would suggest that a Celtic church was in use here at roughly the same time that the Mercians were active in the area, perhaps at Corley, perhaps building Wat’s Dyke. The possibilities of this call into question many things, most notably the relationship between the native Welsh and the Mercians in the area and the rationale for Wat’s Dyke (and perhaps Offa’s by inference). However way the early history of the area is looked at, it asks questions which challenge our understanding.
Hope first enters written history within the pages of the Domesday Book of 1086, in which its name is recorded as the village is known today, within the hundred of Exestan and owned by Gilbert de Venables,
‘The same Gilbert holds Hope. Edwin held it and was a free man. There is 1 hide paying geld. There is land for 1 plough, and there is 1 plough, with 2 villans, and 2 acres of woodland. It is worth 7s. It was waste and he found it so.’
Domesday Book, Ed. Williams, Martin (Penguin 1992)
The description of the area being, ‘waste’ is probably a reference to the ‘harrying of the north’, after rebellions against William in which the Saxon Earls Morcar and Edwin took part. You will find many references to ‘waste’ in the Domesday Book's entries for Flintshire.
The Domesday Book gives us hints, but little firm information as to the area. The book was not a chronicle, but rather a means by which the rapacious Normans ensured they could squeeze as much as possible from the populace, whether English or Welsh. It’s not until the Welsh Wars of 1277 onwards that Hope becomes more than archaeology. The manor of Hopedale makes its entrance after Dafydd ap Gruffudd was granted the lordship of the manor of Hopedale as reward for his support in defeating Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Dafydd’s brother and rival. It’s likely that the manor was given to Dafydd as a buffer against future action by Llywelyn. In a Royal Wardrobe Roll there is a record of the gift, in which Dafydd is award 100 marks in order to build the castle.
‘David filio Griffine, ad construendum castrum suum de Kaicrgvill’
This translates from the Latin as, ‘David son of Griffin to build a castle at Caergwrle’. Dafydd’s motivations had changed somewhat by 1282, and his attack on Hawarden Castle on Palm Sunday of that year was likely launched from Caergwrle Castle. By the end of the year, Wales as an independent entity was effectively at an end. By the end of 1283, both Dafydd and his brother Llywelyn were dead and the village is known as, ‘le Hope’, and so it is from this date that we can start to see a clear water between the two settlements.
The manor of Hopedale, ‘which Dafydd son of Griffin, the King’s enemy and rebel formerly held’, was gifted by Edward to his consort, Eleanor of Castile. Edward’s queen was a renowned businesswoman and was something of a collector of manors. She came under a certain amount of contemporary criticism for this, probably because she was female, but it would seem the awarding of these manors, including Queen’s Hope as it became known was largely a means by which Edward wished to ensure his wife’s financial independence from the State.
On Eleanor’s death in 1301, the manor was given to John de Warenne, who was not popular with his tenants. This may have had something to do with the persistent rumour that de Warenne was responsible for the deaths of Dafydd’s two nephews in the River Dee at Holt, but it is fairly certain that de Warenne was not known for respecting the rights of his tenants. The manor was returned to the Crown on Warenne’s death in 1304, before coming into the ownership of John de Crumbwelle in 1308. In 1351, the Borough of Hope was created, though how far this improved Hope’s fortunes in unclear. We know that Hope was burnt in 1403 by Owain Glyndwr during his great rebellion, and this would suggest the settlement was deeply associated with English interests.
We know little of Hope’s history for the next one hundred years or so, though the rise of heavy industry seems to have bypassed Hope to a large extent. While the people of Hope no doubt worked the mills, mines and quarries, those mills, mines and quarries were largely sited at Caergwrle and elsewhere. Hope had its fair share of brick works, to be sure, but it seems to be at this time that a distinct change in the culture of the two villages becomes discernible. While Caergwrle becomes ever more industrial, Hope retains its agricultural air. It’s a clear water that is further formed along religious lines – Caergwrle fully embraced the non-conformism of the 17th century onwards, with several chapels built, while Hope has none that we are aware of.
While an estate map from the end of the 18th century suggests a number of buildings by St Cynfarch’s, there are reasons to doubt the information, and in Samuel Lewis’s ‘Topographical Dictionary of Wales’ dated 1834, Hope is described as, ‘an insignificant village, agreeably situated on an eminence on the Northern side of the River Alyn’. The arrival of the railway in the mid-19th century brought with it an influx of tourism to the area, and while this doubtless brought job opportunities, it did not do much to increase the population of Hope, though the village seems to have avoided the negative aspects of increased numbers of visitors.
Hope seems to have quietly and calmly gone about its business for centuries, looking over the Alyn at the busier, bustling Caergwrle with no particular envy. The old saying, and it is likely very old according to John Askew Roberts, ‘Live in Hope, die in Caergwrle’, seems to make every sense.