Flint in the 1800’s
Local historian and current Town Mayor of Flint Town Council, Vicky Perfect helps to bring to life some of Flint’s past and explains how hard it really was for families trying to survive on or even below the breadline in the 1800s.“Reading a fascinating account of Flint’s Castle Street by Edward Hogan brings into mind why there was such a concentration of Irish people living below the line as an influx of workers started to pour into Flint - the potato famine in Ireland didn’t help - because of the vast amount of industry that was here.
George Roskell - who gave his name to Roskell Square - was increasing his lead smelting at the Flint Works from 1835 with the introduction of the alkali process (1840). Also, he had a profitable sideline of extracting the silver from the ore as he produced sheets of lead, lead pipes and red lead. This was in high demand so he looked to increase his workforce with cheap Irish labour who were in a desperate situation in their own country at the time, and who probably didn’t mind living near the toxic works!
At this same time Pickering & Ormiston’s Flint Marsh Colliery was at full production with children working a 10-hour day next to their mothers and fathers.
Michael Parry was busy exporting timber from the docks and building the Flint Flats - though not to live in! - with a special boat used to go up and down the river, mainly delivering coal. Captain Hugh Shaw in his book Schooner Captain remembers when he was in charge of one such flat (a rickety old tub) that sounded as if it should be sent into retirement. Should the many sailors who stopped at the port of Flint get out of hand, Edward Pritchard who was the manager of Flint Gaol and house of Correction situated on the outer bailey of Flint Castle, could no doubt deal with any offenders.
You could cross to Park Gate on every tide by the boats leaving from Flint Quay catching a ride from Edward Bithell, Elizabeth Foulkes or James Price who operated their boat services from the port, similar to catching a bus or train today to Chester.
There were pubs galore, beer houses, a billiard room, boarding houses described as handsome three-storey buildings in Commercial Road. This was near the docks for people to stay in, the highlight of your visit was the sea baths run by Joseph Hall who was a noted artistic painter of his day who painted the shields (the 15 tribes of North Wales) that grace the roof of the Mayor’s parlour in the town hall.
You could promenade past the castle taking in the ‘salubrious air’ - as long as the wind was in the right direction - and finish off with a dip in the sea baths. No wonder the poorer inhabitants of the area drank and, it seems, were always fighting after 10-hour shifts either down the pit or in the alkali/lead smelting works. It was the only release to a life of drudgery.
We did have famous visitors in the area though; Turner painted our castle and LS Lowry painted Roskell Square so it couldn’t have been all bad.