For most of its long history, agriculture was the main occupation for villagers. Iron Age enclosures on the hillside are thought to have been for containing animals. For much of this time, subsistence farming was the dominant occupation. The patterns of medieval field systems remain. In 1086 the population of approximately 20 would have worked the land.
The earliest census of the village, conducted in 1681 by the rector, lists a population of 129, mostly yeoman farmers, labourers and their families, in 29 households. Most of the farms in the parish belonged to the large estates of Golden Grove or the Mostyn Estate and were worked by tenant farmers and their labourers. Farming was predominantly pastoral with most crops for village consumption.
The agricultural depression of the late 1870s and the subsequent rise in rents following the acquisition of much of Golden Grove by Henry Pochin in 1877 led to a local decline in the numbers involved in farming. Between the censuses of 1871 and 1881, the numbers involved in work on the land dropped by half, while the numbers working in lead mining remained the same. It has been suggested that this reflected the fact that farms could support fewer people, rather than mechanisation in a poor parish. It was in the 1870s that a few left Gwaenysgor to seek their fortunes in the USA.
Lady’s Plucky Action
Both men and women worked in agriculture. Emily Price was the daughter of John Price of Teilia farm. In 1905, she was about 21 years old and worked with the livestock on the farm. The Prestatyn Weekly reported the following story, which demonstrates her strength and determination: The other day at Teilia farm a formidable bull, which was being fed up for the Mold Show, broke loose from its stall and began to smash up everything. Miss Price, the farmer’s daughter, took him by the ring in his nose and held him until assistance came.
During the Second World War land girls and prisoners of war were sent to help with work on the farms. Since the second world war, the number of farms has declined from eight farms and small holdings to only four today. While dairy farming was predominant for most of the second half of the 20th century, only one dairy farm remains. Grain production has declined. The other farms mainly raise store cattle and sheep.
These changes in farming have an impact on the landscape and on wildlife in the area.
Text above from brochure “Explore Gwaenysgor”