Wales

BERSHAM HALL – A HISTORY

BERSHAM HALL AFTER ITS REBUILDING IN 1890

The earliest evidence of there being a building of any note at this location, comes by way of the date 1584, which was carved into the staircase, and the dates 1640 and 1698, (when further construction may have been carried out) were discovered on the exterior of the building, when Bersham Hall was rebuilt in 1890, using Ruabon red brick.

Ordinance Survey  map drawn between 1898-1908

The earliest known occupant was a Mr. Thomas Fisher, who was living at the Hall between 1741 and 1771.

A Mr. Thomas Edisbury, a Millwright and Wheelwright by trade, lived at the Hall from 1780, until his death, at the age of 77 in 1848.

By 1855, Bersham Hall was occupied by Mr. James F. Edisbury, an Auctioneer and Appraiser, and by 1857, he had moved nearer to Wrexham in order to be closer to his business interests in the town, and had placed an advert in the local newspaper, announcing that his home was available to let:

‘BE LET, all that desirable residence called BERSHAM HALL, with productive Garden, Orchard, and about eleven acres of prime land. The house is pleasantly elevated and contains two kitchens, Dining and Drawing Rooms, small Breakfast parlour, and four Bedrooms. The locality is exceedingly healthy and within two miles of Wrexham. Foe further particulars, apply to the owner, Mr. James Edisbury, who is going to reside in Wrexham, for the better convenience of his business purposes. N.B. – The House and Land will be let separately, if required, and immediate possession may be had.

James F. Edisbury died on 21 September 1857, and Bersham Hall passed to his son, James Fisher Edisbury, a ‘Master Chemist’ in Wrexham, and who, in June 1863,  married Miss. Harriet Jones.

MARRIAGE. – A large concourse of people assembled in the old church on Tuesday last to witness the marriage of Mr. J. F. Edisbury, of this town, Chemist and Druggist, with Miss Jones, only daughter of Mr Thomas Jones; of High Street. Seldom has a wedding in the same social circle in Wrexham excited so much interest or attracted so large a crowd of on-lookers. This is, doubtless, attributable to the high respect in which the families of both bride and bridegroom are held in the town. The father of the former is one of our oldest and most respectable tradesmen, while the bridegroom is one of our youngest tradesmen, whose late father was well known as a lover of antiquarian lore. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Canon Cunliffe, M.A., and the bridesmaids were Miss M. J. Bardsley, Miss Rhodes, Miss Jones, and Miss Baugh. The bride was attired in white silk, covered with white flounces, and a most magnificent bridal wreath and veil. the bridesmaids were dressed in Tarleton with blonde veils and blue flowers. The bells sent forth a merry peal at the close of the ceremony, and in the afternoon, the youthful pair took their departure for the Lakes.’

After their marriage, the couple moved into Bersham Hall, and following the birth of a still-born daughter,on 28 May 1864, Harriet, aged just 25, passed away a little over two weeks later.

On 4 May 1867, James Fisher re-married a Miss. Minnie Jones, and a notice announcing their marriage – somewhat shorter than the previous entry  – appeared in the Wrexham Advertiser:

EDISBURY-JONES:  On the 1st inst., at Brynyffynnon Chapel, Wrexham, by the Rev. William Wilson, assisted by the Rev. R. Harding, uncle and brother-in-law of the bride, Mr J. F. Edisbury, Bersham Hall, to Minnie, third daughter of T. C. Jones, Esq., J.P., Leeswood House, Wrexham.

James Fisher and Minnie Edisbury also lived at Bersham Hall following their marriage, and a year later, a daughter, Minnie Adeline, was born on 3 August, 1868.

By January 1870, like his father had previously, James Fisher Edisbury, in order to be be closer to his business, which was situated at 3 High Street, Wrexham, placed an advert in the local newspaper, offering Bersham Hall as a letting property.

Bersham Hall Letting Advertisement [1870]

By 1871, the couple were living in the salubrious surroundings of Grosvenor Street, Wrexham, along with Minnie, aged two, and another daughter, Phillis May, aged one.

They went on to have four more children, Daisy Gwendoline (who died in infancy), Stanley Dutton, Rose Myddleton Christine, and Mary Violet.

By 1881, James Fisher Edisbury had branched out into the production of mineral waters after purchasing the North Wales Derated Water Factory, Wrexham, which became Messrs. J. F. Edisbury and Company. [1]

‘Pass Book’ for ordering aerated mineral water from J. F. Edisbury & Co. (Dated 1882)

Bersham Hall in 1881 was occupied by a professional family from Liverpool, Lancashire, Emily H., George P., Dora L., and Allan Henry Rowbotham, who were the  grown-up children of a local Colliery owner.

Whether the Rowbothan family had purchased Bersham Hall, or were rental tenants is uncertain, but it is known that the property was occupied as a family residence, –  following its rebuilding in 1890 – right up until it was acquired by Denbighshire County Council, who had purchased Bersham Hall for use as an ‘Observation and Assessment Centre,’ in which to house up to 12 boys from the six North Wales counties, under the 1971 Regional Plan.

BERSHAM HALL IN THE 1980s

It was to be a ‘Community Home with Education (CHE), and was described as being a ‘secure/semi-secure Observation and Assessment Centre’ and made available for use from August 1972.

From 1974 to 1980 (when it’s initial function changed and it closed for a short time) and up until 1993, it had re-opened as an Assessment and Reception Centre for up to 21 boys, and girls, and took over many of the functions performed previously by the Little Acton Assessment and Reception Centre.

Only basic alterations were carried out to the building before it was initially opened in 1972, but by 1975, a meeting of a Management Committee, established by Clwyd County Council for Bryn Estyn, Bersham Hall and Little Acton, ruled that a number of alterations had to be undertaken immediately.

The washing and cooking facilities, the cloakrooms, the dormitories, the dining and education facilities, as well as the staff rooms, all fell ‘much below’ the required standard, and therefore, substantial building work was undertaken in March 1976, and was scheduled to be completed by September the following year.

The work, when completed, would provide a whole new block, attached to the building, which contained, on the first floor, a dormitory and ancillary accommodation for up to 16 boys, a staff flat, a duty officer’s flat, and on the ground floor, a Superintendant’s office, a new kitchen and dining area, as well as a secure unit.

The existing building, was also up-graded to provide greatly improved educational facilities, domestic facilities, a library and a television lounge, a conference room, and additional staff and student accommodation.

It was estimated that around 375 boys were admitted to Bersham Hall between April 1974 and the middle of 1980, when Bersham Hall, in its role as an Assessment and Observation Centre, closed.

Bersham Hall re-opened towards the end of 1980, however, with a new role, and title of ‘Children’s Centre’, with a view to being a multi-purpose unit, specialising in short-term care, with assessment facilities.

By 1984, Bersham Hall housed both boys and girls, between the ages of 13 and 16 years, who were viewed as having more complex needs, and/or were difficult to place in other establishments. It also had to cope with emergency admissions, and undertake the assessment of children involved in ongoing court proceedings.

Female Staff of Bersham Hall in 1993 [during its last days under Wrexham Council Ownership]. Back Row: Kim Hatton, Dorothy Lesberel, Jen Thomas, Barbara Edwards, and Glenys Powell. Front Row: Beryl Thomas, Gwyn Price and Ann Kelly.

Bersham Hall finally closed its doors as a Community Home in September 1993, but was re-opened shortly afterwards, as ‘Prospects’, a privately-run children’s home.

‘Prospects School operated as an independent special school for pupils with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. The school provides education for young people who live in children’s homes in and around  Wrexham, as well as offering day placements.

Pupils were assessed on entry and placed in settings according to their individual needs. These provisions included home tuition in their own homes, supported by teachers, nurture provision, and a full timetable of educational activities in and out of the school.’

CORRECTION:

Bersham Hall was NOT demolished, as was reported in this article yesterday.

It’s most recent incarnation as Prospects School, however, closed in 2018, and the building remains in a good state of repair, although it’s current status, has not been ascertained at the time of writing.


NOTES: [1] J.F. Edisbury & Co Ltd of Wrexham. J.F. Edisbury ran a chemist’s shop in High Street, Wrexham, in the 1870s which sold medicines, German mineral water, cattle medicines, lamp oil and perfume. By the early 20th century, his business was producing soft drinks, marketed as being good for health, included mineral water, soda, lime juice and ginger ale. Edisbury & Co had a ‘Mineral Water Manufactory’ which was located beside the Cambrian Hotel, Llangollen. The company was known for using ‘Torpedo’ bottles, which were designed for the horizontal storage of fizzy  drinks, so that the cork, which remained moist, would not contract, and allow any gas to escape.


SOURCES:

Palmer, Alfred N – ‘A History of the Country Townships of the Old Parish of Wrexham’ (1903)

‘Lost In Care’ – Report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Abuse of Children in Care in the Former County Council Areas of Gwynedd & Clwyd since 1974. (Feb. 2000)

Graham Lloyd – wrexham-history.com

OS Map 1898-1908 Ref: SJ 31158 49320

Vic Davies – Rhostyllen, A History Through Pictures

Estyn Annual Monitoring Report (May 2016)

10 Comments

  1. Danno

    i was sent to bersham when bill tunnah was the bloke in charge; i think he is dead now i remember dorothy and anne in that picture and a few of the lads like stevie from down south wales, and tony powell and dave watts and a few others

    • Anthony Cleary

      I remember Mr Tunnah. He was the officer in charge before Bersham Hall closed

  2. Anna Williams

    A very interesting piece of research, thank you for posting this. I walk past the Prospects nearly every day as I live close by and all I knew it was a ‘naughty boys’ home when I was growing up. I did not know its history and I will show this to my mum. She has a friend that used to work there over thirty years ago I think. Anna

  3. Faith

    Very interesting read. Its good to read that this hall has not been demolished like so many others. Its a beautiful building and hopefully it will still be standing into the next century.

  4. Wyn Williams

    I was here in 1980 before going to Bryn Estyn the staff were great and it was not a bad place

  5. Seren B

    Diolch am bostio hwn. Diddorol lawn. x

  6. Helen Long

    Thank you for the history of this building. I grew up on the Ddol and used to pass Bersham Hall on my way to school. Is it listed now? I do hope so and it would be a shame if Wrexham council sold it off like so many other buildings. We have lost so much of our history already in Wrexham.

  7. Rob Delaney

    I was there in 1986 for assessment and was sent to Ty Mawr after. It would be good to hear from anyone who remembers me. Thanks for posting this Admin

  8. Paul Kinsey

    Great post. Thanks