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Monday, January 20, 2020


Listed cottages on the high street in Overton-on-Dee

Overton-on-Dee ( Welsh: Owrtyn) is a small rural village 7 miles from the market town of Wrexham. The village is situated on the edge of an escarpment which winds its way around the course of the River Dee which is where the name of Overton-on-Dee is derived from.


Overton-on-Dee is seven miles from Wrexham and exactly twenty-two miles from both Chester and Shrewsbury. It's neigbouring villages are Bangor-on-Dee and Penley whilst the small towns of Ellesmere and Ruabon are only a short distance away.


The town was, until 1974, in an exclave of the traditional county of Flintshire known as Maelor Saesneg ( English: "Saxon or English-speaking Maelor"), sometimes called "Flintshire Detached", and was its administrative centre. Between 1974 and 1996 Overton was in the short-lived county of Clwyd. Strangely the community (parish) and county boundary between it and Erbistock (in former Denbighshire) is, in part, on the west side of the river due to oxbow formation in the river.

St. Mary the Virgin Church and it's Yew trees

St Mary the Virgin Church which dominates the High Street

The churchyard of St Mary the Virgin dominates the High Street and is famous for twenty-one very ancient yew trees. The Yew trees are traditionally one of the Seven Wonders of Wales and commemorated in an anonymously written rhyme:

Pistyll Rhaeadr and Wrexham steeple,

Snowdon's mountain without its people,

Overton yew trees, St Winefride wells,

Llangollen bridge and Gresford bells.

At 1500-2000 years old, the oldest tree predates the church, whose earliest stonework is probably Norman. In 1992 the Village celebrated the 700th anniversary of the granting of a Royal Charter to Overton by Edward I in 1292 with a royal visit from the present Queen who planted a new yew tree.

Buildings and Heritage

Overton has a fine collection of 18th and 19th century buildings, many of which are listed as buildings of architectural or historic interest. Even the old telephone box has been ‘listed’. The village centre is also designated as a Conservation Area.

Most of the town was once owned by the Bryn-y-pys Estate. The 1848 sale particulars, with 4.300 acres and a majority of the houses and farms in the town, run to several pages. It was made clear that the estate wielded 'Great Political Influence', as without the secret ballot at general elections, the purchaser, who would be virtually everyone's landlord, was guaranteed of a place in Parliament.

The Yew trees within the Churchyard

There are several interesting buildings in the town including: the 'Cocoa and Reading Rooms', a terrracotta building of 1890, built to promulgate temperance, now the library; almshouses and a Victorian village pump.


The Village has the ususal sporting recreational areas of cricket, football, bowls and tennis, but more intersting, it has a boules pitch which is used for competition with its twinned town of La Murette in France. Overton is also excellent rendevouz point for walkers as it finds itseld on the map of the Maelor Way, a 38km long-distance footpath, this in turn links up with Offa's Dyke Path National Trail at Bronygarth and the Sandstone Trail, Llangollen Canal, South Cheshire Way, and the Marches Way.

Further reading

  • Gordon Emery - Guide to the Maelor Way (1991) ISBN 1-872265-98-7
  • Gordon Emery - Curious Clwyd (1994) ISBN 1-872265-99-5
  • Gordon Emery - Curious Clwyd 2 (1996) ISBN 1-872265-97-9


Coordinates: 52.96989° N 2.93357° W



OVERTON, or OVERTON-MADOC, a borough and parish, anciently a market-town, in the union of Ellesmere, hundred of Maelor, county of Flint, South Wales, 5 miles (N. N. W.) from the town of Ellesmere; containing 1662 inhabitants. This place, which is divided into two portions, called the Ville and the Foreign, derives the adjunct to its second name from Madoc ab Meredydd, Prince of Powys and lord of Overton, who is said to have erected a castle here, of which the only vestige now remaining is the site, still designated Castle Field. At the time of the Conquest, the place, termed in Domesday-book "Ovretone," was in the possession of a Saxon chieftain, but was granted by the Conqueror to Robert Fitz-Hugh, one of his followers. Edward I., in the 14th year of his reign, gave the lordship to his queen Eleanor, who bestowed it upon Robert de Crevecœur, with the privilege of a weekly market and a fair; and in the 20th of his reign, Edward made it a free borough by charter. The same monarch, in the following year, commanded Reginald de Grey, chief justice of Chester, to go personally to Overton, and assign to the burgesses, and such others as might be induced to become inhabitants, competent lands within the demesne of Overton Castle, and wood to build them burgages; and in the 28th year of his reign, Edward conferred upon the burgesses exemption from toll for seven years, and various other immunities. Edward II. gave the borough and lordship to his queen Isabel; and in the 14th of the reign of Edward III. they were granted, together with other lands in Maelor, to Eubule le Strange, baron of Knockyn, with a confirmation of the preceding charter, which was also enlarged, with additional privileges, in the reign of Richard II.

The parish comprises about 6000 acres; the soil of two-thirds is stiff clay, and that of the rest, gravelly loam. The village is beautifully situated on elevated ground on the banks of the Dee, over which river, a little lower down, is a handsome stone bridge of two lofty arches, connecting the counties of Denbigh and Flint, and forming part of the turnpike-road leading from Ellesmere to Wrexham, upon which the village stands. The surrounding scenery is beautifully picturesque, being composed of a great diversity of features in pleasing combination and agreeable contrast. From a ridge near the village is seen, on one side, an extensive plain of verdant meadows, enlivened by the windings of the river Dee, skirted in front by fertile and richly-wooded slopes, and bounded in the distance by the summits of lofty mountains: on the other side, the Vale Royal of Cheshire, with its diversified scenery, and the fertile and open plains of Salop, in luxuriant cultivation, are seen in all their beauty. The village is prepossessing in its appearance, and, with its venerable church, as regarded from almost every point of view, forms a highly interesting feature in the landscape. At the bridge, which is about a mile from the village, the river, after spreading through the adjacent plains, becomes contracted in its channel, and flows rapidly between lofty and precipitous banks, crowned with wood.

There is neither trade nor manufacture of any kind carried on; but upon the banks of the Dee, between Overton and the contiguous village of Bangor-Iscoed, exists a considerable quantity of a species of ductile clay, adapted for the use of potters. The market has long been discontinued; fairs are held on the Monday before Holy-Thursday, on June 11th, August 9th, and October 8th. Overton is one of the contributory boroughs within the county which are united in the return of a member to parliament: the limits of the borough, which are co-extensive with those of the parish, and comprise an area nine miles in circumference, were not altered by the Boundary Act of 1832. This is also one of the polling-places in the election of a knight for the shire. The parish is within the jurisdiction of the county magistrates, who hold petty-sessions here for the hundred; and a house of correction for the hundred was erected here in 1824, at the expense of the county.

The living is a a perpetual curacy, united to the rectory of Bangor-Iscoed: the tithes have been commuted for a rent-charge of £551. 8. 2. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, and originally a spacious cruciform structure, consists at present only of a nave, aisles, and chancel, with a lofty square tower surmounted by an embattled circular turret, commanding a very extensive view. The prevailing character is the early English style of architecture; the tower, which appears to be of later date, is supposed to have been built when the church was reduced in dimensions by the removal of the transepts and the original tower at the intersection, which had probably fallen into decay. In the chancel is a pew that appears to have been granted to the Kynaston family, and on which is the inscription "Protectoris Auctoritate," 1649. The north aisle has been enlarged, and 281 additional sittings formed, of which 166 are free, in consideration of a gift of £200 by the Incorporated Society for building and enlarging churches and chapels. The churchyard is large, and remarkable for the great number of yew-trees of extraordinary growth which it contains. There is a place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists, erected in 1816; and one or two schools for the poor are supported.

A small estate belongs to the poor of the parish, said to have been a grant by a person named John Lloyd, but whether by will or deed does not appear; it is situated in the township of Maes Lewis, and contains nine acres, one acre of which is coppice: about forty years since, timber to the value of £80 was cut from the land, and the sum was applied towards the erection of a poor-house, £4 interest, in lieu, being now paid out of the rates. Another property, consisting of about ten acres, and yielding a rent of £15, was purchased in 1732 at Penly with some consolidated charities amounting to £100; and about seventy years ago, a rood of land was added under an inclosure act. The produce of the whole, including Lloyd's estate, is £29. 1., which is expended in clothing, and distributed at Christmas among the poor; who also receive bread on Sundays to the amount of £5. 4. a year, arising from a rentcharge on land in the township of Cloy, the grant of Thomas and Margaret Eyton. A sum of £48, arising from a sale of timber off the poor's land, was spent by an order of vestry in 1781, but no interest has ever been paid, and therefore it must be regarded as lost.
The site of the ancient castle occupies the brow of a lofty promontory overlooking the river Dee; and in the park of Gwernhailed, in the parish, are the remains of a large circular camp surrounded by a rampart of earth, called the Castle Yard. It commands the whole of the district to the west of the river, and near it is a tumulus, twenty-two yards in length and twelve yards broad, raised to a considerable height; this is designated the Giant's Grave, but nothing is recorded of its origin or history. The mansion of Maesgwaelod, for several centuries the residence of the Hanmer family, and from which the township took its name, is now the property of Major Fletcher, who commanded the rear of the British army at the battle of Corunna, on the 16th of January, 1809: it contains the keys of that city, which were brought away by the major, and deposited here; they are held together by a ring, from which is suspended a steel plate, with the legend "Portigo de Puerta de Abigo."

From: 'Overton - Oystermouth', A Topographical Dictionary of Wales (1849), pp. 271-74. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=47874. Date accessed: 09 June 2007.

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