Llansanffraid Glyn Ceiriog

Llansanffraid Glyn Ceiriog

Traditional Way of Life


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George Borrow and the Ceiriog clog maker.

The clog is basically a wooden sole with a leather upper attached. The history of the clog suggests that it's origins may come from the pattens or wooden soles which were strapped on to early leather shoes to protect them when walking out-doors. The clog as a complete item of footwear probably dates to the 16th century,when it represented a local traditional village craft, which in Wales utilised alder trees from swampy valleys of small brooks and streams. However in most peoples’ minds the clog is symbolic of the industrial North of England and the late 19th Century, the period of the industrial revolution. This association with industry led to the idea that clogs were for the poor and oppressed and so people aspired to wear "proper" shoes or boots. In 1901 there were more than 6,000 clog makers in England and Wales producing hundreds of thousands of pairs every year. Clogs were worn in all rural areas, but the development of mass production in the 19th century made them cheap and they became the usual footwear of working folk, especially in the industrial north of England. Coupled with the hard paved and cobbled surfaces in the towns this enabled clog dancing to develop. It is believed that some of the earliest dances originated from people tapping their feet in time to the machinery in the cotton mills as they worked.

The introduction of cheap mass production for leather shoes and boots led to a rapid decline in clog making in the early 20th century. A view of the relatively short-lived industrial clog culture comes from the account of George Borrow who described meeting up with a village clog-making enterprise on his walking tour of Wales in the mid 19th century.

George Borrow says that he came with his guide from Llansanffraid to the cottage of a clog-maker in the remote Ceiriog valley. The Ceiriog rises on the peat moorlands of Wales’ Berwyn Mountains at a height of 1800 feet and flows for 18 miles to join the River Dee below Ruabon.

"….whereupon John Jones said, that if I wished to go up it a little way he should have great pleasure in attending me, and that he should show me a cottage built in the hen ddull, or old fashion, to which he frequently went to ask for the rent; he being employed by various individuals in the capacity of rent-gatherer.
On reaching the cottage Borrow asked the woman, who was born in Wales but married her husband in Bolton, how her husband could carry on the trade of a clog-maker in such a remote place — and also whether he hawked his clogs about the country.
“We call him a clog-maker,” said the woman, “but the truth is that he merely cuts down the wood and fashions it into squares, these are taken by an under-master who sends them to the manufacturer at Bolton, who employs hands, who make them into clogs.”
“Some of the English,” said Jones, “are so poor that they cannot afford to buy shoes; a pair of shoes cost ten or twelve shillings, whereas a pair of clogs only cost two.”
“I suppose,” said I, “that what you call clogs are wooden shoes.”
“Just so,” said Jones — “they are principally used in the neighbourhood of Manchester.”
“I have seen them at Huddersfield,” said I, “when I was a boy at school there; of what wood are they made?”
“Of the gwern, or alder tree,” said the woman, “of which there is plenty on both sides of the brook.”
We proceeded some way farther up the valley, till we came to a place where the ground descended a little. Here Jones touching me on the shoulder pointed across the stream. Following with my eye the direction of his finger, I saw two or three small sheds with a number of small reddish blocks in regular piles beneath them. Several trees felled from the side of the torrent were lying near, some of them stripped of their arms and bark. A small tree formed a bridge across the brook to the sheds.
“It is there,” said John Jones, “that the husband of the woman with whom we have been speaking works, felling trees from the alder swamp and cutting them up into blocks. I see there is no work going on at present or we would go over — the woman told me that her husband was at Llangollen.”
“What a strange place to come to work at,” said I, “out of crowded England. Here is nothing to be heard but the murmuring of waters and the rushing of wind down the gulleys. If the man’s head is not full of poetical fancies, which I suppose it is not, as in that case he would be unfit for any useful employment, I don’t wonder at his occasionally going to the public-house."

Llansanffraid Glyn Ceiriog, or simply Glyn Ceiriog, is a local government community in Wrexham County Borough in Wales.

Glyn Ceiriog is a former slate mining village in Wrexham County Borough, in Wales. It lies on the River Ceiriog and B4500 road, five miles (8km) west of Chirk and three miles (6km) south of Llangollen in the Ceiriog Valley,




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