The Irish in Wrexham 1845-1852

The aim of this presentation is to assess the attitude of Wrexham people to Irish-born people of Wrexham, their religion and behaviour in the aftermath of the Irish famine.
The principal source was used in conjunction with the 1851 Census returns and George T. Clark’s 1849 Health Report.

“The Advertiser” was first published on January 18th., 1850, as a monthly. It had a circulation of 1000 in a town with a population of 6705 and an Irish born population of about 231 on Census night which coincided with the annual March Fair. The Irish Quarter, as it was known, was situated in the poorest part of the town, namely Mount Street and adjacent alleys. The 1849 Report refers to the “cess-pools and pig styes of the Irish Quarter” and there are vigorous discussions in the Wrexham Advertiser concerning the government’s recommendations as a result of this report, principally be the ratepayers who objected to having to pay for improvements.
During the next two years there is specific reference to the Irish, as well as implicit reference by way of their religion and education in the “Wrexham Advertiser.” In November 1851 Mr. T. Edgeworth, at a meeting of “The Friends of Stansty,” attended by 70 prominent business men in the town, proposes a toast to celebrate the marriage at the Catholic Chapel in King Street of the Hon. Thomas Ffrench of County Galway with Miss Thompson, daughter of John Thompson, coal and mineral proprietor, of Stansty Hall, Wrexham. He is quoted as saying, “I know something of the character of Irishmen; a freer hearted, a more noble people do not exist on the earth.” (greeted by cheers).
Concerning Catholicism in the Nonconformist atmosphere of the day, in 1850 under the heading, Papal Furore - on establishing the Catholic Hierarchy in England by the Pope in Rome, the Editor comments, “Let the spirit and the doctrines of popery be resisted by all proper means, but do not let us deprive Papists of liberty which the other Nonconformists possess.” This is followed in February by a letter from “P” on how to prevent Popery, in which he infers that, “if Church and dissenting ministers were as assiduous as the Roman Catholic Priest in his persevering, indefatigible zeal” and the “attention which he devotes to the work of visiting the cellars and courts where is massed together so much vice and temporal misery, we would have no fear of Papal Ascendancy or Papal Aggresion either.” There are other references to the Maynooth Grant. (Presumably this refers to the controversial financial contributions fom the government towards the cost of maintaining the seminary established by the Catholic Church in Maynooth, County Kildare in the wake of the French Revolution during which Irish seminarians and their tutors were expelled from France - Ed.)
Concerning Education, “much praise is due to the Rev. Harverd, for the great interest he has taken in the success of the school in Bank Street, and for his unremitting exertions to secure it.”
The limitations of the principal source are indicated by an Editorial in January, 1852 in which the editor has been obliged to forego monthly summaries of general affairs and reports of local news because of the imposition of a Stamp Duty Tax on Newspapers (which could result in the suppression of all monthly periodicals partaking of the character of nespapers). This may explain why there are no equivalent reports on crime and the Irish, like the entry in the Caernarfon and Denbigh Herald of January 1846:-

“Jane O’Neill sentenced to six months imprisonment and hard labour for stealing from Joseph Phillips in ‘The Pigeons’ public house, was in Wrexham - Thursday for a fair.”

Overall there is more positive reporting than otherwise, and this is reinforced by an Editorial of January 1852 in which the Editor, Mr. W. B. Bayley, states that “his aim is to promote whatever is fair, just, equitable and calculated to to promote our local interests and foster friendly feeling”; or could the Editor’s stance have anything to do with the fact that he was married to an Irishwoman!
There is reason to suppose that the above findings confirm some established thinking, namely that the Irish were often housed in the poorest areas, and that there are derogatory references to the Irish in the sanitary Report. However, the references to the Irish in the “Wrexham Advertiser” contradict established thinking in relation to larger cities and towns elsewhere.


Census 1851 13 and 14 Vict; C 53 5 August 1850 in Ruthin Record Office. Health Report : 1849. In Cartrefle College Library. Report to the General Board of Health by George T. Clark.
Wrexham Advertiser 1850-1852. Microfilm in Wrexham Library.
Caernarfon and Denbigh Herald Microfilm in Ruthin Record Office.

©: Maureen Thomas, B.A., Wrexham.7

Published in The Green Dragon No 1, Winter, 1996

As Gaeilge / In Irish