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13. Brickworks & Churches


In the late 1800’s at the lower end of a lane, near the present site of the British Steel Sports Ground, stood a house called "Dee Banks." At the house lived Harry Rowley, and therefore the lane became known as "Rowley’s Drive." Mr. Rowley was a son of a L.M.S Railway director, and the owner of the "Shotton Lane Brickwork Co.," situated at the southern end of what is now Strickland Street, near the Shotton Lane playing fields. Thomas Rugman was the manager of the works until its closure in the late 1920’s. Mr. Rowley later built houses in Strickland Street and named the street after his wife’s maiden name.

Another Brickworks existed in Shotton at the same time. It was the "Wepre Hall Brick Company" which opened in 1900 and closed forty-six years later. The owners were Messrs. Hampson and Derbyshire of Hawarden. The works was situated at the southern end of Charmley’s Lane, near Killins Farm. The clay pit to the west of the site produced Blue Clay, similar to Buckley Clay, and this gave rise to the name the "Blue Pit." After the works were closed, the Blue Pit filled with water and became a large reedy pool. From its edge it plunged 60 feet deep, and it became a notoriously dangerous place. A young child drowned there in the late 1940’s.

The site of the Brickworks was used as a refuse tip in the 1960’s and 70’s. The area adjacent to the railway is now a nature reserve. The western side is now partly taken up with playing fields, and partly wasteland.

The year 1898 saw the laying of the foundation stones of two of Shotton’s landmark buildings.

The first of these to be laid was on August 3rd 1898 at the Rivertown Congregational Church. The Church had been founded a year earlier by Rev. Joseph Davies (1844 - 1921), a congregationalist, and the first service was held on Wednesday 26th May 1897.

The County Herald of August 5th 1896 carried the following report:

"On Wednesday evening a most interesting and successful ceremony took place at Rivertown, Shotton, that of laying sixteen memorial stones in connection with the new Congregational Chapel which it is proposed to build there, and which is now in the course of erection. Owing to the sale of a large number of plots of land for building villa residences, quite a small town has sprung up in the pretty little district, with the probability that the population will still increase largely in the future. Under the altered circumstances of the district, from that of purely rural to one of populous urbanity, the Rev. Joseph Davies happily conceived the idea that there was a pressing necessity of providing for the spiritual requirements of the neighbourhood, there being no Nonconformist place of worship easily accessible. Mr. Davies at his own cost purchased a piece of land near Shotton railway station, and erected a corrugated iron building, which was immediately opened for public worship. The little cause, although having been established not quite two years, has had a most prosperous career, thanks chiefly to the whole-hearted enthusiasm and energy which Mr. Davies has displayed in the work. The progress has been so rapid and steady that the membership at the present time exceeds one hundred, and it is found that the old corrugated building is wholly inadequate for the accommodation of worshippers, hence the decision to erect a spacious and beautiful chapel."

At Wednesday evening’s ceremony there was a large attendance, which included Mr. S. Smith, MP., Mr. J. Prince, C.C., Mr. R. Podmore, C.C, Mr. Mostyn Williams, Rhyl; Councillor S. Coppack, Chester; Mr. Thomas Huxley, Malpas; Capt. James Coppack; Rev. Thomas Lloyd, Colwyn Bay; Rev. J. B. Morgan, Chester; Mr. Joel Williamson, Mr. J. Taylor, Mr. E. Roberts, Mr. T. Cropper, Mr. John Taylor, Mr. W. Wilcock, Mr. J. Roberts, Mr. W. Hopwood, Mr. John Massie, Mr. J. Reney, Rev. J. Davies and Mr. Harold Jones.

Mr. F. H. Hawkins, LL.B., Wrexham, presided, the proceedings opening with a hymn and prayer by the Rev. Thomas Lloyd.

Chester Road West showing Rivertown Chapel in 1905

The Chairman then called upon Mr. Samuel Smith M.P., to lay the first stone. Mr. Smith gracefully performed the ceremony, and declared the stone well and truly laid. He afterwards delivered a short address. He said that he was pleased to observe that the ceremony was favoured with such beautiful weather. The Welsh Nonconformists took a large interest in the progress of religion, and the laying of memorial stones, to them were ceremonies of great importance. They contributed largely to the maintenance of religious causes, and it was often a wonder how they found the means to do so. He hoped that in the new building the pure faith of Jesus Christ as found in the New Testament would be taught. It grieved him to the heart to see the alarming spread of Roman Catholic doctrine and ritualism in the Church of England. Many of the clergy of the National Church were endeavouring to assimilate of that Church with the Church of Rome, and were introducing every Romish doctrine and ceremony into its public worship. The country was beginning to be stirred and alarmed in connection with this great and important question, and there were many Churchmen who were filled with anguish at the action of a certain portion of the clergy. As Protestants they should stand loyally together to repel the assiduous attacks made upon their religion. They recognized no intermediary between them and God in the person of a priest, but rested implicitly on the death of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s Cross as the foundation of their faith. He congratulated them upon the work undertaken and hoped the new chapel would be a complete success, and be a spititual blessing to the district. (applause.)

Mr. Robert Podmore, C.C. , in laying a stone, said it was a pleasing sign that with increased population there was that energy and enthusiasm in religious work which provided for the spiritual wants of the people, and this fact was clearly exemplified in the pleasing ceremony in which they were engaged that evening. He wished the new cause every success and blessing.

The other stones were laid by Mrs. J. Coppack, Shotton; Mr. John Massie, Shotton; Mr. H. Huxley, Malpas; Mr. Isaac Hopwood, Buckley; Mr. Joel Williamson on behalf of Mr. Jonathan Catherall, Buckley; Rev. T. Lloyd on behalf of Mr. W. H. Lloyd, Connah’s Quay; Mr. John Taylor, Buckley; Mrs. Marjorie Lindsay Taylor, Chester; Mr. J. Prince, C.C.; Rev. Joseph Davies; Mr. P. Mostyn Williams on behalf of Miss Griffith, Brandon Ireland; Mr. J. Roberts on behalf of Rivertown Sunday School; Miss King on behalf of Rivertown Band of Hope; and Miss Griffiths on behalf of Buckley Congregational Sunday School.

The Chairman, in the course of a few remarks, said it was a pleasure to him to be present that day. The new church would provide for the spiritual requirements of the district. They were not overlapping anyone or any other church, but were doing what was actually necessary. They all admired the Rev. Joseph Davies for his work in connection with the cause. He purchased the land and put up the corrugated building at his own expense. This represented £300, and he was handing this as a free gift to the trustees of the new chapel. In addition to this he was the moving spirit in the erection of the new building, and had contributed £25 toward that object also. The congregation at the present time stood at between 100 and 150 each Sunday, so that a new place to worship had become really necessary.

A vote of thanks to the Chairman brought the proceedings to a close.

The trustees of the building had raised the money for the chapel as follows:

Land and structure of original building £300
Rev. Joseph Davies £ 25
Messrs. John Summers and Sons £ 25
Thomas Huxley, Malpas £ 20
Samuel Smith M..P. £ 10
Mr. R, Podmore £ 10
Jonathan Catherall £5
John Taylor £5 5/-
John Massie £5
James Coppack £5
H. Huxley, Malpas £5
Miss M. L. Taylor £5
Isaac Hopwood £5
Miss Griffith, Brandon, Ireland £5
Rivertown Sunday School and Band of Hope £200
Loan from Congregational Union £500

There were also the proceeds of a subscription scheme of 10, 5 and 1 shilling which were commemorated by inscribed bricks in the church porch.

On 24th June 1899 the new building was complete. The first service was performed by a guest preacher from Buckley, the Rev. T. Mardy Rees.

In 1937 the Boys Brigade the Girls Guildry were formed at the church. In 1946, however, the Boys Brigade was temporarily replaced by the Life Boys.

In 1947, as part of Rivertown's Golden Jubilee celebrations, work began on the building of a Manse for the Minister, at the corner of Plymouth Street and Queensway.

The ministers of the church during those first fifty years were:

Rev. Joseph Davis of Bryn-y-Baal 1898-1900
Rev. E. Aman Jones of Bala-Bangor College 1900-1901 (Sep)
Mr. Ezra Johnson of Chester 1901-1902
Rev. J. Davies Jones of Oswestry (Mar) 1902-1906
Rev. T. Illtyd James and Rev. Lydia James of Pontnewydd (Oct) 1907-1910
Rev. Herbert Dennis Jones of Cefn Mawr (Sep) 1912-1916
Rev. Griffith J. Jones of Blaenavon (Oct) 1920-1932
Rev. A. Thackray of Bishops Castle 1936-1944 (Jun)
Rev. R. Shepherd of Buckley (9 months) 1944-1945
Rev. D. Melville Jones of Llanidloes (Jun) 1945


The second foundation stone to be laid in 1896 was that of St. Ethelwold’s Church, on Holy Cross Day, 14th September, by Mrs. W. H. Gladstone. It had originally been suggested that the Church be built on Shotton Hill , where the building most recently occupied by Tesco stands. However, it was considered to be inconvenient, as it was also to serve Queensferry. Therefore a more central location was found.

Since the building of St. Ethelwold's School, another St. Ethelwold had been discovered, who had lived between the years 908 and 984, and became Bishop of Winchester.


The Church was completed in 1902 as a sister church to Hawarden, and consecrated on 7th August of that year, a few days after the Feast Day of St. Ethelwold of Winchester. The service was performed by by Dr. A.G. Edwards, the Bishop of St. Asaph, who in 1920 became the first Archbishop of Wales, and the church was dedicated to the honour of the two Saints Ethelwold.


<---- The Church as it was intended to look, with a tower


The proceedings for the day were as follows:

10.45 am Service of Consecration, Communion and Sermon.

1.00 - 1.30 pm Light luncheon for those who live outside the district.

3.00 - 6.00 pm Garden party at Hawarden Rectory. Band, games and tea. Five hundred persons invited.

7.00 pm Evensong at St. Ethelwolds. Sermon by Rev. H. E. Trotter, a former Curate of Shotton.

The weather on the day began dull with a slight drizzle, but it was warm and sunny by the afternoon, in time for the garden party.

The services commenced just before 11 o'clock, and the church was crowded to the door. A procession was formed of about forty of the clergy of the diocese, including the Rector of Hawarden, the Rev. W. H. Parkes (curate in charge), Charles Gamlin, Bath (former curate of Hawarden), Hon. A.V. Littleton (also former curate of Hawarden), W. Williams (vicar of Connah's Quay), the Rev. R. Owen, Gwernaffield; the Archdeacon of St. Asaph, Archdeacon Barber of Chester and Rev T.F. Dimond Hogg.

Principal members of the Laity included C. B. Toiler of Aston Bank, E. S. Taylor C.C., J. Hurlbutt J.P., J. Rowley J.P., F. Summers and J. Summers, J. V. Harris, J. Haswell, Dr. Clements and the young lord of Hawarden Castle Master Willie Gladstone, who presented the petition for consecration to the Bishop.

The choir was led by Mr. F. Barrett and Mr. S. Morgan presided at the organ.

The registrar of the Diocese of St. Asaph read the petition, after which the Bishop commenced the dedicative service.

The Bishop preached from the text at Chronicles I., xxix, 13, "Now therefore, our God, we thankfully praise Thy glorious name." The sermon was one of thankfulness, during the course of which the preacher said the year had been one of thanksgiving. He said that the people rejoiced that their foes of some months ago were now their friends, a reference to the end of the Boer War. They thanked God that the King’s life had been spared, and joined in prayer that he might be spared for many years to rule over their Kingdom, and that it might be said of him that he brought his people lasting good. He said that the increased population had rendered the building of the Church necessary, and that it had not been built in the memory of Mr. Gladstone, but it was one of his last acts to inspect the district and give an opinion in favour of the building of the Church. He had also contributed £1000 toward the costs.

The Sacrament of the Lords Supper was then administered, after which the procession reformed, bringing the ceremony to a close..

In the afternoon there was a large gathering at the Rectory of Hawarden for the garden party. In the evening H. E. Trotter preached to the large congregation in the newly dedicated church. The collections for the day exceeded £39.

St. Ethelwold's Church from Chester Road East in 1960

The County Herald of 15th August 1902 described the church in the following words:

"It has accommodation for 600 persons and is built of mottled Hollington stone, the interior being finely chiselled. The church consists of a large nave with piers and arches dividing it from the north and south aisles; a roomy porch at north side, chancel with an apsidal end, also a chapel on the north side, a chancel which will be used as a vestries until the tower is built, the ground floor of which will contain the vestry with organ chamber over. There is a gallery at the west end, approached by stairs leading from the the porch. The nave and aisles have open, timbered roofs, and the one over the chancel has a panelled and ribbed ceiling in oak. All the roofs are covered with dark green Westmoreland slates. The floors of nave, aisles and choir are laid with wood blocks; the chancel with small black and dove coloured tiles. The steps and floor in the sacrarium under the altar table are in marble, the gifts of Messrs. Williams and Clay, of Warrington. The windows are glazed with cathederal glass , the three lights in the lower part of west end being fitted with stained glass, the gift of the children of the Dean of Lincoln. The chancel windows also have painted glass, the three centre lights being the gift of the Byron Society., and the two side windows that of the Hurlbutt family, as a memorial to the late Miss Davison. All the painted glass is by Mr. Edward Frampton, of London. The pulpit and font are carried out in carved stone, the latter being Helsby stone, with carved emblem and appropriate inscription, and is the gift of local subscribers, the result of the efforts of the children of the parish. The nave and aisles are seated throughout with chairs, the chancel having oak choir fronts and prayer desks. The altar table is of oak, and has been carved, painted and decorated, and contains subject panels of our Lord and adoring angels. The church is lighted throughout by suspended oil lamps by Messrs. Singers of Fronie; and Messrs. J. King and Co., Liverpool, are responsible for the heating. The whole of the structural work has been carried out by Messrs. J. Ward and Son, of Uttoxeter, from the design of Messrs. Douglas and Minshull, of Chester, at a cost of £7000."

The Original Douglas & Minshull Plans

Douglas and Minshull were also responsible for the design of St. Deniol’s Library in Hawarden, St. Bartholomew’s Church in Saltney, and churches in Buckley and Chester.

In April 1904 the organ was installed and Dr. Bridge of Chester Cathedral gave a recital.

The north eastern Lady Chapel and a south eastern vestry and organ chamber were not constructed until 1924, and were intended to be the lower stage of a broad tower and spire. The tower would have cost a further £7000 to build and it was decided to leave the construction for a later generation of parishioners. It still has not been built, and it would appear that the building will now never be seen in its intended form.

The Original plans for the 1924 Extension



The 1924 extension was dedicated to those who died during the Great War 1914 - 19, and this is recorded on a tablet which reads:


"In All Saints Tide, 1924, the Archbishop of Wales consecrated the organ chamber, vestries, and this Chapel, in memory of the fallen of this Parish."



The first Priest in Charge was the Rev. W. H. Parkes, who was followed by the Rev. R. Wynter. Next, in 1910 was the Rev. J.J.J. Robinson who, from 1921 became the first Vicar of St. Ethelwolds, when Shotton became a Parish in its own right. He was followed in 1933 by the Rev. E. Evans who also served for 25 years. In 1960 the Rev. 0.J. Hill took over, followed by the Rev. Ivor Williams in 1969. From 1974 to 1996 the Rev. A. C. Roberts, served at the church.



St. Ethelwold's Church from the vicarage garden in 1960









The same angle in 2001

Photograph © Jonathan Morris







The Neo-Georgian Shotton Vicarage, of pebbledash and brick pilaster, was not built until 1911. The house is not as it appears at first sight. The two windows to the far right of the front door, when facing the building, are not true windows, and this led to the building becoming known to many locals as "The False House."

Copyright © Keith Atkinson 1998 - 2006

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